2015-2016 Advocacy Agenda

Advocacy Agenda Development:  The agenda includes both Federal and State issues, but tends towards more state issues. This model follows Catholic Charities USA model fairly closely. CCUSA agenda is Federal. The agenda also falls in line with the New Jersey Catholic Conference Legislative Agenda. The agency’s External Affairs Department solicits from staff and the community issues impacting our clients that require advocacy and/or legislative action. These issues are shared with the agency Leadership Team and recommendations are made to the Social Policy Committee of the Board of Trustees.

The Social Policy Committee then determines which issues will be on the agenda, based on answers to the following questions:

  • Are a significant number of our clients impacted?
  • Are there Legislative vehicles available which make success likely?
  • What other advocacy groups can we join with in having our voice heard on this issue?
  • Can our clients relate to and be involved in advocating for the issue?
  • Do we have experience and knowledge in the area?

Catholic Charities, Diocese of Trenton collaborates regularly with the following statewide groups:

  • The Anti-Poverty Network of New Jersey
  • The Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey
  • New Jersey Anti-Hunger Coalition
  • New Jersey Catholic Conference
  • Fighting Poverty with Faith/Faith Based Leaders Roundtable
  • New Jersey  Coalition to End Homelessness
  • New Jersey Association of Mental Health and Addiction Agencies
  • New Jersey Coalition on Battered Women
  • New Jersey for Healthcare Coalition

The amount of time spent on any issue, and the number of strategies utilized (testimony, legislative visits, press releases and advocacy alerts) will be determined by the urgency of the issue, the collaborative efforts available and the impact on the agency and consumers, and as such be placed as either a Level A or Level B issue. The issues for 2015-2016 are placed as below.

LEVEL A:  COLLABORATION/LEADERSHIP

These issues will be given priority in agency advocacy activities and are ones for which we will take a lead, or actively participate in coalitions/networks that are leading the charge. A full range of strategies will be employed, with some combination of mass mailings to elected officials, developing testimony and talking points, delivering testimony, writing and distributing op-eds, coordinating State House rallies, and scheduling individual meetings with lawmakers.

Housing:  Ensuring Access and Affordability/ Preventing Homelessness

State Level Funding:

  • Ensure that, as Community Support Services in permanent housing move to fee service that the full range of services is covered and that fees cover cost.
  • Rebuild the State Rental Assistance Program by increasing the number of vouchers with a dedicated funding source.
  • Advocate for the implementation of County Homeless Trust Funds in Burlington, Ocean and Monmouth counties.

Federal Level Funding:

  • Support the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s “United for Homes” campaign to fund the National Housing Trust Fund with revenue raised from modifications to the mortgage interest deduction.
  • Provide $2.480 billion for the Homeless Assistance Grants program within HUD in FY 2016.
  • Support the President’s 2016 budget request for Federal housing vouchers, ensuring vouchers lost to sequestration is restored.

Housing Rights/Tenant Screening

  • Advocate ending the exclusion from subsidized housing due to criminal record, bad credit scores and discrimination. Support S1585: Establishes guidelines for creditworthiness determinations concerning affordable housing programs.
  • Support efforts to ensure timely payment of subsidies by the state so that landlords don’t opt out of the subsidy programs.
  • Support A3655/S2736: Provides rental and lease protection for victims of domestic violence.
  • Support efforts that would protect undocumented immigrants from exploitation in housing.

LEVEL B:  COLLABORATION

These are issues we will pursue in collaboration with related organizations/coalitions as needed.  Actions could include any of the above strategies, but are likely to be more limited and less aggressive. An issue will be given priority at the time in which it is most beneficial to deploy advocacy strategies.

Justice and Legal System: Protecting the Vulnerable:

Incarceration and Re-entry:

  • Re-entry concerns for adults and youth – advocate for changes that make the transition to community and productivity seamless, especially with employment, education and housing.
  • Repeal the ban on general assistance to those with non-violent drug distribution convictions. Support S2806: Removes restrictions on convicted drug offenders receiving General Assistance benefits under Work First New Jersey program.
  • Ensure adults and youth with mental illness receive appropriate services while incarcerated.

Domestic Violence:

  • Advocate for a fair grant-making process for the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) STOP (Services*Training*Officers*Prosecutors) funds.
  • Support legislative changes recommended by new Ad Hoc Committee on Domestic Violence.
  • Advocate for passage of Lisa’s Law A3806/S2493:Establishes four-year pilot program in Ocean County for electronic monitoring of certain domestic violence offenders; designated as “Lisa’s Law”; appropriates $2.5 million.
  • Advocate for streamlined access to U-Visas for victims of domestic violence.
  • Monitor need for additional human trafficking legislation – state and federal.

Immigration:

  • Support Administrative Relief for Deferred Action Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Action for Parents (DAPA)
  • Continue to advocate for Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR)
  • Advocate for passage of A2135/S1696: Establishes driving privilege cards for New Jersey residents who cannot prove lawful residence in the U.S.
  • Increase the number of municipalities that establish identification programs that undocumented immigrants can use as proof of identity.

Cost of Providing Care: Shoring Up the Safety Net

  • Advocate for a cost of living adjustment for state contracted programs.

Economic:  Stabilizing Individuals and Families

  • Restore the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) to 25% of the Federal level.
  • Increase Federal minimum wage and minimum wage for tipped workers.
  • Support the expansion of school breakfast and pass legislation to provide ten cents per meal supplement to schools serving breakfast after the bell.
  • Increase county welfare agency staffing and improve business models to expedite Medicaid and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) applications.
  • Advocate for disaster preparedness with state, ensuring some disaster response capacity continues.

 

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