from the ELCA advocacy office in Washington, D.C. – the Rev. Amy E. Reumann, Senior Director
Partial expanded content from Advocacy Connections: November 2021
HISTORIC FEDERAL BILLS: The recently signed Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will make strong investments in our nation’s infrastructure and climate resilience and will increase economic opportunity in our communities. Measures in the Build Back Better budget reconciliation bill also contain potential for advancing common good including in the areas of in childcare, climate impacts childhood education, employment, food security, healthcare, housing and immigration, and our advocacy continues to emphasize ELCA priorities. Climate change provisions in the Build Back Better Act may total over $500 billion, only one of the areas ELCA advocacy staff continues to monitor.
HOUSING STIMULUS FUNDING: In recently announced frameworks and bill text of the administration’s Build Back Better Initiative, roughly $150 billion of housing funding was publicly stated to be included – though negotiations are still ongoing as of early November. This initial allocation came as hundreds of Lutheran advocates called their lawmakers in support of such funding on an active housing action alert. The ELCA joined other interfaith partners in a message urging federal leaders to consider housing an essential priority last month.
In that same period, several lawmakers joined faith advocates and speakers dedicated to lifting up housing issues in a vigil on Capitol Hill as negotiators met in Delaware to finalize a compromise Build Back Better framework. Partners such as the National Low Income Housing Coalition state that the $150 billion would make a transformative difference to address access to housing, affordability, and homelessness in our communities if passed.
GLOBAL COVID-19 VACCINATION: ELCA advocacy staff continue to advocate for COVID-19 vaccines access. Recently staff participated in dialogue with COVAX’s Vaccine Initiative representatives, who shared about the need to increase COVID-19 vaccines and other related resources to strengthen countries’ capacity to fight the pandemic. At the end of October, the Biden administration announced that it will defer its delivery of 33 million Moderna doses to give the African Union its spot in line to purchase the vaccines. The advocacy community has been asking wealthy countries like the U.S. to relinquish part of their pre-purchase spots so that low-income countries can have access to purchase vaccines. This will increase the number of available vaccines for purchase immediately and in the near term.
PATHWAY TO CITIZENSHIP: As the reconciliation negotiations continue, the immigration provisions have become a major point of contention. Originally allocating $100 billion for immigration and a pathway to legal permanent residency, this allocation is mired by debate over specifics. Members overcame this impasse, eventually announcing consensus on proposals that would grant undocumented immigrants temporary work permits and protection from deportation, in addition to recapturing family and employment-based visas. While this effort would yield significant benefits to mixed status and immigrant families, the economy, and our society at large, it falls short of the proposed pathway to status. Negotiations are still ongoing, and few procedural hurdles remain, as the ELCA joins the interfaith community in holding out hope in advocating for a flexible pathway to earn citizenship.
ISRAELI GOVERNMENT DECISION: The ELCA and 14 other faith-based organizations signed a letter calling on the Secretary of State to publicly oppose an Israeli government decision to designate six Palestinian human rights groups as “terrorist” organizations. They also asked him to call upon his Israeli counterpart “… for the immediate reversal of this action which runs directly counter to President Biden’s stated prioritization of human rights in the conduct of US foreign policy.”
In another update, Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) welcomed the Biden Administration’s opposition to Israel’s opening of construction tenders on October 24 for 1,355 new settlement units and their decision on October 27 to advance thousands of new settlement units, many of them deep in the occupied West Bank.