"The Diocese of Monterey is in the beginning stages of the synod, training parish groups to go out and listen to the experiences of everyone, including those on the margins. Bishop Garcia and Deacon David Ford, who is leading the process in the diocese, both have experience working with community organizing groups in the past. They were quick to enlist their help with the synod.
“We don’t need to reinvent the wheel,” said Bishop Garcia, who had been meeting with Communities Organized for Relational Power in Action, or COPA, since he arrived in Monterey. COPA is an association of community organizers based in California. “There are already some processes out there,” the bishop said. COPA “does a really good job of getting the pulse of the people. We’ve been really happy about how, at least initially, it’s going.”
Diocesan leaders [held] five separate regional meetings to train leaders throughout the diocese about how to carry out the synod at their parish. Bishop Garcia invited pastors to attend along with a group of parishioners who would lead the synod at their church."
[In photos: (top) Bishop Daniel Garcia delivers opening remarks at one of five regional training sessions; (middle right) COPA leaders initiate synodal conversations.]
A California Bishop Invited Community Organizers to Help with the Synod. So Far, It’s Working, America: The Jesuit Review [pdf]
At Urging of CTI, Travis County & City of Austin Invest $200+ Million into Homelessness Prevention & Support
After years of working to protect the dignity of people experiencing homelessness and preventing low-income families from displacement, Central Texas Interfaith (CTI) leaders celebrated the investment of $220+ Million in federal funding into homelessness prevention and support.
Over 100 CTI leaders were joined by City of Austin Mayor and Travis County Judge Andy Brown who expressed appreciation for the organization's partnership and doggedness in addressing key regional challenges. Leaders relayed how this effort was connected to a multi-year effort that resulted in passage of an affordable housing bond in 2018, $40 Million in rental assistance during the first year of the pandemic, and now over $217 million in federal dollars into homelessness prevention and support.
Elected officials further committed to identifying sources for additional rental assistance as eviction moratoriums lift.
Homeless Housing Plans, Spectrum News
Interfaith Group Calls for Immediate Action on Homelessness, Austin Monitor [pdf]
Press Conference Footage, Central Texas Interfaith
Arizona Interfaith Network and their education coalition partners have halted the lowest so-called “flat tax” ever enacted by a state. By demanding a referendum on Senate Bill 1828, the coalition stopped the destructive reworking of Arizona’s tax code that would have reduced revenue by over $1 billion annually, putting future generations of Arizonans at risk. Instead the tax cut proposal will be referred to the 2022 ballot.
National anti-tax groups see Arizona’s tax legislation as a path to replicate, as evidenced by op-eds by the likes of Grover Norquist touting Arizona as a “national model”. This puts AIN’s fight into a larger context of citizens demanding responsible stewardship and preservation of state budgets that should be put to work for the good of their state, even in the face of well-funded outside interest groups.
The utter lack of political will to invest in future generations has got to stop.
Rev. Jeff Procter Murphy, a leader with Valley Interfaith Project, said at the press conference, “This has got to stop – this utter lack of political will to invest in future generations has got to stop. For too long we have neglected our responsibility to future generations. …
"They’ve decided to radically restructure our tax code to reward the very wealthy on the backs of everyone else. They did so on the narrowest of margins, and they thought we wouldn’t notice. This is an affront to the voters of our state. It’s an insult to our teachers, and it’s a direct attack on the very people that all of us, people of faith, are instructed to protect: children, the vulnerable, those who live on the margins and who have suffered the most in this pandemic.”
[In photo, Rev. Jeff Procter Murphy; photo credit InvestInAZ Campaign video]
School Advocates Turn in Petitions to Overturn Arizona's $1 Billion Tax Cut, The Arizona Republic [pdf]
Petitions Turned in, Apparently Will Force Public Vote on Arizona Tax Cut, Arizona Daily Star [pdf]
Foes of Massive Arizona Tax Cuts File to Block Them, Associated Press [pdf]
IAF organizations across the country developed strategies to bring vaccines to the communities that were hardest hit by COVID-19 and had the least access to the vaccine. From registration events to vaccination clinics paired with neighborhood walks, IAF leaders showed that getting shots in arms requires organizing.
In one of the early campaigns, One LA-IAF leaders in Los Angeles organized the effort to vaccinate close to 900 senior citizens and essential workers in the hard-hit South LA community around St. Brigid Catholic Church.
"The issue is vaccine access," said Jim Mangia, President and CEO of St. John's Well Child and Family Center in an interview with ABC National News. "Most people in South LA have not had access to the vaccine. There's not hesitancy - people have questions of course, but people want to get vaccinated. The issue is that there was nowhere for them to go."
Nowhere to go, that is, until One LA leaders began organizing. After months of advocating for a more equitable vaccination campaign targeting hard-hit neighborhoods, One LA leaders secured a partnership with Supervisor Holly Mitchell and medical partner St. John's Well Child & Family Center to bring the vaccines to the neighborhood around St. Brigid Catholic Church.
"Unfortunately, it is one of the least vaccinated areas in Los Angeles," said Fr. Kenneth Keke, Pastor of St. Brigid Catholic Church. "One in five residents have had Covid-19, and only 1 in 18 have been vaccinated. We are going to change that. We don't want anybody left behind."
Over the course of four days, One LA leaders went door to door, passed out flyers and called 4,000 households. The targeted approach shielded the vaccine supply from out-of-the-area "vaccine chasers," but more importantly reached people who otherwise wouldn't be able to access the vaccine at all.
Meaghan Myrtle, a 90 year old resident of the neighborhood, had been trying for months to secure an appointment. Ms. Myrtle had no access to transportation or the internet. "This church called me back. Nobody else called me back."
[Photo credits: Top, One LA-IAF Vaccine event, Rafael Paz; Right top, Together New Orleans neighborhood outreach event, Bobbi-Jeanne Misick, New Orleans Public Radio, Right bottom, Fr. Kenneth Keke, St. Brigid Catholic Church, Los Angeles, NBC News]
Group Gives Help to Vaccine Candidates, NBC 4 Los Angeles [video]
Fight for Vaccine Equity, ABC News National [video]
A Los Angeles Pilot Program Will Vaccinate Hundreds Within 2-Mile Radius of a Catholic Church, Religion News Service [pdf]
Churches in LA's Working-Class Neighborhoods Urge: 'Bring the Vaccine to the People', Religion News Service [pdf]
Together Louisiana / Together New Orleans:
The Latest Phase of Covid-19 Vaccine Rollout Is Slow, Deliberate and on the Ground, New Orleans Public Radio [pdf]
Dallas Area Interfaith:
Many Faith Leaders in North Texas Embracing their Role in Vaccine Push, Dallas Morning News [pdf]
The Metropolitan Organization Houston:
Coalition Brings Vaccines to Beaumont Residents in At-Risk Areas, Beaumont Enterprise [pdf]
Jornada de Vacunación en Ciudad con Gran Población Hispana, Telemundo [en español]
Putting Our Faith & Commitment to Democracy in Action, Southeast Texas Faith & Community Leaders
Valley Interfaith Project:
Leaders Applaud AB832 for Keeping Families Housed & Rental Assistance Flowing
Thousands of leaders across California Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF) organizations celebrated a new deal announced by the Governor and state legislators to extend the state’s eviction moratorium and rent relief program that was set to expire June 30, 2021.
The California IAF specifically applauds State leaders for:
- Extending the eviction ban to September 30, 2021
- Paying 100% of overdue rent and utilities paid for landlords and tenants
- Providing up to18 months of rental assistance for past and future rent
- Allowing either tenants or land lords to receive funds
- Forestalling evictions until rental assistance applications are attempted
On June 3rd, 2021, over 600 California IAF leaders convened on Zoom -- along with Catholic Bishop Oscar Cantú (whose op-ed can be read here), Episcopal Bishop Lucinda Ashby and two state legislators -- to call for an extension of the eviction moratorium and expansion of SB91 to allow more flexibility with rental assistance distribution to keep families housed. California IAF organized hundreds of phone calls and emails to State Senators, Assembly members and the Governor asking for more time and flexibility to get funds to families who missed rent due to the pandemic.
“California IAF leaders are pleased our state legislators acted to protect our families from eviction and provide 100% of rent owed. Our thanks go to Senators Caballero, Durazo, Laird and Weiner and Assemblymembers Chiu, Bloom, Reyes and Santiago for leading the charge on behalf of our families," said Rabbi Paula Marcus of Temple Beth El, Aptos. "We would have preferred a 6 month extension, but we will turn our focus now to local organizing meetings so our families understand their rights and how to apply for rental assistance.”
“By sharing our stories with state agency staff and legislators, our recommendations were accepted to allow for easier income verification and tenants with informal leases to be included as eligible for assistance. By making future months of rent available, this will allow tenants like me to be able to cover my rent while I pay off the debts to my family and credit card that I took on to keep my landlord paid,” said Lourdes Rios, COPA leader in Santa Cruz County.
Central Coast Reacts to the Extension of the Eviction Moratorium, Noticias Ya [video in Spanish]
Santa Cruz County Housing Advocates Seek State Eviction Moratorium Extension, Santa Cruz Sentinel [pdf]
Local Leaders Ask for Extension of Moratorium on Evictions in California, Telemundo [en español] [pdf]
California IAF Action on Renter Protection, California IAF
Hundreds of Advocates Urge Gov. Newsom to Expand SB91, Good Times [pdf]
With Assistance Lagging, State Must Extend Rental Eviction Moratorium, Santa Cruz Sentinel [pdf]
Hundreds of Advocates Urge Gov. Newsom to Expand SB91, The Pajaronian [pdf]
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.”
....As legislators met in a closed session to hammer out the bill, Greco heard from a colleague. “One of my organizers said there’s 20 oil and gas lobbyist standing outside this committee room,” he recalled.
Former Gov. Rick Perry, an Energy Transfer board member, tweeted his support for reauthorization. But as last week of the session ticked by, the bill didn’t come up. “It became clear that the reputation of the program had been damaged,” Greco said.
In 19 months, Texas’s subsidy program will expire, but that doesn’t mean the fight is over.
“We know there’s going to be a big conversation over the interim — we are under no illusions that this is not going to be a long-term battle.”
Organizers, though, recognize that the subsidy’s defeat marks a shift: “The table has been reset.”
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 [pdf]
Losers and Winners from Chapter 313, Central Texas Interfaith
The Unlikely Demise of Texas’ Biggest Corporate Tax Break, Texas Observer [pdf]
[At the beginning of the pandemic] members of community groups 'Mujeres en Acción' and 'Communities Organized for Relational Power in Action' (COPA) began meeting twice a week at the onset of the pandemic to figure out what community needs were after seeing the virus negatively impact their neighborhoods. They began making hundreds of phone calls to locals, going to their respective churches, schools and other places of gathering, building a list and figuring out what people needed to stay safe – and financially afloat – as the pandemic progressed.
“What we were finding is people almost knew that they have symptoms or believed that they were infected but they couldn’t afford to stay home,” says Maria Elena Manzo, program manager for Mujeres en Acción....
Organizers made a list of things they believed were needed to slow the spread of the virus in the hard-hit farmworker community. The list included better communication from employers about potential exposure and wage replacement for those who miss work due to self-quarantine.
Organizers met with Monterey County Health [officials, and] later began working with a wider group of community leaders, including representatives from the agriculture and hospitality industries and Community Foundation for Monterey County, called the COVID-19 Collaborative.
In December 2020, they presented to the Monterey County Board of Supervisors, who voted to approve a $4.9 million budget for a community health worker program. That program, called VIDA (for Virus Integrated Distribution of Aid), is currently funding over 110 community health workers across 10 organizations, Mujeres en Acción among them, to provide resources to people in the communities that are hardest hit. One of the groups, Centro Binacional para el Desarrollo Indígena Oaxaqueño, is providing information in Triqui, Zapoteco and Mixteco, indigenous languages from the states of Oaxaca and Guerrero in Mexico that are all spoken in Monterey County.
“One way to stop the spread was to hire people from the community as trusted messengers to talk to people to help them understand the need of being safe, using masks and distancing and all that,” Manzo says.
[Photo Credit: Jose Angel Juarez/Monterey County Weekly]
COPA Press Release, Dec. 21, 2020.
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.Read more
Common Ground Wins Over $4 Million for Foreclosure Mitigation, Neighborhood Development in Milwaukee
Southeast Wisconsin Common Ground successfully negotiated over $4 million in housing re-investment from financial institutions whose foreclosures had devastated the Sherman Park neighborhood of Milwaukee.