The Virginia Interfaith Center has been working with coalition partners to ensure that vulnerable Virginians are protected in the 2012 General Assembly session. The session was off to a good start as the chambers moved quickly to adopt language and to appropriate funding to extend the state’s earned income tax credit.
The center worked to address poverty issues by advocating for a work-sharing program, better regulation of predatory lenders, safeguards for families in foreclosure, expanding the pool of those eligible for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF, benefits, and adjusting TANF benefits for inflation. In addition, the Interfaith Center’s budgetary work included advocating for a balanced approach by closing inefficient tax loopholes to generate new revenue while pushing for budget amendments related to safety net programs.
The focus of the General Assembly is slowly shifting to the budget, which is adopted every two years in Virginia. The money committees of the Virginia House and Senate recently released their respective budgets. While both budget plans improved upon the governor’s original budget proposal, neither included significant forms of new revenue, fundamentally limiting the state’s ability to restore funds to vital programs and services. On a positive note both budgets included full restoration of funding for the health care safety net, which had been decimated in the governor’s proposal.
Both budgets also include the funds necessary to provide prenatal care to low-income legal immigrants, an issue the Interfaith Center has been pushing for, both with regard to policy changes and appropriate funding. However, due to an equal number of Republicans and Democrats in the State Senate, Democrats voted down the Senate budget, creating a stalemate. Political and policy negotiations are now underway among the senators.
Additionally, the Interfaith Center engaged its members and partner organizations on issues of poverty and hunger through an advocacy day, which brought nearly 325 members to Richmond, Virginia, to speak with their elected officials on these very important bills. The Interfaith Center also assisted with policy briefings for United Methodist, Jewish, and Presbyterian advocacy days. The Interfaith Center’s local chapters have been hosting issue-specific events in their communities to educate community members about the debates taking place in Richmond.
Finally, the Interfaith Center has brought on a new CEO and president, Marco Grimaldo. Marco joins the Interfaith Center after working on poverty and hunger issues at the federal level for many years. He most recently worked at Bread for the World and the Alliance to End Hunger.