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. 

URGENT ACTION ALERT

  The FY2020 Refugee Ceiling is proposed to be the LOWEST ever in program history.

 ACTION: Call your representative and one or both senator(s) at 202-224-3121 (Capitol Switchboard).

[Prioritize Rep. Emmer & Sen. Klobuchar due to relationships or committee assignments that may help provide influence]

MN Members of Congress (Congressional District Map)

  • MN01 – Rep. Jim Hagedorn (R-Mankato; covers a block pyramid shaped tier across southern Minnesota)
  • MN02 – Rep. Angie Craig (DFL-Eagan; includes Scott, Dakota, Goodhue, Wabasha, southern tip of Washington & eastern part of Rice Counties)
  • MN03 – Rep. Dean Phillips (DFL-Eden Prairie; includes Greater Hennepin County)
  • MN04 – Betty McCollum (DFL-St. Paul; includes Ramsey County & suburbs)
  • MN05 – Rep. Ilhan Omar (DFL-Minneapolis; includes Minneapolis & suburbs)
  • MN06 – Rep. Tom Emmer (R-Delano; north & west Metro along I-94 corridor through St. Cloud & a little beyond)
  • MN07 – Rep. Collin Peterson (DFL-Moorhead; Western side of state, NOT including southernmost layer of counties)
  • MN08 – Rep. Pete Stauber (R-Duluth; Northeastern MN from just south of Cambridge to the north, NOT including the counties that are part of the I-94 corridor)
  • Senators – Sen. Amy Klobuchar (MN Senior senator; covers whole state)
    • Sen. Tina Smith (MN Junior senator; covers whole state)

MESSAGE: Tell Rep./Sen. _______________  to urge the administration & congressional leaders to consider refugee admissions well above the proposed 18,000 person ceiling. The admissions should be at least 95,000 (as the faith groups & coalitions are urging – including the ELCA, mainline denominations, the Catholic church, AND the Evangelical Immigration table). Many refugees are already vetted & ready to come.

Other Talking Points [choose just a few]:

  • Refugees are among the most thoroughly vetted immigrants to be admitted to the U.S., an 18 mo.-2 yr. process that includes background checks, medical exams, interviews, and more;
  • Refugees are fleeing extreme violence or persecution and need safety;
  • The world has more refugees than at any other point in human history, & the U.S. must do its part;
  • The Refugee Resettlement Program has had strong bipartisan support since its start;
  • Caps on refugee admissions have been at historically low levels since 2017 (& this proposal is lower yet);
  • Refugee communities have low crime rates, especially compared to the general population;
  • Our church denomination has been engaged for decades in helping to settle refugees.

BACKGROUND: On September 26, the administration proposed a ceiling of 18,000 refugees for Fiscal Year 2020. Although this is better than zero refugees, as was first considered in July, it is still fewer refugees than the U.S. has resettled at any time since the Refugee Resettlement Program started (breaking the records of 2017-2018).

Most church denominations and faith groups (including the ELCA) have been calling for at least 95,000 refugees/year. Although this decision should be reached in consultation with Congress, last year the level was announced & carried forward by the Administration without input from Congress (which is illegal). Nevertheless, members of Congress can still be influential with the administration, either directly or indirectly (through colleagues), especially if it is realized that concerns are coming from people of faith.

Refugees have become integral members of our communities, bringing skills, needed labor, and many blessings. Without the option of resettlement, they face years in camps marked by instability, danger, and with little hope for rebuilding their lives. At a time when more than 25.9 million refugees worldwide are fleeing persecution, war, or violence, the U.S. has already reduced its refugee admissions from its annual average of 95,000 to historic lows.

Scripture reminds us that when we welcome the stranger in our midst, we are welcoming Christ among us. The ELCA has long practiced this by working with and resettling refuges for many decades. We hope to continue this tradition and fulfil the scriptural call to “love the stranger.

Tamela K. Walhof, Director
Lutheran Advocacy – Minnesota
105 University Ave.
St. Paul, MN  55103
Cell phone: 651-238-6506

Advocacy Update – September 2019

Immigration: There is a great deal of interest in immigration issues across the state. Several congregations and synod groups are becoming more engaged with the AMMPARO Program, and considering what welcome and partnership with asylum seekers and refugees should mean in their context. This is increasing interest in LA-MN’s work on policy issues and raising lots of questions about the intricacies of US immigration programs. In addition to the Migrant Monday posts on Facebook, Tammy (LA-MN director) did immigration forums three times in September, and will be doing similar programs in October and November.

 Minnesota Environmental Partnership (MEP): Lutheran Advocacy-MN works with many partners and coalitions. One of those coalitions, made up of around 80 organizations, is MEP. Tammy served for two years as the co-chair of the MEP Energy & Climate Cluster, and has been working with MEP staff and partners in finding ways to restructure the work to be more impactful. In early September, she was part of a small group of member organizations proposing that MEP take on Climate Change as its one main marquee issue, since most every other issue fits under that big umbrella. The proposal was accepted unanimously by members. This will allow the various clusters or issue groups to collaborate better on messaging with both the public and with legislators, and should help move groups out of singular silos of interest, even while allowing support for legislation in the various areas of member organization expertise. Lutheran Advocacy-MN expects to continue efforts on clean energy, but we look forward to broader collaboration on other parts of the climate crisis.  Watch for more information to come as we develop the MEP detailed legislative agenda over the next couple of months.

 Homes for All Coalition: Although there is still much left to accomplish from the bold Homes for All biennium agenda created last year, the policy team (where LA-MN is an active participant) is in the process of considering whether changes or additions need to be made. One of the partners has been meeting with Tammy and other key partners on eviction policy concerns that will be proposed as additions to the agenda in mid-October.

Pray for Climate Summit/Participate in Local Events

Hello Friends –

Next week Monday, the UN Climate Summit begins and this weekend, the UN is hosting a Youth Climate Summit. Meanwhile, people from around the world are doing programs, educational events, and taking action to draw attention to climate change and the crisis that is already occurring.

 PRAY for the Summits:

Please spend a few minutes in prayer every day from now through the end of next week. Pray for the summit, the world leaders attending, the global youth attending, tremendous wisdom for those leaders, and BOTH WISDOM & COURAGE for our national, state, & local leaders as we move into situations humanity hasn’t faced previously. 

Here are some statements from the UN Summit Website to help guide your prayers:

“To boost ambition and accelerate actions to implement the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, UN Secretary-General António Guterres is asking leaders, from government, business and civil society, to come to the 2019 Climate Action Summit on 23 September with plans to address the global climate emergency.” (https://www.un.org/en/climatechange/)

“The Youth Climate Summit — the first UN climate summit for young people — will provide a platform for young leaders to showcase their solutions and meaningfully engage with decision-makers.” (https://www.un.org/en/climatechange/)

 Join Local Action or Events? Consider checking out the possibilities in your area and join a local event that seems appropriate for you. [Unfortunately, we are not able to recommend, sponsor, or endorse the specific events or actions. However, ELCA Advocacy and Lutheran Advocacy-MN creation care priorities & issues fit with general climate concerns.]

September 20, Youth Climate Strike: Young people and adults will strike all across the US and world to demand transformative action be taken to address the climate crisis. Learn about the various events here: https://strikewithus.org/

Global Climate Strike: Twin Cities, Minnesota State Capitol
(75 Rev Dr Martin Luther King Jr Blvd, Saint Paul, MN 55155)
11:30 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. on September 20

For other events that are not Global Climate Strike related, Google: “climate action” + September 2019” +  “your local community” OR “a bigger nearby community

 Watch Paris to Pittsburgh Film Screening: Over 100 cities, six states and Puerto Rico have set goals to match the Paris Climate Accord, committing to 100% renewable energy. Hear their stories in a free screening of Paris to Pittsburgh, a National Geographic film. Check local event listings in your community for showings (Northfield will be showing it at the Public Library, & other communities or churches will also be showing the film). If you and your church would like to host a screening, contact screenings@paristopittsburgh.com .

In the Twin Cities, the faith communities of InterFaith Creation Care South Metro will be showing the film & hosting faith-based discussions following the screening on reducing carbon footprints and being good stewards of God’s creation. (Goodwill offerings accepted). Learn more from their flier.

Sunday, September 22 – 4:00 pm | St. John’s, Lakeville
Sunday, October 13 – 6 pm | Shepherd of the Lake, Prior Lake
Sunday, October 27 – 4 pm | The Well, Rosemount

St. Michael’s in Roseville has also received permission to screen this film on Sunday, September 22, at 6:00 pm. That congregation is providing a light meal and requests RSVPs on Facebook 

Advocacy Update – August 2019

Facebook Foci:

  • Friday Green Tips – Several months ago, we began posting green tips every Friday. Check them out and let us know if you have ideas you would like us to share.
  • Migrant Mondays – We recently started a series on Mondays related to immigration. The first post featured a beautiful reflection on sanctuary, protection, & shelter from Bishop Jon Anderson. The series will include reflections, action alerts, & immigration updates from partners.
  • Clean Energy & Climate – Throughout the weeks that the world focuses on climate action we’ll have several posts that relate to the debate, including local events and action options.

 Homes for All: Last fall, the coalition’s Policy Team (where we serve) reviewed 44 proposals, compared them with Governor’s Housing Task Force recommendations, and carefully selected proposals bundled into legislation carried by legislative housing champions. It was a bold but necessary agenda! Although housing got more attention than any other issue in final negotiations last session (thanks to advocates like you helping raise the profile) most of that agenda was left undone! Now we’re in the processes of discerning what to emphasize of the remaining agenda, and whether there are other prescient issues that should be added. Bonding to increase the affordable supply will definitely be a priority, so you should raise that this fall with your legislators!

Clean Energy: We are in deep discussions with our partners regarding how much to address in legislation in the next session, versus stressing significant education with the public and legislators to aim for wins in 2021.

Action Alert to Protect SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program)

 “When we pray in the Lord’s Prayer, ‘Give us this day our daily bread,’ we place ourselves in tension with economic assumptions of our society. Rather than being self-sufficient, we need and depend on what God gives or provides through people, practices, and systems. ’Daily bread’ is not earned by efforts of individuals alone, but is made possible through a variety of relationships and institutions [note to Martin Luther’s ‘The Large Catechism’]. God gives in ways that expand our notions of who ‘us’ includes, from people close at hand to those around the globe. In stark contrast to those who seek unchecked accumulation and profit, our attention is drawn to those who are desperate for what will sustain their lives for just this day.” – From ELCA social statement Sufficient, Sustainable Living for All

Hungry People Face Another Threat!

Please Help!

This proposed rule change will affect many low-income families in Minnesota. Please make comments for USDA and when you finish, invite your church leaders to do the same. The Administration needs to know where the faith community stands on this.

SITUATION: The Department of Agriculture (USDA) has proposed a Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) rule that would eliminate an estimated 3.1 million children, families, disabled and older adults from access to SNAP benefits. The comment period ends on September 23. Time is short, and your voice is essential now!

The rule would eliminate broad based categorical eligibility ( BBCE or “Cat El”), which is a policy that allows states to consider slightly lower income or asset tests to participate in SNAP if they have large expenses elsewhere – like high housing costs or significant child care expenses. This policy is particularly important for low-income working families that struggle to make ends meet, and helps to promote a little asset-building which has proven important to eventually getting out of poverty. It also helps states improve their administration of SNAP, while lowering administrative costs.*

This exact change was considered in the Farm Bill debate last year, but it was defeated by a broad bipartisan majority of Congress. Proposing this as an executive action in the form of a “rule change” goes against the will of Congress! Proponents of the change claim Cat El  is a “loophole” which allows ineligible people to benefit from SNAP. However, they fail to recognize that only a few states don’t use Cat El, and that states that do use it have other costs that greatly impact low-income individuals and families.

*The MN SNAP application used to be about 20 pages long and was almost more difficult to fill out than income tax forms. People had to include all kinds of information, not just about their income, but about year, make & model of their car so it could be checked against blue-book value of their car, the amount of savings in bank accounts (even if it was gifts from family for future education), their housing costs, and many other things. Some items could be deductions that made them more likely to be eligible (high housing costs), while others (like a car valued above a few thousand dollars) would make them less eligible. For instance, If a family lost a job in a recession but had a decent car from when they were still working, they’d have to get rid of the decent car (usually at a loss) to get a barely running car to be eligible for food assistance. This in turn hindered their opportunities to look for work and get a new job!]

 

ACTION NEEDED: Write a personalized “comment” in opposition to this proposed rule based on the needs you see in your community, your role as a volunteer in your community or congregation, and/or your role in your faith community (Are you ordained to ministry,  a lay volunteer, or a member of a congregation that works on hunger, poverty or housing issues? Share about that!).

Send your comment to Lutheran Advocacy-MN at 105 University Ave. W., St. Paul, MN 55103 before Sept. 15, or to ELCA Advocacy (in Washington, D.C.) before Sept. 20, and we will make sure that all comments get hand delivered to the USDA by the deadline!!

Send a copy of your comment to your members of Congress, and ask them to oppose the rule!!
Your representative is one of these:  MN01-Rep. Jim Hagedorn; MN02-Rep. Angie Craig; MN03-Rep. Dean Phillips; MN04-Rep. Betty McCollum; MN05-Rep. Ilhan Omar; MN06-Rep. Tom Emmer; MN07-Rep. Collin Peterson; MN08-Rep. Pete Stauber. Our senators are: Sen. Amy Klobuchar & Sen. Tina Smith.  Click here for the congressional districts.  Addresses: Rep. ______________, U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, D.C. 20515; Sen. _______________, U.S. Senate, Washington, D.C. 20510

MORE BACKGROUND: More than 40 states participate in this two-decades old policy. It was a change made after “welfare reform” turned what had been Aid to Families with Dependent Children into a work program with severe time limits. The car value for SNAP hadn’t changed for years & years, the housing deductions were out of date & made little difference, and other things hadn’t been changed. So, states were allowed to offer SNAP to people or families that are already eligible for other programs. In Minnesota, we have many families that are eligible for housing assistance or child care assistance, but can’t benefit from those programs because there isn’t enough money to serve all who are eligible.

The proposed rule is harmful because it:

  • Increases hunger for families by eliminating access to SNAP for 3.1 million vulnerable members of our community
  • Ignores the will of Congress when it addressed this issue in the 2018 Farm Bill
  • No longer allows states to consider other issues faced by low-income people or families, like high housing costs or high daycare costs
  • Harms grocery retailers and agricultural producers by reducing the amount of SNAP dollars available to spur local economic activity
  • Threatens the health outcomes and learning potential of children
  • Harms people close to retirement as it may cause them to spend down their retirement savings which makes them more vulnerable when they need the funds

From our partner on housing issues, Minnesota Housing Partnership:

Links to maps showing housing issues in Minnesota: https://www.mhponline.org/images/stories/docs/policy/state/2012/maps_all.pdf

ELCA social teaching urges Lutherans to engage in service and advocacy for our neighbor in need of daily bread. These faith practices express our relationship with Jesus Christ, rooted in baptism that sends us out for the sake of the world.

 

Pastor Mateo – Immigration Program at Tapestry Lutheran in Richfield

Pastor Mateo Chavez from San Juan Bautista Lutheran Church in Tucson, AZ, preaching at Tapestry Lutheran in Richford, MN on July 14, 2019. The gospel reading was Luke 10:25-37, the story of the Good Samaritan. Listen as he relates the lessons of the Bible passage to the situation of immigrants and asylum seekers at the US border. Translation for the many visitors was provided by Pastor Melissa Melnik Gonzalez of Tapestry. That same evening, Pastor Mateo, with others from his family, told stories of people arriving at the Nogales border crossing area. Many Lutheran Advocacy-MN advocates attended and appreciated the hospitality (including dinner) of the Tapestry congregants.  Click here to see the full video: 

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