As Congress gets back into gear for the spring, we wanted to give you an update on some of the issues that we will be watching and that you can expect to see in future EPPN Alerts.
Federal Jobs Bill: The House of Representatives passed the Jobs for Main Street Act of 2010 that includes extensions of unemployment insurance, COBRA subsidies, and Child Tax Credit, grants for youth employment and worker training and placement in high growth emerging industries, and additional funding for AmeriCorps and National Service Trust. The Senate will draft a scaled-down version of the legislation.
Financial Services Reform Bill: The House has passed the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2009 which would overhaul the regulatory structure of the financial system and create a stand-alone regulatory agency Consumer Financial Protection Agency to regulate the system. This legislation is pending in the Senate.
Climate Change: The House of Representatives passed a ground breaking climate change bill last year. The Senate is awaiting a new compromise climate change proposal from Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and Joe Lieberman (I-CT).
2011 Federal Budget: The President and Congress will submit proposed FY2011 Federal Budget that will focus on deficit reduction and increased homeland security funding. This may affect human needs funding, and we will keep you informed about opportunities for advocacy.
Tax Bill: This year House and Senate tax committees will have to make a decision on expiring tax cuts which will create an opportunity to advocate for income support programs targeted towards low-income communities, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit.
2011 Federal Appropriations: The annual appropriations bill will address the range of domestic human needs, including health, welfare, and employment. We will be watching this process closely.
Child Nutrition Reauthorization: This year brings reauthorization of the school lunch and breakfast programs and the Women, Infants, Children (WIC) program.
Reauthorization of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Program: We have worked on this issue in the past, and it is time again for reauthorization of the basic federal welfare program. It will likely be a one-year extension until the Congress can do a comprehensive 5-year reauthorization.
Employee Free Choice Act: The plan to ease the process for electing union representation was put off because of health care reform, and it appears prospects for its consideration are slim at this time.
Immigration and Refugee Policy Reform: Comprehensive Immigration Reform will be reintroduced this year. It will likely include: legalization of undocumented immigrants, reform of visa programs, reform of the family reunification system, and new enforcement of immigration laws. We will continue to work on humane and just immigration reform that reflects the commitment of the Episcopal Church on this issue. With the 30th anniversary of the Refugee Act of 1980 this year we expect legislation directed to reforming the asylum system and the refugee resettlement program.
Foreign-Aid Reform: The House Committee on Foreign Affairs is moving forward with efforts to reform U.S. foreign-aid programs in order to better prioritize the fight against deadly poverty around the world. The Senate is moving at a slower pace and in a slightly different format, but progress continues to be made. The Episcopal Church has been actively engaged in working with lawmakers in both chambers as this major legislation is shaped.
Jubilee Act: The Jubilee Act, which provides debt cancellation for countries that need it to meet the MDGs, was reintroduced in the House in December. As you may recall, the House passed similar legislation in 2008 but the Senate ran out of time as the congressional session expired.
Haiti: Legislative advocacy for Haiti, in the wake of this month’s devastating earthquake, will be a significant priority for the Episcopal Church. Two significant policy developments have happened since the earthquake. First, the White House granted Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Haitian immigrants who were in the United States as of January 12. Second, the International Monetary Fund announced a plan for the cancellation of bilateral and multilateral debts owed by Haiti. (This comes on the heels of a decision by the IMF and World Bank last summer to cancel a significant portion of Haiti’s multilateral debt). We will work in coming weeks to ensure that adequate aid is provided to the Haiti relief and rebuilding efforts.