News and Action Summary for March 27, 2015

Download a pdf version of the March 27, 2015 News and Action Summary!

News Summary 3-27-15

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News Posts, March 27, 2015

Here are news articles posted since the previous News and Action Summary:

Politically Active Corporations Spend Billions on Lobbying and Campaign Contributions

Senate Democrats Consider Raising Their Minimum Wage Proposal to $12

Two-Generational Strategies Can Help Fathers, Too

High Number of Philadelphia Police Shootings “Part of a Larger Pattern”

Rundown on Fair Education Funding

Feds Outline New Rules on Payday Loans

Politicians Create Fiscal Crises as Excuse to Cut Essential Services

Thanks to Climate Change, Arctic Sea Ice at Lowest Levels Ever Recorded

When Legally Liable, Companies Don’t Dispute Global Warming

Resistance to Gas Pipelines Spreading

New Report: Reducing Our Exposure to Toxic Chemicals

The Administration’s New Fracking Rule Has a Few Catches

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Advocacy Positions Available—March 27, 2015

Here is the most recent posting of jobs available in research and advocacy:

Early Head Start Director—Maternity Care Coalition

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Newly Posted Resources—March 27, 2015

Here are the most recently posted resources available for individuals and congregations:

Holy Week Devotions on Immigration

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Years of Living Dangerously—March 27, Harrisburg

  • March 27, 6:00 p.m.
  • Unitarian Church of Harrisburg, 1280 Clover Lane, Harrisburg
  • Light supper provided—watch two episodes (one hour each), with time for food and discussion.
  • Open to Public—bring a friend

Suggest RSVP to Rachel mark at rachelmark@paonline.com.

This groundbreaking documentary explores the impacts of climate change.

Viewer comments:

  • This is the most important series you can share with your friends and family. Climate change is the biggest challenge we face as a civilization and it will affect the lives of everyone on the planet.
  • Incredible series, I have learned so much. A great educational resource. Worth getting access to this series.
  • This series is unsettling because it’s real. I wish every decision-maker, consumer, politician, and young person on the planet would see this and take action. We are way behind to get ahead of this unfolding catastrophe.
  • An excellent documentary. Hopefully it will cause you to take actions to save our children’s future.
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Explore Alleviating Food Insecurity in the U.S.—April 7, State College

Posted at http://news.psu.edu/story/349410/2015/03/20/april-7-talk-explore-alleviating-food-insecurity-us

March 20, 2015

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — What we know and what we need to know about food insecurity in the United States will be the topic of the 2015 M.E. John Lecture, presented by Craig Gunderson, the Soybean Industry Endowed Professor in Agricultural Strategy at the University of Illinois. The lecture, sponsored by the Department of Agricultural Economics, Sociology and Education in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences, will take place at 2:30 p.m. April 7 in the Faculty and Staff Club Room at the Nittany Lion Inn.

Gunderson will provide an overview of the extent, determinants and consequences of food insecurity. He will discuss the many paths that hold promise for reducing food insecurity, particularly food assistance programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as the Food Stamp Program.

Gundersen’s research is focused primarily on the causes and consequences of food insecurity and on evaluations of food assistance programs. He is the executive director of the National Soybean Research Laboratory, a member of the Technical Advisory Group of Feeding America and the lead researcher on the Map the Meal Gap project. Previously, he held positions at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service and at Iowa State University.

The lecture will be preceded by a reception at 2 p.m. and will be followed by an informal discussion from 3:30 to 4 p.m. All events are open to the public and will take place in the Faculty and Staff Club Room at the Nittany Lion Inn.

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Two-Generational Strategies Can Help Fathers, Too

From CLASP (http://www.clasp.org/):

Posted at http://www.clasp.org/whats-next/two-generational-strategies-can-help-fathers

By Olivia Golden

Two-generational programs and policies aim to give struggling families a double boost—for example, by pairing high-quality early education for young children with employment and training opportunities for their parents.  Such high-impact strategies are crucial because children remain the poorest Americans, even after the recent improvements as the economy recovers: one in five children still live in families with income below the federal poverty level ($20,090 for a family of three), with an additional 22 percent living in low-income families.

A great deal of the attention to two-generational strategies has focused on custodial parents, most of whom are mothers.  But while we know less about how the circumstances of non-custodial parents affect children, there is early evidence from research and practice that if non-custodial parents—who are often young men—do better in their own lives, they can also do better for their children, financially and emotionally.

I recently had an opportunity to suggest what a two-generational lens might look like for non-custodial parents, mostly fathers, when I served as a panelist on a policy forum at the 2015 National Child Support Enforcement Association Conference, which brought together more than 300 state and county child support professionals. The participants were eager to discuss ways of creatively addressing the circumstances of children and families, including how to build partnerships and find ways to serve families more holistically and help parents and children get the support they need.

As the professionals in that room well knew, both custodial and non-custodial parents are often struggling to make ends meet in a difficult labor market. Many parents are young adults, who comprise the nation’s second poorest group (young adults, aged 18-24), with youth of color facing the most barriers and the lowest levels of employment.  Children in families with young parents have extraordinarily high poverty rates—and face this poverty at a crucial stage of their own development. Nearly half of children born to poor parents over the past four decades were persistently poor over the course of their childhoods, compared to just 4 percent of those whose parents were not poor at the time of their births. And the non-custodial parents of these children also struggle with unemployment, low-earnings. and poverty.

For both custodial and noncustodial parents, the challenges that lead to this level of economic insecurity—and corresponding risk to children—include low skills, difficulty in finding jobs, and substandard jobs that don’t offer enough hours and a high enough wage to support a family.  Personal challenges, including untreated health and mental health problems, like depression or substance abuse, also contribute to difficulty in the job market.  Other obstacles to steady and family-supporting work include lack of affordable child care for custodial parents and sometimes also for noncustodial parents. In addition, for young men of color in particular, a history of involvement with the criminal justice system presents significant barriers to stable work and getting on a career path. Fixing these challenges is crucial, not only because it is the fair thing to do, but also because it is truly central to the future success of the American economy.  With almost half of children growing up in low-income families, strengthening these families is crucial to the success of our future workforce.  And reaching both parents and children gives a double boost, helping the young adults who are just entering today’s workforce while also making an investment in their children’s wellbeing tomorrow.

One important step that has received bipartisan support is the expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) for workers without dependents.  Even though it may seem counter-intuitive that a tax credit for single adults could be two-generational, this group includes non-custodial parents, and access to the EITC would be a major step to increase their earnings, their work hours (by making work pay), and their ability to make child support contributions. While the federal tax system provides a significant earnings supplement to low-income custodial parents, workers without dependents receive a very small credit—and young workers (under 24) are denied even that modest credit.  Both President Obama and Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) have proposed expanding the EITC for workers without dependents and making younger workers eligible for it.  This would help non-custodial parents who face wage garnishment to meet their child support obligations.

But states do not need to wait for new legislation to improve the economic stability of non-custodial and custodial parents and their ability to contribute to their children’s lives.  Instead, states should seize the opportunity offered by the strengthening economy and key legislation already enacted by Congress, including the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). With the ACA, addressing mental health and substance abuse challenges, as well as other medical conditions that pose barriers to parents’ success and ability to hold a job, is a practical possibility for the first time. Until the Affordable Care Act, many childless low-income workers, including non-custodial parents, had no access to insurance that could cover treatment. Now, especially in the 28 states that have expanded Medicaid, there is a huge opportunity for child support and health agencies to partner to help non-custodial parents. These non-custodial parents need to be enrolled in health insurance as a crucial first step. Then the second step is for child support agencies and others to advocate for well-designed health care systems that will help them gain access to the treatment they need.

These health-oriented strategies are particularly important for young men of color living in high-poverty communities, whose exposure to trauma and violence growing up can affect their development and lead to behavior problems and poor academic performance. Research on young men of color also shows a convergence of physical risk factors that affect academic achievement and employability throughout their lifespan.  All of these factors can interrupt normal brain development and have long-term consequences for learning, behavior, and physical and mental health.

States should also seize the opportunities offered by WIOA, which re-orients workforce programs to low-skilled, low-income workers and disconnected youth:  in the new law, 75 percent of youth dollars go towards out-of-school youth ages 16 to 24, some of whom are parents of children in the most challenging financial and family situations. The new law removes incentives for administrators to “cream” (or purposely select clients who are most likely to succeed), and emphasizes workforce approaches like customized training, career pathways, and earn-while-you-learn strategies that can help low-income parents participate in career and education  programs that truly could make a difference.

But achieving the potential of these WIOA provisions requires that state and local workforce leaders and service providers actively seize the new opportunities, rather than continuing business as usual.  To make that happen, state and community leaders and activists who care about low-income and low-skill youth and adults, including noncustodial parents, should be at the table as partners to drive change.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) employment and training (E&T) programs also provide an opportunity to expand workforce services for the most disadvantaged workers. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service recently announced the states that were selected for the 10 pilots authorized by last year’s Farm Bill, but all states have the potential to draw down additional funds through the 50/50 reimbursement option.  This is particularly important right now for non-custodial parents and childless adults, because they are at risk of losing their SNAP benefits if they are unable to find at least half-time employment and are not participating in a qualifying training program.

Another opportunity for better work outcomes could be available soon: proposed child support regulations would also allow certain employment services for non-custodial parents with child support obligations to be included as part of child support enforcement programs. This proposal recognizes that many non-custodial parents do not pay child support—not because they are unwilling, but because they are unable to find and keep employment.  If finalized, the new regulations would allow child support administrators to come to the table with resources as they work with the workforce and higher education systems

Our nation’s children—and the young adults raising them—are the future workforce. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, by around 2020, “more than half of the nation’s children are expected to be part of a minority race or ethnic group.” And 40 to 50 percent of all children live in low-income families. We need policies that respond to these realities. Expanding opportunities for parents, both custodial and non-custodial, is crucial in helping these children grow up with the ability to succeed in today’s world and create a better nation for all of us.

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High Number of Philadelphia Police Shootings “Part of a Larger Pattern”

Posted at http://www.publicnewsservice.org/2015-03-27/civil-rights/high-number-of-philadelphia-police-shootings-part-of-a-larger-pattern/a45386-1

March 27, 2015 – Dan Heyman, Public News Service (PA)

Play Audio in Browser WindowPhilly shootings

HARRISBURG, Pa. – A Justice Department report that found a high number of shootings by Philadelphia police confirms what critics have been saying, the American Civil Liberties Union says.

According to the DOJ, Philadelphia police shot about one person a week for the past eight years – a much higher number than in New York City, which has a far larger population. Four out of five of those shot were African-American, the report said.

Mary Catherine Roper, deputy legal director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania, said this fits what the ACLU and others working to change policing in the city have found.

“The same issues that we have identified come out in this report,” she said, “a lack of training, a lack of accountability and racial disparities.”

The Philadelphia Police Department requested the Department of Justice study and said it is attempting to address the issues.

Roper said the shootings happened in spite of a falling crime rate and fewer assaults on police. One of the disturbing patterns shown in the report, she said, is the number of cases when the police shot people who offered no potential threat.

“The report spends a lot of time talking about the shooting of unarmed suspects,” she said, “and that obviously is the most concerning part of it.”

Roper said the solutions for the high number of shootings are similar to what is being recommended for other issues. She said the department needs more transparency, much better accountability and – most of all – better training to emphasize de-escalation and non-lethal force.

“Police officers who are simply not given adequate training in de-escalation and alternatives to shooting people,” she said. “There are ways to conduct law enforcement without hurting people.”

The full report is online at scribd.com.

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Holy Week Devotions on Immigration

From the Interfaith Immigration Coalition (http://www.interfaithimmigration.org):

On behalf of the Holy Days & Holidays Team of the Interfaith Immigration Coalition, we are grateful to present a 6 day set of devotions for Holy Week which have just been posted on the IIC Website, under “Religious Holiday Resources,” at: http://www.interfaithimmigration.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Holy-Week-Six-Days-of-Devotion.pdf.

The devotions are based upon the Holy Week lectionary texts from the Gospel of John, and include immigrant stories and action steps to support them for each day. Among the stories are families and individuals who are receiving DACA, awaiting the benefits of DAPA, seeking security after escaping as children from Honduras, enduring immigration detention, and receiving Sanctuary assistance while awaiting relief.

Thanks to all IIC team partners who contributed to this effort–and we pray they can be shared and used broadly among our faith communities. Thanks for sharing them with those you know, and we pray they will find them meaningful!!

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Feds Outline New Rules on Payday Loans

By Lindsay Wise

McClatchy Washington Bureau March 26, 2015

WASHINGTON — Federal regulators on Thursday will outline a proposal to place limits on high-interest, short-term loans – the first step in the government’s efforts to curb payday debt traps.

The long-awaited rules drafted by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau would cover payday loans, vehicle title loans and high-cost installment loans. Lenders would be required to make sure borrowers can afford to repay and to notify borrowers before debiting payments from their checking accounts.

The rules also would limit the number of loans borrowers could take out and the number of times lenders could try to withdraw money from borrowers’ accounts, a practice that the consumer bureau says often ends up burdening consumers with excessive fees.

The proposal will be announced Thursday at a public hearing in Richmond, Va., by Richard Cordray, director of the bureau, a government watchdog with jurisdiction over small-dollar loans.

Read more at http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2015/03/26/260973/feds-outline-new-rules-on-payday.html.

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