Central Texas Interfaith Leaders Push for Restoration of ACE Funding and, with Texas IAF, Advance EDAP Legislation for Economically Distressed Areas

One month after 300 Texas IAF leaders descended on the Capitol to call for investments in human development, delegations have been visiting the Capitol daily to engage legislators around school finance, the ACE fund, payday lending and infrastructure support for economically distressed areas.  In photos above are Central Texas Interfaith leaders from the Congregational Church of Austin, Wildflower Church (including Reverend Brian Ferguson), Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic, and Capital IDEA.   

Legislative allies in the Rio Grande Valley and El Paso crafted a proposed constitutional amendment providing for the issuance of bonds by the Texas Water Development Board for projects in economically distressed areas.  The proposal is almost to the finish line.

With ACE funding already in the draft budget, leaders are working to restore it to its original $10 Million.  When economist Marc Elliot from Economic Mobility delivered a presentation on the effectiveness of the Project QUEST job training model at the Capitol, representatives from over a dozen legislative offices attended. 

The QUEST model is hailed as the hitting on a "formula with a proven track record" and Texas IAF organizations across the state have applied it in across the state, including in Austin through Capital IDEA .

Texas ACE Fund Return on InvestmentTexas IAF

Nine Year Gains: Project Quest's Continuing ImpactEconomic Mobility

San Antonio Program Moves Low-Skilled into Middle ClassHouston Chronicle [pdf]


Central Texas Interfaith Calls for State Investments in ACE Fund & K-12 Education

Hundreds of Texas IAF leaders bused in to Austin from El Paso, the Rio Grande Valley, San Antonio, Houston, Dallas and West Texas, to join 100 Central Texas Interfaith leaders for a press conference calling on state legislators to increase spending on adult and K-12 education. 

After a morning briefing on school finance, the Texas Innovative Career Education (ACE) program and other issues -- including healthcare, payday lending, and infrastructure in the colonias -- leaders were publicly recognized in the Gallery with a House resolution in support of the ACE program.  Immediately afterward, they convened on the South Capitol steps for a press conference in which they were joined by five state legislators from Central Texas who pledged to continue working for investments in people, including Gina Hinojosa (HD-49), Vikki Goodwin (HD-47), John Bucy (HD 136), Erin Zweiner (HD-45) and James Talarico (HD-52).

In photo above, the Rev. Miles Brandon from St. Julian of Norwich Episcopal Church and Central Texas Interfaith energizes the crowd of Texas IAF leaders.

After the press conference, leaders broke out into smaller delegations to meet with legislators that represent their geographic regions, including in Austin, Western Travis, Williamson County, Comal and Hays.     

Organizations Call On State Legislators to Support Adult EducationUnivision 62 [Spanish video] 

Piden a Legisladores Texanos Más Fondos Para Apoyar la Educación de AdultosUnivision 62 

Valley Interfaith: State's Share of School Funding Has Dropped From 50% to Barely 36%Rio Grande Guardian  


'Recognizing the Stranger' Strategy Launches in Austin with Support of Bishop Joe Vasquez

The CCHD-sponsored 'Recognizing the Stranger' strategy launched in Central Texas with the support of Catholic Bishop Joe Vasquez, the Diocese of Austin, the Organizers Institute of the West/Southwest IAF and Austin Interfaith. 

50 trainees from 13 institutions participated in Spanish-language sessions including the Body of Christ,  the Baptismal Call of the Church and Qualities of Leaders through the lens of the Beatitudes.


Central Texas Interfaith Holds Accountability Assemblies in Austin and Hays County


Central Texas Interfaith Launches #SignUpTakeCharge Campaign in Advance of Fall Elections

Central Texas Interfaith (CTI), a network of over 50 religious and civic institutions comprised of Austin Interfaith, Bastrop Interfaith, Corridor IAF, and related projects in Western Travis and Williamson Counties has launched a non-partisan effort to Get Out the Vote in four Central Texas counties. These efforts include signing up at least 15,000 to support a common agenda of issues.  Over 5,000 residents met through small group “house meetings” to identify issues of mutual interest that candidates for local office will be asked to support.  
CTI will also host 4 Accountability Sessions, one each in Travis, Williamson, Hays, and Bastrop to gain commitments from candidates on affordability, infrastructure, living wages, immigration, healthcare access, and public safety. Candidates for Austin Mayor, including Steve Adler and Laura Morrison, Austin City Council, Hays County Judge and Commissioners, Texas Legislator, and U.S. Congress will have an opportunity to give their public support to the CTI agenda of issues.  CTI does not endorse candidates.   The first two Accountability Sessions will be held on October 21st, in Travis and Hays Counties. 
CTI’s goal is to overcome a divisive political culture by building a network of 15,000 voters who are connected through face-to-face relationships and conversations in congregations, schools, social service organizations, unions, and neighborhoods.  Volunteers from CTI are engaging these voters in pews, health clinics, back to school nights, health fairs, and at doorsteps. CTI is on target to conduct over 40 “Sign Up Take Charge” block walks in neighborhoods across Travis, Hays, Williamson, and Bastrop Counties leading up to the November 6 election.

Immediately after the November elections, Central Texas Interfaith will engage the thousands of voters who signed onto the agenda to advocate for these identified priorities with elected officials.
Examples of specific items on the CTI issues agenda include:
Affordability: Economic displacement of families from the Eastside and Southside of Austin to Kyle, Buda, and outside 183 in Travis County. 

Education: Cutting of Austin ISD school budget due to inadequate state funding even while Austin is one of the fastest growing cities in the country

Health Care: Lack of medical personnel who accept Medicaid and Medicare in Williamson County
Infrastructure: Limited funding for infrastructure improvements in central Texas  
Immigration: Undocumented migrants afraid to attend church in Bastrop and New Braunfels due to concerns about ICE


Statement on Passage of FY 2019 City of Austin Budget

We commend the Mayor and City Council for fully funding all of Austin Interfaith’s priorities in the just-approved FY-2019 city budget.  This includes full funding for AISD Parent Support Specialists, AISD Prime Time After School programs, an increase in the City of Austin Living Wage to $15/hr., and an increase in funding for long term job training for programs such as Capital IDEA, for a combined budgetary impact of over $5 million.

We commend the collaboration of Councilmembers Alison Alter and Greg Casar for their combined amendment to restore full funding to these education and workforce development programs, which also provided funding for programs addressing homelessness and other social services.  Mayor Adler and Councilmembers Garza, Kitchen, Poole, and Tovo also supported this measure.  Austin Interfaith also commends Mayor Adler for his earlier motion to free up additional budgetary money by setting the tax rate at an appropriate level, making good on a promise he and council members made to Austin Interfaith and the community earlier in the year to hold crucial human development programs harmless from the budgetary impact of increasing the homestead exemption. 

We do believe the city needs to evaluate its budget process and will work with them to make sure these essential investments in human and economic development are not left to last minute budget decisions.  But we commend the Mayor, Council, their staffs, and the City Manager and his staff for their accessibility and collaboration in this budget process, as well as the hundreds of volunteer hours put in by Austin Interfaith leaders from across the city in advocating for these community priorities.   This was the democratic process in action. 


Austin Interfaith Statement on Capital IDEA Funding in City Budget

Austin Interfaith calls on the Mayor and City Council to fund Capital IDEA to 2.5million in this year’s budget.  Capital IDEA is Austin’s most effective strategy to prepare low-income, minority, first-generation in college adults to fill Austin’s abundant opportunities in nursing, other health care and IT.   This increase of $700,000 in city funding would allow 85 more adults, in addition to the 900 students already in the program, to lift themselves out of poverty and into living wage jobs.  Capital IDEA contributes to Austin’s economic development, as the average Capital IDEA student enters the program earning on average $10,461, and upon completion earns on average $40,914. 

Earlier this year when the increase in the homestead exemption was passed, the council gave assurances that this would not negatively impact programs which invest in human development, like Capital IDEA, after school programs, and Parent Support Specialists.  Our city’s investment in these programs needs to keep pace with our growing population and persistent inequality and poverty rates in Austin.  A recent independent evaluation showed a 950 percent return on investment to the federally-funding, City-managed “patient to practitioner” project. It turned low-income clients using our safety net institutions into health care professionals staffing them.


Austin City Council Passes Living Wage Requirement for Economic Incentives to Community Acclaim

Austin Interfaith applauds the Austin City Council for adopting a $15 an hour living wage floor requirement as a key feature of its expanded Economic Development Incentive Program.

Says David Guarino of All Saints Episcopal Church, “Austin Interfaith recognizes Mayor Steve Adler, City Manager Spencer Cronk and the members of the City Council for hearing and acting on our concerns.”

“Austin Interfaith is especially appreciative of Council Members Greg Casar and Sabino ‘Pio’ Renteria for co-sponsoring the amendment that guaranteed living wage requirements for firms receiving incentives.”  Mayor Adler and Councilmembers Flanagan, Kitchen and Pool spoke in favor living wages as a key community value for Austin.  Mayor ProTem Kathie Tovo and Council Member Pool thanked community leaders for working with the council and city staff on the new policy.

Austin Interfaith, an organization of 37 local congregations, schools, nonprofits and labor organizations, worked hard to ensure that the City Council required living wages for employees of firms receiving future tax incentives.

“Tonight, the Austin City Council has set a national standard for urban economic incentive programs by recognizing that people deserve the dignity of a living wage from employers who receive economic incentives,” Guarino.

Austin Interfaith has worked years to encourage the city toward the $15 an hour living wage standard for city-subsidized companies.

Said Reverend Sandy Jones from Mount Olive Baptist Church, “Austin Interfaith also applauds City Manager Cronk for recommending a $15 an hour living wage floor for city employees and contractors as part of the city’s budget process.”

Support Your Local and Small Businesses, Austin Chronicle

Council Set to Approve Incentive Plan to Help Local, Small Business, CBS Austin

Council Considers Which Strings to Attach to Corporate Incentives, Austin Monitor

Video of Austin Interfaith Testimony


Bastrop Interfaith Stands with Stony Point on Sheriff Checkpoints

Bastrop Interfaith leaders, including Maria Jimenez (in interview above), expressed grave concerns over Labor Day checkpoints planned in the Stony Point neighborhood.

[Photo Credit: Telemundo]

Consulado Pide a la Comunidad Extremar Medidas tras Anuncio de Operativo Vial en Bastrop, Telemundo [pdf]

Del Valle Residents Grow Anxious Over Bastrop Sheriff's Weekend Patrols, Austin American Statesman [pdf]


Statement on Living Wage Policy

Austin Interfaith commends City Council members for vocalizing their strong support this week for maintaining Living Wage protections when public tax dollars subsidize private businesses.   The current policy of requiring companies to pay the City Living Wage if they receive tax subsidies or incentives (Chapter 380 agreements) was forged over the past several years by community leaders and public officials.  Should the Mayor and Council decide to consider and vote on any changes to our Chapter 380  policies in the near future, we believe they will continue this commitment to working families.

We also commend City Manager Cronk for including an increase to $15 Living Wage in the City budget proposal.  Currently the City Living Wage applies to all city employees, employees of city contractors, and businesses receiving tax subsidies and incentives.  Austin Interfaith has worked with the Mayor and City Council to move the living wage from $11 in 2013 to the proposed goal of $15 today.