Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Welcome Congress Back to Work

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The September 21, 2007, Volume 2 Number 29 issue of the emailed Catholic Weekly closed encouraging citizens to welcome back Congress and remind it of its unfinished work.

Participate in the Campaign to Reduce Poverty: Welcome Back Congress and Send a Message about What Remains to be Done

WHAT: This September, get involved in the Campaign to Reduce Poverty in America by welcoming Congress back to Washington with a message about what still needs to be done for those living in poverty in our nation.

Your active involvement with Catholic Charities USA's poverty campaign and communicating with your Members of Congress has played a strong role in moving some important legislation during the first half of the 110th Congress. These include steps in the right direction by raising the minimum wage, and moving forward legislation reauthorizing both the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) and the Food Stamp Program.

But much work remains to be done, and your help is needed!

ACTION NEEDED: Click on "Take Action" and enter your zip code to send a message to both of your Senators and your Representative starting today and ask them to make the right decisions about programs that serve the most poor and vulnerable. To get you started, we have provided a preformatted letter that you can localize and personalize.


SCHIP: The House and Senate have both passed legislation to reauthorize the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). Both bills provide significant improvements to SCHIP in the areas of new resources, outreach and enrollment practices, and changes to mental and dental health coverage. They differ in the amount of resources that are available. The House provides $50 billion over five years and the Senate $35 billion.

The President has threatened to veto any SCHIP legislation that increases the funding above $5 billion so strong support for this successful program from members of Congress is essential. The Senate bill is a bipartisan measure that passed with 68 votes, which makes it veto proof. The House bill passed on a party line vote and is not veto proof. In September both chambers will meet to iron out the differences between the two bills. The current SCHIP program will expire on September 30th and a number of states will face a shortfall if the program is not reauthorized and appropriately funded. Click here to read Catholic Charities USA's most recent letter to Congress on SCHIP.

Farm Bill/Food Stamps: Now that the U.S. House of Representatives has passed its version of the 2007 Farm Bill, the U.S. Senate will now take up the issue. We are asking the Senate to support a strong nutrition title to help food stamp recipients and to support policies that help rural communities and small producers. Click here to read Catholic Charities USA's most recent letter on the Farm Bill.

Funding: Congress has yet to finalize funding decisions for discretionary programs that fund human services. While the House has passed a measure with some modest increases, the Senate has yet to act. Click here to read Catholic Charities USA's most recent letter on funding issues.

Prisoner Re-Entry: The Second Chance Act is pending in both the House (H.R. 1593) and the Senate (S. 1060). This important legislation would provide grants to states, community-based, and faith-based organizations to begin to address the need for drug and mental health treatment, job training and education opportunities, and housing, as well as other critical services for individuals when they return to the community after exiting the prison system.

SSI: Legislation is now pending in the Senate that would extend benefits to elderly and disabled refugees who have lost their SSI benefits due to the restrictive seven-year time limit set by congress in the mid-1990s. Congress originally thought seven years would be enough time for refugees and asylees to become naturalized citizens, and thereby preserve their SSI eligibility. However, many refugees and asylees have not been able to make it all the way through the citizenship process in seven years, despite their very best efforts. The delays are due to a variety of factors, including backlogs at federal immigration offices and new procedures implemented after September 11. The first wave of victims is now starting to hit the time limit. Many elderly and disabled refugees and asylees have been left destitute as a result. In addition, many may lose health insurance because SSI and Medicaid eligibility are linked in some states. Click here to read Catholic Charities USA's most recent letter on SSI.

Thank you-- your efforts make a difference!

For more information, please contact Christin Driscoll, Senior Director for Policy Development and Advocacy, at cdriscoll@catholiccharitiesusa.org.

Washington Weekly is a publication of the Social Policy Department of Catholic Charities USA and is published regularly when Congress is in session.
Catholic Charities USA
1731 King Street, Alexandria, VA 22314

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