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CAN is an outreach of the Michigan Catholic Conference, the official public policy voice of the Catholic Church in Michigan
February 5, 2021
 

  In This Update:  
 
  • COVID-19 Education Aid Clears State House of Representatives
  • Payday Lending Expansion Reintroduced in State Legislature
  • Catholic Schools Week Highlights Excellent Values-Based Education
  • U.S. Bishops Disappointed in White House Action to Rescind Title X Rule
  • Bishops Share Priorities for Consideration in New COVID Assistance
  • USCCB Welcomes Administration's Actions for Immigrants and Refugees
  • Federal Racial Equity Actions on Housing and Prisons Welcome, Says U.S. Bishops
 
  COVID-19 Education Aid Clears State House of Representatives  
 
The Michigan House of Representatives passed House Bill 4048 this week, which will distribute $2.14 billion of mostly federal funds to schools for COVID-related needs. The measure includes $363 million in state dollars and nearly $87 million in federally earmarked funds specifically for nonpublic schools. HB 4048 also helps parents whose children take advantage of opportunities to address "learning loss" due to the pandemic. If enacted, the legislation would: 
  • Allow nonpublic school students to take public summer school if the district or charter approves. Those schools would receive $550 per child attending the program and would receive the same amount for public school students.
     
  • Allow parents to receive $50 per child attending a summer program at a public school or third-party learning program and up to $200 for out-of-pocket expenses related to attending a summer school program at a public school.    
Michigan Catholic Conference (MCC) is grateful to House Appropriations Chair Tom Albert (R-Lowell) and House K-12 Appropriations Subcommittee Chair Brad Paquette (R-Niles) for recognizing the critical role of parents in the education of their children and for including nonpublic schools and students in this aid legislation. The bill will now be sent over to the Senate for further consideration.
 
  Payday Lending Expansion Reintroduced in State Legislature  
 
At the end of January, Representative Matt Hall (R-Emmett Twp.) introduced House Bill 4004 into the Michigan House of Representatives to expand payday lending opportunities in the state. Similar to legislation opposed by MCC throughout last year, HB 4004 would increase the maximum amount that can be borrowed from $600 to $2,500, resulting in an exorbitant annual interest rate that exceeds 130 percent on a maximum loan. Last legislative session, your emails and calls were an essential component to defeating the measure in the State Senate. Please stay tuned for opportunities to raise your voice in opposition to this legislation. MCC is expecting the bill to receive a hearing in the House Regulatory Reform Committee in the next few weeks.
 
  Catholic Schools Week Highlights Excellent Values-Based Education  
 
Tomorrow -Saturday, February 6- marks the conclusion of Catholic Schools Week, an annual celebration of Catholic education across the United States. Schools typically observe the week with Masses, assemblies, and other activities for students, families, parishioners, and community members. The theme this year, which recognizes the enormous contributions Catholic schools and their students make to communities, has been "Faith. Excellence. Service." MCC is proud of all the Catholic schools across the state which provide quality, faith-filled education to approximately 50,000 Michigan students. Happy Catholic Schools Week!
 
  U.S. Bishops Disappointed in White House Action to Rescind Title X Rule  
 
At the federal level, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) offers a Title X family planning grant program that provides individuals with "comprehensive family planning services." While the U.S. Catholic bishops have shared their "grave concerns about government promotion of contraceptives," they have worked over the years to ensure that the provision and promotion of abortion is not included -physically or financially- during the pre-pregnancy family planning services provided through the program. As the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) commented in a statement this week, this is because "abortion takes the life of an already-conceived and growing child, and most Americans agree that abortion should not be used as a method of family planning or as a 'back up' for failed family planning."

Unfortunately, President Biden announced his intention to rescind the current regulation -a regulation which follows federal law- that states abortion cannot be part of a Title X family planning program either by using the same office space, sharing financing, or mandating referrals for abortion. The bishops' statement goes on to comment about the president's action, saying that:

"Title X, therefore, draws a bright line between abortion and family planning. In addition to the program explicitly prohibiting taxpayer funding for abortion, its authors further emphasized this intent by stating that, 'the funds authorized under this legislation [shall] be used only to support preventive family planning services, population research, infertility services, and other related medical, informational, and educational activities.' By rescinding this rule, the Administration will be forcing abortion into a pre-pregnancy program specifically designed to exclude abortion; a move which is immoral, impractical, and may also be unlawful."  
 
  Bishops Share Priorities for Consideration in New COVID Assistance  
 
This week, the Biden Administration and members of Congress have participated in discussions about a potential new COVID-19 relief package. In response to this early dialogue, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops sent a letter to all members of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate expressing support for another round of aid to assist families and communities. In the letter, the bishops thanked the lawmakers for their efforts on relief measures in 2020 and also proposed priorities for a new package given the continuing challenges, saying: "We especially encourage you to consider how additional COVID relief should promote the dignity and value of all human life and protect poor and vulnerable people who are most at risk." 

The bishops clearly outlined a number of priorities for lawmakers, including housing assistance; hunger and nutrition needs; employment and income support; Catholic and nonpublic school safety assistance; access to stimulus payments; testing, vaccinations, and COVID-19 treatment for all; and safety in prisons, jails, and detention centers; among others. Read the USCCB letter here.
 
  USCCB Welcomes Administration's Actions for Immigrants and Refugees  
 
Seeking to remove barriers and restore due process in the legal immigration system, President Joe Biden issued three migration-related Executive Orders this week. More specifically, these Orders:
  1. Address root causes of Central American migration and expand opportunities for legal migration.
  2. Create a task force to reunify families separated during the prior Administration.
  3. Strengthen integration and inclusion efforts for new Americans. 
The U.S. bishops commented on the Administration's actions this week:

"We welcome these Executive Orders on migration, which will help to ensure that immigrants and refugees are treated humanely and in accordance with their God-given dignity. Actions implemented by the prior administration on these issues have directly impacted and harmed immigrants' and refugees' lives, in many cases needlessly instilling fear and creating or perpetuating family separation. The Catholic Church teaches that each person is created in the image and likeness of God and that we must uphold the inherent dignity of each person. As a society, we must remain consistent in our openness and treatment of all persons, regardless of whether they were born in the United States or immigrated here. We know that changes will take time but applaud President Biden's commitment to prioritize assisting our immigrant and refugee brothers and sisters. We also offer our assistance and cooperation on these urgent matters of human life and dignity."
 
  Federal Racial Equity Actions on Housing and Prisons Welcome, Says U.S. Bishops  
 
Following recent executive actions to promote racial equity in housing and the criminal justice system, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops shared the following statement:

"We welcome the Biden Administration's actions to promote racial equity. Specifically, the executive order directing the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development to examine the effect of repealing the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule is a step in the right direction to restoring needed protections against housing discrimination. Repealing this rule minimized the affirmative responsibility of the government to promote fair housing. The federal government has a critical role to play in overcoming and redressing our nation's history of discrimination, and we hope the administration follows through on the important work of promoting fair housing and human dignity. We also welcome the new administration's announcement that the U.S. Department of Justice will not renew contracts with private prisons. The bishops have long questioned the efficacy of private companies running prisons, and this step is a positive development in criminal justice reform. We encourage the administration to consider similar policies in the future regarding civil immigrant detention facilities."

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Michigan Catholic Conference, 510 South Capitol Avenue, Lansing, Michigan 48933 Michigan Catholic Conference: The Official Public Policy Voice of the Catholic Church in Michigan Phone: (517) 372-9310, Fax: (517) 372-3940, publicpolicy@micatholic.org