News from the Public Policy & Advocacy Committee
June 22, 2022 Update – Submitted by Deena Levine-Lipsett, Chair
It might be news to some of our community members that JFCS East Bay has a Public Policy & Advocacy Committee. What do we do in this committee? Sometimes we write letters to local public officials, or to representatives in the State Legislature or in Congress. We may initiate those letters ourselves or submit comments on issues, bills and budget asks that other organizations and coalitions are supporting. We may give public comments at county board of supervisors’ meetings or participate in meetings with county, state or congressional representatives.
For example, last year, we met with both Congressman DeSaulnier and one of Congresswoman Barbara Lee’s staff members about refugee admissions in the U.S. as well as family reunification for children and parents who had been separated at the border. With coalition members from the California Welcomes Coalition, we met with Representative Rebecca Bauer-Kahan to discuss the importance of extended case management for refugees, immigrants and asylees. With a representative from HIAS, we met with State Senator Scott Wiener to discuss the housing crisis and newly arrived Afghan refugees.
This year, one of our committee members attended JPAC (Jewish Public Affairs Committee of California) Lobby Day in Sacramento and met directly with several state representatives on issues related to combating anti-Semitism and hate as well as expanding services for our communities (e.g., healthcare and programs responding to food insecurity).
One of the specific JPAC budget items for which our committee member lobbied, together with other participants, concerned funding gaps for Holocaust Survivor Assistance Programs. As background, five JFS/JFCS agencies in California provide essential services to Holocaust survivors so that they can live independently. These agencies, however, have wait lists and insufficient resources to serve this aging population. For this cause, we also wrote letters to state representatives, asking for their support of a budget request addressing survivors’ escalating and time-sensitive needs.
We cannot know whether communication with legislators will bring about results. However, we are committed to giving voice to those who may not be able to advocate for themselves. With respect to the Holocaust Survivor Assistance Programs, the JPAC coalition of 30 organizations, including JFCS East Bay, had reason to be optimistic about the governor’s finalizing a $36 million budget appropriation for Holocaust survivors. The huge lobbying effort on the part of many organizations was successful. JFCS East Bay, as well as four other California JFS/JFCS agencies in California, will be the direct recipients of this funding. Our committee members played a small but important part in this advocacy action; those agencies serving Holocaust survivors will now be able to augment their resources to help survivors age with dignity.
May 24, 2022 Update – Submitted by Deena Levine-Lipsett, Chair
While advocacy has always been a focus of JFCS East Bay, and staff members have continually advocated for clients, our agency only formally adopted an Advocacy & Public Policy (PP&A) board committee charge and a priority framework in 2018 under the direction of Avi Rose, former Executive Director. Our committee currently consists of five Board members, supported by our CEO, Robin Mencher. In 2022-2023, we anticipate that our committee will grow to include additional community members.
To date, we have focused on advocacy actions in two very broad areas where we have raised our voices in support of clients: housing justice and immigration/refugee/asylee issues. Additionally, our agency, through the PP&A committee, is an active board member of JPAC (Jewish Public Affairs Committee of California). We participate in discussions of and lobby for their legislative priorities related to, for example, social and mental health services and support for Holocaust survivors. We plan to expand our areas of focus in the coming year with a larger committee.
Over the past two years, we have engaged in local, regional, state, and national advocacy actions. To provide only a few examples:
We have advocated in coalition with other Contra Costa community groups to promote tenants’ rights such as eviction protection and support for budget requests around tenant legal assistance.
We have advocated for and will receive resources from Contra Costa County for refugee resettlement, to benefit refugees arriving in the county.
We are collaborating with two other regional refugee resettlement agencies, IRC NorCal and JFS of Silicon Valley, to advocate for resources for Afghan resettlement in Alameda County.
We have advocated with partners (e.g., HIAS and CA Welcomes Coalition) for Enhanced Service Programs for immigrants, refugees and asylees.
With other resettlement agency leaders, we have briefed Senator Padilla on Afghan refugee resettlement needs in California.
PP&A committee staff have advocated for the governor to prioritize dollars for economic and social service support for young children and struggling families.
We have met with congressional staff or directly with congresspeople (e.g., Congresswoman Barbara Lee and Congressman Mark DeSaulnier) to emphasize the need for Refugee Welcome in the U.S., including support for pathways to citizenship for recent arrivals.
Our committee, with the support of staff, will continue to strengthen linkages to public officials, organizations and networks. We look forward to sharing in further updates how we are engaging in advocacy in line with our foundational values and our responsibility to assist clients.