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2013 Priority: Poverty and Hunger Alleviation
The leading priority for Center members is far and away poverty and hunger alleviation. We believe that our response as faithful citizens is the measure of our moral character, but unfortunately, too often the voices of those on the margins are left out of the debate. Therefore, it is imperative that we advocate for those solutions that we as a society can use to collectively care for our vulnerable neighbors - solutions that no single church or charity could manage alone.
In the coming year, we will continue to advocate for policies and funding priorities that transition families to economic independence and protect the most vulnerable among us from financial predators.
Budgets are the way in which our society collectively allocates its limited resources, and as such they have serious moral implications. For members of the advocacy community called to care for “the least of these,” the budgeting process is an opportunity to prioritize the needs of Virginia’s most vulnerable individuals and families.
In 2012 we pressed the legislature and Governor to prioritize the needs of working families through a thoughtful, moral budget. However, as in years past, Virginia’s policy makers made sweeping reductions to the budget without increasing revenue in any significant way. The result of this lopsided approach has been to compromise transportation, infrastructure, education and human services with drastic cuts. The Center is working with the
Better Choices Coalition
create a more balanced approach, something that the vast majority of Virginians support. This approach includes both increased revenues and targeted cuts, and is the only way to ensure Virginia’s full economic recovery and vibrancy for years to come. As part of this strategy we will advocate for new and sustainable revenue sources specifically designated to address the Commonwealth’s growing transportation needs. This will ultimately ensure that the budgets of human service programs are not raided to fix our broken roads.
During 2013 Virginia policy makers will update the biennial budget it passed last year, and faithful advocates will continue to press for policies and funding priorities that protect working families and the public programs that empower them to build better lives for themselves. Among others, these programs include FAMIS (Family Access to Medical Insurance Security), which provides health care coverage to children in low income families; and TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families), which provides job training opportunities and assistance to families with low incomes. Additionally, we’ll be advocating for fair tax policies that include renewal of the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) that directly benefits low income working families and our local economies.
Consumer Finance Protection
The Center has been a steadfast leader on payday and car title industry reform for many years. We have consistently supported a 36% cap on annual percentage rates for both payday and car title loans. Several bills were sponsored in 2012 to cap interest and fees and put greater restrictions on predatory lending practices, but the bills were all defeated by their respective committees.
One of the new trends advocates are witnessing is the proliferation of open ended loans. These loans allow consumers to borrow money when they need it, and loan amounts are increased as a consumer remains in financial distress. Like payday and car title loans, these open ended loans offer interest-only payments and are difficult to escape due to high interest rates. Unfortunately they are not regulated, and data is not collected about the loans or the institutions offering them. In 2013, the Center will continue our campaign to regulate open ended loans, educate consumers about the illegality of internet loans, and empower localities to reduce the impact of predatory lenders on their communities.
Additionally, we will continue to work in coalition with other organizations (
) to protect Virginians from mortgage scams and unfair lending practices, and to ensure that Virginia’s foreclosure process does not put the profits of big lenders ahead of what’s best for Virginia’s families.
The Center also has a history of protecting vulnerable Virginians by advocating for TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) benefits which are designed to assist families’ transition from government assistance to independence through employment. Program benefits include reimbursements to families using childcare services and job training. In the 2012 session, legislation was introduced that would have expanded TANF eligibility to include individuals re-entering their communities after serving time for drug possession felonies, the only category of crime for which one is not eligible for TANF benefits. This is particularly critical for women who regain custody of their children after serving time, as TANF benefits offer essential workforce development and childcare opportunities. This legislation was defeated, but will be revisited in the 2013 session.
Additionally, the Center will work to defeat any legislative efforts to subject TANF recipients to discriminatory drug tests. This is an incredibly costly policy for any state to employ and the constitutionality of such a policy is currently under review by numerous courts.
Work sharing is a program designed to ensure that small businesses and their employees can weather economic downturns. The program permits employers to reduce the hours of employees rather than eliminating a full time position. These employees are then eligible to claim pro-rated unemployment benefits for the time they are not working. Work sharing allows businesses to maintain a skilled workforce and individuals to continue working, supporting their families, and accessing health insurance without government assistance.
Two bills which would create a work sharing program in Virginia were introduced during the 2012 General Assembly. However, because of concerns about the impact on Virginia’s Unemployment Trust Fund both bills were carried over to 2013 for further consideration. Since the 2012 session, Congress passed federal work share legislation that makes funds available to states that chose to adopt the program. Virginia would be eligible for significant funding to implement a work sharing program in the Commonwealth.
Healthy Kid Campaign
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1716 East Franklin Street
Richmond, VA 23223
VICPP Regional Poverty One-Pagers
Poverty Data by Congressional District
(from Half in Ten)
Poverty Data by County
(from US Conference of Catholic Bishops)
The State of Working Virginia
(The Commonwealth Institute, October 2011)
Public Benefits Programs
2012 Overview of Public Benefits
2012 FAMIS Overview
2012 TANF Overview
2012 SNAP Overview
The Poverty Diet
Consumer Finance Protection
2012 Overview of Predatory Lending
Virginia Partnership to Encourage Responsible Lending
Budget Primer for Advocates
Moral Budgeting Power Point
Budgeting Process Overview
(The Commonwealth Institute, August 2012)
The Federal Budget
Impact of Sequestration on VA
, Senator Harkin's office, Summer 2012)
Our Work with Half in Ten
2012 Half in Ten Overview
Copyright 2011 by Virginia Interfaith Center