Action Alert – HFA 3/20/2020

Hello Lutheran Advocacy-MN Advocates –

We need your help!! Minnesota was already in an affordable housing and homelessness crisis and now so many more individuals and families are at risk of losing their homes due to impacts of COVID-19.

Although we continue to support the Homes for All Coalition effort around a bonding bill for affordable housing, Minnesota needs to respond now to many emerging needs.

Please take action on the Homes for All alert, by filling out the form  It will automatically give you your state senator’s name. Please note that although there is wording there, it is vitally important that you use your own words!! The more emails a legislator gets that look exactly like hundreds (or even dozens) of other emails, the less likely they are to pay attention. (OR Instead of filling out the form, feel free to go to the senator’s website to find their email address or use the form on their site, but let me know so that we can keep tabs on how many & which senators are contacted).

Here is the URL in case your computer doesn’t link right away:https://secure.everyaction.com/S3FeeXUT0EaHW0H17j-xkw2

Here are some main points you can make in the form using your own words (in any order, not necessarily the order here):

1)      Urge senate leadership* to

  1. a)      Put forward an emergency housing relief packagethat includes
  • a moratorium on evictions & foreclosures,
  • financial assistance to help people pay for housing costs, &
  • help for small-scale landlords that are protecting tenants but not getting what they need to cover their operating costs;
  1. b)      Support a very robust bonding bill for affordable housingthat
  • Takes advantage of very inexpensive credit,
  • helps create much more affordable housing across the state, and
  • provides jobs to help economically recover after the health crisis ends.

2)      Talk about why you care about this issue.

3)      Talk about your role in the community & why it helps give you insight into the problem. [Are you a community leader? Pastor, deacon, business leader, local elected leader, teacher, other? Does that give you even more insight?).

4)      Talk about the housing crisis in your specific community or area, and ways that you envision the COVID-19 crisis impacting low-income people who are vulnerable (low wage workers off work due to virus, etc….).

5)      Thank them for their work to help Minnesotan’s through this crisis.

*[Note: If your senator is Sen. Gazelka or Sen. Kent, then don’t tell them to “urge leadership…”, tell them as leaders to take this action.]

Do you have kids at home? They can also send a message! The simple message is “Don’t let poor people lose their homes when they can’t get to work or make enough money.” A picture that you take of a picture they draw showing a family or a home can also be sent to the senators. It may not work to put the picture in the form, but if you go to your senator’s website, you can either get an email address or use the form on their website to send the picture(s) from the kids! Be sure to add the age and or grade level of the child!

For the Future:

This may be the first action alert of various, to prevent low-income people and families from becoming homeless, and to address the needs of those who are homeless. This week I’ve been on several calls regarding the impacts of COVID-19 on those most vulnerable! It’s staggering to realize what can happen! I was especially troubled by what folks in the most impacted county in the state of Washington shared in a nationwide webinar. One of them emotionally said, “You must prepare!! And no matter how ready you think you might be, you aren’t!! Homeless & low-income populations are SO vulnerable!”

The alert above only addresses a piece of what will be needed!

I’ll send a more detailed email next week with 1) various impacts of the virus in our communities, 2) ways we can act individually & as church networks, 3) the kinds of information we may need from you in your local communities so that we can help legislators understand the full picture, 4) major event cancellations, and 5) alternative virtual event options in a some circumstances.

Thanks for being faithful advocates!! Please feel free to email, call or text me with questions!

ACTION ALERT

Hello Lutheran Advocacy-MN Advocates –

We need your advocacy today! We need legislative leadership to pass a COVID19 response package immediately that includes $50 Million of support for emergency shelters and $100 Million in rental assistance. [The various members of the Homes for All Coalition are pushing this alert through their networks, too! However, we are one of the few member organizations that have Greater Minnesota advocates. Most Great MN partners are service providers on homeless & housing issues, and don’t have advocates. YOUR voice is desperately needed!!]

Please take action ASAP due to unknown timelines at the legislature. (They may be coming into session on Thursday, but both chambers are “at the call of the chair” which could mean anytime. Meanwhile, leadership of both chambers are making LOTS of decisions behind the scenes…SO, act sooner rather than later).

Please click here to send your emails today! Remember that it is vitally important that you use your own words. Talk about why you think this action is important. Put the concerns into your local context. Hennepin and Ramsey counties have passed emergency funding to put homeless people into motels, but what about the rest of the state? And what about the renters everywhere across Minnesota!

Thank you! Your advocacy is always important, but especially so in this difficult health emergency!!!!!

Advocacy Update – February 2020

Faith Leader Housing Summit: Many Lutheran leaders participated in a Faith Leader Housing Summit through long-time advocacy partner, Joint Religious Legislative Coalition (JRLC). It was exciting to hear Gov. Walz talk about housing priorities!

Precinct Caucuses: LA-MN Advocates had the opportunity to bring resolutions to their caucuses on housing & homelessness, and clean energy! We hope that major parties will include  statements on the party platforms.

 “Clean Energy First” Legislation: Clean Energy First refers to prioritizing clean renewable energy over other sources, if more economically viable. Wind and solar energy have become the lowest cost option, but tweaks are needed to update current law. The Senate Energy & Utilities bill rolls back current statute and redefines clean renewable energy in ways that are not actually clean, but does include positive language regarding jobs and transition. LA-MN advocates have made many contacts with legislators to improve the bill, but action is still needed as most of the problems remain.

Housing: Many LA-MN advocates contacted legislative leaders to push for $500 million in affordable housing bonds. We appreciate feedback, and welcome the legislative responses advocates share with us.

Upcoming Events:

 Now the Green Blade Rises: The Easter Gospel for the Whole Creation

(2020 EcoFaith Summit) – Flier / Registration
Saturday, March 28, 9:00 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.
Bethlehem Lutheran Church, 418 8th Ave. NE, Brainerd, MN 56401

From the Upper Midwest? Join this event!! Includes worship that sings Easter for the whole creation; young activists sharing their motivations; breakout sessions; faces of the climate crisis; messaging on climate & difficult environmental issues; networking for musicians, students, creation care teams, church gardeners, youth leaders, preachers, public advocates, and more!

2020: Serving the Common Good
Joint Religious Legislative Coalition (JRLC) Day on the Hill – Info./ Registration
Wednesday, April 1, 8:30 a.m. – afternoon legislative visits
InterContinental Saint Paul Riverfront, 11 E Kellogg Blvd, St Paul, MN 55101

 

 

Advocacy Update – December

2020 Agenda

Two Year Process: In 2020, Minnesota is in year two of the legislative biennium. Legislation introduced last session is still active. It does not need to be re-introduced, can be picked up again by committees, or if passed through part of the two chamber process can continue in that process. This means that legislation we addressed last year could still be passed.

2020 State Priorities: The LA-MN Policy Council decided early on that brand new issues should not be considered, but rather that work started on unfinished issues should continue.

1)   Affordable Housing, Homelessness & Related Services:  Although 2019 was not a bonding year, bonding for affordable housing was passed and was really the only issue that got significant attention from both parties and both chambers. However, the legislature was and remains behind on what needs to be passed to catch up with the statewide housing crisis.

For that reason, as part of the Homes for All coalition, we are calling for $500 million in bonding for the creation of new housing and rehabilitation of existing stock. While that may sound (including to legislators) like a huge amount of money, it is really only a down-payment on what is actually needed. Other states in similar situations with similar sized budgets have passed $900 million to $1.4 billion in bonding for housing. We will also be working to continue to address aspects from last year’s Minnesota Housing and Human Services agenda, and to make policy improvements to help bring tenants more rights in a system significantly weighted toward landlords. While these changes won’t impact good landlords, they will help prevent abuses by slumlords.

2)  Clean Energy, Clean Air, Climate, and Jobs: Minnesota surpassed early the Renewable Energy Standard set in 2007 of 25 percent renewable energy by 2025 for electric energy and 30 percent for Xcel Energy. Last year, the House of Representatives passed significant legislation for 100% clean energy by 2050, but it went nowhere in the Senate. Both chambers debated “Clean Energy First” provisions, which we support, with the idea that if clean energy (renewables and efficiency savings) are less expensive than energy from fossil fuels, they should be considered first. The senate version has lots of loopholes.

Much of our work on clean energy in 2020 will be focused on the senate – a) educating regarding remaining misunderstandings about the climate crisis, b) calling generally for 100% Clean Carbon Neutral Energy by 2050 and Clean Energy First (without debating every detail within the various 100% bills), and c) calling for transition provisions to help communities where fossil fuel jobs will be lost (while supporting the rapidly growing clean energy economy & jobs), and d) working for adaptation and resilience for those most impacted already by the climate crisis, especially low-income communities and farmers.

Federal Priorities: LA-MN will continue to partner with ELCA Advocacy to aggressively protect programs important for vulnerable people and our vulnerable earth, with special focus on protecting and welcoming vulnerable immigrants.

Advocacy Update – November 2019

STATE ADVOCACY UPDATE FORM

This form is to be used as a template for state public policy office updates each month.

Guidelines:  Describe advocacy actions taken, events attended/hosted, issues you are working on. For spacing and consistency reasons, we encourage you to avoid bullet points, but encourage you to divide your policy issues into separate paragraphs. Make sure to indicate if there is any information you provide which you would NOT like to have made public (on our blog). When you complete this form, please send to washingtonoffice@elca.org.

 

STATE: Minnesota (Tammy Walhof ) DATE: Dec/3/2019
UPDATE:
Immigration/Migrant Monday Replaced

As new executive orders continue to appear, immigration remains a key issue to people contacting Lutheran Advocacy-MN. LA-MN’s director, Tammy, made two presentations in November on immigration/asylum at the southern border. Despite the interest, weekly Migrant Monday postings on Facebook will be replaced by Monday or Tuesday postings about clean energy and climate change, and Thursday postings about affordable housing in preparation for the upcoming session.

Climate Bonding Proposals:
With Minnesota Environmental Partnership (MEP), LA-MN is considering principles for evaluating bonding projects based on how they impact harmful emissions to the atmosphere as legislation in the 2020 session. Those should be available soon for you to promote with your legislators.

The MEP Energy Cluster is also evaluating specific bonding proposals. Out of 25 possible options for the upcoming session, Lutheran Advocacy-MN hopes to focus on just a couple that help Minnesota transition to clean energy and fewer carbon emissions (possibly proposals related to making solar energy available for schools, improving solar accessibility to Minnesotans generally, or something related to agriculture/land use/cover crops).

Clean Energy & Carbon Pricing:
Clean Energy proposals are the most basic step to major cuts of carbon emissions. Unfortunately, by itself, clean energy doesn’t do enough – much more needs to be done (quickly) as devastating impacts of climate change are occurring more rapidly than scientists predicted.

Lutheran Advocacy-MN (including many of you) has been working for various proposals that would achieve

a)      50% renewable electric energy by 2030,
b)      100% renewable energy by 2050, or
c)       a carbon-neutral Minnesota by 2050.

Minnesota surpassed its 25% renewable threshold two years ago, and each of the last three years Xcel Energy has committed to larger proportions of renewable energy and dramatically reduced carbon emissions. However, Minnesota’s full legislature hasn’t passed legislation that 1) pulls other utilities into doing more, 2) addresses sources of emissions beyond the electricity sector, or 3) offers pathways to employment for people transitioning from jobs in industries related to fossil fuels.

 Nationwide, many organizations, climate scientists, politicians (Democrat & Republican) and others are calling for a price or tax on carbon emissions (conservatives usually prefer “carbon pricing” language). In November, Tammy was engaged in events and conversations about the shape those proposals might take in Minnesota. She’s gleaned a checklist of criteria for proposals. It will be posted for your perusal and feedback. In addition, within a few days a new talking points guide should be on the website for Christmas cards to, or meetings with, legislators in December.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP):

Thanks to those everyone who submitted comments to the USDA proposed rule change. Whether you commented this most recent time, or one of the other times in 2019 the administration proposed changes (while setting the comment period at minimum allowed), your help to prevent cuts to SNAP which would result in millions of seniors, children, disabled, and other people being eliminated from the program is GREATLY appreciated!

Urgent Action Alert to Gov – Affordable Housing Bonds

Tell the governor to go big and bold in his 2020 bonding request by including $500 million for affordable housing in their proposal!!

 

ACTION: Call or email the Governor

MAIN MESSAGE POINTS:

  1. Tell them who you are & where you’re from
  2. Tell them “Please go big and bold and include $500 million in your 2020 bonding proposal for affordable housing!”

ADD A REASON OR SAY WHY YOU CARE:

 (Choose just 2-3 from below or use your own. Try to use your own words.)

  • [Share about the housing situation in your community]
  • [Share what your church is doing to try to help address the crisis]
  • “Churches and community groups can’t do everything that is needed. The state needs to step up in a bigger and bolder way.”
  • “Each $1 invested in state bonding additionally leverages more than 3 times that much in private, non-profit, and other funding.”
  • “I’m a Christian (Lutheran) and God calls all of us to work together to make sure those who are most vulnerable have what they need.”
  • “Justice and compassion for those most vulnerable are themes throughout the Bible. In those passages, leaders are called by God to do what is right.”
  • “More than 580,000 Minnesota households pay more than they can afford on housing.”
  • “Households that spend too much of their income on housing often cut family food budgets, forgo necessities like gas to get to work, or cut medicine needed to maintain their health.”
  • “State bonding is a vital tool that provides housing of all types across the state, creating stability for our most vulnerable populations, including seniors, children, and those with disabilities.”
  • “In addition to creating much needed housing, state bonding funds help create jobs & economic development in communities across the state.”
  • “Housing is a statewide issue. The shortage of affordable housing is a concern of both small and large communities – rural, small town, urban, & suburban communities.”
  • “Affordable housing concerns have always been bipartisan in Minnesota! We can solve this when we acknowledge the scope of the need and work together as One Minnesota to meet the needs across the whole state.”
  • Although $500 million sounds like a lot of money, compared to other states, it’s not actually that much. Massachusetts just passed $1.8 billion for housing bonds.

BACKROUND: Governor Walz and Lt. Gov. Flanagan are in the process of creating their proposal for state bonds which they will present in the new year. The state legislative bodies (House & Senate) will work from that initial proposal to determine final bond amounts in various areas.

The Homes for All Coalition, of which Lutheran Advocacy-MN (and you, through us) are a part, believes we need to go really big and bold this year!!

Each year, some resources get allocated to housing, the legislature feels like they are addressing the need, and then wonder why we keep asking for more and talking about Minnesota’s housing crisis. Unfortunately, the truth is that although what we have accomplished each year is significant, it still only touches the tip of the iceberg of need throughout Minnesota.

In addition, Naturally Occurring Affordable Housing (NOAH) has always made up the bulk of rental property across the state. However, in recent years that supply has been (and is being) decimated as investors buy older buildings where rent is less expensive, evict the residents, renovate the apartments, and turn the property into luxury rentals. Or they buy manufactured home parks for some other development purpose, once again evicting people! (Some who own their manufactured home will learn that there is either no place to move it, or that it is too old to be moved). The numbers of people being evicted from housing each year just because property changes hands are by themselves more than what the state can provide in new or renovated affordable homes/units, because the level of state funding just isn’t enough.

We need a bold ask for housing bonds because the need is so great!!! And we need a big, bold ask to help people throughout state government and the state legislature feel the urgency of the tremendous need in our state!

THANKS for your calls or emails, and all that you do for vulnerable people!!

Tammy

Earth’s Changing Climate with Will Steger

Thursday, November 21, 2019 – 07:00pm

St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church – 900 Stillwater Road, Mahtomedi, MN

World-renowned environmentalist and explorer Will Steger’s free presentation includes Q&A with a panel of faith & environmental experts: Buff Grace, Climate Justice Congregations, MNIPL; J. Drake Hamilton, Science Policy Director, Fresh Energy; Diane Jacobson, Professor Emerita of Old Testament, Luther Seminary.

Steger, known for numerous polar expeditions, brings deep understanding of the environment to efforts increasing awareness of environmental threats. He has been an eyewitness to climate change, and has led teams on some of the most significant polar expeditions in history. Steger is the founder of two nonprofits, the Will Steger Wilderness Center in Ely, and Climate Generation: A Will Steger Legacy, headquartered in Minneapolis with a focus on engaging educators, youth and communities in solutions to climate change.

Friends of Guatemala

Saturday, November 16, 2019 – 09:00am to 12:00pm

Easter Lutheran on the Hill, Eagan, MN

What does becoming a safe and welcoming church mean for us? How might we come alongside those who are vulnerable and looking for safety? These questions of faith should not be answered in a vacuum. We can start by listening to our partner congregations in Guatemala. They are our sisters and brothers in Christ, with whom we share a relationship. As we seek to gain a deeper understanding of how immigration issues impact them, we can apply that knowledge in the larger contexts of immigration, church, and sanctuary.
Rev. Karen Castillo (Pastor/president, Iglesia Luterana Agustina de Guatemala) share her perspective and insights via video. Tammy Walhof (Director, Lutheran Advocacy-MN) will help us process big migration questions, and begin a conversation about what this means for us. You are invited to join the conversation!

Hear about the 10 days the Easter Lutheran delegation spent with partners in Guatemala City and rural Maya Itza. Meet the 13-member Easter Lutheran delegation that recently returned from Guatemala. Hear about the ten days they spent with partners in Guatemala City and rural Maya Itza.

Representatives from St. Paul Area Synod will provide an update as well.

Everyone is welcome.

Advocacy Update – October 2019

Policy Council Retreat: In October, LA-MN Policy Council members gathered at St. Johns Abbey in the center of the state, to spend almost 24 hours together. It was a wonderful opportunity to get to know one another better, and benefit from both an outside Bible study leader and a guest speaker regarding the Minnesota housing crisis, in addition to evaluating and visioning for the work ahead.

 Bonding Money for Housing: The Homes for All Coalition Policy Team has been meeting twice per week, as we work to discern additions or changes to the 2019-2020 biennium agenda we created a year ago. In these discussions and presentations, it is very clear that in addition to the housing crisis, Minnesota has a severe statewide shortage of shelter beds for homeless individuals and families.

Given that 2020 is a bonding year at the legislature, bonding will be our primary coalition-wide focus. Last year the coalition made a bold request of $300 million, $200 million in Housing Infrastructure Bonds (HIBs) to increase the number of affordable housing units supplied through private or nonprofit developers, and $100 million to create or rehab public housing options. Last session, we were able to secure $60 million in bonding (HIBs), the only area to get any bonding money in the midst of a focus on budget. (We had anticipated that the bulk of that would need to be secured in the second year of the biennium).

After long discussions about the merits of making an even bolder bonding request vs. filling in the remainder of the $300 million request, we opted to go big and bold. We intend to push for $500 million for the creation & rehabilitation of affordable housing. Within that appeal we will be asking the legislature to add shelter development as a one-time eligible use of bonding money.

Clean Energy & Climate Change: In our environmental coalitions, we are a long ways from having our detailed clean energy and climate agenda decided, but are busy with partners trying to figure out what may be able to gain momentum in 2020. 100% clean energy/carbon neutral electricity by  2050 will certainly be part of the work again. 

Advocating for Justice and Care for All of God's Creation