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Maryland Catholic Conference supports the Time to Care Act

The Maryland Catholic Conference joined with others in support of the Time to Care Act (HB 839/SB 539) in the House of Delegates on Feb. 24, a bill that would expand access to paid family leave to Maryland workers, allowing up to 12 weeks of paid time off from work to welcome a new baby, to provide care and comfort for family members with serious health conditions or disabilities, or to deal with a personal illness or injury.

"No person should have to make the impossible choice of whether to care for their families or lose their job, yet for many Marylanders, this is their reality," said Anne Wallerstedt, associate director of Social and Economic Justice for the Conference. "This bill would provide those workers with a means to still have some income in the event they should grow their family, or face illness." 

As proposed, the Time to Care Act would be funded through the creation of an insurance program, to which both employers and employees would contribute. For workers, the contribution would amount to less than 1% of a paycheck. When a worker needs to access the fund, it would pay between $50 and $1,000 per week, depending on their income. 

The Senate will hear its version of the bill on Feb. 27 at 1 p.m. 

To send a message to your legislator in support of the Time to Care Act CLICK HERE.

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Maryland Catholic Conference supports HOME Act

After nearly 2 decades of attempts to end income-based housing discrimination, a bill that would prohibit landlords and sellers from refusing to rent or sell a home to someone based on their source of income, moved one step closer to passing in the 2020 session.

The bill, SB 530, passed in the Senate on Feb. 18 and is now headed to the House of Delegates for consideration.

The Maryland Catholic Conference has supported SB 530 — known as the HOME Act (Housing Opportunities Made Equal Act) — for the last several years. The Conference joined again this session with Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Baltimore and others in support of the bill. 

At is core, the HOME Act is an effort to de-concentrate poverty by providing additional opportunities for tenants utilizing public subsidies to live in neighborhoods other than the neighborhoods in which those individuals are currently and disproportionately residing.

"Our church supports this bill because it seeks to ensure that everyone, regardless of their source of income, is able to provide a home for themselves or their family," said Anne Wallerstedt, associate director of Social and Economic Justice for the Conference. "Often, even though an individual or a family may have been able to secure housing assistance through a federal or state program, those individuals struggle to find a place to live where a landlord or seller accepts that assistance — whether that assistance comes from cash assistance, child support, alimony, or a housing voucher. Individuals and families having the lawful means to rent or buy a home should not be denied that housing based on their source of income."

The HOME Act was first introduced in the General Assembly in 2002 by Sen. Delores Kelley, who represents District 10. In 2019, several local jurisdictions in Maryland, including Baltimore City, adopted similar laws to prohibit housing discrimination based on the source of a person's income. 

To learn more about the HOME Act, CLICK HERE.

 

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Parents, Students testify in support of BOOST

Left to right: Maria Del Cid, Samuel Amaya Del Cid, Sara Habte, and Bethel Yosef. 

 

Parents and students who participate in the BOOST Scholarship Program testified in both the House and Senate committees, sharing their stories of how BOOST has impacted their lives. 

"BOOST gives students the chance at accessing something different," said Nefretari Lee, mother of a BOOST student at Calvert Hall High School in Baltimore City and representative of the BOOST Parent Ambassador Network. "It gives them the chance to thrive and to succeed in an environment that is conducive to learning. My personal belief is that we break down the barriers to social, economic and racial divide through education and information and BOOST helps parents and families do that."

Lee testified on Feb. 24 before the Senate Budget & Taxation subcommittee on Education, Business and Administration.

Maryland created the BOOST (Broadening Options and Opportunities Today) Scholarship Program in 2016 and it has since provided more than 10,000 scholarships to low-income families to empower them to choose the best educational option for their children. For the 2020-21 school year, the state has proposed to increase funding for the program to $10 million. 

Bethel Yosef, 10, a 5th grader at Saint Francis International School in Silver Spring, also testified on Feb. 24. Bethel told the subcommittee that she came to Saint Francis in second grade thanks to a BOOST scholarship, which helps her mother, an Ethiopian immigrant to afford their education. Her younger brother is also a BOOST recipient, she said. 

"I want to thank you for the BOOST scholarship and ask you to keep it going for kids like me and my brother," Bethel testified 

Samuel Amay Del Cid, 14, an 8th grader at Saint Francis International School, testified that he also transferred to Saint Francis from public school thanks to a BOOST scholarship.

"I love Saint Francis. I wish I could have started there earlier," he told the subcommittee. Samuel, whose parents emigrated to the United States from El Salvador, said he hopes to attend Don Bosco Cristo Rey High School in Takoma Park in the fall, which the BOOST scholarship would enable his family to afford.

"The BOOST Scholarship has opened opportunities for me, my brother and many other students like me at Saint Francis, and many other nonpublic schools throughout Maryland," he testified. "I want to thank you for helping to make these opportunities possible. I encourage you to keep funding the BOOST scholarships so that kids can have the experience I had." 

Maryland has kept the BOOST program level-funded for the past two years. However, demand this year increased by 25 percent, leaving hundreds of students on a waiting list for scholarships.

"BOOST is not an option, it should be an obligation to every family that qualifies and seeks something different," Lee said. 

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Maryland Catholic Conference testifies in support of Kirwin Commission recommendations

Only 50 days remain in the 2020 Maryland General Assembly Session, and on Monday, Feb. 17, lawmakers heard hours of testimony on one of the most anticipated bills: SB 1000/HB 1300 — known as The Blueprint for Maryland's Future, the bill that would implement the proposals from the Kirwin Commission. 

Officially known as the "Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education" but generally referred to as the Kirwin Commission in honor of its chairman William E. “Brit” Kirwan, the commission convened in 2016 with a goal to develop recommendations for how Maryland education is funded, operated and how it prepares students for college or the workforce. The commission offered its recommendations in 2019. 

Maryland's Catholic Bishops have supported the commission's recommendations and in January, Archbishop William E. Lori, chairman of the Maryland Catholic Conference, jointly penned with Baltimore City Public School's CEO Sonja Santelises an op-ed in The Baltimore Sun calling on Maryland lawmakers to pass the bill. 

"It is clear to all that the most pressing issue to be debated this session is the implementation of the recommendations of the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education, better known as the Kirwan Commission," they wrote in the article. "These reforms offer the promise of equitable and excellent educational opportunities for every student, regardless of their income or neighborhood." Read their full article HERE

Just some of the changes the bill would bring to Maryland's education system include:

  • Expand prekindergarten to all 4-year-olds and to 3-year-olds from low-income families
  • Allow more Catholic and other nonpublic schools to participate as sites for prekindergarten
  • Alter the requirements to become a teacher and raise teacher salaries
  • Expand full-day kindergarten
  • Establish a career counseling program for middle and high school students, and college and career readiness standards
  • Provide additional support to special education students and schools that serve low-income families
  • Ensure education dollars are properly utilized

 

The state would phase in any changes over 10 years. If fully implemented, the Blueprint is expected to cost the state an additional $4 billion annually.

The Conference offered testimony in support of the bill on Feb. 17, but suggested numerous amendments. To read our testimony CLICK HERE.

 

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Virtual Catholic Day of Action Toolkit Now Available

Virtual Catholic Day of Action is just around the corner and the Maryland Catholic Conference has put together a step-by-step toolkit to help you get involved on Feb. 19.

Complete with information about key issues, a guide for talking with legislators, direct links to actions, sample posts and emails to spread the word about Virtual Catholic Day of Action, and more, the toolkit is available now for those who plan to join in the action Feb. 19 or want more information on what the day is about.

You can access and start using the toolkit to prepare for Virtual Catholic Day of Action HERE.  

"We are excited to offer Virtual Catholic Day of Action as a way for even more Catholics from across Maryland to get involved and raise their voices on issues of life, education and human rights this legislative session, and we created this toolkit to ensure that everyone has the resources they need to be a voice for the common good," said Jenny Kraska, executive director of the Conference. "Not everyone was able to make the trek to Annapolis each year to speak up on these issues. This is why we've set aside Feb. 19 as a day when everyone in Maryland can join together to call and write their legislators."

The Conference will be highlighting three main issues for Catholic Day of Action: physician-assisted suicide, the BOOST Scholarship Program and paid family leave (Time to Care Act). Visit the toolkit to more information about each of these important issues. 

To stay up-to-date on many issues the Conference has already taken a position on this session, visit our testimony page HERE

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Senate Hearing on Physician-Assisted Suicide Scheduled for Feb. 28

The Maryland Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee will hear testimony on the 2020 bill to legalize physician-assisted suicide (SB 701) on Friday, Feb. 28, at 12 noon. A hearing has not yet been scheduled on the House version of the bill, HB 643. 

The Senate hearing will be held in the Judicial Proceedings hearing room on the second floor of the Miller Senate Office Building at 11 Bladen Street, Annapolis. 

For the fifth time in six years, proponents are pushing to legalize the dangerous practice of physician-assisted suicide in Maryland and have returned with the same deeply flawed policy that the General Assembly has rejected year after year. 

The Maryland Catholic Conference welcomes anyone who wants to attend the hearing in opposition to this dangerous bill to join us on Feb. 28. We will be gathering at our office around 11 a.m. and walking to the hearing. Parking is available in downtown Annapolis. For more information on where to park downtown, please visit: www.annapolisparking.com/parking-locations/ 

If you plan to attend, please email Kate Alexander, Director of Communications and Engagement, by Thursday, Feb. 27 at kalexander@mdcatholic.org. Those who attend are encouraged to wear green to show opposition to the bill. 

The Maryland Catholic Conference has joined with other faith leaders, disability rights advocates and the medical community in the Maryland Against Physician Assisted Suicide Coalition to oppose the bill. To learn more and join the Coalition, visit www.stopassistedsuicidemd.org

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Maryland Catholic Conference to support immigration bills

The Maryland Catholic Conference will again support legislation that seeks to protect immigrants and their families by building trust between immigrant communities and local law enforcement.

Several bills that address the interactions between immigrants and law enforcement have been introduced during the 2020 session, and the Conference will support the bills that uphold the inherent dignity of every person and oppose those that seek to tear families apart. 

"Immigration is largely a federal issue, and a very difficult one, but there are areas where our state can take action," said Anne Wallerstedt, associate director of social and economic justice for he Maryland Catholic Conference. "We as a Conference, support legislation that upholds the inherent human dignity of each person and are guided by the words of Pope Francis who said that: '[I]f we want security, let us give security; if we want life, let us give life; if we want opportunities, let us give opportunities. The yardstick we use for others will be the yardstick which time will use for us.'

The Catholic Church has historically held a strong interest in immigration and how public policy affects immigrants seeking a new life in the United States. A person and their family shouldn’t have to live in fear from the very entities who are tasked with keeping every person safe and healthy and helping our communities thrive. Unfortunately, when local and state law enforcement are requested to take part in immigration enforcement, it causes an erosion of their critical relationship with immigrant communities. When immigrant communities do not feel comfortable interacting with police — even to report crimes — then whole communities are less safe as crimes go unreported and/or unsolved. The Conference supports bills that balance the needs for both public safety and immigration enforcement in order to make families and communities safer.  

To read MCC's testimony during the 2020 session CLICK HERE.

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Learn more about what we do! Come to one of several presentations we are giving this month

Learn more about the work of the Maryland Catholic Conference by coming to one of the several presentations in the month of February that our staff are giving at parishes and locations across the state. These presentations range from information about the Conference and what we do, to presentations on physician-assisted suicide, faithful citizenship and life issues.

WHAT: An afternoon with the Maryland Catholic Conference. 

WHERE: St. Joan of Arc, 222 Law Street, Aberdeen, MD

WHEN: Sunday, Feb. 16, 2020 at 12:30 p.m.

INFO: Learn about the work of the Maryland Catholic Conference and how you can get more involved. For more information contact Deacon Ray Van Pelt at rvanpelt@stjoanarc.org or call 410-272-4535, ext. 111


WHAT: The Difference of Hope: A presentation on the reality of physician-assisted suicide and how you can help defend life

WHERE: St. John Neumann, 9000 Warfield Road, Gaithersburg, MD

WHEN: Tuesday, Feb. 18 at 7 p.m.

INFO: The evening will be valuable for all those interested in learning more about physician-assisted suicide, its impact on the dignity of life, and how Catholics can help defend Maryland against this dangerous practice. MCC will present jointly with the Archdiocese of Washington. For more information, contact Tony Bosnick at abosnick@sfadw.org.


WHAT: Faithful Citizenship for a new generation: How young adults can be a voice for their faith, justice and human rights. 

WHERE: Saints Row Brewing, 1211-1213 Taft Street, Rockville, MD

WHEN: Wednesday, Feb. 19 at 7 p.m.

INFO: A presentation to 270 Catholic's February Theology on Tap. For more information visit: www.270catholic.org.  


WHAT: Maryland Catholic Conference legislative update at 40 Days for Life Rally

WHERE: St. Mary of the Mills, 114 St. Marys Place, Laurel, MD. Event will be held in the Wilson Room of the Keesler Parish Center.

WHEN: Sunday, Feb. 22 from 2 to 4 p.m. (presentation around 3:15 p.m.)

INFO: Hosted by 40 Days for Life of College Park. For more information contact Mike Turek at 301-518- 8920.

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Physician-Assisted Suicide bill introduced again

For the fifth time in six years, proponents of physician-assisted suicide (PAS) have again introduced a bill (HB 643 / SB 701) to legalize the dangerous practice in Maryland. 

Last year, the PAS bill was narrowly defeated when it died in the Maryland Senate by way of a tie vote. Before defeating the bill on the floor, members of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee amended the bill, attempting to fix many of its serious flaws.

The Maryland Catholic Conference and our allies in the Maryland Against Physician Assisted Suicide Coalition strongly believe that no amendments can make this bill acceptable for Maryland. However, proponents rejected changes made to the bill in 2019, and have introduced the same deeply flawed and predatory bill that our state has rightly rejected each time it's been introduced.

"The groups pushing to legalize physician-assisted suicide in Maryland are woefully out of touch with the people and leaders of our state, who have repeatedly rejected their agenda," said Jenny Kraska, executive director of the Maryland Catholic Conference. "We are grateful to everyone in our Catholic Advocacy Network, who together sent more than 10,000 messages last year against physician-assisted suicide, and helped defeat this bill, but we need your help again this year."

Early signals show the Maryland Senate still remains opposed to the bill, but that doesn't mean the Conference's work is done. The flaws in this bill remain numerous and it continues to lacks any actual protection for vulnerable persons. 

If you stand with us against this bill, please consider joining the Maryland Against Physician Assisted Suicide (MAPAS) coalition for the most recent information on the bill. 

CLICK HERE to join MAPAS.

 

 

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BOOST VIDEO SHARES HOW PROGRAM IS HELPING STUDENTS SUCCEED

On Jan. 29, the Maryland BOOST Scholarship Coalition — of which Maryland Catholic Conference is a member — released a video sharing the stories of numerous BOOST scholarship recipient families, who, thanks to the program, have seen their children thrive in school. 

Since it was enacted in 2016, the Maryland BOOST Scholarship Program has empowered low-income families to choose the best educational option for their children. BOOST has made Maryland a pioneer in narrowing the achievement gap for low-income students and has proven to help those students academically. 

In the video, parents and students share how being a part of the BOOST Scholarship Program has enabled them to choose Catholic or other nonpublic education and how that has helped their children succeed in school. 

Watch the video below. 

The BOOST Scholarship Program is benefitting thousands of Maryland students, more than half of whom are people of color.

For the 2019-2020 school year, even more families than ever applied for a scholarship and 3,900 were certified as eligible to receive a scholarship.

However, more than 400 eligible students still remain on a waitlist to receive a scholarship.

Last year, the state legislature apportioned nearly $7.5 million for scholarships for the current school year, but demand was even greater. For the upcoming school year, Governor Larry Hogan has proposed to increase funding for BOOST to $10 million. The state budget, now in the hands of the General Assembly, must pass both chambers of the legislature by March 30.

To learn more about BOOST visit www.marylandboost.org.

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