Click here for West/Southwest IAF Key Victories in 2021

MOC Calls for Additional Support for People Experiencing Homelessness

[Excerpts]

With more than 100 new housing vouchers dedicated for the homeless coming to Marin from President Biden’s housing plan, city and county leaders are proposing to pool approximately $2 million to hire case managers to help get people off the streets, and fast.

Marin’s two largest cities have thrown their support behind the county effort. San Rafael and Novato city councils voted unanimously last week to contribute $260,000 and $240,000, respectively.

During its budget hearings set for June 21 through 23, the Marin County Board of Supervisors also will consider adding $1.2 million to the pot, said Matthew Hymel, county administrator.

Local jurisdictions are using an influx of federal aid from the American Rescue Plan to pay for the contributions. The county of Marin is receiving $50 million, while San Rafael is receiving a total of $16 million and Novato is getting approximately $9 million.

....

Pat Langley, a member of the Marin Organizing Committee activist group, said homeless people need more help.

“This is a blessing,” she said of the plan. “But without an adequate number of case managers to assure that rental units are located and people are transitioned into their new homes we would not be able to take advantage of this opportunity.”

Hening, whose part-time contract with the city ends June 30, is remaining in Marin to continue work with Opening Doors Marin as an independent consultant on homeless initiatives throughout the county. He was a full-time city employee from 2016 through May 2020. His final salary was $10,952 a month. He has been working on a part-time contract since June 2020, earning $150 an hour.

[Photo Credit: Sherry LaVars Marin Independent Journal]

Marin Could Pool Up to $2 Million for Homeless InitiativeMarin Independent Journal [pdf]


California IAF Keeps Up the Pressure on Tenant Protections

[Excerpts]

A total of 675 leaders from across California convened on Zoom June 3 in an effort to urge California Gov. Gavin Newsom to extend and expand Senate Bill 91.

SB91, which went into effect in January, was the follow-up to Assembly Bill 3088’s eviction moratorium. It also outlined a state rental assistance program, including changes such as prohibiting consideration of Covid-19 rental debt as a negative factor for prospective tenants.

But the bill is set to expire on June 30, and while talks have been ongoing about extending it, few details have been released to the public. This prompted the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF), a network of faith and community-based organizations, to hold the June 3 meeting.

....

On Tuesday, California IAF released an additional statement further urging Newsom and state legislators to extend the moratorium without a preemption. Local COPA leader Mayra Bernabe said they have heard rumors of a 60-day extension that includes a preemption barring local governments from acting to extend their own moratoriums. 

“If the extension is any shorter than 6 months, we want to be sure it gives local governments the flexibility to enact additional protective measures,” Bernabe said.

COPA leaders met Tuesday night to send emails and do phone banking to state representatives. Bernabe said they also wanted to put pressure on the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors to also consider a local extension, which other counties and cities have already done.

“We already have a big homelessness crisis in Santa Cruz County,” she said. “If this is not extended longer … we can expect a wave, a tsunami of homelessness. There are many out there who are on the brink, or will be evicted soon. We’re trying to get in front of this and prevent it.”

Bernabe added that thousands of households in the county are currently behind on their rent. Many did pay rent, but had to borrow money, take out loans and max out their credit cards—and that’s not even considering the upcoming months.

At the June 3 meeting Carolyn Winston, an IAF leader and member of St. Brigid Catholic Church in Los Angeles, urged people to contact their legislators before the June 15 budget deadline.

“The window is closing, but we have an opportunity to take action to impact legislative decisions,” Winston said. “Our actions influence their decision-making. Together we can effect change.”

Hundreds of Advocates Urge Gov. Newsom to Expand SB91Good Times [pdf]

Hundreds of Advocates Urge Gov. Newsom to Expand SB91The Pajaronian [pdf]

With Assistance Lagging, State Must Extend Rental Eviction MoratoriumSanta Cruz Sentinel [pdf]


AMOS Expands Access to Children's Mental Health Services: Additional Mobile Crisis Responders to be Hired

After 100 AMOS leaders appeared at a Broadlawns Medical Center Board Meeting to support an initiative expanding children and youth access to mental health services, Broadlawns Trustees voted 5-2 to hire two mobile crisis responders trained to work with children and adolescents.  Walnut Hills UMC leader Connie McKeen delivered testimony on behalf of AMOS in support of this momentous step forward for Polk County youth and their families.  During the hearing, one of the Trustees exclaimed, "Wow, that's a lot of people."  

20 AMOS leaders followed up in person within weeks, inspired by thousands of Polk County residents who shared stories based on their experiences, conducted research, and organized postcard campaigns and neighborhood walks over 4 years to make children's crisis services a reality.

In a related Oped, leaders Lindsey Braun and Benjamin C. Bell expressed, 

Anger has been the pilot light that has kept AMOS leaders doggedly pursuing the implementation of youth mental health crisis services for over four years.

New Mental Health Resources Coming for Children in Polk CountyDes Moines Register  [pdf]
Polk County Unveils New Mental Health Services for ChildrenKCCI Des Moines [pdf]


Together Louisiana Challenges Proposal to Allow Industry Employees on Water Conservancy Commission


“The Commission has not stopped, or even slowed the saltwater intrusion into our groundwater drinking sources, or the industrial pumping that is causing the contamination.  Why?  There are commissioners who are...employees of the very industries whose groundwater pumping is being raised right now.”  
 -- Dianne Hanley, Together Louisiana

[Excerpts]

....

This bill will allow industries to continue to control the Commission enabling the ethics violations that led to the bill’s creation. The bill was created in response to five commissioners, who are employees of ExxonMobil, Georgia-Pacific, Entergy, and the Baton Rouge Water Company, being charged by the Louisiana Board of Ethics with violations. Retroactively, the legislation would void the ethics violations of these five commissioners. 

Senate Bill 203 implies that even if an individual is under civil investigation for ethics charges, the Louisiana Legislature can pass legislation to retroactively absolve them of any wrongdoing. In doing so, Senate Bill 203 regresses ethics law, endangering Baton Rouge’s clean water source, and setting a bad precedent regarding conflicts of interests. 

Environmental advocates and groups are particularly alarmed by the bill because saltwater has been intruding on the Baton Rouge-area aquifer which supplies most of the drinking water to the region. These advocates and groups suspect that this is because industries are extracting too much water from the aquifer for commercial purposes. 

....

The bill sailed through Louisiana’s House and Senate, so now it’s up to Governor John Bel Edwards to veto it. “In a conversation with the governor that we had, Together Louisiana and Together Baton Rouge, the governor shared with us that he thought the legislators will be low to support a bill that exempts anyone from the ethics code and that changes the ethics code for some,” Hanley explained. “We’re asking [the governor] to veto this because it would exonerate people who are violating the code, and it would put into law the ability to continue to be on the commission even if one has a conflict of interest.”


600 California IAF Leaders Call for Expansion of Tenant Protections to Prevent Tsunami of Evictions


With the deadline fast approaching on a statewide renter eviction moratorium, the California Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF), including Bishop Oscar Cantú of the Catholic Diocese of San José, is calling for an extension of the eviction moratorium and amendment of SB 91 to allow more flexibility with rental assistance.

[Excerpts]

“Hundreds of families on the Central Coast are barely keeping a roof over their heads — we need more time and more flexibility to give them the support they need to stay housed,” wrote Mayra Bernabe of Communities Organized for Relational Power in Action in an email. “The state has the funds, they need to act to get them distributed to our families while protecting them from eviction.”

....

More than 500 activists organizing beneath the umbrella of the California Industrial Areas Foundation coalition, including affiliate COPA — a regional nonprofit consisting of 27 dues-paying member institutions across Santa Cruz, Monterey and San Benito counties — gathered for a statewide rally via Zoom Thursday night, participated in a call to action in seeking to extend the state’s rental eviction moratorium and Senate Bill 91 or the COVID-19 Tenant Relief Act, by an additional six months....

Assemblymember Robert Rivas, who spoke in favor of the state’s previous extension of SB 91, warned in January of a coming “wave of homelessness” without the legislation. Prior to COVID-19, Rivas said, some 3.3 million households in California already were living paycheck to paycheck.

“COVID-19 is a financial disaster that no household could have prepared for – and it’s our black and brown communities who are feeling the worst impacts of the virus,” said Rivas, whose district extends into Watsonville. “Not only are Latinos disproportionately more likely to contract the virus than the general population, but they are more likely to have lost their jobs due to the subsequent recession. Latinos, who make up 38 percent of the workforce, account for 50 percent of statewide job losses since the start of the pandemic, and those who lost their jobs overwhelmingly rent.”


CTI Calls for Expansion of Rental Assistance & Investment of Stimulus in Homelessness Reduction

Excerpt: 

Leaders with Central Texas Interfaith – a non-partisan coalition of religious congregations – are also pushing the city council to act.

Jonathan McManus-Dail, the assistant priest at St. Julien of Norwich Episcopal Church, said the city should use available federal funds to make an immediate impact.

“I think many people, myself included, want more urgency around this issue because we see people suffering,” McManus-Dail told KXAN.

Austin has been criticized for not prioritizing permanent supportive housing efforts in the past. Homelessness advocates say the need for urgency has only intensified since the passage of Proposition B. 

Fr. Ed Roden-Lucero, with EPISO/Border Interfaith, Leaves Legacy of Fighting for Justice

[Excerpts]

For four decades, the Rev. Ed Roden-Lucero has influenced El Paso far beyond the walls of the parishes he pastored. He has been a key part of efforts to bring water and sewer services to tens of thousands of homes, and train hundreds of El Pasoans for jobs that paid a living wage and altered lives....

Those who worked with him said he fought poverty and injustice wherever he saw it. EPISO was involved in efforts to build El Paso Children’s Hospital and expand University Medical Center clinics across the county so that more people would have access to health care.

While Roden-Lucero served as pastor of San Juan Diego Catholic Church in Montana Vista, EPISO led an effort to divide the Clint Independent School District Board of Trustees into single-member districts so that power and resources were more evenly divided.

Roden-Lucero arrived in El Paso a couple of years after a group of mostly Catholic churches formed the El Paso Interreligious Sponsoring Organization, or EPISO, a nonprofit organization that trained community-based leaders to advocate for issues important to them. He had received training from the Industrial Areas Foundation, EPISO’s parent organization, before coming to El Paso.

EPISO leaders quickly focused on the dire situation in colonias, neighborhoods along the U.S.-Mexico border that had been developed without the most basic human services. By the mid-1980s, more than 80,000 El Paso County residents lived in homes without water or wastewater services. Many of them developed hepatitis A because they drank from water wells dug next to septic tanks.

State and local leaders had shown little interest in addressing the growing crisis. So EPISO and other IAF affiliates across Texas organized and turned up the heat, bringing national media attention to shameful conditions along the border.

Dolores DeAvila, an educator in El Paso’s Lower Valley and EPISO member, met Roden-Lucero in the early 1980s and was part of the fight to bring water to the colonias.

“I have learned a lot from him in terms of his being very courageous, acting on his beliefs and working with his parishioners, engaging them in their needs,” she said.

Years of lobbying and public pressure by EPISO and its sister organizations paid off in 1989, when Texas voters passed a bond issue to begin the process of providing water and wastewater infrastructure to border colonias....

[Photo Credit: Corrie Boudreaux/El Paso Matters]

The Priest Who Spent 40 Years Fighting to Reshape El Paso, El Paso Matters [pdf]


Texas IAF Blocks Billions in State Tax Giveaways to Big Oil

[Excerpts]

When organizers set out to overturn Texas’s giveaway program for the oil and gas industry, they had a long game in mind. Over 20 years, the tax exemption program known as Chapter 313 had delivered $10 billion in tax cuts to corporations operating in Texas — with petrochemical firms being the biggest winners. This year, for the first time in a decade, the program was up for reauthorization. Organizers decided to challenge it for the first time.

At the beginning of last week, as Texas’s biennial legislative session approached its end, the aims of organizers remained modest. “We thought it would be a victory if the two-year reauthorization passed so we could organize in interim,” said Doug Greco, the lead organizer for Central Texas Interfaith, one of the organizations fighting to end the subsidy program.

At 4 a.m. last Thursday, it became clear that something unexpected was happening: The deadline for reauthorization passed. “The bill never came up,” Greco told The Intercept. Organizers stayed vigilant until the legislative session officially closed on Monday at midnight, but the reauthorization did not materialize....

“No one had really questioned this program,” said Greco, of Central Texas Interfaith.

The reauthorization was a once-in-a-decade chance to challenge it. “We knew in our guts that the program was just a blank check, but we also are very sober about the realities of the Texas legislature.”  ....an unlikely coalition...emerged from across the political spectrum — including the right-wing Texas Public Policy Foundation, the progressive Every Texan, and [Texas IAF], which does nonpartisan political work among religious groups.

....

The Texas Chapter 313 defeat is the second recent win against multibillion-dollar oil and gas industry subsidies in fossil fuel states. Last fall, organizers in Louisiana beat back a ballot initiative designed to counteract dramatic reforms to the state’s industry giveaway program. In a state that leans heavily Republican, people voted down the constitutional amendment by a landslide.

Broderick Bagert, who helped organize the Louisiana effort, sees what happened in Texas as part of a turning of the tides in a region where industry has long ruled. “In a lot of cases, it’s not that these battles have been lost — they just haven’t been fought,” he said. “What you’re seeing for the first time is the battles being fought.”

....Bagert noted that Louisiana and Texas are two of a handful of states whose industries will decide what our climate future will look like. “The question of these subsidies is being tied more and more with the question of whether these changes in energy production that we need to save the planet are going to be made in time to save the planet,” he said. “It all boils down to the price of energy. Once industries have to bear the full cost of their production, including emissions and taxes and all the other things that have been subsidized, then it’s no longer advantageous, and that’s when things start happening.”

In Blow to Big Oil, Corporate Subsidy Quietly Dies in Texas, The Intercept [pdf]

Texas Legislature Dooms Chapter 331, Which Gives Tax Breaks to Big Businesses, Business Journal [pdf]

Missed Deadline Could Doom Controversial $10B Tax-Break Program, Houston Chronicle

A Texas Law Offers Tax Breaks to Companies, but It's Renewal Isn't a Done DealTexas Tribune [pdf]

A Controversial Tax Program Promised High Paying Jobs. Instead, Its Costs Spiraled Out of ControlHouston Chronicle [pdf]

Losers and Winners from Chapter 313Central Texas Interfaith

The Unlikely Demise of Texas’ Biggest Corporate Tax Break, Texas Observer [pdf]


Arizona Interfaith Network Condemns Flat Tax as Immoral. State Budget Talks Stall.

[Excerpts]

Members of Arizona's faith community gathered at the Arizona Capitol on Thursday to condemn the proposed 2.5% flat tax, saying it would disproportionately impact marginalized communities and that they would be "among the first" to call for a referendum if it passes.

The Arizona Interfaith Network, a statewide coalition of organizations including the Valley Interfaith Project, Northern Arizona Interfaith Council and Yuma County Interfaith, held the news conference at 10 a.m.

The Rev. Martha Seaman, a deacon at Church of the Epiphany-Tempe who also serves as president of the Valley Interfaith Project board, began the conference by calling the flat tax a "dangerous" proposal....

The Rev. Hunter Ruffin, a senior pastor at Church of the Ephiphany-Tempe, said the lost tax revenue would "cripple our state for generations to come" and called the state budget "one of our most basic moral documents" that reflects who and what is prioritized in Arizona.

Ruffin said the "immoral" flat tax would benefit wealthy Arizonans at the cost of the poor and middle class, which he described as antithetical to religious teaching.  "You can turn to Leviticus, to Ezekiel, to Zachariah, to Malachi, to the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, to the whole of the Pauline epistles....

"we're taught to care for the most vulnerable among us first, not simply when we have extra in our pockets and we feel charitable."

If the flat tax passes, Ruffin said the Arizona Interfaith Network would be "among the first" to call for a referendum, a measure in which voters can veto a law by gathering enough signatures to get the issue on the ballot.

He said the network would also be launching a series of community and congregational study sessions to further explore the flat tax and its implications.

[Photo credit: (right) Matthew Casey, KJZZ; (left) ABC News]

Oped: First the Pandemic, Now a Flat Tax. Haven't Arizona's Most Vulnerable Suffered Enough? The Arizona Republic [pdf]

Arizona Faith Leaders Condemn Proposed Flat Tax, Say They Will Call ReferendumThe Arizona Republic [pdf]

Arizona State Senate Cannot Find Agreement on the Budget, Joins the House in RecessABC Arizona [pdf]

Faith Coalition Calls Arizona Budget Proposal ImmoralKJZZ [pdf]

AIN Clergy Denounce the Flat Tax ProposalValley Interfaith Project


In Advance of Hurricane Season, TMO & Texas IAF Fight for Energy Grid Weatherization and Help with Repairs

[Excerpt]

….[t]he Network of Texas IAF Organizations – a nonpartisan coalition of mostly faith-based organizations that represents more than one million people — and The Metropolitan Organization of Houston, held a virtual press conference April 12 to support approval of State Senate Bill 3, mandating weatherization under federal energy regulation guidelines.

They are calling for the costs to be covered by power producers and energy generators as well as through the state’s $10 billion “rainy day” fund. The bill passed in the Senate on March 29 and now moves to the House that heard testimony but has not taken a vote. It would also impose penalties for non-compliance, increase coordination among state energy regulating bodies and create an emergency alert system.

Faith organizations also called for establishing a $2 billion fund to help families pay for home and apartment repairs and for consumer advocates to be appointed to all state energy and utility boards.

Sister Maureen O’Connell, OP, Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston director of the Secretariat for Social Concerns, said, “Never again – the damage that this past storm inflicted on families should never happen again because of lack of preparation by the state.”

“People are still suffering and can’t make repairs on their own homes. It’s criminal not to help. The community, including the State Legislature, needs to support one another,” she said.

....Since many lost wages or jobs because of the pandemic, they remain living with mold in their homes from busted pipes and filling bathtubs with water, DeLeon described.  The ministry, with limited funds, can help each family only once every six months, she said. “This is only a temporary fix. The community’s problems are much bigger.”

With Hurricane Season Looming, Families Still Suffer from Winter Storm, The Arch-Diocese of Galveston [pdf]