from the ELCA Advocacy office in Washington, D.C. – the Rev. Amy E. Reumann, director
Partial expanded content from Advocacy Connections: December 2020
SPENDING DECISIONS: It is decision-making crunch time for federal FY21 budget considerations before the 116th Congress adjourns for the holidays and furthermore concludes on Jan. 3, 2021. Congress approved $900 billion of relief late on Dec. 21, providing desperately needed aid for Americans after months of gridlock on Capitol Hill. The bill now heads to the White House, where President Trump is expected to sign it into law.
Throughout the process, the ELCA advocacy network and staff persistently emphasized pressing need and priority concerns. With as many as 50 million Americans facing food insecurity this year, $13 billion from the second stimulus will go toward food-assistance programs, including Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.
EVICTION CRISIS: The stimulus package passed by Congress late Monday includes an extension of a national eviction ban through Jan. 31, temporarily avoiding what housing advocates warned would be a dangerous situation for the U.S. amid the raging COVID-19 pandemic. Economists and affordable housing advocate have warned of a looming eviction crisis that could affect millions of Americans without action. Enhanced Unemployment Insurance benefits and other measures will blunt some of the heavy economic impacts of the pandemic.
If no further action is taken, congregations, feeding ministries and shelters already facing overflow may expect to see assistance requests increased. According to the Census Bureau’s Weekly Pulse Survey, over 6 million renters and 5 million homeowners indicated they had very little confidence in the ability to make their next housing payment. In the same study, 1.5 million renters and nearly 300,000 homeowners indicated it would be very likely they would be evicted or foreclosed on in the next two months.
CENSUS CHALLENGE: On Dec. 18, the Supreme Court dismissed one of the challenges to President Trump’s memorandum ordering the U.S. Census Bureau to discount undocumented immigrants from the final census, which is to be reported by the Census Bureau by Dec. 31, 2020. Failing to count every person who lives in each state would affect the process of apportionment which decides congressional seat allocation for states.
Three lower courts had ruled unanimously that the president’s action violates either the Constitution, the federal census statues, or both. Our communities are significantly shaped by census data, and Census 2020 will update these numbers for the first time in 10 years. The ELCA is an official partner of the 2020 Census to encourage the most accurate count possible.
CLIMATE CHANGE CONNECTIONS: The incoming Biden Administration indicates that it will make climate change an unprecedented high priority. Addressing climate change will be done in concert with addressing the economy, yoking as essential growing the economy simultaneously with addressing climate concerns.
The incoming administration plans to create a Special Presidential Envoy for Climate Change position to be filled by former Secretary of State John Kerry. This position will be elevated to cabinet level. In her 2018 Earth Day statement, Presiding Bishop Eaton said: “The present moment is a critical and urgent one, filled with both challenge and opportunity to act as individuals, citizens, leaders and communities of faith in solidarity with God’s good creation and in hope for our shared future.”