News and Action Summary for July 25, 2014

Download a pdf version of the July 25, 2014 News and Action Summary!

News Summary 7-25-14

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News Posts, July 25, 2014

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

Equal Pay for Women Would Mean a More Secure Retirement for All

Fighting For Fairness: The Wage Gap in America—Infographic

PA DPW Drops Plan to End Medical Assistance for Workers with Disabilities

Rep. Ryan’s Poverty Plan – Reactions and Resources

FRAC Statement on Rep. Ryan’s Poverty Plan

Congress Looks to Cut Cost of Child Care

State Releases New Child Care Learning Standards

Child Migrants Have Been Coming to America Alone Since Ellis Island

Child Migrants Fleeing Central America Seek Safety in U.S.

Governor Agrees to Delay any New Leasing of State Parks & Forests

Community Leaders, Advocates Call on Secretary of Transportation to Ban Use of Hazardous Rail Cars

Highway Trust Fund Temporarily Saved, Unemployed Still Waiting on EUC

House Uses Funding Meant for Unemployment to Pay for Highway Bill Patch

New Report on the Potential for Reducing Prison Populations

Corporate Inversions: A “Get Out of Taxes Free” Card

Competition Corrupts Minds and Actions

Once Upon a Time: An Analysis of the 2014-15 General Assembly Approved Budget

Pennsylvania’s Debt Rating Downgraded

Vertical Farming Taking Root in Pennsylvania

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Opportunities for Funding, Competitions, and Places Where You Can Get Involved—July 25, 2014

Here is a current listing of opportunities including contests, grants, and efforts that you can join in Pennsylvania and nationally:

Help Needed to Mobilize Immigrant Vote

Take the #LiveTheWage Challenge—July 24–30, 2014

Kickstart Sharing in Your Neighborhood

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Newly Posted Resources—July 25, 2014

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

Fighting For Fairness: The Wage Gap in America—Infographic

Kickstart Sharing in Your Neighborhood

Advocacy Toolkit for Reforming Isolation in Juvenile Justice Facilities

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Help Needed to Mobilize Immigrant Vote

From the Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition (http://www.paimmigrant.org):

PICC coordinates targeted, non-partisan, voter registration and get-out-the-vote (GOTV) programs to close the voting gap among immigrant voters. We have already registered more than 25,000 immigrants to vote!  Through the work of PICC staff, volunteers and partners, these programs have greatly increased the turnout rate of immigrant communities:

  • In 2008, we mobilized immigrant communities and allies to participate in volunteer phone banks and door-to-door canvasses of PICC-registered voters. 78% of PICC-registered voters targeted through our program cast a ballot in the 2008 general election.
  • In 2010, we made 6,700 calls to registered voters and mailed handwritten pledge cards.  61% of voters that we contacted went to the polls.
  • In 2012, we expanded our voter registration and GOTV program by convening an “Immigrant Voter Mobilization Coalition” consisting of local community-based organizations in the Philadelphia area. Through these partnerships we aimed to increase voter registration and turnout among second generation and less recently naturalized citizens as well as among new citizens. PICC and coalition partners made more than 16,000 attempted contacts with immigrant voters through phone banks, pledge card and reminder mailings, and canvasses. 76% of PICC-registered voters targeted through our program voted in the 2012 elections.
  • Our 2008, 2010 and 2012 turnout rates are significantly higher than the turnout rate of the general Pennsylvania voter population (68% in 2008, 42% in 2010, and 65% in 2012) and demonstrate the tremendous effectiveness of our GOTV program.

We need your help to mobilize the immigrant vote!

Our voter registration and GOTV work relies on the hard work of volunteers. This year we intend to make almost 13,000 contacts with immigrant voters by phone, canvass and mail. Please consider volunteering this year in one of the following areas:

Special Event Voter Registration: PICC is looking for volunteers to attend community events and register eligible participants to vote.
Time commitment: 1-2 hours per event.

Phone Banking and Canvassing: Beginning in September, PICC will be coordinating regular phone banks and canvasses to contact registered voters about the upcoming election.
Time commitment: 3 hours per phone bank; 4 hours per canvass

We will be holding weekly volunteer orientations at our office. Contact Maria Sotomayor, 215-832-3482 or mariasotomayor@paimmigrant.org, to sign up for the next one.

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Celebrate National Voter Registration Day: Planning Call—August 7, National

Thursday,August 7th at 2:00pm Eastern

On September 23, 2014, volunteers and organizations from all over the country will celebrate the third annual National Voter Registration Day. In its first two years, over 1,000 organizations and 10,000 volunteers registered more than 357,000 people to vote. This year, we want you to be part of this exciting celebration of democracy. Join us to learn how your organization can get involved, host your own voter registration event, spread the word, and more.

Featured Presenters: Maggie Duncan is the Elections Program Manager for the League of WomenVoters of the US and has more than a decade of political advocacy and strategic communications experience. She currently manages the League’s nationwide voter registration programs, which register hundreds of thousands of voters in major election years. Jimmy A. Hernández is Communications Director at Voto Latino. In this role he oversees Voto Latino’s media relations and email operations that advance the organization’s mission, as well as managing projects and campaigns like national communications for National Voter Registration Day, Voto Latino’s immigration reform campaign, and the VL Innovators Challenge.

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PA DPW Drops Plan to End Medical Assistance for Workers with Disabilities

From the Pennsylvania Health Access Network (http://www.pahealthaccess.org):

PA Department of Public Welfare Secretary Bev Mackereth announced that DPW has dropped plans to end Medical Assistance for Workers with Disabilities (MAWD) program. The vital program for workers with disabilities was slated to end January 1, 2015.

MAWD covers more than 34,000 working Pennsylvanians with disabilities and serious health conditions who have low and moderate incomes. It allows people with disabilities to work without fear of losing their coverage, and that coverage provides critical services and supports they need remain in the community.

This is a great victory for the health of Pennsylvanians and a testament to the enormous pressure advocates created on the many problems with Healthy PA through phone calls, meetings, lobby days and public events. However, there are many serious issues that remain and much more work to be done to preserve benefits for our most vulnerable citizens and expand coverage to those in the gap.

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Rep. Ryan’s Poverty Plan – Reactions and Resources

From the Coalition on Human Needs (http://www.chn.org):

By Lecia Imbery

July 24, 2014

Earlier today, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) appeared at an event hosted by AEI to unveil his new plan to fight poverty, “Expanding Opportunity in America.” Rep. Ryan’s plan categorizes his reforms into six different areas, a few of which we’ll discuss here.

So-called “Opportunity Grants”:  First, Rep. Ryan’s plan would create an “Opportunity Grant,” basically a block grant that would consolidate up to 11 different federal programs (including SNAP, child care, housing assistance, LIHEAP, and others) into one funding stream for states, similar to the universal credit system put in place in the UK. However, there are many reasons why this type of system won’t work in the US, not the least of which is that it will result in benefit cuts to poor Americans. CHN has long opposed block grants. For more information on the UK system, see this piece from folks at the Center for American Progress, CLASP, and the Center for the Study of Social Policy, and for more information on block grants, see this piecefrom the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and the Center for American Progress’ reaction to today’s activities here.

Rep. Ryan pointed to a need for broad state flexibility with federal finding, similar to the welfare reform of 1996. However, analysis from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities shows that the 1996 law’s results were mixed and that, especially for the most vulnerable families and children, there are serious downsides to following this path – in fact, deep poverty among children worsened in the first decade after the law was enacted. CLASP also has a great piece with evidence from states that block grants aren’t necessary to achieve the goal of more streamlined and integrated program administration.

He also said we need customized and personalized aid for each person in the form of case management and service provision. But if his plan is budget neutral, and he seems to call for an increased investment in case management, where is that money coming from?

In addition, we can’t separate the fact that the Ryan budget would drastically slash programsthat would help the poor. While he promoted programs like those run by Catholic Charities, he seemed to forget that those programs are funded substantially with federal dollars.

The Earned Income Tax Credit: We strongly support Rep. Ryan’s proposal to expand the Earned Income Tax Credit to childless workers, especially for childless adults. The EITC provides a very important benefit for workers caring for children. However, it is extremely limited for other low-wage workers. For more information on why this tax credit is so important, see this piece from CBPP.

Reducing Incarceration and Recidivism: We also favor Ryan’s desire to reduce imprisonment and recidivism, and we support increasing resources for those who leave the prison system to help them reintegrate into society. We look forward to Rep. Ryan working to get the House to vote on bills that address these issues, and we would again hope that these resources aren’t coming at the cost of other programs for the poor.

In addition to some of the other Head Smackers we noted in Rep. Ryan’s plan, it’s also ironic that Rep. Ryan spoke on the 5 year anniversary of the last time the federal minimum wage was increased, though there was no mention of that in his speech, and that he’s speaking on the day before the House is scheduled to vote on a bad Child Tax Credit bill that will hurt families in poverty.

We’ll have more responses and share more resources related to Rep. Ryan’s speech in the coming days and weeks, and we encourage you to share your thoughts with us on his plan in the comments below. We also encourage you to email your thoughts to Rep. Ryan at the email he has set up to receive comments related to this –expandingopportunity@mail.house.gov. If you reach out to him, we invite you to copyinfo@chn.org on the email.

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Support Keeping Social Security Accessible

From Social Security Works (http://www.socialsecurityworks.org/):

The Social Security Administration (SSA) is rapidly implementing a critically flawed and poorly understood series of office closings and service reductions at exactly the same time as more and more Americans rely on the Social Security system. These office closings and service reductions are accompanied by a national campaign to convince the public that they should utilize the Internet to do their Social Security business.

With more demand on the system it is critical that SSA retain the staffing and infrastructure to ensure world class service for all Americans who have earned their Social Security benefits and services. Go to http://salsa.wiredforchange.com/o/6405/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=10164 to make your voice heard!

There are millions of Americans who do not have access to computers and printers, who do not trust the security of online services, who are not proficient using the Internet, who do not fully comprehend the many nuances of Social Security, or who simply want questions answered by a trained SSA employee. It is not the SSA’s mission to deny those Americans the benefits and services that they have been promised. These customers demand face to face service with a trained Social Security expert to assist them in navigating the complexities of the Social Security programs.

Click here to help keep Social Security benefits accessible!

Examples of some of the service reductions that are proceeding without adequate oversight or study include plans to eliminate community-based service by closing Social Security field offices in towns and cities across the nation. 80 offices and 500 contact stations have already been closed in the last 3 years. SSA is planning more closures.

Millions of Americans depend on trained SSA employees to administer their earned retirement, survivor, and disability benefits. Millions more depend on the income security provided through the Supplemental Security Income program. SSA’s strategy to force customers to file claims and obtain other services online forces people to fend for themselves and will cause many to make unwise choices that will result in a permanent loss of benefits.

Make your voice heard: We need more Social Security offices–not fewer!

We oppose plans that limit us to Internet services. We reject the notion that they should have to navigate through the complexities of Social Security unassisted by SSA employees. It is important that SSA continue to provide services like authenticating Social Security numbers and providing benefit estimates. Before SSA eliminates or reduces these services, there must be studies that assess the impact such reductions have on people with disabilities, the poor, and millions of other citizens not able or willing to do SSA business through a computer.

We have a right to the services and benefits promised under law with a lifetime of hard work. We the people support an expansion of direct face to face and telephone services and the strengthening of the Social Security system that all Americans have depended on for 79 years and will count on for generations to come.

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Urge Your Representatives to Pass the Fair Minimum Wage Act

From the Presbyterian Church (USA) Office of Public Witness (http://www.presbyterianmission.org/ministries/washington/):

Many U.S. workers have come to rely on and expect an annual wage increase from their employers. Indeed, the practice of annual cost of living increases and raises came into standard practice in the heyday of labor unions when the collective bargaining power of workers ensured that the increased productivity of the company was shared with all its employees, not just those at the top.  And yet, today marks the fifth anniversary since the last time the United States government raised the minimum wage. For tipped workers, the wait has been even longer, as the tipped worker minimum wage has stagnated at $2.13 per hour since 1991.

Go to http://capwiz.com/pcusa/issues/alert/?alertid=63285371 to write to your Members of Congress in support of a raise for low-wage workers. (Don’t let this being a PC(USA) alert stop you!)

Low-wage workers have gone five long years without a raise, even while there have been positive signs of economic growth — GDP has surpassed pre-recession levels and the unemployment rate has reached the lowest level since before the recession. But while the economy is improving, low-wage workers still feel like we’re in a recession. As the economy has improved, better-paying jobs have been replaced by lower-wage jobs, meaning that highly qualified workers are taking jobs out of their field and below their skills and/or education levels. The U.S. labor force participation rate is at its lowest since 1978 (meaning that the unemployment rate is going down, in part, because workers are despairing, giving up their job searches, and leaving the labor market), the median income is at its lowest since 1998, and income and wealth inequality are growing. All of these problems are economic drags on the economy.

Living wages that allow workers to support themselves and their families are crucial to closing the widening gaps in our economy, and a minimum wage above poverty level for a family is a great place to start. It is time for Congress to lift minimum and low-wage workers out of poverty by raising the minimum wage above a poverty wage. A job should keep you out of poverty, not trap you in it.

Currently, the minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. The Fair Minimum Wage Act (H.R. 1010/H.S. 1737) will raise of the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour and will lift a family of four just above the federal poverty measure. While this increase still is not high enough to ensure a living wage, it is an important step in the right direction. The bill also raises the minimum wage for tipped workers and indexes the minimum wage for inflation; ensuring low-wage workers too will come to receive the same annual cost of living increase as so many others in the economy. A recent study cited by Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) shows that had the minimum wage kept pace with economic productivity, it would now be about $22 per hour. This is one reason income inequality has been growing so precipitously and it shows how much more work we have to do in demanding justice for the worker.

Write to your member of Congress and call for a minimum wage increase. 

The Department of Labor estimates that a total of 28 million workers would benefit if the minimum wage were raised to $10.10. In earning higher wages, 3.8 million people would earn enough that they would no longer need to rely on SNAP (food stamps) assistance, saving the federal government over $500 million over the fiscal year. Between 14-17 million children would benefit from the raise. This is more than a question of justice for the worker, though it is that. A just minimum wage is about ensuring an economy that provides good jobs for working people, lifts families out of poverty, and pays workers a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work.

Write to your Members of Congress today! 

In 2006, the PC(USA)’s 217th General Assembly called on Congress to pass “legislation to increase the minimum wage… [to] at least reflect the increase in the cost of living since the last minimum wage increase in 1997, with the goal of a wage level sufficient to lift full-time workers out of poverty.” (Minutes, 2006, pp. 894-895)

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