Office of Advocacy and Justice Updates

Aging Resources
Candidate Forums
Congress Passes Supplemental War Spending Measure with Emergency Response Funding 
Congressional Debate Continues on Immigration Reform  
JustFAITH
House Committee Advances Legislation to Revitalize Public Housing 
House Subcommittee Holds Hearing on Child Welfare Waivers
Presentations Available from the Office of Advocacy and Justice
Project Rachel
Senate Committee Approves Labor-HHS Spending Bill for FY 2011 
USCCB Legislative Network 

Project Rachel and Rachel’s Vineyard Connects with National Toll Free Line
In July, the dioceses in Florida connected to the Project Rachel and Rachel’s Vineyard national toll free number where callers can access confidential post-abortion counseling in Florida through appropriate referrals. Previously, a toll free number and advertising was funded through grants from the Florida Council of Catholic Women, the Florida State Council of the Knights of Columbus and the Florida Catholic Medical Association. It is now funded through individual dioceses.

Project Rachel is the abortion healing outreach of the Catholic Church begun in Milwaukee, Wis. in 1984. Its ministry focus is to help women and men overcome the trauma of abortion through counseling and support. The ministry is staffed by a network of specially trained caregivers, including priests, deacons, mental health professionals, medical professionals, and others who are trained in helping men and women recovering from abortions.
To contact Project Rachel and Rachel’s Vineyard, please call: 1-888-456-4673 or go to
www.hopeafterabortion.com.  Please make note that the former toll free number (1-877-908-1212) is no longer in service. 

Candidate Forums
St. Maximilian Kolbe
The Council of Catholic Women of St. Maximilian Kolbe Catholic Church in Avalon Park is sponsoring a Candidate Forum on August 7, 2010, from 1:00 to 3:30 p.m. at Avalon Church in Avalon Park. This Forum features the candidates for the Orange County Mayoral and District 4 Commissioner races. 9 of the 13 candidates have agreed to participate, to date. Location – Avalon Church, 13460 Tanja King Blvd. Orlando, FL 32828. Open to the general public; free admission. 

St. Margaret Mary
A  Luncheon and Forum of Orange County School Board Chair Candidates will be held at St. Margaret Mary Catholic Church on Thursday, September 30 from 12:00pm-1:30pm. Lunch is $6. Please RSVP to eclayton@orlandodiocese.org. 

Presentations Available from the Office of Advocacy and Justice
As schools and parish groups are planning their events this year, consider bringing in a speaker from the Office of Advocacy and Justice. We offer presentations on a variety of topics including:

  • Catholic Social Teaching
  • Faithful Citizenship
  • Stem Cell Research
  • Immigration
  • Death Penalty
  • Living Wills
  • Aging
  • Environmental Stewardship
  • Post-Abortion
  • Social Justice
  • Fair Trade
  • and more!

To schedule a workshop or for more information; contact the Office of Advocacy and Justice: 407-246-4819, eclayton@orlandodiocese.org

JustFAITH
There is still time to register your parish to participate in JustFaith this year! JustFaith, a 30-week adult educational and formational program, offers an opportunity for parishioners to experience a spiritual journey into compassion. Most of us long to be a generous and compassionate people, however, occasions to explore this in a deliberate and engaging way have largely not been available. JustFaith provides a lively and challenging format to read, view, discuss, pray, experience and be formed by the faith tradition that changes lives, inspires faithful witness, and transforms the world through love and service. If you would like more information on how to promote, plan and prepare for a JustFaith group in your parish, email the JustFaith Ministries office ( info@justfaith.org ) or call (502) 429-0865 and request “JustFaith Getting Started 2010-11” document, provided at no charge. 

JustFAITH Engaging Spirituality Workshop
Engaging Spirituality (ES) is JustFaith Ministries’ spiritual deepening process for adult Christians to explore the intersection between contemplative presence and social action. It invites participants “to break open their lives, penetrate the realities of our time” and to explore how all the pieces fit together. 
Learn more about Engaging Spirituality! Ascension Catholic Church will hold an Engaging Spirituality Discernment and Training Day on Saturday, August 28 from 8:30am-3:00pm. Cost for the day is $25 and includes lunch. If you are interested in starting an Engaging Spirituality group and would like to serve as an ES Co-facilitator or would just like to learn more you are invited to join us! For more information contact Mary Kay Kantz at mkkantz@live.com or 321-253-4504. 

USCCB Legislative Network
Your legislative advocacy is changing the lives of those who are most vulnerable, both in the United States and around the world. Your help is needed to make sure that your e-mail participation in the advocacy work of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development continues.  They are updating their systems for federal legislative advocacy. Your information will be held confidential. 

If you are a local parish leader or an individual advocate, please sign up at Legislative Advocacy Center. There you can see the latest alerts and issues being promoted by the USCCB, using resources at the site, you can follow up with your Senators and Representative. To sign up, go to http://capwiz.com/catholicbishops/mlm/signup/ and then bookmark the main page http://capwiz.com/catholicbishops/home/ . Be sure to use your home address, as that address is used to automatically identify your Congressional District. 

Advocacy Efforts
Senate Committee Approves Labor-HHS Spending Bill for FY 2011 
On July 29, the U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations approved legislation to fund programs under the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and related agencies for fiscal year 2011.  The bill provides $170 billion in discretionary funding for a range of programs to promote workforce, education, and other social services. 

Several new programs were funded in the measure to improve opportunities for children and youth including:

  • $300 million for the Early Learning Challenge Fund that will provide competitive grants to states to raise the quality of early childhood programs;
  • $240 million for five new Workplace Innovation Funds that will improve the delivery of education and training to workers; and
  • $1 billion increase for child care services that will help more low-income workers maintain employment;
  • $8.2 billion for Head Start, an increase of $990 million over fiscal 2010. This amount is estimated to provide comprehensive early childhood development services to 978,000 low-income children.

 To improve the workforce, the bill provides: 

  • $3.8 billion for job training and employment services, an increase of $163 million over fiscal year 2010;
  • $65 million for green jobs training and development, a $25 million increase over 2010 spending; and
  • $10 million to create a State Paid Leave initiative. This initiative will provide competitive grants to help States establish paid leave programs, which typically offer up to 6 weeks of benefits to workers who must take time off to care for a seriously ill child, spouse, or parent.

The measure also provides funding for critical human services to support a number of other vulnerable populations including: 

  • $857.6 million, an increase of $38.2 million, for local programs that provide congregate and home-delivered meals to seniors;
  • $75.4 million for the education of homeless children and youth, an increase of $10 million;
  • $159.4 million, for substance abuse and mental health services, an increase of $17 million;
  • $123.7 million for runaway and homeless youth programs, an increase of $8 million over 2010;and
  • $187 million for refugee social services, an increase of $33 million for these activities

For a complete listing of programs funded under the Department of Labor-HHS-Education, please click here. A summary of the legislation is also available here. 

Congressional Debate Continues on Immigration Reform  
Discussions to move the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act (DREAM Act) and the Agricultural Job Opportunities, Benefits and Security Act (AgJOBS) through the legislative process continue among lawmakers. The DREAM Act proposal would give students of undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. with their parents illegally through no fault of their own an opportunity to earn legal status if they attend college or joined the military and meet certain criteria. The AgJOBS bill would allow agricultural workers who have recently worked in the United States to earn legal status. It would also revamp the H-2A visa program to allow other workers in response to the expressed needs of the U.S. economy and agricultural sector.   

While some think that it is possible for some form of immigration legislation to move after the November elections, it remains uncertain if Congress will debate immigration legislation this year. According to the Congressional Quarterly, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD), told reporters that he thought immigration legislation was all but dead this year, despite repeated pledges of action from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV).  He said, “I don’t think this Congress can address immigration. The Senate has not acted. None of us believe it can.”  In addition, Republican support is needed to move the legislation forward. However, Sen. Lindsey Graham, once a supporter of immigration reform, reportedly is considering introducing a constitutional amendment that would deny citizenship to U.S.-born children whose parents are in the country illegally. However, such a measure would require two-thirds of each chamber to and three-fourths of all states to approve. 

These discussions came amid the U.S. District Court Judge’s ruling that certain provisions of the recent Arizona law intrude on federal responsibility.  To view the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) statement regarding the Arizona law ruling, please click here. 

Catholic Charities USA supports principles of the DREAM Act and AgJOBS, and continues to work in collaboration with USCCB and other members of Justice for Immigrants for comprehensive immigration reform.  For more information on immigration reform, see: www.justiceforimmigrants.org.

House Committee Advances Legislation to Revitalize Public Housing 
On July 28, the U.S. House Committee on Financial Services approved the Public Housing Reinvestment and Tenant Protection Act (H.R.5814). The legislation, introduced by Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), aims to revitalize the nation’s public housing system.  These public housing programs provide affordable rental housing for approximately 3 million Americans in 1.2 million households.  Most residents are elderly or disabled, and most are extremely low-income.  The legislation includes a number of proposals to help these vulnerable populations.  The committee-passed bill would provide the following improvements:

  • Establish the Obama Administration’s Choice Neighborhood Initiative that would help non-profits, public housing authorities, and local governments collaborate to redevelop neighborhoods and expand affordable housing options;
  • Reduce the loss of public housing units by requiring one-for-one replacement for any demolished or disposed units;
  • Provide Housing authorities with the financial tools they need to rehabilitate and rebuild public housing. The bill establishes a program to provide loan guarantees for the capital fund, injecting much needed capital into the nation’s deteriorating housing stock; and
  • Create job opportunities for public housing residents by establishing a training program for public housing residents to become in-home health care aides to elderly and disabled public housing residents.

Catholic Charities USA will provide more information in future editions of Washington Weekly on ways to weigh in on this legislation after the August congressional recess.  More information on the legislation is available here. 

House Advances HUD Spending Bill for FY 2010 
On July 29, the U.S. House of Representatives approved the Transportation- HUD spending bill for fiscal year 2011 by a vote of 251 to 167. The measure included several key housing provisions that would benefit the families Catholic Charities agencies serve including: 

  • $2.2 billion for Homeless Assistance Grants. This is $335 million above FY 2010 and $145 million above the President’s request to provide permanent and transitional housing for homeless families and individuals. This is the first year of implementation of the HEARTH Act, which will support both the prevention of, and rapid resolution of, homelessness in America;
  • $19.4 billion for Section 8 Tenant Based Rental Assistance. This is $1.2 billion above 2010 funding level and $155 million below the request, to renew all vouchers currently in use and allow more than two million low-income families to stay in their homes. Included in this total is $113 million to renew housing vouchers for persons with disabilities and $60 million to support the Family Self-Sufficiency program, which helps families increase income and move out of assisted housing;
  • $9.4 billion for Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance; $819 million above 2010 and equal to the President’s request, to support the 1.3 million units of housing assisted ;
  • $113 million for Foreclosure Mitigation. This is equal to the request, to support foreclosure counseling for families through NeighborWorks America;
  • $88 million, equal to the request, for the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s housing counseling assistance program to provide help for low and moderate income families before they purchase a home; and
  • $300 million to support affordable housing for the disabled. This is $210 million above the administration’s request.

More information on the legislation is available here

Congress Passes Supplemental War Spending Measure with Emergency Response Funding 
On July 29, the House of Representatives passed the $59 billion supplemental war spending bill.  As passed the bill would provide: 

  • $5.1 billion for disaster relief to the Federal Emergency Management Agency
  • $2.9 billion for Haitian earthquake relief; and
  • $178 million for the Army Corps of Engineers to respond to natural disasters.

Two weeks ago, Catholic Charities USA called for a national disaster declaration, a new program of disaster unemployment assistance, and congressional approval of a coordinated regional plan to develop a long-term recovery. 

Catholic Charities USA continues to advocate for assistance to local agencies in the region working to meet the immediate and long-term needs of those affected by the oil crisis. 

For more information, please contact Lucreda Cobbs, Senior Director of Advocacy and Civic Engagement or Ryan Smith, Policy Analyst at rsmith@catholiccharitiesusa.org. 

House Subcommittee Holds Hearing on Child Welfare Waivers
On July 29, the U.S. House Committee on Ways and Means, Subcommittee on Income Security and Family Support held a hearing to review the use of child welfare waivers to improve child well-being.  Over the last few years the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has waived certain federal requirements as part of a plan to improve the child welfare system. The legislative authority for these demonstrations ran from fiscal year 1998 through March 2006. Congress must now extend this legislative authority if more states are to utilize these demonstration projects. Witnesses for the hearing included representatives from state governments, the academic community, and child welfare advocates.  

While the hearing was intended to focus on extending Title IV-E waivers, the witnesses focused largely on the need for larger, comprehensive reform of the child welfare financing system. All of the witnesses expressed support for continuing the waivers.  They also outlined many of the positive benefits of current waivers including limiting the amount of time children spend in foster care and creating better connections among children in care and their relatives. At the same time, they warned that an extension of waivers is not the silver bullet to address the many challenges facing the larger child welfare system. Mr. William Bell, Ph.D., President and CEO, Casey Family Programs, captured the sense of the witnesses in his recommendations to the Subcommittee. He urged members to change current federal funding policies by expanding allowable usage of Title IV-E fund to states; restore the capacity of HHS to grant Title IV-E waivers so that more states can participate; and ensure that federal financing supports an effective array of preventive and family support services to reduce the number of children who enter into foster care. 

For a copy of the witnesses testimonies, click here.

Aging Resources 

Cool website www.partnershipsforolderadults.org looks at how to establish community partnerships to develop innovative solutions and options that meet the needs of seniors.

Alzheimer’s – The Social Security Administration has added early-onset to the list of conditions under its Compassionate Allowance Initiative, giving those with the disease expedited access to Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Visit www.socialsecurity.gov/applyfordisability/adult.htm.

Fraud Protection –The Investor Protection Trust has a new “clinician’s pocket guide” that identifies common warning signs and techniques to gauge a person’s financial capacity. Visit www.investorprotection.org/

End-of-Life – A new study found that nursing home patients who participate in a program that enables them to record their wishes for end-of-life treatment are less likely to receive unwanted hospitalization and invention.  Visit www.americangeriatrics.org/press/id:999/

Caregiving – You can create your own private website to help family and friends stay in touch and updated during someone’s illness.  Visit www.caringbridge.org to learn more.

Medicare Advantage Program – This Kaiser Family brief explains how the health care reform law affects the Medicare Advantage program, visit www.kff.org/healthreform/8071.cfm.