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Beaumont TMO Leaders Leverage $1.2 Million in Local Pandemic Relief

[Excerpt]

Eleven Southeast Texas Faith Leaders from Jefferson County signed a letter on May 19, 2020 and sent it to Governor Abbott, Jefferson County Commissioners Court, Beaumont City Council and Port Author City Council, asking the Cities and County to create a coronavirus relief fund at their level of government to address COVID-19 housing concerns and to advocate for funding an behalf of the most vulnerable to the coronavirus. 

In response to this, and public testimony by key religious leadership, the City of Beaumont designated $1.2 Million towards pandemic relief.

[Photo credit: Fran Ruchalski, Beaumont Enterprise]


Together Louisiana Launches '10,000 Conversations' Campaign

[Video produced by Louisiana Public Broadcast]


Together Louisiana Fights Off Effort to Expand Tax Breaks (Again)

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...Edgar Cage threw up his hands.

“I feel like David but they’ve reduced the size of my stone to a grain of sand,” Cage said after leaving a Louisiana House committee hearing considering one of many bills that favor business but remove revenues from local governments.

Seventy-nine opponents had emailed their testimony because they couldn’t come to the State Capitol during the coronavirus pandemic. Rather than reading the emails aloud, as Cage wanted, the missives were attached en masse “in the official” record. Less than a minute later the committee voted.

Make no mistake, Cage knows the score when facing the Goliath of business and energy special interests. And he doesn’t fool himself into thinking that most in the Republican-dominated Legislature would vote against business interests. But, legislators in the session that ends June 1 have had little opportunity to hear the other side.

“If those people (email senders) were here, they would have to been allowed to testify and (committee members) would have had to listen,” said Cage, of Together Louisiana. “My big problem is that this is supposed to be a democratic process.”

The pandemic caused by an airborne virus that often causes death necessarily requires keeping people apart during a gathering that usually decides policies up close and personal in crowded halls and hearing rooms. That social distancing has come at the cost of creating an echo chamber where legislators’ preconceived notions are reinforced by lobbyists and partisans. That isolation is what is fueling so much legislation that expand tax breaks, Cage said....

[Photo Credit: Bill Feig, The Advocate]


Working Together Jackson Calls for Change to State Flag

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[Working Together Jacksoninterfaith leaders stood on the steps of the Catholic cathedral in downtown Jackson Thursday morning, calling for the immediate removal of the Mississippi state flag.

In a resounding a voice, they said any discussion of what design should replace the current flag must not impede the current goal: Taking down a flag associated with white supremacy.

"Anything is better than what we've got now," said Bishop Ronnie Crudup of New Horizon Church International.

People have been protesting for racial justice in Mississippi and across the nation this month at levels not seen since the civil rights movement more than 50 years ago.

There is renewed hope that the Legislature might act to change the state flag, which contains what is commonly known as the confederate battle flag.

"It is time," said Bishop Brian Seage of the Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi. "It is time for a new flag that truly represents all of us... We call for our legislative leaders to act now."

Bishop Joseph Campbell of the Church of Christ likened the flag to "a large splinter in my hand."


TMO Urges City & County to Focus Rental Aid on Most Vulnerable

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TMO is among the coalition of nonprofits that have approached the city and county to urge the equitable distribution of those funds.

“We asked City Council to commit $100 million of the $404 million in the Coronavirus Relief Fund to rental assistance. But the next day, they committed $15 million that was distributed online in a matter of minutes to about 12,000 families,” Higgs said.

“A survey shows of the 700,000 rental units in the area, up to 85,000 cannot pay rent at this time. A huge number of the people are service workers, men and women of color, hourly workers who lost their jobs with little if any savings. The need is so immense,” he said.

With any moratoriums on evictions ending, justices of the peace may resume processing eviction notices by mid-June and constables will start showing up at apartments, he said.

“It doesn’t make sense to evict someone who has paid regularly but is not able to currently pay during this crisis. Plus, when someone in uniform shows up to evict, it’s scary as heck, especially for those who may be undocumented,” Higgs said.

[Photo Credit: Courtesy of St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church]

Facing Eviction, Single Mothers With Kids Hit Hardest By Need For Rental Assistance, Texas Catholic Herald [pdf]


COPS/Metro Leverages $75 Million for Workforce Development in San Antonio

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COPS/Metro, one of the city's most powerful community organizing groups, vigorously lobbied the council to use the federal dollars to help workers who lost jobs during the pandemic to receive retraining.  Under the plan, the city would partner with Workforce Solutions Alamo and Project Quest, allowing residents to access weekly stipends of $450 and services such as childcare.

Council voted 10-1 to approve the plan, saying the training opportunities will allow the city to reshape is low-wage economy and residents to access work with better earnings, benefits and job security.

San Antonio Council Votes to Spend Biggest Share of Federal COVID-19 Funds on Workforce TrainingSan Antonio Current [pdf

City Council Set to Vote on $80M Plan to Teach People Skills to Earn Higher WagesNews for SA [pdf]  

‘Time is of the Essence’: Council OKs $191M COVID-19 Recovery Spending PlanRivard Report [pdf]

Debate Over S.A. Stimulus Money a Battle Between Have-NotsSan Antonio Express-News [pdf]


Central TX Interfaith Leverages $36M in Austin Rental Aid

On the heels of leveraging $10 Million in housing assistance from Travis County, Central Texas Interfaith leaders called on the City of Austin to provide at least $40 Milllion in rental assistance for economically distressed families in the COVID-19 crisis.   On Thursday, June 4, the Austin City Council unanimously responded.  

Central Texas Interfaith commends the Mayor, Austin City Council and City Manager for approving a COVID spending framework that includes nearly $24 million new dollars for the RENT Program plus $12 million new dollars for the RISE Program for direct income support.  

That, combined with other additional new sources, puts the City of Austin well over the $40 million dollars in new rental assistance that Central Texas Interfaith has called for. It also includes tens of millions more in financial support for those in need. We look forward to working with the City of Austin and other organizations on implementation of these programs and beginning to look at our longer term economic recovery and workforce strategies. 

Austin Council Approves Over $200M for COVID-19 Emergency Response, CBS Austin 

Group to Austin Leaders: Give $40 Million Cut From Coronavirus Funds to RentersAustin American Statesman [pdf]

Advocates Call on Austin to Provide $40M for RentersKXAN [video[pdf]

Austin Allocating Far Less in Rental Assistance During COVID-19 Crisis Compared to Other Texas CitiesKVUE (Pre-conference) [video[pdf]

Austin Nonprofit Seeks Assistance for RentersKVUE [video[pdf]

Organización Pide se Asignen Más Fondos de Alquiler Para Familias de AustinUnivsión [video[pdf]

Organización Pide a Comisionados del Condado Travis que Aprueben Fondos de Asistencia para el Alquiler de las Familias Afectadas por el CoronavirusUnivisón [video][pdf]

Travis County Approves $10M for Direct Rental and Mortgage AssistanceAustin Monitor [pdf]

Housing Committee Talks Scaling Rental Assistance ProgramAustin Monitor [pdf]

Headlines / Quote of the Week Austin Chronicle [pdf]

Austin Top News - May 14, 2020 KLBJ [pdf]


200 Working Together Jackson Leaders Push for Medicaid Expansion in Mississippi

Leaders representing over 100 institutions from across Mississippi gathered with leaders of Working Together Jackson to launch a strategy to bring healthcare reform to Mississippi. In coordination with the Mississippi Hospital Association, Mississippi IAF is mobilzling to encourage lawmakers to pass the Mississippi Cares Plan, which would  expand healthcare access to the working poor of Mississippi at no cost to the state.  Because of the suspension of the state legislature due to COVID 19, leaders need to get the proposal on the legislative calendar before the end of July. 

While Mississippi is one of 13 states to not have enacted Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, it is the one with the least healthy population and routinely shows up at the bottom of national lists tracking obesity, diabetes, and lack of access to health care.


Texas IAF Orgs Fight for Language Access to COVID-19 Info

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Claudia Cruz, whose primary language is Spanish, said Dallas Area Interfaith— a coalition of Dallas religious congregations, schools and nonprofits — has been her main source of information since the COVID-19 pandemic began because “it’s the most accessible,” Cruz said.

“Our only source of information has been through DAI and through the people in our community,” Cruz said.

....

"We have to be informed because we are the most vulnerable," [Maria] Ramirez explains.

The information Ramirez has gotten throughout the pandemic has mostly been through her own efforts seeking it out and through the community groups she was already involved with. Ramirez's church sends out information to congregants, as does The Metropolitan Organization of Houston, a local nonprofit of which she is a member.

[Photo Credit: Eddie Gaspar, Texas Tribune]

Mountain Voices Project Launches 'Landlord/Tenant Housing Recovery Plan' to Prevent Tsunami of Summer Evictions in Aspen

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Longtime local resident Maria works in housekeeping and lives in a shared mobile home in El Jebel. She said she’s worried about paying her $300-a-month rent this summer....“My life is very simple,” Maria said. “I work, work, work, and now with the quarantine we can't even work, so financially, coronavirus has really affected me.” ....She recently received $950 in financial support from local nonprofit MANAUS. “Thank God right now I have enough to get by,” she said. “It just comes down to me having to really stretch that… this month I do have the money to pay the rent, but I don't have it for July or August."

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On Thursday.... Mountain Voices Project ... propose[d] the “Landlord/Tenant Housing Recovery Plan” [with] over 160 local leaders in attendance, including representatives from nonprofits, schools and faith-based institutions as well as several Pitkin, Eagle and Garfield county commissioners.

The housing recovery plan involves creating a fund backed by local governments and private donors to support both landlords and tenants. The meeting last Thursday was the first step in getting local institutions, philanthropists and counties to consider coming together and working towards a common goal. Those in attendance were encouraged to take the proposal back to their respective organizations ahead of the next meeting, which is scheduled for later this month.

[Photo Credit: Eleanor Bennett, Aspen Public Radio]

Local Organizations Take Steps To Prevent A ‘Tsunami Of Evictions’ This SummerAspen Public Radio [pdf]