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Learn Pray Blog is the official blog of the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy. Our goal is to create a space where Virginians can promote the faith voice on issues such as poverty & the working poor, at-risk children & youth, Caring for God’s Creation and others.
Posted by: SuperUser Account on 6/23/2014

Richmond Times-Dispatch

Saturday, June 21, 2014 10:30 pm

I am ashamed of — and outraged by — our General Assembly. It has passed a budget that specifically leaves out any way to close the health insurance coverage gap in Virginia. What lawmakers might have forgotten is how young adults are affected by their decision.

A popular provision of the Affordable Care Act allows young adults to stay on their parent’s insurance plan until age 26. In today’s economy, this provision keeps many high school and college graduates insured while they struggle to find jobs.

But what about the young adults whose parents don’t have health insurance? What about those who turn 26 and still don’t have a job with health insurance? In 27 states and the District of Columbia, these young adults can sign up for Medicaid if they make below a certain income, but not in Virginia. Our legislators made sure of that.

Because of them, 400,000 people continue to worry about making ends meet while paying their health care bills. Because of them, three of my closest friends will remain uninsured for who knows how long. I have changed their names to protect their privacy, but I believe their stories need to be told.

David is severely affected by an undiagnosed illness. His illness is so debilitating that he cannot even work a part-time job, though he worked for as long as he could. His 26th birthday is coming up, and I am afraid of what will happen when he loses his coverage through his parents’ insurance.

Michael is working a part-time job because, even though he is college-educated, even though he has been applying, he doesn’t have a full-time job. He turned 26 and is now without health insurance, despite his employment and educational attainment.

Anna has a seizure disorder and has been uninsured for years. She is paid by the state to care for her mother, who has kidney failure and other health issues. Anna gets some assistance with her health care through VCU Medical Center, but it isn’t health insurance, and it isn’t enough to keep the bills from piling up.

My friends aren’t alone. There are hundreds of thousands of people like them across Virginia, and they are all suffering because of our legislature’s poor decision. David, Michael and Anna are all represented by a senator and delegates who had the opportunity to vote for a budget that closed the coverage gap, but their representatives squandered it.

Closing the coverage gap brings money into Virginia from the federal government, helps to support hospitals and obviously helps the uninsured by giving them the ability to better take care of their health. When the legislators in both the House and the Senate voted for a budget that did not close the coverage gap, they voted against the interests of Virginia.

The stories of my friends, and the other Virginians in the coverage gap, can still have a happy ending. Our state government can still decide to do the right thing for Virginians and accept the offered federal money to close the coverage gap. So to our elected representatives, I say: The lives of my friends, and of hundreds of thousands of Virginians, depend on you.

Posted by: SuperUser Account on 5/9/2014
Dear Friends,

Today a diverse group of faith leaders were convened by U.S. Senator Mark Warner with the help of the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy to discuss how we might respond to the kidnapping of more than 300 girls in Nigeria.  What follows is the product of our meeting.  We invite you to join us in taking action.

Marco A. Grimaldo
CEO & President
Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy

Petition to World Leaders from Virginia Interfaith Community
on Kidnappings in Nigeria

In mid-April, more than 300 Nigerian girls, ages 12-18, were kidnapped from their school by the terrorist group Boko Haram.  More than 220 remain missing, and reports indicate that the girls have been sold into slavery or marriage for $12 each, and that many have been smuggled out of Nigeria into neighboring countries (see fact sheet).
We are heartbroken. The treatment of these young, innocent girls at the hands of these terrorists, and the equally horrible idea that they would be sold as brides or slaves, is shocking to our moral sensibilities and religious values and traditions. It is nothing less than and an affront to basic standards of international human rights.  The intent behind the act – to keep girls from going to school, because Boko Haram believes educating women is a sin – is abhorrent to our shared values.
Let us unite as one inter-faith community and send a signal to the international community that these actions that distort religion to oppress girls seeking education are morally reprehensible. 
We implore you to join us in petitioning President Obama, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan to call on the:
  • United Nations, in concert with the African Union, to assist Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon, and Chad in locating and returning these girls to their homes, and to root out Boko Haram terrorist elements from these countries. 

  • United Nations and the African Union to invest in education for girls as a symbolic rejection of Boko Haram’s ideology against education, which led them to kidnap these young girls.

  • Religious leaders and people of faith around the world, to speak out against the vile acts of Boko Haram, whose actions are motivated by warped religions interpretation.  

Posted by: Trey on 2/3/2014

In 2012, in a Super Bowl commercial, actor Clint Eastwood proclaimed that it is half-time in America.  He called for America’s comeback and a focus on what’s ahead.  Midway through the 2014 General Assembly session, it could be said that it is half-time in Virginia as well.

Virginia has done better that most other states to survive the economic recession of the past several years. This, despite decreased government spending and cuts to defense that has impacted Hampton Roads and other Virginia military communities.  Nationally, we have seen the gap between rich and poor grow wider than ever.  And in Virginia, we proudly announce that we are ranked number one for business by Forbes but it remains to be seen what we will do for struggling families.

The Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy is working to help close the health care gap.  Making Medicaid available for more people will keep families healthy, save money and create the new jobs that will care for people. We also think that cash assistance through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program should keep pace with inflation and provide the extra help to get kids ready for school with money for school supplies and clothes.  Similarly, the Earned Income Credit (EIC) in Virginia which rewards work for low-income families would really make a difference if it were fully refundable, just like the federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).

To paraphrase Clint Eastwood, “all that counts is what’s ahead.” We are at a critical time in our economic recovery when we can set aside our differences and look to the future with confidence.  As of 2013, an estimated 7,000 immigrant students in Virginia are eligible for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that authorizes them to live, work, and attend school in the United States.  Only a small percentage of these will seek a four-year degree from a Virginia school, but for those that do, we should offer in-state tuition to make college more affordable.  If they can show proof of residency and if they have paid taxes for at least three years in Virginia, then we want these high-achievers to go as far as their ability and ambition will take them.

We have a lot to be thankful for in Virginia but we must continue to work hard to ensure that the future remains bright.  We want all Virginians to start the second half on a level playing field with equal opportunities for an education and for the help they need as they raise their families.

It’s half-time in Virginia and the future is ours to chart.

Peace be with you,

Marco A. Grimaldo
Posted by: Trey on 1/27/2014

Despite the unexpected wintry weather, we were so pleased to have over 170 advocates converge on the Capitol for our annual advocacy day, Day for All People, this past Tuesday. Advocates met with their legislators to ensure that good public policy to promote fairness and properly address the needs of our Commonwealth’s most vulnerable remain the focus of the 2014 session.

Closing the coverage gap for the 400,000 uninsured Virginians, strengthening background checks for firearms, and allowing in-state tuition for students that qualify for the deferred action (DACA) program  were among a few of the key policy priorities advocates spoke about with their legislators and of which still remain of great importance.

Tuesday’s Day for All People kicked off a series of a faithful advocacy days that continued with Episcopal Day at the Capitol Jan. 23.  This week Presbyterian Advocacy Day will take place on Jan.28th and Catholic Advocacy Day will be held on Jan. 30th.  Jewish Advocacy Day will be Feb.5th and United Methodist Day will be held on Feb. 6th.For more information check out our website.  

As the session continues to move quickly, we will work to keep you up to date with the status of legislation and timely action alerts to make your advocacy more effective.  

Join us every Sunday evening for our legislative briefing calls from 7:30 - 8:30 pm. We will review the status of the Center’s legislative priorities and give your our best sense of what the week ahead will hold for the General Assembly.

Sunday evenings from 7:30 to 8:30 pm

Conference Call:   (805) 360-1000

Access Code: 26277#.

We are approaching the midpoint (February 11th) of this legislative session and bills are beginning to move swiftly through the process.  Many bills have already been eliminated, so your call to support or oppose the policies that matter to you will be even more influential in the weeks ahead. For our most up to date legislative issue briefs, please check this page as updates will be made regularly.

This past week we commemorated the life of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King who famously wrote, “even in the inevitable moments when all seems hopeless, men know that without hope they cannot really live, and in agonizing desperation they cry for the bread of hope.”  Too often we see politics that is driven by fear. But we must remember that the opposite of fear is not courage but hope.  You offer hope to people in the Commonwealth of Virginia seeking justice every time you meet or contact your legislators and we are better off for your action.  

While your advocacy actions are important this time of year, we also need your continuing financial support to help start the year. A $50 or $100 contribution is vital to ensuring we are able to respond swiftly and effectively to the actions of the General Assembly and continue to keep you informed!  I hope that you will take a moment a make a gift online to support us during this crucial stretch of the legislative session.

Again, you actions offer hope to people in need.  Thank you.

Marco A. Grimaldo
Posted by: Trey on 1/20/2014

With forecasts calling for snow impacting several regions of our state tomorrow, we wanted to take a moment to update you on the status of our Day for All People advocacy day.

We are planning to hold Day for All People as scheduled tomorrow, January 21st, with check-in beginning at 8am.  The buses from Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads are planning for pick-ups in the morning as scheduled.

For those traveling from areas potentially impacted by greater snow accumluation, you will have the option to leave when you feel appropriate.  Those traveling on the Nothern Virginia bus will also have the option to return early.  Boxed lunches will be available at noon and can be taken with you if you choose to leave early.

A small shuttle will be available to move folks from the Convention Center to the General Assembly, but we hope that major precipitation will hold off and enable those who are able to make the short walk to do so.

If you have registered and paid in advance and will not be attending Day for All People due to inclement weather, please contact Trey Eggleston (804-643-2474, ext. 112 ortrey@virginiainterfaithcenter.org) for a refund of your registration fee.

If you have any additional questions regarding tomorrow's advocacy day, please contact Center staff(804-643-2474).

We look forward to seeing those who are able to make it in Richmond tomorrow for a day of faithful advocacy!

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