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.
After 100 clergy from Valley Interfaith Project and other congregations across the state called on the Governor to issue a Stay-at-Home order in Arizona, the governor responded with an urging to “Stay Home, Stay Healthy, Stay Connected.” However, within hours, clergy pointed out that:
"the order still loosely defines essential businesses as golf courses, nail salons and gun shops. These employees would have to continue reporting to work, catering to non-essential needs, at great risk of contracting the virus and spreading it to others. That’s in no one’s interest....
We know how to revive an economy, but not a lost human life....
So, we, as clergy leaders of Valley Interfaith Project, ask our state leaders to reassess what we deem absolutely essential and to protect us all. There’s still time for improvements to this order that would diminish the spread of this epidemic.
Within days, the Governor narrowed the definition of what would be considered "essential" and VIP leaders turned their attention to the public, urging communities to comply.
[Photo Credit: Cliff Hawkins, Getty Images via Arizona Mirror]
COVID-19 Demands That We All Make Sacrifices for the Common Welfare, Arizona Mirror [pdf]
Ducey Orders Arizonians to Stay Home Except for 'Essential Activities' Due to Coronavirus, Arizona Daily Star [pdf][pdf]
After the Covid-19 pandemic precipitated an economic crisis of historic proportions, the Industrial Areas Foundation launched a campaign calling on Congress to provide direct monthly aid for the duration of the crisis to American workers -- regardless of their citizenship.
While the recently passed $2.2 Trillion emergency stimulus will provide adults a one-time $1,200 check, it is set to leave out undocumented immigrants -- including those who pay taxes using a Tax Identification Number. IAF organizations across the West / Southwest IAF working with immigrant communities lay out the implications of this decision below:
Health care is a concern to both undocumented immigrants and legal residents.... Last August, the Trump administration tightened restrictions on legal immigrants who receive government benefits, referred to as 'public charges.' The new policy denies green cards to many immigrants who use Medicaid, food stamps and other benefits.
Immigrants in the Dallas area mask their symptoms so they can continue to work, according to Josephine López Paul, lead organizer with Dallas Area Interfaith.
“We’ve seen our service industries obliterated,” said Ms. López Paul. “Immigrants are being hit the hardest right now and there’s no safety net for them.”
When undocumented immigrants do approach hospitals, they quickly turn away if they see any law enforcement present, according to Ana Chavarin, lead organizer of Pima County Interfaith in Tucson, Ariz. Families are less afraid of the virus itself and more concerned with how they would pay for a long-term hospital visit, she said.
Ms. Chavarin has met with families who, not knowing how long the pandemic will last or when they will find work again, have begun rationing food. “Because they are undocumented, they cannot apply for any kind of help,” she said. Some have U.S. citizen children and could apply for benefits on their behalf, she said. But fear of deportation keeps many from doing so.
Food is the number one concern for pastors in Houston, according to Elizabeth Valdez, lead organizer for The Metropolitan Organization. Some parishes and congregations have started to purchase gift cards for food while others are collecting items for the church pantry. Local chapters of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul are gathering items, but since they often count on elderly volunteers, it has been a challenge.
Children cut off from school presents another challenge for low-income families. “The kids being home, [families] don’t always have the technology they need to keep up with school,” Ms. Valdez said.
“There has to be a way to get the money into the hands of service workers,” said Joe Rubio, director of the West/Southwest Industrial Area Foundation, a community organizing network. Pastors are seeing an increase in domestic violence, he said, likely stemming from frustration, economic pressure and children being home from school. Studies have found that immigrant survivors of domestic violence are unlikely to report abuse to law enforcement. Isolation and behavioral health issues have the potential to lead to an increase in suicide rates, he said.
“This could profoundly change the nature of parishes and congregations,” Mr. Rubio said, referring not only to the economic impact of the coronavirus but also how communities respond to those in need during the crisis. “We have to think about how we compensate those making the biggest sacrifices and how we ramp up the economy once it’s over.”
[Photo Credit: John Locher, AP Photo]
In Texas, government programs are out of reach for those without legal status, with a few exceptions such as emergency care. Alternative paths to medical care have existed for many years.
Many unauthorized immigrants use clinics and health fairs because they fear going to hospitals because their information could be placed in a database that might eventually link to federal immigration agencies.
Faith groups also are stepping up with health fairs to respond to the growing need. Medical students frequently pitch in with free services.
This summer, organizers for Dallas Area Interfaith held a trio of free health fairs at Catholic churches, a trusted safe space for families, and the fairs drew hundreds, said Socorro Perales, an organizer for Dallas Area Interfaith.
[Photo Credit: Brian Elledge, Dallas Morning News]
After months of organizing work by One LA leaders -- and building on leaders' successful efforts to launch MHLA and enroll thousands of residents in the program -- the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health announced plans to invest $5.6 million to enhance My Health LA (MHLA) with mental health services.
This move will allow approximately 145,000 low-income Angelenos who currently receive health care through the County's MHLA program to access prevention services that will reduce the risk of developing potentially serious mental illness. MHLA primarily serves low-income and undocumented immigrants who have no other access to health coverage. MHLA did not previously cover mental health as a funded benefit.
Eleven months after leveraging enough votes across the state to expand Medicaid in Nebraska, state legislators have manufactured delays and complications hindering its implementation. In response, OTOC leaders and allies traveled to the Capitol to call on legislators to "honor the vote" and fulfill the will of Nebraskan voters.
At a press conference outside, OTOC leader Dr. Carol LaCroix, a family physician, questioned why the governor’s administration was erecting barriers to care and significantly delaying implementation of expansion. In the hearing itself, OTOC leader Mary Spurgeon (photo above) itemized the harm done by failing to expand Medicaid for the seventh year, pointing out that the altering of the law, passed as Initiative 427, constituted a failure by the governor and legislators to carry out constitutional duties.
Following the hearing, OTOC leaders delivered copies of their testimony to the governor and senators. Leaders are now urging constituents to contact their senators on this issue.
OTOC Leaders Testify Against Delays and Complications of Medicaid, Omaha Together One Community
Valley Interfaith Project (VIP) and the Arizona Interfaith Network are working with a bipartisan block of state legislators to advance proposals that would reopen pathways to college for immigrants and ensure funding for children's healthcare.
Senate Bill 1217 would reopen a pathway for immigrant college students that had previously been closed by Proposition 300. Prop 300 prohibits colleges from charging in-state tuition to immigrants if they cannot prove legal residency. By creating a new tuition category based on graduation from Arizona high schools, SB 1217 would allow immigrants to pay somewhere between current in-state and out-of-state tuition rates.
HB 2514 and SB 1134 would work to eliminate the cap for the Arizona CHIP program (Kids Care), which provides healthcare coverage for children from low-income families not eligible for other state services. At this time, federal funding is scheduled to decrease by 10% in October of 2019 (and by another 10% in 2020), thus triggering a state cap on funding for KidsCare. With over 30,000 Arizona children currently uninsured, leaders are working hard to get these bills out of committee and included in state budget negotiations.
Building upon a three-year conversation campaign, Albuquerque Interfaith burst back onto the political scene with a clear cut strategy for the 2019 biennial New Mexico Legislative Session.
Through house meetings, civic academies, research actions and nonpartisan accountability assemblies, Albuquerque Interfaith leaders developed a legislative agenda to address four areas of concern: 1) Neighborhood Preservation, Community Safety and the Criminal Justice System; 2) Strengthening Schools and Public Education for All; 3) Immigrant Justice, Worker Protection and Workforce Development; and 4) Rebuilding our Behavioral Health System and Health Security for All.
Acting in teams, Albuquerque Interfaith leaders plan to track relevant legislation, gather political intelligence, testify, and advocate for their legislative agenda through collaboration with key legislators supporting bills that intersect with the ABQ Interfaith agenda. Sunday handoffs between institutional teams are already happening to ensure no political intelligence is lost.
Through public action in the Legislative Session, Albuquerque Interfaith leaders hope to restore the foundation of public investments in children and fulfill their vision of creating an “inclusive, multicultural community where children thrive and there is justice and well-being for all.”
In preparation for the Oklahoma City Council Election on February 12th, leaders of Voice OKC held an accountability session with candidates to hear their positions on aspects that tie in with concerns they have identified at their institutions through conversations. In a full sanctuary, the candidates addressed the questions posed by Voice OKC leaders regarding the importance of improving sidewalks and bus stops, the need to raise the $200,000.00 city's budget for social services such as healthcare and housing, the emphasis on MAPS 4 projects that actually benefit the daily life of voters as opposed to large-capital projects and the search for a new Police chief who will avoid unrest and racial profiling.
By engaging with candidates through this accountability session, VOICE OKC leaders secure commitments from the candidates on issues identified by VOICE members and part of the community agenda. Following the accountability session, the leaders return to their institutions to reflect on the candidates’ articulated positions on each of the issues and proceed to the polls to make an informed voting decision. In this way, VOICE OKC leaders fulfill their mission: “to work within the democratic process with civic leaders and public officials on issues of concern to families.”
Oklahoma City council candidates hold forum, Fox 25 News
Following up on a commitment leveraged in a nonpartisan accountability assembly last fall, Pima County Interfaith leaders met with Rep. Kirsten Engel to advance the PCI agenda of issues. Leaders engaged with the legislator around concerns related to education, food security, the environment and health -- and potential opportunities in the upcoming legislative session to advance these concerns.
Rep. Kirsten Engel had attended the Pima County Interfaith Accountability Session in September, along with other candidates, and publicly committed to collaborating with leaders, if elected.