Archive | July 2013

CIRCLE OF PROTECTION

Scared Child

Bread for the World sends out Action Alerts discussing the “Circle of Protection: A Statement on Why We Need to Protect Programs for the Poor” and encouraging supporters to take action to support funding for programs that serve the most vulnerable members of society.

In the Action Alert, Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, states that, “Everything we have achieved for poor and hungry people in the last 35 years is under severe threat of budget cuts—nutrition programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and SNAP (formerly food stamps), as well as poverty-focused development assistance.”

It has been reported that more than forty-nine (49) million Americans lack reliable access to the food. Childhood hunger is a growing reality in America. In one of the wealthiest nations in the world, the prevalence of childhood hunger is a national travesty and for many a well-kept secret. Approximately, one (1) in four (4) children in America is food insecure. This is not the time to be cutting very necessary programs for the most vulnerable members of our society.

Statistics on Childhood Hunger in the United States:

According to the USDA, over seventeen (17) million children lived in food insecure (low food security and very low food security) households in 2009. ii

Twenty (20) percent or more of the child population in sixteen (16) states and D.C. are living in food insecure households. The states of Arkansas twenty-four point four (24.4) percent and Texas twenty-three point three (24.3) percent have the highest rates of children in households without consistent access to food.(Cook, John, Child Food Insecurity in the United States: 2006-2008. iii

In 2009, households that had higher rates of food insecurity than the national average included households with children twenty-one point three (21.3) percent, especially households with children headed by single women thirty-six point six (36.6) percent or single men twenty-seven pont eight (27.8) percent, Black non-Hispanic households twenty-four point nine (24.9) percent and Hispanic households twenty-six point nine (26.9) percent.v

These heartbreaking facts about the prevalence and the face of hunger in America and the proposed cuts to very necessary social service programs has drawn the attention of thousands of Christians, people of other faiths, heads of denominations, corporations, and nonprofit organizations and compelled them to take action. These groups have formed what has been termed a “Circle of Protection” around funding for programs that are vital to hungry and poor people both in the United States and abroad. It has been reported that in excess of thirteen thousand (13,000) Americans have signed a memorandum to their members of Congress, supporting the need to reduce deficits but not at the expense of hungry and poor people. The “Circle of Protection” statement reads as follows:

“In the face of historic deficits, the nation faces unavoidable choices about how to balance needs and resources and allocate burdens and sacrifices. These choices are economic, political—and moral.

As Christians, we believe the moral measure of the debate is how the most poor and vulnerable people fare. We look at every budget proposal from the bottom up—how it treats those Jesus called “the least of these” (Matthew 25:45). They do not have powerful lobbies, but they have the most compelling claim on our consciences and common resources. The Christian community has an obligation to help them be heard, to join with others to insist that programs that serve the most vulnerable in our nation and around the world are protected. We know from our experience serving hungry and homeless people that these programs meet basic human needs and protect the lives and dignity of the most vulnerable. We believe that God is calling us to pray, fast, give alms and to speak out for justice.

As Christian leaders, we are committed to fiscal responsibility and shared sacrifice. We are also committed to resist budget cuts that undermine the lives, dignity, and rights of poor and vulnerable people. Therefore, we join with others to form a Circle of Protection around programs that meet the essential needs of hungry and poor people at home and abroad.

1. The nation needs to substantially reduce future deficits, but not at the expense of hungry and poor people.

2. Funding focused on reducing poverty should not be cut. It should be made as effective as possible, but not cut.

3. We urge our leaders to protect and improve poverty-focused development and humanitarian assistance to promote a better, safer world.

4. National leaders must review and consider tax revenues, military spending, and entitlements in the search for ways to share sacrifice and cut deficits.

5. A fundamental task is to create jobs and spur economic growth. Decent jobs at decent wages are the best path out of poverty, and restoring growth is a powerful way to reduce deficits.

6. The budget debate has a central moral dimension. Christians are asking how we protect “the least of these.” “What would Jesus cut?” “How do we share sacrifice?”

7. As believers, we turn to God with prayer and fasting, to ask for guidance as our nation makes decisions about our priorities as a people.

8. God continues to shower our nation and the world with blessings. As Christians, we are rooted in the love of God in Jesus Christ. Our task is to share these blessings with love and justice and with a special priority for those who are poor.

Budgets are moral documents, and how we reduce future deficits are historic and defining moral choices. As Christian leaders, we urge Congress and the administration to give moral priority to programs that protect the life and dignity of poor and vulnerable people in these difficult times, our broken economy, and our wounded world. It is the vocation and obligation of the church to speak and act on behalf of those Jesus called “the least of these.” This is our calling, and we will strive to be faithful in carrying out this mission.”—Circle of Protection

This summer, Bread for the World supporters and others are encouraged to visit or call their senators and representatives at their local offices to urge them to protect funding for programs for hungry people. For further information about shared sacrifice or the “Circle of Protection” visit http://www.circleofprotection.us.

Source(s): http://www.bread.org/go/circle. http://www.circleofprotection.us. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/…/circle-of-protection-budget-cuts. ww.christiannewswire.com/news/5693716844.html. http://www.uscatholic.org/…/christian-leaders-call-circle-protection. Sources: U.S. Dept. of Agriculture; U.S. Census Bureau; Feeding America (online); Rhoda Cohen, J. Mabli, F., Potter,Z., Zhoa. Hunger in America 2010. Feeding America. February 2010; Nord, Mark, M. Andrews, S. Carlson. United States Department of Agriculture/Economic Research Service, Household Food Security in the United States, 2008 and 2009; Cook, John. Feeding America. Child Food Insecurity in the United States: 2006-2008; http://www.share.org; ww.feedamerica.org; http://www.nokidhungry.org; and Food Research and Action Center.

Photo credit: Microsoft Clip Art

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iBread for the World Action Alert.

iiRhoda Cohen, J. Mabli, F., Potter,Z., Zhoa. Hunger in America 2010. Feeding America. February 2010.

iiiNord, Mark, M. Andrews, S. Carlson. United States Department of

Agriculture/Economic Research Service, Household Food Security in the United States, 2008.

iv Cook, John. Feeding America. Child Food Insecurity in the United States:2006-2008.

vNord, Mark, M. Andrews, S. Carlson. United States Department of Agriculture/Economic Research Service, Household Food Security in the United States, 2009.

Federal Student Loans: Tell Congress to Keep College Affordable for Students and Working Families

serious woman face

Tell Congress to Keep College Affordable for Students and Working Families. US Senator Elizabeth Warren came out with a bold proposal to have students pay the same interest rate on student loans as the big banks pay on their loans while Congress figures out a long-term solution to the problem.

Senator Warren needs our help to get more attention for it in the halls of Washington, in the media, and across the country. We can win this fight and show that Congress needs to respond to an agenda that works for us—not their big corporate backers—but only if we organize together in our communities, on college campuses, and everywhere our representatives can see us in this crucial month ahead.

On July 1, 2013, student loan rates doubled. In June, the Republican controlled House of Representatives voted to eliminate the fixed-interest loans for students entirely. This was a devastating move which could result in “ballooning financing costs” for new graduates struggling to survive in these particularly difficult economic times.

Stafford Loans are federal student loans made available to college and university students to supplement personal and family resources, scholarships, grants, and work-study. Nearly all students are eligible to receive Stafford loans regardless of credit. Stafford loans may be subsidized by the U.S. Government or unsubsidized depending on the student’s need. Stafford loan interest rates for 2012-2013 are currently unknown.

A 2007 law that reduced the interest rate on Stafford Loans from 6.8 percent to 3.4 percent is was extended by one year. Without legislative action, subsidized Stafford loans returned to the 6.8 percent interest rate on July 1, 2013.

Each year, more than ten (10) million students use subsidized Stafford loans to help pay for college. With rising tuition costs, attending college is very difficult for many students, and the increase in interest rates would cause a college education to be out of reach for many college age people. With that knowledge, we must act to ensure that Congress passes legislation to stop student loan interest rates from doubling this summer.

Stafford Loan Information: Eligibility
You must be a U.S. citizen or national, a U.S. permanent resident, or eligible non-citizen accepted for enrollment or attending a school that participates in the Federal Family Education Loan Program. Additionally:
• You must have submitted a FAFSA to be eligible for a Stafford loan
• For subsidized Stafford, you must have financial need as determined by your school
• You must be enrolled or plan to enroll at least half time

When Stafford loan rates doubled, countless students were affected. “We tell our children to get an education, and we owe it to them to keep that door to higher education to the middle class open.” Stafford loans have provided an opportunity for tens of millions of Americans to attend college.

A whopping 7% Stafford interest rate means that our students will be carrying our nation’s deficit. Meanwhile, banks borrow from the federal reserve at an interest rate of about 0.75%. Something just doesn’t add up. Getting an education shouldn’t mean financial devastation. Ask Congress not to double student interest rates!

For up-to-date information on this issue, check out the Student Loan Network Blog.

Tell your elected officials in Washington, DC to take swift action to pass the legislation to keep college affordable for students and working families.

Source(s): MoveOn Action Alert May 28, 2013. MPRNews On Campus, January 30, 2012. http://www.mndaily.com. http://www.staffordloan.com/stafford-loan-info/.
Photo credit: Microsoft Clip Art

Being Poor Can Land You In Jail

Lawyer

In Sojourners For Justice’s Action Alert, we are reminded that living in poverty has always been a struggle, but in Alabama being poor could land you in prison.

According to a recent story in The New York Times, rural Alabama resident Gina Ray was locked up for over a month because she could not pay fees and fines related to minor traffic offenses. [1] Speeding while being poor should not land someone in jail. These punishments simply do not fit the crime nor is this legal action in the “public good”. This type of use of legal system simply helps the companies that profit from people’s misery. With that said, please tell Alabama’s governor that the welfare of the citizens of his state must come before profits. Being poor should not be a crime.

It has been reported that Alabama, like many states, has made huge increases in the fees it levies on those caught up in its criminal justice system—even for minor traffic offenses. This troubling trend is compounded by the growing privatization of the criminal “justice system”; when poor citizens cannot pay the fines and fees that serve to significantly increase a private contractor’s bottom line, they often land in jail, where more fees are assessed. against the already indigent defendant. One judge called the situation an appalling “extortion racket.” [2]

With that said, it is important to tell Alabama’s governor to call for legislation to end this immoral practice. As aptly stated by Sojourners For Justice, “Jesus proclaimed release for the captives. Scripture calls us to care about justice for the poor. Your assistance in this pressing matter is urgently needed.

Source(s): [1] “Poor Land in Jail as Companies Add Huge Fees for Probation,” The New York Times, July 2, 2012: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/03/us/probation-fees-multiply-as-companies-profit.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all

[2] “Judge in Alabama Halts Private Probation,” The New York Times, July 13, 2012: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/14/us/judge-in-alabama-halts-private-probation.html?_r=2

Photo Credit Microsoft Clip Art

The Military Justice Improvement Act

soldiers

The United States House of Representatives passed the National Defense Reauthorization Act (NDAA) and the United States Senate Armed Services Committee has also passed its version of the NDAA in June.

Some assert that both measures include important new provisions to protect victims, neither goes far enough. The Senate bill will come to the floor soon, and we can use our voices to make these improvements even stronger. The best way to do that is to ask Senators to co-sponsor the Military Justice Improvement Act, S. 967, led by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and 33 bipartisan co-sponsors.

Senator Gillibrand intends to add her bill as an amendment to the National Defense Reauthorization Act on the Senate floor in order to ensure that professional military prosecutors are responsible for investigating and prosecuting sexual assault cases. Many domestic violence advocates assert that it should not be handled by the perpetrator’s commanding officer, which can result in conflicts of interest and abuse of power. This bill sends a strong message to the Senate to add this important provision to the National Defense Reauthorization Act before final passage.

In its Action Alert, the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence encourages us stand with Senator Gillibrand and other champions in Congress who are demanding that the military protect and defend those who put their lives on the line to protect us.

ACTION ITEM 1
Contact Your Senators And Ask Them To Co-Sponsor The Military Justice Improvement Act.

NCADV Script for caller concerning The Military Justice Improvement Act:

When you call, be sure to ask to speak to the staff person who handles military/defense legislation and say:
• I am a constituent from [city and state] and my name is _________.
• If your senator is not a co-sponsor (see list below):
• I urge Senator [insert name] to co-sponsor S. 967, The Military Justice Improvement Act, which will hold perpetrators of sexual assault accountable for their actions and provide victims of military sexual assault access to safety and justice.
• If your Senator is a co-sponsor:
• I am grateful to Senator [insert name] for co-sponsoring S. 967, The Military Justice Improvement Act, which will hold perpetrators of sexual assault accountable for their actions and provide victims of military sexual assault access to safety and justice.
• Thank the staffer for their time.
Don’t forget to call back and contact your other Senator!

ACTION ITEM 2
Tweet Your Senators

S. 967 Co-Sponsors:
Sen Baldwin, Tammy [WI] – 6/10/2013
Sen Begich, Mark [AK] – 5/16/2013
Sen Blumenthal, Richard [CT] – 5/16/2013
Sen Boxer, Barbara [CA] – 5/16/2013
Sen Cantwell, Maria [WA] – 6/18/2013
Sen Cardin, Benjamin L. [MD] – 6/11/2013
Sen Carper, Thomas R. [DE] – 6/3/2013
Sen Casey, Robert P., Jr. [PA] – 6/4/2013
Sen Collins, Susan M. [ME] – 5/16/2013
Sen Coons, Christopher A. [DE] – 5/16/2013
Sen Cowan, William M. [MA] – 6/18/2013
Sen Feinstein, Dianne [CA] – 5/16/2013
Sen Franken, Al [MN] – 5/16/2013
Sen Grassley, Chuck [IA] – 5/16/2013
Sen Harkin, Tom [IA] – 6/20/2013
Sen Heinrich, Martin [NM] – 6/10/2013
Sen Heitkamp, Heidi [ND] – 6/6/2013
Sen Hirono, Mazie K. [HI] – 5/16/2013
Sen Johanns, Mike [NE] – 5/16/2013
Sen Johnson, Tim [SD] – 6/3/2013
Sen Leahy, Patrick J. [VT] – 6/11/2013
Sen Menendez, Robert [NJ] – 6/11/2013
Sen Merkley, Jeff [OR] – 6/4/2013
Sen Mikulski, Barbara A. [MD] – 5/16/2013
Sen Murkowski, Lisa [AK] – 5/22/2013
Sen Pryor, Mark L. [AR] – 5/16/2013
Sen Rockefeller, John D., IV [WV] – 5/16/2013
Sen Sanders, Bernard [VT] – 6/19/2013
Sen Schatz, Brian [HI] – 5/16/2013
Sen Schumer, Charles E. [NY] – 6/11/2013
Sen Shaheen, Jeanne [NH] – 5/16/2013
Sen Warren, Elizabeth [MA] – 5/22/2013
Sen Wyden, Ron [OR] – 6/17/2013

Source(s): NCADV Action Alert
Photo Credit: Microsoft Clip Art

Why Put Children at Risk ?

Scared Girl

My question for the day is as follows: Why should one of the wealthiest nations in the world put children at Risk?

Because of the particularly challenging economic times confronting our nation, I often write about legislation designed to improve the quality of life for the most vulnerable members of society including but not limited to indigent children and youth. As a result, I have written about the Farm Bill’s Reauthorization.

More than one (1) in five (5) children lives in poverty and nearly one (1) in four (4) is at risk of hunger. Often, I write about pending legislation which impacts indigent children, youth, and families with the goal of encouraging the reader to act to protect vulnerable families. I know that ensuring America’s children and youth are connected to healthy food where they live, learn and play is as important to you as it is to me. As a result, I am writing to you today to update on the Farm Bill.

Over twenty-five (25) percent of the children in the US under the age of six live in poverty. The poverty rate among women climbed to 14.5 percent in 2010 from 13.9 percent in 2009, the highest in 17 years. As poverty surged last year to its highest level since 1993, median household income declined, leaving the typical American household earning less in inflation-adjusted dollars than it did in 1997. One out of every six Americans is now being served by at least one government anti-poverty program. Child homelessness in the United States is now thirty-three (33) percent higher than it was back in 2007. More than 50 million Americans are now on Medicaid, the U.S. government health care program designed principally to help the poor.

With that said, Congress is making progress on the Farm Bill, which provides critical federal nutrition programs like SNAP, formerly known as food stamps that helps to feed hungry kids. Were you aware that more than one (1) in seven (7) Americans receives SNAP benefits?

This week, the Farm Bill is moving in the House of Representatives. Drastic cuts to SNAP are being considered, including proposals that would result in two (2) to three (3) million Americans loosing SNAP benefits and would cause nearly three hundred (300,000) children to loose access to free school meal programs. If Congress cuts funding for this poverty relief program, it will affect millions of children and families, leaving them even more vulnerable to hunger.

Will you join me in speaking up for children right now, by asking your member of Congress in the US House of Representative to protect SNAP from any further devastating cuts? If so, please contact your Representative and ask them to not balance the budget on children and youth. Your elected officials in Washington, DC need to hear from you loud and clear, since the children who rely on SNAP are unable to speak from themselves to our elected officials.

As was recently shared in an action alert from anti-hunger programs, there are a lot of misconceptions about receives SNAP. Lets be clear, without SNAP, many indigent families assert that their children would “probably would not have food to eat.”

For those of you that read this post and take action to prevent further cuts to SNAP, I thank you for taking action on this very important issue and lending your voice to children who cannot protect themselves.

You may never know what results come of your action, but if you do nothing there will be no result. ~ Gandhi

Source(s): No Kid Hungry Share Our Strength Action Alert. http://www.congress.org. Feeding America. Action Alert Voices for Americas Children. Action Alert Bread for the World. St. Vincent de Paul Society. National Center on Family Homelessness.

Photo Credit: Microsoft Clip Art