from the ELCA Advocacy office in Washington, D.C. – the Rev. Amy E. Reumann, director
AUGUST RECESS ADVOCACY OPPORTUNITIES | LIMITS PROPOSED TO SNAP HUNGER PROGRAM | KEEPING GIRLS IN SCHOOL ACT | FAITH-BASED PRESENCE AROUND U.N. CLIMATE CONFERENCE | FEDERAL BUDGET DEAL REACHED | STANDING AGAINST #CHRISTIANNATIONALISM | HUNGER ADVOCACY FELLOWS | VISITING D.C.
AUGUST RECESS ADVOCACY OPPORTUNITIES: During August Recess, senators and representatives return to their state and/or congressional district and reconnect with constituents. This is a great opportunity for local advocates to engage with elected officials, ask questions and share concerns. Advocates interested in meeting with their members of Congress can find suggested activities, how to set up a meeting with lawmakers, and a timely set of policy questions (link) at the fore of current public discussion in new August Recess resources. Prompting questions and background on gun violence are among those that can be used by Lutheran advocates who encounter their legislators in-district.
LIMITS PROPOSED TO SNAP HUNGER PROGRAM: The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced in mid-July plans to narrow food assistance eligibility for low-income families. The drafted rule would tighten Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefit access to people applying through “broad-based categorical eligibility,” a method by which households earning slightly above the poverty line can apply if they have exorbitant costs (such as housing or child care) that place them below the poverty line.
Historically, the policy has had popular bipartisan support since it incentivizes families to seek higher-paying jobs or small income increases without immediately losing federal support. Early estimates gauge that over 3 million low-income seniors, working families and those of us with disabilities could be affected. The rule is open for public comment until Sep. 23, and ELCA Advocacy will share an action alert on the issue in the coming weeks.
KEEPING GIRLS IN SCHOOL ACT: A bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced a new bill seeking to ensure that U.S. foreign assistance programs are designed to address the barriers preventing millions of girls around the world from attaining education. The Keeping Girls in School Act of 2019 would help continue investments in quality and equitable education for girls by leveraging existing funds to support partnerships and encouraging innovative financing approaches.
According to a report by the World Bank (link), less than two-thirds of girls complete primary education in low-income countries, and only 1 in 3 completes lower secondary school. Education is one of the best tools for improving social and economic outcomes for individuals and communities, and equal access to education is critical to development of nations. ELCA Advocacy shared an action alert in support of the bill in July, urging lawmakers to co-sponsor the bill and pass it before the end of the Congress. Advocates can take action at the ELCA Action Center.
FAITH-BASED PRESENCE AROUND U.N. CLIMATE CONFERENCE: Interfaith events are being planned around the U.N. Climate Change Summit 2019. U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres has called on leaders to come to New York Sept. 23 with concrete, realistic plans to enhance their commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), the Episcopal Church, GreenFaith and others are planning an interfaith service Sept. 20; participating in a youth mobilization, also Sept. 20, declaring a climate emergency; and hosting a faith-based consultation Sept. 24, with the theme: “Climate Emergency: Faith-based Organizations Raising Ambition – Leaving No One Behind.”
FEDERAL BUDGET DEAL REACHED: Lawmakers in Congress and the administration reached a deal to raise federal budget caps and the debt ceiling, which was signed by President Trump Aug. 2. The bipartisan agreement raises limits on discretionary spending by $321 billion over two years and addresses the issue of the debt ceiling until July 31, 2021.
While the increase in federal funding could help maintain existing low-income and humanitarian programs, a significant percent of the nondefense funding will be allocated to support the 2020 Census, meaning ultimate gains will likely be minimal when the budget process is finalized.
With an ELCA voice through the signature of Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton, an interfaith letter signed by more than 30 heads-of-communion was sent to lawmakers July 25, shortly before the agreement was made. The message highlighted the need to raise spending caps to maintain low-income and community programs that help the most vulnerable among us.
STANDING AGAINST #CHRISTIANNATIONALISM: The ecumenical letter opposing Christian nationalism was released last week with the launch of the “Christians Against Christian Nationalism” campaign. More than 9,000 Christians have already signed, and momentum from a social media introduction by ELCA Advocacy is strong.
HUNGER ADVOCACY FELLOWS: Six Hunger Advocacy Fellows are concluding their yearlong positions this summer of transformative experience that combines leadership development and faith formation with impactful advocacy that moves toward an end to hunger and a just world where all are fed. We are grateful for the gifts of these innovative, passionate and dedicated young leaders: Erica Earnest, Lutheran Episcopal Advocacy Ministries of New Jersey; Abbigail Hull, ELCA Advocacy national office; Kelsey Johnson, Lutheran Office for Public Policy – Wisconsin; Jordan Slappey, Southeastern Synod Advocacy; Paisha Thomas, Hunger Network in Ohio; and Sarah Vatne, Faith Action Network
In the D.C. office, Hull has made a great many contributions, including presentations, guidance of groups coming to the nation’s capital, lawmaker visit coordination and many more – all with a faith-driven spark and gleaning from her interests and experiences. It has been a pleasure to work with her.
VISITING D.C.: Over 100 students, pastors and young adult groups visited the ELCA Advocacy office in Washington, D.C. this spring and summer to participated in direct advocacy. Visitors joined us in a range of activities: combining service with conversations about federal policy, discussion of the role of faith in public life, and meetings with members of Congress. Groups interested with connecting with ELCA Advocacy staff in the nation’s Capitol can schedule a meeting through firstname.lastname@example.org.