from the ELCA Advocacy office in Washington, D.C. – the Rev. Amy E. Reumann, director
Partial expanded content from Advocacy Connections: August 2020
COVID-19 STIMULUS PACKAGE The next federal stimulus package to address COVID-19 impacts remains in negotiation. While Congress is presently in the traditional period of a recess, scheduled to end September 7, lawmakers are aiming to reconcile differences. A temporary 15% increase in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits has been a continuing interfaith advocacy effort in this new round of COVID-19 legislation. Use the Action Alert to urge this and other considerations in the far-reaching package.
We are grateful for the engagement of ELCA bishops and network members who reached out to key leaders about advancing the temporary SNAP increase. House, Senate and Administration leaders are making steady progress over a compromise economic spending bill. However, resolving widespread differences between the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act (HEROES) passed in the House and the proposed Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection and Schools Act (HEALS) introduced in the Senate before taking the break could stall the process deep into the traditional summer recess.
HUD HOUSING RULES In a busy month, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced in early July that they would be advancing an initiative to weaken implementation of the 2016 Equal Access Rule, which would undermine transgender and non-binary protections for people seeking shelter. Also, HUD Sec. Ben Carson announced that the administration would take steps to roll back key racial housing protections in the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) Rule.
Since 2016, homelessness among transgender people increased 88% and could face greater challenges and barriers to shelter access if the rule is further weakened. Reconciling Works and ELCA Advocacy shared a joint Action Alert in opposition of the new changes which facilitates action during HUD’s open public-comment period through September 22.
Discriminatory housing practices have been at the core of systemic racism in the U.S. for generations – right up to present day. The changes to the AFFH rule will water-down enforcement of the civil-rights era Fair Housing Act, stopping requirements for localities to take steps to report and address patterns of segregation in their communities. Hundreds of Lutherans issued opposition to the rule through the ELCA Action Center in the spring when the comment period was open. The ELCA Advocacy office will continue to push for policies that promote racial justice in housing as the proposal likely moves through litigation.
INTERNATIONAL INTERSECTIONS ELCA Advocacy is working in partnership with Jubilee USA Network members urging the U.S. government to support expansion of debt relief for highly indebted poor countries. We are asking for the U.S. to support provision of low interest grants called Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) through the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which will provide funds to countries to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The House passed the NO BAN Act July 22 which would repeal the travel ban on citizens of 13 countries. Our Action Alert remains live to facilitate contacting senators who next will consider the legislation. Additionally, for a long time the international community failed to effectively prevent and respond to gender-based violence at the onset of humanitarian emergencies. Initiatives such as Safe from the Start have moved this issue at the forefront of humanitarian work. Our Action Alert can be used to urge your senators to co-sponsor the Keeping Women and Girls Safe from the Start Act.
ENVIRONMENT CONSERVATION BILL SIGNED On August 4, President Trump signed the bipartisan Great American Outdoors Act of 2020 into law offering more federal resources for national parks, wildlife refuges, Indigenous public lands and our crumbling public land infrastructure. Lutheran advocates have collaborated with many in a slow-building movement for years to promote better stewardship principles for our nation’s public lands.
In addition to helping address the great backlog of infrastructure projects at the Department of Interior, the bill will permanently authorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund, allowing more resources for the federal government to acquire “lands, waters, and interests therein necessary to achieve the natural, cultural, wildlife, and recreation management objectives of federal land management agencies.”
DACA MEMORANDUM A July 28 memorandum on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) from the acting secretary of the Dept. of Homeland Security may begin the process of dismantling this needed form of protection. Even as suffering and sacrifice in this time of pandemic require national focus, the administration is prioritizing taking away protections and setting the stage for further disbanding of DACA.
Our advocacy focus remains a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers. DACA recipients are members of our communities and churches who have grown up in and contribute to the U.S. An Action Alert is available to urge lawmakers to codify protection before it is further eroded.