U.S. representatives regularly return to their home districts to stay engaged with their constituents. Traditionally, August Recess is one such time – and while everyone needs some rest and relaxation, lawmakers are likely busy during this period with Town Halls, arranged meetings, and other contact points that give you a window to raise your experiences and policy concerns while they are local.
Our ELCA advocacy staff here on some current events that intersect with federal policy and priorities this year based upon the ELCA’s social teaching documents and the experiences of its congregations, ministries and partners to end world hunger and stand up for policies that create opportunities to overcome poverty, promote peace and dignity, preserve God’s creation, and promote racial and gender justice.
Bring your own questions to policy makers or raise the ones here.
“In relation to those who are poor, Martin Luther’s insights into the meaning of the commandments against killing, stealing, and coveting are sobering. We violate ‘you shall not kill’ when we do not help and support others to meet their basic needs.” – From ELCA social statement Sufficient Sustainable Livelihood for All
Expanded provisions of the Child Tax Credit (CTC), authorized through our nation’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic in the American Rescue Plan Act, are answering prayer for many struggling to feed their families who know the ripple effect on challenges that s hungry children face. As researched by ELCA World Hunger, assisting families through these means has the potential to lift nearly half of children in the United States out of poverty, many of whom are from Black and Brown communities. Making the Child Tax Credit permanent will not only be one of the most effective ways to reach those suffering while trying to meet basic human needs, and positively impact the health of children as they learn and grow.
- Because the Child Tax Credit (CTC) is so effective in lifting children out of poverty, would you support making current CTC rates permanent?
THIS MOMENT IN TIME: Housing and Homelessness
“People in our congregations who are homeless and potentially homeless remind us of the urgency of the situation. It is time to acknowledge with gratitude what people are doing, to confess that we have too often neglected homelessness, and to renew our commitment to act with justice and compassion.” – From ELCA social message “Homelessness: A Renewal of Commitment”
As lawmakers in Congress are currently working to pass the federal budget for the next fiscal year, annual public programs that help support those of us experiencing homelessness and take measures to increase access to long-term housing affordability must be strengthened. The negotiations come as many in the post-pandemic economy are struggling to remain stably housed, while the cost of buying or renting a home continue to climb nationwide.
Houses of worship are active in shelter ministries and are increasingly involved in affordable housing construction to meet the needs of our communities. Housing and homelessness issues gain little attention in the nation’s Capital and historically garner the smallest increases in the spending deals among other programs. It is therefore critical that faith advocates highlight the intersectional significance that housing plays in addressing poverty.
Find out your local affordable housing stats at nlihc.org/state-housing-profiles for greater context when speaking with policy makers.
- No state in the U.S. has enough affordable housing for those of us in the greatest need. What steps are you taking to ensure greater affordability and access to housing here in our district? (Add your local statistics to emphasize the local situation.)
- This year, the cost of buying a home has reached historically high levels. What policies, if any, do you support that a) help increase home ownership and b) address the historic racial homeownership gaps still present in our communities?
THIS MOMENT IN TIME: Infrastructure and Climate Change
“Protection of species and their habitats, preservation of clean land and water, reduction of wastes, care of the land—these are priorities. But production of basic goods and services, equitable distribution, accessible markets, stabilization of population, quality education, full employment—these are priorities as well.” – From ELCA social statement, Caring for Creation
We regularly hear of numerous challenges presented in the political atmosphere, but with a recent glimmer of hope. President Biden and a group of ____ senators reached an agreement on an historic Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework (Framework). Details regarding implementation of the Framework are being negotiated, but the White House states that the Framework creates jobs, grows the economy, invests in clean transportation infrastructure, clean water infrastructure, universal broadband infrastructure and clean power infrastructure, and provides resilience to the changing climate by addressing coastline erosion. The Framework also addresses environmental justice initiatives such as remediation of legacy pollution and electrifying buses in communities plagued by harmful emissions. In addition, the Framework proposes to build a national network of electric vehicle charging stations along highways and in rural and disadvantaged communities, and to eliminate the nation’s lead service lines and pipes for the delivery of clean drinking water.
Tandem legislation to include climate provisions missing from the bipartisan agreement is being advanced by congressional Democrats. It will likely include provisions incentivizing utilities to increase their renewable energy goals and to use clean energy tax credits to spur utilization, or potentially offer conditional block grants to states that achieve 100% clean energy on the power grid. Each of these options has the effect of establishing a clean energy standard by encouraging renewable energy deployment. This tandem legislation will likely include a $300 billion tax cut for dealing with the environment.
Addressing climate change and growing the economy can be accomplished concurrently. Research from America Is All In, which includes the ELCA as a partner among U.S. communities, business and institutions committed to tackling climate change and taking climate action, touts the creation of 25 million good-paying jobs across every zip code in the United States. Job creation supporting Creation care is beneficial not only in sparking continued recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, but also to support communities that have borne the brunt of environmental and economic harms from fossil fuel pollution and climate change.
- What policies are you supporting that will leverage the need of well-paying job creation in our nation as well as investing in the talents of laborers that tackle climate concerns?
- Do you support efforts to move to 100% clean energy usage as one way to grow the economy in such a manner that no one is left behind, nor are communities left stranded?
THIS MOMENT IN TIME: COVID-19 Vaccine Access
“Since threats to health do not respect national boundaries, nations and international organizations must cooperate in public health efforts.” – From the ELCA social statement Caring for Health: Our Shared Endeavor
While United States recovery efforts are in full swing, there is no recovery in sight for many low- and middle-income countries. The U.S. has more COVID-19 vaccine stockpiles than it needs. Eighty-five percent of all COVID-19 vaccines have gone to high- and upper-middle income countries. While the U.S. has committed to donate 580 million doses in the next 12 months, it is estimated that the world needs 12 billion or more vaccines. With billions of people in desperate need, with some countries having no access COVID-19 vaccines, our country can and must do more to help fill this gap.
- Many people in low-and middle-income countries have limited to no access to COVID-19 vaccines. U.S. vaccine commitments fall short of what is needed. As a member of Congress, what are you doing, or plan to do, to help these countries access COVID-19 vaccines?
THIS MOMENT IN TIME: Reimagining U.S. Asylum and Immigration Policy
“Immigration, refugee, and asylum policies express who we are as a nation, influence the nation’s future character, and affect the lives of millions of people. We encourage our members, in light of our history and our ministry with newcomers, to join with other citizens in our democratic society to support just laws that serve the common good.” – From ELCA social message “Immigration”
The Biden Administration is beginning to lift Title 42, the March 2020 public health order that turned away most migrants who arrived at the southern border during the pandemic and is beginning to lay the framework for a safe asylum and regional migration process. The U.N High Commissioner for Refugees and many public health experts agree that protecting public health and protecting access to asylum are fully compatible. It is important that these plans surge resources, experience, and commitment to protecting the rights and dignity of children, families, and adults with the greatest need.
Ensuring access to asylum is a basic tenet of a humane migration system, along with ensuring due process, supporting a humane reception system that looks beyond unnecessary, costly, and inhumane detention, and quickly upgrading the systems to protect unaccompanied children. In addition to strengthening a humane migration system, we know that directing attention to factors driving migration and facilitating family reunification can more meaningfully address the reasons people flee their homes, reducing migration tensions. Congress can also support children and families in the U.S. succeed by passing a pathway to earn citizenship.
- With many countries still exercising protocols that severely restrict asylum access, especially for LGBTQIA+, Indigenous and Black migrants, how are you making sure the U.S. is honoring international laws and standards in our asylum policy and supporting legislation and federal funding that makes our humanitarian reception system safer, more humane, and more accessible for those seeking protection?
- Refugee and asylum applications are backlogged despite the increase in migration to the U.S. due to threats of violence or discrimination. How will you support changes to asylum policy that address the root causes of migration?
- How are you supporting legislation and federal funding for programs that create clearer pathways for migrants to obtain legal status or US citizenship?
THIS MOMENT IN TIME: Tribal/U.S. Government relations
“In the name of the God who creates every human being out of love, this church teaches human dignity is God’s gift to every person and that the commitment to universal rights protects that dignity.” – From ELCA social message, “Human Rights”
Boarding schools are not from the distant past. There are people alive today who are victims of these institutions and of the laws requiring the removal of Native children from their communities. Across the U.S. and Canada, recent discoveries of the remains of Native children at boarding school sites expose dramatically the awful conditions that can be described as cultural decimation and genocide.
Reckoning with under-acknowledged realities in tribal and U.S. government relations is surfacing. Cultural protection of Native sacred sites and natural resource protections are part of ongoing conversations through the lens of racial justice and reconciliation of past and current ills.
A bill called the Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policy Act will be reintroduced soon. The legislation as summarized by the Harvard Law Review looks at “policy of the Federal Government under which more than 100,000 American Indian and Alaska Native children were forcibly removed from their family homes and placed in any of 460 Bureau of Indian Affairs-operated schools, including 367 Indian boarding schools, at which assimilation and ‘civilization’ practices were inflicted on those children as part of the assimilation efforts of the Federal Government, advancing eradication of indigenous peoples’ cultures in the United States.”
A map showing the location of Indian Boarding Schools throughout the United States can tell you more about your area.
- Do you know about our state’s history regarding the presence and legacy of boarding/residential schools for American Indians and Alaska Natives (AI/AN)?
- Because of recent discoveries of the remains of American Indian children who died due to forced removal from their families and life at the boarding schools, more people have been made aware of this dark and tragic chapter in our history. What support do you intend to provide for the Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policy Act?
- An influential figure in Indian education during his time, Col. Richard Henry Pratt, advanced the motto: “Kill the Indian, save the man.” Facing the damage caused by such annihilating assimilationist thinking, how do you intend to support legal protections for Native American cultural heritage, practices and religion?
Please let us know how it goes using the In-District Activity Form and as appropriate consider thanking that policy maker publicly on social media for the conversation and their public service.
For more pointers, see our August Recess Guide as well as Virtual Visits for ideas on contacting your lawmaker year-round.