As has become our tradition, our Roundtable Steering Committee wants to end our year of action and education with our good wishes for a wonderful Chanukah ahead and the happiest and healthiest of New Years … one that includes our continued partnership aimed at making our city and country more just for all.
It would be nice to end the year on a positive note. Unfortunately, happenings in recent months have only served as a reminder of the work we have in the year ahead as a social justice organization. There are several things we are saddened by and will be paying close attention to in the New Year.
- As were many, we were stunned to learn about the unfortunate major cut that was made to the Barnes Housing Trust Fund. This was due to serious budgetary challenges now facing our city, largely due to past spending practices and failure to address revenue opportunities. Especially worrying is that the cuts were not accompanied by a commitment to restore the funds in the future and move forward with the Mayor’s campaign promise on affordable housing. Groups supportive of affordable housing and concerned about the cut to the Barnes Housing Trust Fund will gather at the Metropolitan Courthouse, Tues., Dec. 17, at 5:00 p.m. You are encouraged to attend.
- We were also taken aback to learn how badly Tennessee has managed federal dollars intended to help working families. It is shocking to hear that unspent funds could top $1 billion. The state has not spent roughly $300 million from a Federal Child Care and Development Fund that provides subsidies to working families, according to experts. That’s in addition to the $732 million from the federal government known as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF, that is intended to lift parents out of poverty. Unlike federal funding for TANF – which Tennessee can save indefinitely – the federal childcare funds have a “lose it or use it” provision. The childcare dollars revert back to the federal government, which redistributes the money to other states using the funds. A legislative committee has been created to propose a plan for the distribution of a portion of the funds. A group composed of advocacy organizations is monitoring the committee’s actions. Sen. Steve Dickerson and Rep. Harold Love, both representing Davidson County, are members of the legislative committee. You should consider contacting them encouraging them to be attentive to the advocacy organizations.
- Tennessee serves roughly 880,000 individuals through the federal SNAP program. Up to 2,500 Tennesseans could lose food stamp benefits under a new rule being implemented next year by the current Administration. The change will take effect April 1, 2020, and prohibits states from exempting able-bodied adults without dependents from a work requirement to receive benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Jewish organizations, including our Roundtable, have spoken up against these changes. The Federal rule change, first proposed in February, is expected to result in roughly 700,000 recipients being removed from the SNAP program nationwide.
A hearty Mazel Tov goes out to the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Coalition on the groundbreaking of its new home at 1409 Antioch Pike, nestled in the city’s highest concentration of immigrants. Recently named by The Scene as Nashvillian of the Year, TIRRC has grown to a staff of 24, with 40 interns and 700 annual volunteers.
A couple of action steps we can take before the end of the year:
- The Federal comment period for TennCare’s block grant proposal is now open and will remain open until Dec. 27, 2019. The Block Grant discriminates against the sickest patients, creates incentives to cut TennCare and divert funding to other parts of the budget, and puts our already shaky healthcare infrastructure at further risk. The Block Grant is a not a serious answer to Tennesseans’ real health concerns. Click here to learn more about the proposal. The Federal comment period is the last, crucial opportunity to oppose Tennessee’s dangerous Medicaid Block Grant. The Federal government is required to consider all comments submitted during the comment period. If it doesn’t, the proposal can be overturned in the courts. Please click here and take a few minutes to write a couple of sentences about why you are opposed to the TennCare Block Grant proposal. It is important that our voices are heard.
- Twenty-five years ago, Congress passed the landmark Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Congress has reauthorized VAWA three times since 1994, each time improving VAWA to better address domestic and sexual violence in the United States. This past April, the House of Representatives passed the comprehensive and bipartisan Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2019 (H.R. 1585), but the Senate has failed to bring it to the floor for a vote. It is time it acted. The Reform Action Committee of the Reform Jewish Movement has called on us to join them in asking our senators to do just that. You can register your encouragement here.
- Governor Lee will be deciding before Dec. 25, 2019, whether Tennessee will continue to support refugee resettlement. TIRRC is encouraging Tennesseans to contact Governor Lee’s office and encourage him to keep Tennessee a welcoming state. Please call Gov. Lee’s office (615-741-2001) with the following message: “I am a Tennessee resident and I urge you to keep Tennessee a welcoming state for refugees. I stand with refugees. Our state policies should support refugee resettlement.”
As the year comes to an end, we wanted to thank you for helping us raise a Jewish voice for justice in Nashville and beyond. Wishing you a joyous Chanukah and the Happiest of New Years.