APRIL 2019 NEWSLETTER

We have a calling to empower every brother and sister in our community facing hardship and hopelessness. We walk together as an alliance of interfaith communities because we believe doing things together is better than doing them alone. We lead with our hearts and open our minds to understand the causes of poverty and the challenges of escaping it. We work hand-in-hand with families living in poverty by encouraging and supporting them as they move to stability. We boldly advocate for systemic change to help eliminate the root causes of poverty. We know the road is long but we believe as Martin Luther King, Jr. did when he said, “faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.

- Tom Hering

Interfaith Alliance on Poverty Member Congregations & Partners include:

Westminster Presbyterian, Fremont United Methodist, Congregation Beth Israel, Madeleine Catholic Parish, First Unitarian, Wy’East First Unitarian, St. Andrews Catholic Parish, Rose City Park  Presbyterian, Augustana Lutheran, Genesis Community Fellowship, Ainsworth United Church of Christ,  Grace Memorial Episcopal,  and Central Lutheran working with St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Parish and Community Partners, including  Ecumenical Ministries Of Oregon, League of Women Voters of Portland, Living Cully, Multnomah County Library, Northeast Coalition of Neighbors, Oak Leaf Mobile Home Park, Oregon Coalition of Christian Voices, Oregon Housing Alliance, Portland Central Nazarene Church/Agape Village,  St. Vincent de Paul of Lane County, Home for Everyone, Transition Projects,  and  the Muslim Education Trust.

APRIL 4, 1ST THURSDAY INTERFAITH ALLIANCE MEETING

It is our pleasure to have as our speaker  John Tapogna, President of ECO Northwest, Pacific Northwest’s largest and well respected economic consulting firm, that provides  “independent, insightful and relevant analyses that strengthen policy and investment decisions.” He will share findings from the firm’s  just completed study done for the Oregon Community Foundation on Homelessness in Oregon: A Review of Trends, Causes and Policy Options.

In case you want to get a head start, a link to this study is:  https://www.oregoncf.org/Templates/media/files/reports/OregonHomelessness.pdf   There is an executive summary at the beginning of the report. 

Meeting details: 

Thursday, April 4, 12:00 noon- 2:00 pm

Rose City Park Presbyterian Church: 1907 NE 45th Ave Fellowship Hall (enter from NE Hancock) Parking: small parking lot, but lots of parking on NE 46th, off NE Sandy

Rose City Park Presbyterian Church has a long and rich history in Portland’s Hollywood district. They began as Rose City Park Community Church in 1909, with a wooden building at the corner of NE 45th Avenue and Hancock Street, and have been worshipping on the same block ever since. The current building, an early twentieth century Neo-Gothic interpretation and its iconic tower, was built in 1925.

The most recent renovation of the worship space was completed 2010, providing ADA upgrades to the chancel, sanctuary and adjacent restroom. This sensitive remodel, combined with installation of an elevator in 1994, has made most of the building accessible. Post-remodel, the sanctuary still retains the sensibilities of the 1920’s with period moldings and vintage chandeliers, while providing a flexible space that feels lively and contemporary.  www.rosecityparkpres.org/about/ 

MARCH 7  INTERFAITH ALLIANCE MEETING

Following opening prayer offered by Sarah Carolus, Carol Turner, Interfaith Alliance Co-Chair, recognized new members at March 7th meeting.  Tom Hering, Co-Chair of Interfaith Advocacy Action Team introduced featured speaker Juan Carlos Ordonez. Communication Director for the Oregon Center for Public Policy.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT OREGON’S TAX AND BUDGET SYSTEM

Juan opened his remarks by asserting that budgets are “moral documents” and that tax and budget proposals make moral statements. He indicated that “Income Inequality” is Oregon’s greatest challenge.

In the March 6, 2019 Fact Sheet prepared by Juan, and Daniel Hauser, (OCPP lead analyst on taxes and housing),   they state that the gap between the Middle Income and the Richest has never been wider.  

“Confronting income inequality is arguably the greatest challenge facing Oregonians today.  A growing body of research indicates that income inequality not only limits the ability of working families to get ahead, it also undermines economic growth.”

Since the official end of the “Great Recession” in 2009, the average income of the top one-tenth of 1 percent in Oregon increased by about $1.7 million, after adjusting for inflation.  As a whole, the average member of the top 1% annual income increased by about $167,000.  By contrast, over the same period, the typical Oregon wage earner saw a $1,600 increase in income.  The result is that the top 1% makes more than the bottom 50%.

Of the $23.6 billion 2019 Oregon State Budget, the three biggest state government programs are Education 15.4%, Health Care 11.2%, and Pensions 6%.  It is expected that there will be a $900 million shortfall, due to Medicaid expansion to support the Oregon Health Plan.  

According to the OCPP October 2018 Report: “Oregon’s poorest families pay more in taxes as a share of income than any group of taxpayers in the state, while the richest Oregonians pay the smallest share of any group.” That is the conclusion of a new report by the Washington, D.C.-based Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP).    Daniel Hauser, tax policy analyst with the Oregon Center for Public Policy states “Oregon’s tax system is upside-down. Our tax system should reduce Oregon’s record-high levels of income inequality, not widen the gap.  Oregon’s lowest-income residents are struggling to afford rent and put food on the table. Asking these Oregonians to pay a larger share of their income in taxes than the highest-income Oregonians is a disgrace.”

EARNED INCOME TAX CREDIT (EITC)

Juan recommended increasing Oregon’s Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), a refundable tax credit that helps low-income working families.  Enjoying strong bipartisan support over the years, the EITC is one of the most effective anti-poverty programs. The Oregon EITC helps 900,000 Oregonians, including 4 out of 10 children in the state

Boosting the EITC is good for struggling families and the entire state. Research shows the EITC improves children's educational outcomes, strengthens the economy, reduces use of public assistance, and more.

The one shortcoming of Oregon's EITC is that it is too small. Among the 29 states that offer a state EITC, Oregon's is one of the smallest, at just 8 percent of the federal EITC.  Therefore, Juan recommended increasing the EITC to 20%

Tell the Oregon legislature: Renew and Raise the Oregon Earned Income Tax Credit by supporting House Bill 3028.

PERSONAL INCOME TAX
Juan explained that the personal income tax is the main resource for Oregon State budget. Although Oregon’s personal income tax is mildly progressive, the entire tax system is not.   Marginal tax rate rates start at 5 percent and quickly rise to 7 percent and 9 percent as a taxpayer’s income goes up. Tax rates top out at 9.9 percent.   

 “It doesn’t take much income to get to the 9 percent tax bracket. For couples filing taxes together today, the 9 percent marginal tax rate kicks in at $17,000 of taxable income (what you’re left with after all tax subtractions and deductions, but before tax credits). That 9 percent rate stays in place until $250,000 of taxable income, which means a low-income family pays the same tax rate on its last dollar of income as an upper middle-class family. In addition, they pay property taxes and excise taxes on things like gasoline, alcohol, and tobacco. When all the taxes are added, Oregon’s tax structure is actually regressive – meaning low-income Oregonians pay a higher share of their income in taxes than the richest Corporations’ share of all income taxes has shrunk over the last four decades –“ 

CORPORATIONS

Corporations used to contribute a lot more in income taxes than they do now. - In the mid-1970s, corporations contributed about 18.5 percent of all income taxes paid in Oregon. Today, the corporate share of has shrunk to just 6.7 percent. That’s a decline of nearly two-thirds. This has resulted in Oregon having less money to invest in schools, health care, and other key services. As corporations have shed their income tax responsibilities, individuals and families have had to pick up the slack.  Oregon, among all states, has long ranked at or near the bottom in terms of business taxes, including corporate taxes - While corporations benefit from low taxes, they are also subsidized through a long list of tax credits, deductions, and subtractions.

PASS THRU INCOME

Juan expressed concern about the Pass Thru Income deduction which enables corporation to pass through profits to owners.  In 2013, the Oregon Legislature lowered the income-tax rate for certain owners of “pass-through businesses,” which include S-Corporations, LLCs, and partnerships.  Oregon’s Legislative Revenue Office estimates that the pass-thru deduction would cost the state $192 million in 2019. With the deduction in place, the Revenue Office projects a net revenue loss of $40 million. Absent the deduction, the state could anticipate a $152 million revenue increase.  Therefore, OCPP is supporting passage of Senate Bill 211.  Below are excerpts from Daniel Hauser, tax policy analyst for  the Oregon Center for Public Policy testimony in support of Senate Bill 211.

“Pass-through business owners should not pay a lower tax rate on their profits than their employees pay on their wages. This fundamental tenet of equity is why the reduced tax rate for pass-through business owners should be eliminated from Oregon law. This committee should amend SB 211 so that, rather than scaling them back, the reduced rates are struck from statute. 

“Currently, taxpayers reporting an annual pass-through business profit of more than $5 million can see their tax cut reach over $70,000. Under SB 211 these high-income taxpayers would still receive the tax break, though the effective cap would come down to around $9,000. While this would be an improvement, we would still be putting millions of dollars that could be invested in our schools or other important services to instead subsidize many of the richest 5 percent of Oregonians.

“Scaling back this subsidy, as SB 211 does, is a move in the right direction, but it would be more equitable to eliminate it entirely. Please amend SB 211 to end this regressive, inequitable, and poorly targeted tax break.” https://www.ocpp.org/2019/02/12/sb-211-end-pass-through-tax-break/

Juan closed his remarks by recommending that members of the Interfaith Alliance support the following measures: Reform corporation income tax to correct decline in contributions.

  • Close “Pass-Through” tax breaks, by Supporting Senate Bill 211.

  • Raise Earned Income Tax Credit from 8% to 20% , by Supporting House Bill 3028

  • Reform Mortgage Interest Deduction, above $200,000 incomes, by Supporting House Bill 3349

FEDERAL BUDGET PROPOSALS NOW UNDER REVIEW BY U.S. CONGRESS

Proposed 2019-2020 Budget Increases include:

  • Department of Defense -  add $33 billion for a total of $718 Billion (57% of the proposed federal discretionary budget)

  • US-Mexico Border Wall - $8.6 on top of $7 billion already approved as “national emergency” and an additional $1 billion transferred from military budget.

Proposed 2019-2020 Budget Cuts include: 

  • $845 billion cut over the next 10 years from Medicare;

  • $241 billion cut from Medicaid;  

  • $220 billion cut from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) over the next decade, with proposed reforms including mandatory work requirements and food box delivery service in lieu of cash benefits for low-income families;

  • 12% cut to Education including after-school programs;

  • $207 billion cut from federal student loans in the next 10 years together with elimination of Public Service Loan Forgiveness and subsidized student loans.  

  • 31% cut from the Environment Protection Agency and 14% cut to Department of Interior. 

  • 22% cut in Housing from 2019 Budget.

  The National Low Income Housing Coalition reports “President Donald Trump’s fiscal year 2020 budget request   proposes to drastically cut housing benefits that help millions of low-income seniors, people with disabilities, families with children, veterans, and other vulnerable people afford their homes.   The proposal would eliminate or deeply cut essential housing and community development programs like the national Housing Trust Fund, the HOME Investments Partnership program, and public housing capital repairs. It would underfund rental assistance through the Housing Choice Voucher program and raise rents - by as much as three times current levels - on America’s poorest families.”  Mar 11, 2019 https://nlihc.org/resource/president-trump-proposes-drastic-cuts-affordable-housing-prog 

It will be up to the U.S. Congress to decide whether these budget proposals are enacted, but the president has made his priorities clear.  

“FASTEST TAKE-OFF RECORD” SET BY INTERFAITH ALLIANCE VOLUNTEERS AT WALNUT PARK SHELTER

Emily Coleman, Volunteer Coordinator with Transition Projects is described as “ecstatic” about the response of the Interfaith Alliance in providing meals/support for the Walnut Park Shelter.  Volunteers included members from the NE Coalition of Neighbors, Ainsworth United Church of Christ, Fremont United Methodist, Central Lutheran. St. Andrews Catholic Parish, and Rose City Presbyterian.  Emily said it was the “fastest take-off” supporting any shelter they have launched so far.  

Since the Walnut Park Shelter is scheduled to close by the end of April – she encouraged members to consider helping at other shelters.  Special recognition is due to Leslye Johnson for her efforts organizing the Interfaith Alliance response.

OREGON PTA’S “MAN WITH A MISSION”:  to provide Oregon Students “Quality Schools”

Otto Schell sandwiched time to attend the March 7 Interfaith Alliance gathering between a meeting at the State Capitol and a Ways & Means public information event in Portland.  

Otto is working hard to persuade as many Oregonians as possible of the need to invest in Oregon’s students. In an address before parents at Madison High School, Otto stated, “Everyone in our state knows that class sizes are untenably large.   We see the everyday challenges of meeting the needs of our children, the unending work that teachers do in the classroom, at home, on weekends to accommodate children who struggle to speak English, are hungry, learning challenged or have a less than supportive family”. “https://www.oregonlive.com/opinion/2013/03/shedding_light_on_the_k-12_fun.html

To achieve “quality schools”,  Otto declared  will require resources above and beyond the   $9.24 billion in the Governor’s “base budget”.  The K-12 Investment Budget would provide an additional $133 million, better, but still not in Otto’s opinion good enough.  To provide “full funding for quality schools”, there needs to be a budget of at least $11.04 billion.  This will provide:

  • Smaller Class Sizes – Reduce class sizes and add staff to provide the individual attention students need to learn and be successful.

  • Well-Rounded Education – Offer a more well-rounded and meaningful education that includes: STEM, art, music, PE, libraries and other electives and learning opportunities. 

  • Student Health & Safety – Care for the whole child by providing mental health and social, emotional supports for students, and ensuring schools are safe and welcoming for all students.

  • More Learning Time – Provide more time to learn by adding school days, summer school, and other learning opportunities for students who  need them most.

  1. Otto recommended that the Interfaith Alliance support:  House Bills 3028 and 3349.

INTERFAITH ADVOCACY DAY 

Interfaith Alliance members joined hundreds from around the State of Oregon for the Interfaith Advocacy Day held in Salem on March 4, which was sponsored by the Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon. They met with legislators to discuss “compassionate legislation, climate, criminal justice, health care, housing, hunger, and immigration.”   

BOND OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE MEETING 03/07/19 – NOTES BY Sarah Carolus 

The Committee was welcomed and the roll was called. Progress Updates on First Solicitation Process – some is recapped information from last meeting. 

  • The range of funds available is $50 – $75 million. When that amount is spent, half the Bond money will be left. 

  • Both new construction and acquisition/rehab projects will be considered. 

  • There will be a combination of City-owned and private development projects/land. 

  • North and SW Portland and East County are priority locations. Potential developers will know this. If land becomes too expensive, the Housing Bureau might use some of their funds to help secure sites. 

Housing Bond Project Updates 

  • The property at 30th and Powell will not be part of the first solicitation process. Home Forward is partnering with the City; they have already hired architects and developers themselves. There is a request from Home Forward to lease this City property, which was purchased with Bond funds of $27 million. 

  • The Westwind will be completely demolished and replaced once all the tenants have been relocated. Every tenant has been interviewed as a beginning process to relocate them. An Oversight Committee member requested that there be adequate follow up on the relocated tenants after they have moved. 

  • The Joyce property located on SW 11th in downtown was bought by the Housing Bureau several years ago and is vacant. It will be part of the first solicitation process and will be utilized for the supportive housing population. 

Proposed Subsidy Limits and Voucher Deployment 

  • The new construction subsidy would be at $150,000 per unit. Acquisition/rehabilitation subsidies would be at $100,000 per unit. These figures are higher than normal, but the hope is that no other gap funds would be needed. 

  • A question came up about land banking. This first solicitation will require a start date of 6 months from the time of the monetary award. Perhaps the next round of solicitation will look at long term property acquisition. 

  • The buildings that are 100% supportive housing (300 units total needed for the Bond goal) will be fully subsidized by housing vouchers. The remaining 100 vouchers (goal for total Bond funds) will go to those below the 30% AMI. 

  • There is the intent for flexibility with possibility of some mixed income buildings. 

Estimated Progress Using this First Solicitation Funding 

  • A total of 350 to 600 units will be created. 

  • 190 to 325 units will be created for the 0-30% AMI population. 

  • 150-170 units will be created for supportive housing. 

  • Vouchers will be used for 140-200 units. 

  • 100 to 350 family sized units will be created. 

Supportive Services by Partnering with Joint Office of Homeless Services 

  • his is a result of a 2000 unit JOHS goal for offering supportive housing services. 

  • There will be direct funding of $10,000 per household for supportive services. 

  • The focus will be serving chronically homeless individuals. 

  • The estimated staff to participant ratio will be 1:15 which is considered intensive care. 

  • The services will be delivered by qualified adult Supportive Housing providers. Multnomah County maintains a list and there are already 18-20 providers found to participate. 

  1. Approximate Timeline for First Solicitation 

    • March and April 2019 – outreach activities. March 13th – Housing Oregon members and other developers. March 21st – a meet and greet with contractors, subcontractors, MWESB outreach. March 27th – Supportive Housing service providers co-hosted with JOHS. April 4th – community engagement, working with MACG, OPAL, and others. 

    • April 2019 – issue the first solicitation. 

    • June 2019 – deadline to submit proposals. 

    • August 2019 – issue the award letters. 

  2. Bond Oversight Committee Comment 

    • A committee member requested an update of the referral process being used. Tenants from the building at 105th and Burnside came through that referral process, which is used by a team of homeless providers. 

    • I offered Public Testimony at the request of Gabe Triplett commenting on the needs of the physically disabled population. According to a Portland Housing Bureau member, all units are easily adaptable. 

    • The next meeting will be on April 4th at the IRCO building from 6:30 to 8:30 and will involve an update and proposed goals at a community engagement meeting. 

STUDENTS FIGHTING FOR OUR PLANET

by Bonnie Gregg 

On March 15, 2019, between 1,500 and 2,000 Portland students joined students in over 1,700 cities, in over 100 countries around the world in rallying for actions to effect climate change on our planet.  

Students declared,   “We, the youth of America, are striking because decades of inaction has left us with just 11 years to change the trajectory of the worst effects of climate change, according to the Oct 2018 UN IPCC Report. 

“We are striking because our world leaders have yet to acknowledge, prioritize, or properly address our climate crisis.  “We are striking because marginalized communities across our nation —especially communities of color, disabled communities, and low- income communities— are already disproportionately impacted by climate change. 

”We are striking because if the social order is disrupted by our refusal to attend school, then the system is forced to face the climate crisis and enact change. With our futures at stake, we call for radical legislative action to combat climate change and its countless detrimental effects on the American people.  “We are striking for the Green New Deal, for a fair and just transition to a 100% renewable economy, and for ending the creation of additional fossil fuel infrastructure.

 “Additionally, we believe the climate crisis should be declared a national emergency becausewe are running out of time”. “https://www.brightest.io/cause/youth-climate-strike-us/activity/portland-climate-rally/  

Hopefully our world’s leaders will heed the students’ heartfelt plea, because it won’t matter if one day we are able to solve the problems of poverty, homelessness, affordable housing, etc., nor if we are able to achieve social justice for all. --  If the Earth is no longer an inhabitable place for the human race, we will have failed both our children and the planet.


CLIMATE CONCERNS

The following are excerpts from article, written by Lorraine Chow, January 4, 2019 https://www.salon.com/2019/01/04/10-worst-case-climate-predictions-if-global-temperature-rise-above-1-5-degrees-celcius_partner/

In 1992, 1,700 scientists around the world issued a chilling “warning to humanity” regarding the dangers of climate change.  In 2017,  more than 15,000 scientists from 184 countries co-signed their names to an updated — and even bleaker prediction.  “The latest version, titled “World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity: A Second Notice,” asserts that most of the environmental challenges raised in the original letter — i.e., depletion of freshwater sources, overfishing, plummeting biodiversity, unsustainable human population growth — remain unsolved and are “getting far worse.”  

On November 23, 2018, there was a 1,600-page Fourth National Climate Assessment, quadrennial report issued by 13 federal agencies of the U.S. government. This report paints a particularly grim picture, including more frequent droughts, floods, wildfires and extreme weather, declining crop yields, the rise of disease-carrying insects and rising seas — all of which could reduce U.S. gross domestic product by a tenth by the end of the century

 So what we saw this summer? Unless humanity gets its act together, we can expect much worse to come. Here’s a peek into our climate-addled future.

Species extinction - The Amazon, one of the most biodiverse places on Earth, could lose about 70 percent of its plant and amphibian species and more than 60 percent of its birds, mammals and reptile species from unchecked climate change. 

Food insecurity and nutritional deficiencies - While climate change could actually benefit colder parts of the world with longer growing seasons, tropical and subtropical regions in Africa, South America, India and Europe could lose vast chunks of arable land. For coastal countries, rising seas could inundate farming land and drinking water with salt.

Farewell to coastal cities and island nations - Unless we cut heat-trapping greenhouse gases, scientists predict sea levels could rise up to three feet by 2100, according to the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fifth Assessment report. Entire countries could also be swallowed by the sea due to global warming.

Lethal heat - Today, around 30 percent of the global population suffers deadly levels of heat and humidity for at least 20 days a year, a 2017 analysis showed. If emissions continue increasing at current rates, the researchers suggested 74 percent of the global population — three in four people — will experience more than 20 days of lethal heat waves.

Surging wildfires - The Camp Fire, which burned more than 150,000 acres in Butte County in November, was the deadliest and most destructive fire in California’s history, killing at least 85 people.   If greenhouse gases continue rising, large fires that burn more than 25,000 acres will increase by 50 percent by the end of the century, and the volume of acres that will be burned by wildfires in an average year will increase by 77 percent

Hurricanes: more frequent, more intense - Moist air over warm ocean water is hurricane fuel. “Everything in the atmosphere now is impacted by the fact that it’s warmer than it’s ever been,” CNN Senior Meteorologist Brandon Miller said

Tom Hering