Bastrop Interfaith / Central Texas Interfaith leader Edie Clark was featured in a KUT story this week on the barriers marginalized communities in Bastrop face in accessing the COVID Vaccine. Ms. Clark cited the digital divide, need for better communication, and mistrust communities like Stony Point feel as a result of anti-immigrant policies of the Bastrop Sheriff.
[Photo Credit: Gabriel C. Perez, KUT]
As Bastrop County Builds Vaccination Hub 'From Scratch,' Groups Focus on Dismantling Barriers, KUT Radio, Austin's NPR Station [pdf]
Central Texas Interfaith & Allies Call on State and Local Governments to Beat December Deadline for Coronavirus Rental Relief
Before the pandemic, Maria Ramirez (in photo above) and her husband made more than enough money to afford their two-bedroom apartment in Dallas. Now, they owe $4,000+ in back rent and late fees. When they applied for local aid, they were denied.
"For four months, millions of these funds have wafted around the corridors of City Hall while each day vulnerable families are threatened with evictions," said Jon Lee, a retired pastor of King of Glory Lutheran Church and leader with Dallas Area Interfaith.
Texas IAF leaders across the state are working with local elected officials to spend down millions in assistance dollars that they leveraged earlier this year. Onerous online application processes and excessive documentation requirements hampered access to available assistance for the most vulnerable. Warned Rev. Michael Floyd of Central Texas Interfaith, "Families who lost employment are racking up months of unpaid rent and as eviction moratoriums end, they will be forced out of their homes."
Texas IAF leaders and allies are also calling on the Governor to draw down available funding for rental assistance for smaller cities. If not spent by the end of the year, unspent dollars will have to be returned to the US Treasury.
Says Rev. Jaqueline Hailey, of TMO, “The CDC order create[d] a welcomed pause in evictions in this area, but it is only a half-measure because all rents and late fees will continue to pile up and be due when the moratorium expires on December 31.”
[Photo Credit: Vernon Bryant/Dallas Morning News]
Thousands Evicted in Houston Area Before Eviction Moratorium, Rental Assistance, Texas Catholic Herald [pdf]
TMO Call[s] on Leaders to Halt Evictions, Congress to Pass Next Stimulus Bill, Houston Chronicle [pdf]
Central Texas Interfaith & Austin Apartment Association Call for $100 Billion in Emergency Rental Relief
After distributing $1.2 million in May, the City of Austin’s Neighborhood Housing and Community Development Department announced Tuesday $17.75 million will be available to help renters in the second round of the Relief of Emergency Needs for Tenants (RENT) Program.
The city will use a lottery system to pick funding recipients, so for people like Carlota Garcia with Central Texas Interfaith, the worry is about those who won’t get picked.
“No longer are we able to borrow from friends or borrow from family, savings accounts have been pillaged, there is no cushion left for people,” she said. “This moment has the potential to become disastrous.”
She said the state and the federal government should create a plan that gets those in need help beyond the next six months.
“In order for us to be able to prevent families from falling into starvation, or worse, we really need to have the federal government step up, as well as the statewide government..."
[Photo: Footage by KXAN]
Joint Statment on Emergency Rental Relief, Central Texas Interfaith & Austin Apartment Association
Amidst Deliberation Over $14.7M in Taxpayer Dollars to Tesla, Central TX Interfaith Calls for Living Wages
[Excerpts from Community Impact & Austin Monitor]
Travis County commissioners continue to consider a plan to offer electric automaker Tesla millions of dollars in economic incentives to build a factory in eastern Travis County, but with no date yet announced for a decision on the matter. If approved, Tesla could receive nearly $14.7 million in property tax rebates across 10 years with additional rebates in the 10 years following.
At the commissioners' June 30 meeting, Travis County community members again phoned in to voice support and concern regarding the proposed incentives. Several speakers encouraged the county to leverage for greater worker wage and protection commitments.
"We are skeptical. Numerous studies have shown that local governments rarely if ever receive benefits commensurate with what incentives cost, and, despite what they say, businesses rarely if ever give incentives much weight when deciding where to locate," said [Rev.] Michael
Floyd, who spoke on behalf of Central Texas Interfaith....
Floyd...pointed out that even at the average wage cited by Tesla, a family of three would still qualify for Travis County Rental Assistance. Currently, people earning 150 to 250 percent of the federal poverty income guidelines, or $31,580 to $54,300, qualify to receive rental assistance from the county due to an expansion in eligibility requirements resulting from Covid-19.
[Photo Credit: Courtesy Tesla via Community Impact]
County Development Incentive for Tesla Sees More Support, Austin Monitor [pdf]
Exceeding their turnout goal by 50%, more than 1,500 leaders from Texas IAF organizations assembled online and in (socially distanced) watch parties to launch a Get Out The Vote drive, pledging to deliver 200,000 voters this fall to support a nonpartisan agenda for change.
Declared the Rev. Dr. Rhenel Johnson, pastor of Abundant Life United Methodist Church and leader with TMO: "Here today are the prophets like Moses who are called to set the people free. Set them free from slave jobs, set them free from not having access to mental health for our adult and children, set them free from police brutality and set them free from inequality! The Texas IAF network is ready to take to the streets and sign up voters to our agenda of issues and March them to the polls starting October 19 for early voting through election day on November 3rd."
Bishops, clergy, lay leaders, and community leaders from 10 Texas IAF organizations ratified an agenda that includes COVID-19 recovery, workforce development, healthcare access, immigration, and police reform. Speakers included: Catholic Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller (Archdiocese of San Antonio), Auxiliary Bishop Gregory Kelly (Diocese of Dallas), Rabbi Alan Freedman (Temple Beth Shalom in Austin), Danielle Alan of Harvard University, Paul Osterman of MIT, Luke Bretherton of Duke University, Charles Sabel of the Economic Policy Institute, and Teresa Ghilarducci and Richard McGahey of the Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis.
Similar statewide “Sign Up-Take Charge/Get Out The Vote” campaigns by the Network of Texas IAF Organizations have netted over $2 Billion in infrastructure funding for colonias along the border, tens of millions for workforce development for living wage jobs, over $50 Million for public school parent training and staff development, expansion of CHIP and Medicaid at the state level, and living wage measures in cities, counties, and school districts across the state.
Over the past three months Texas IAF organizations have focused on COVID-19 recovery, leveraging over $250,000,000 in rental/utility assistance and $100,000,000 in workforce development at the city and county levels, in addition to statewide and local moratoriums for utility cutoffs and evictions.
“We've won hundreds of millions in immediate COVID-19 economic relief, our organizations are now focusing on longer term workforce and economy recovery strategies brought about by the pandemic,” said Rev. Minerva Camarena-Skeith, a leader with St. Michael’s Episcopal and Central Texas Interfaith. “This includes long-term training for in-demand living wage jobs, reducing underlying health care disparities, and education investments like internet connectivity for students from low-income communities to bridge the digital divide.”
Leaders pledged to identify 5,700 leaders in house meetings and small group gatherings this summer and prepare them to each deliver 36 voters to the polls this fall.
Update at 5:35 p.m. – Group says Bastrop County's targeted arrests are dangerous during pandemic
Local groups in Bastrop County are asking the sheriff to stop targeted arrests aimed at Latino communities in the area, which they say complicate things for many families during the COVID-19 pandemic
Bastrop Interfaith, a coalition of neighborhood groups and church congregations in the county, is asking Bastrop County Sheriff Maurice Cook to stop his crackdown on minor traffic violations, which was flagged by the Austin American-Statesmen last week.
The group says the crackdown has led to a spike in deportations and arrests in mostly immigrant and Latino communities, and is putting many residents at risk.
Edie Clark, a leader with Bastrop Interfaith, said families already dealing with financial insecurity are now too scared to even pick up food at a food pantry.
“These people are just dealing with so many issues right now,” she said. “The last thing that we need is to be scaring people about being arrested. You know, we want to keep everybody safe.”
Clark said filling up jails during the pandemic is also a public health hazard. Her group has asked to meet with the sheriff to discuss this new policy.
Central TX Interfaith, with Waco Mayor and County Judge, Convenes 100+ Clergy to Navigate Stay-at-Home Orders
With the coronavirus transforming the way religious congregations operate all over Texas, Central Texas Interfaith has been at the forefront of efforts in Waco and McLennan County to bring together congregational leaders and help them navigate Stay-at-Home orders.
Town Hall Held with Faith Leaders, CBS-KWTX
La pandemia del COVID-19 está precipitando una crisis económica de proporciones históricas que requiere sacrificios por parte de todos los americanos para evitar una pérdida masiva de vidas. Aunque el Congreso ha aprobado un histórico estímulo de emergencia de $2.2 billones ($2.2 Trillion US dollars), este es sin duda el primer paso para nuevas medidas sin precedentes y muy necesarias. La Fundación de Áreas Industriales (IAF, por sus siglas en inglés) urge al Congreso a entregar planes de estímulo económico que proteja a aquellos que más necesitan ayuda: trabajadores, las familias y las pequeñas empresas en el frente de batalla de esta emergencia nacional.
Firma la petición a continuación y contacta a tus Representantes del Congreso para exigirles que actúen con valentía y rapidez en apoyo de los siguientes principios:
- Ayudar a los trabajadores y familias estadounidenses ahora: hacer un pago inmediato de $2000 por persona, seguido de pagos mensuales adicionales mientras dure la crisis económica.
- Salvar los empleos y proteger a los trabajadores del sector de servicios: ampliar el seguro de desempleo y la licencia remunerada por enfermedad para cubrir el 90% de los salarios para todos los trabajadores, independientemente del tamaño de la empresa o de si son trabajadores contratatistas. Brindar a los trabajadores del sector de servicios y de distribución de alimentos un sobresueldo por servicio de riesgo y protecciones de salud adicionales. Ofrecer subvenciones a compañías, pequeñas empresas y organizaciones benéficas sin fines de lucro que mantienen a los trabajadores en su nómina al 80% de los salarios anteriores a la crisis. Otorgar préstamos y subvenciones del 0% a organizaciones benéficas y religiosas sin fines de lucro bajo el programa de asistencia ante desastres de la SBA para satisfacer las necesidades inmediatas de la comunidad. Crear obras públicas a gran escala en asociación con los sectores religiosos y sin fines de lucro para proporcionar empleos con salarios dignos, con beneficios y servicios vitales para las familias.
- Ampliar drásticamente la cobertura de la atención médica para los más vulnerables: proporcionar pruebas COVID-19 universales y gratuitas con un amplio alcance comunitario a poblaciones específicas de alto riesgo. Aumentar la contribución de Medicaid en todo el país en 10 puntos porcentuales sobre la tarifa de cada estado participante y restablecer la contribución federal del 100% para la expansión de Medicaid.
- Invertir fuertemente en infraestructura para atención médica para apoyar a los trabajadores y proveedores de primera línea: hacer uso de todos los poderes bajo la Ley de Defensa de la Producción para fabricar equipos de atención médica, incluidos kits de prueba, ventiladores, máscarillas N95, trajes de protección y camas de hospital.
- Proteger a nuestras comunidades: suspender todos los desalojos, ejecuciones hipotecarias y cortes de servicios públicos para propietarios de viviendas, inquilinos, instituciones religiosas y organizaciones sin fines de lucro. Proporcionar internet, cable y teléfono gratuitos, esenciales para la seguridad y la educación pública remota. Suspender la regla de carga pública mientras dure la crisis y asegurar que ningún servicio utilizado durante este período se aplique a ninguna regla restablecida.
- Evitar los errores del rescate del sector financiero de 2008: exigir las salvaguardas y la estricta rendición de cuentas, que todas las corporaciones que buscan fondos de rescate brinden, entre otras condiciones, protección del empleo para los trabajadores, planes de jubilación, derecho de sindicación, atención médica y licencia remunerada por enfermedad. Prohibir aumentos salariales y bonos para los ejecutivos con estos fondos. Exigir rendimientos a tasa de mercado sobre los dólares públicos invertidos. Para empresas con más de 500 empleados, limitar los rescates solo a las empresas a las que se les niegue el financiamiento privado.
The Covid-19 pandemic is precipitating an economic crisis of historic proportions, requiring sacrifices from all Americans to avoid a massive loss of life. Though Congress has passed a historic $2.2 Trillion emergency stimulus, this is assuredly the first step for further unprecedented and much-needed measures.
Congress must continue to respond with fiscal policy aimed at avoiding a serious Depression. The Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF) will continue to urge Congress to deliver an economic stimulus plan that protects those who urgently need help the most: American workers, families, and small businesses on the front lines of this national emergency.
Sign the petition below and continue calling on your congressional members to urge them to focus on the following principles:
Help American Workers and Families Now: Make an immediate payment of $2,000 per person, followed by additional monthly payments for as long as the economic crisis persists.
Save Jobs and Protect Service Sector Workers: Expand Unemployment Insurance and Paid Sick Leave to cover 90% of wages, for all workers regardless of company size or whether they are contract workers. Provide service and food distribution worker hazard pay and additional health protections. Offer grants to companies, small businesses, and charitable nonprofits that keep workers on their payroll at 80% of pre-crisis wages. Provide 0% loans and grants to charitable and religious nonprofits under the SBA Disaster Relief program to meet immediate community needs. Create large-scale public works in partnership with the religious and non-profit sectors to provide living wage employment with benefits and vital services for families.
Drastically Expand Health Care Coverage for the Most Vulnerable: Provide universal & free Covid-19 tests with extensive community outreach to targeted high risk populations. Increase Medicaid contribution nationwide by 10 percentage points over each participating state’s rate, and reinstate the 100% federal contribution for Medicaid expansion.
Invest Heavily in Health Care Infrastructure to Support Front Line Workers and Providers: Exercise the full powers under the Defense Production Act to produce health care equipment including test kits, ventilators, N95 respirator masks, protective clothing and hospital beds.
Protect Our Communities: Suspend all evictions, foreclosures and utility shutoffs for homeowners, renters, religious institutions, and non-profit organizations. Provide free internet, cable and phone – essential for safety and remote public education. Suspend the public charge rule for the duration of the crisis and ensure that no services utilized during this period apply to any reinstated rule.
Avoid the Mistakes of the 2008 Financial Sector Bailouts: Require safeguards and strict accountability that all corporations seeking bailout funds provide, among other provisions, protection of workers’ jobs, retirement plans, right to organize, healthcare and paid sick leave. Prohibit executive pay raises and bonuses with these funds. Require market-rate returns on public dollars invested. For corporations with over 500 employees, limit bailouts only to firms denied private financing.
The Covid-19 Pandemic is unlike any challenge we’ve faced in recent history. In order to slow the onset of the disease in our community, one of the few tools we have is social distancing. The very idea of distancing presents challenges for our institutions, our congregations, schools and associations, which all value human connection, not distance. As we face the prospect of widespread human suffering, both from the disease itself and the remedy, we need to understand and address what is happening in our community
Deploying a Relational Response to this Crisis
For 30 years, Austin Interfaith (now Central TX Interfaith), has used the practices and habits of organizing to assert the common good in public life. Over those years, in the midst of addressing serious issues, our best strategies have emerged when we work together. We are employing these same strategies, sometimes with new technological tools, in the coronavirus crisis:
Listen and Caucus:
Leaders in CTI Institutions are forming teams to listen and learn what is happening with people. Teams are then working with CTI to caucus safely via phone or online and reflect on what they’ve heard.
Conduct Research Actions:
To understand this moment and how it is impacting us and our communities, CTI Leaders will meet, online and by telephone, with experts and public officials.
CTI will act collectively on the local, state and federal level.
As CTI leaders and institutions, we are called to maintain the bonds of community and act decisively to respond to the needs of our families and neighbors.
At this Covid-19 Action page you will find:
CTI Rapid Response alerts which will be posted as red banners across the top of this page as we monitor the government response to the crisis;
What You're Hearing: We'd like to hear the stories and concerns that you are hearing in the community.
Resources for your congregation as you respond to the need in the community [currently under construction -- will be updated very soon].