Membership Messages

Fahe Advocacy Update: Congress’s August Recess approaches; RECLAIM Act again under consideration; Voter engagement and Census resources for nonprofits

The Latest

  • Some progress on budget deal in US Senate, but August Recess shortens timeline for action
  • RECLAIM Act is again under consideration in Congress; would make more than $1B of funding available for coal-impacted communities

Longer Term

  • Nonprofit VOTE provides training resources on how organizations can legally and effectively get out the vote, and increase Census participation
  • List of Presidential candidates with housing plans grows again

The Latest

The budget deal debate on Capitol Hill continues; most recently, Senate Majority Whip John Thune publicly indicated that Senate Republicans may be coming to an internal agreement that spending caps should be raised for FY 2020. As a reminder, the House has proposed spending legislation that increases spending for things like the HOME program and USDA Rural Development – unfortunately, without a budget deal these increases are not possible. The Senate has yet to produce spending legislation as they wait for such a deal to set the top-line number. Senator Thune’s comments that the Senate will increase spending is the first indication that federal programs that work in our communities may in fact receive increases in funding in FY2020. Complicating the debate is the fast-approaching debt limit deadline – now projected to be reached in mid-September. As Congress is going out for their August Recess from July 29th to September 9th, that leaves little time to reach an agreement on these issues.

The RECLAIM Act, which if passed would distribute over $1 billion in funds to both clean up abandoned coal mines and stimulate economic development, has recently seen some progress in the current Congress. After failing to pass in previous sessions, the bill is again up for consideration, and includes bipartisan support. The RECLAIM Act, which was originally cosponsored by Rep. Hal Rogers, recently passed a committee vote and is on the floor of the House. A full list of cosponsors, including some Representatives from around our region, is available here. Under the proposal, existing funds in the federal abandoned mine reclamation fund would be given out in increments to eight coal-producing states for the years 2020-2024. With coal impacted communities growing in number every year – including the unfortunate, recent news of Blackjewel’s bankruptcy – federal investment into these local environments, economies, and communities is needed on a large scale.

Longer Term

The organization Nonprofit VOTE exists to strengthen the capacity of nonprofits and social service agencies to promote voter participation and civic engagement. They have recently announced two new resources for organizations that have questions about the legalities surrounding voter engagement work and for those who are beginning to plan for helping their communities respond to the 2020 Census. The first resource is a webinar on July 31st which will cover the legal “Do’s and Don’ts” of nonprofit voter engagement work – a good resource for those thinking about beginning this work, and a good refresher for those who are more experienced. The second resource is a guide to increasing the response rate of your community in the 2020 Census, including what you can be doing now – months in advance.

Candidates for President are offering diverse approaches to tackling the nation’s housing affordability crisis. The New York Times editorial board recently compared and contrasted some of these plans, and called for a federal focus on housing issues. These approaches focus on a combination of deregulation, greater funding for rent subsidies, and greater funding for housing construction. Some of these approaches share similarities with the recently announced White House Council on Eliminating Barriers to Affordable Housing Development which Fahe reported earlier. Cory Booker, Jullian Castro, and Elizabeth Warren have each proposed using federal funds to pressure and/or incentivize local governments into changing regulations to allow for more development. Other candidates such as Senator Kamala Harris have focused on increasing rent subsidies, a policy which addresses the high cost of housing but fails to address the real need for a larger housing supply. On the other hand, Senator Elizabeth Warren has emphasized the need for greater funding for home construction, which neglects the near-term cost crisis. Fahe also calls for both additional funding for housing construction as well as rehab and rental assistance to keep families in homes they can afford – in big cities, small towns, and in rural America.  

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