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OTOC hits the streets for Medicaid Expansion

May 21st, 2018

Summer intern from Creighton, Paul Romero, collecion a signature for the ballot petition

 

Working together with Insure the Good Life, the OTOC Medicaid Expansion team has been hard at work collecting signatures to get Medicaid Expansion on the ballot in November. 

Should the measure get on the ballot and be approved by Nebraska voters, this would serve to expand Medicaid coverage to 90,000 working Nebraskans who currently do not qualify for the program because their income is too high while also having incomes that are too low to qualify for healthcare subsidies. In essence they are in a “coverage gap.”

For years the Medicaid Expansion team has been working on passing legislation at the state level that would allow for the state of Nebraska to take advantage of federal subsidies that would expand the Medicaid program. Despite being successful in pushing for the passage of legislation multiple times within the Unicameral, the threat of a veto from the current as well as past governors has caused this process to stall. 

Now, OTOC leaders have shifted their focus to the people of Nebraska. With the July 6th deadlines for signature notarization fast approaching, OTOC leaders have been working hard collecting signatures at local congregations, parades, sporting events, polling stations and outdoor venues. Complementing this, OTOC leaders have taken to their neighborhoods, going door to door to collect signatures for the placement of this important initiative on the ballot. If you are interested in getting a walking list for your neighborhood, email Paul Romero at romero.paul55@gmail.com, OTOC’s summer intern working on this project.

Along with signature collections, the Medicaid Expansion team has been working to inform local congregations of the Medicaid Expansion initiative and also train others to collect signatures themselves. Through these distributed efforts, the Medicaid Expansion team has developed a substantial list of OTOC volunteers working to collect signatures for this initiative.  If you want to be a volunteer to collect signatures in the next few months, email Paul at romero.paul55@gmail.com.

As one of the largest coordinated group of volunteers in the state working on this issue, OTOC leaders stand to play a large role in ensuring this measure gets on the ballot and “insuring” the good life for all Nebraskans. Visit Insure the Good Life site to learn more about statewide efforts. 

Want to sign a petition? Email Paul at romero.paul55@gmail.com or call 402-344-4401 to arrange a time for signing. 

 

OTOC leaders speak up about silence from Nebraska Senators and Representatives

May 18th, 2018

Lirio Funes, 20, holds onto her daughter Melissa Funes, 2, just after being detained by local officials after crossing the U.S. — Mexico border on March 15, 2018 in McAllen, Texas.

OTOC Immigration and Refugee Action Team leaders Kathleen Grant and Jeanne Schuler have published an op-ed in the Omaha World Herald calling on Nebraska’s senators and congressional representatives to take action for mothers and children who are facing poor treatment and separation. To read their article in the Omaha World Herald, click here.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the Department of Homeland Security admit that the US is separating children from their parents at the border to deter immigrants.  The Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees the Office of Refugee Resettlement, has acknowledged there were “approximately 700” children separated from adults at the U.S. border since October, 2017.  Further it states that over 100 of these are less than 4 years old!  Mr. Sessions repeated again on Monday (5.7.2018) that this will continue.

The Department of Homeland Security has ended Temporary Protected Status for almost 60,000 Hondurans. They are now forced to relocate to a country whose murder rate is among the highest in the world.

The Trump Administration has repeatedly vilified the Central American women and their children who are fleeing violence to seek asylum in the U.S.  Surely 200 women and children fleeing violence do not pose a threat to a country of almost 300 million. 

Please consider making calls to our Senators and Congressmen in honor of all mothers this Mother’s Day season:

Senator Deb Fischer  202-224-6551 and 402-391-3411

Senator Ben Sasse 202-224-4224 and  402-550-8040

Representative Jeff Fortenberry 202-225-4806 and 402-727-0888 (some parts of Sarpy County)

Representative Don Bacon 202-225-4155 and 402-938-0300 (Douglas and parts of Sarpy Co)

Ask that Senators Fischer and Sasse and Congressman Bacon and Fortenberry call on the Department of Homeland Security to:

  1. Immediately stop separating children from their parents – and reunite children with family members now!
  2. Treat all asylum seekers according to the United Nations Refugee Accord and U.S. law.

Organizer Joe Higgs presents at Sustainability Leadership Presentation Series at Metro Community College

April 25th, 2018

Lead Organizer Joe Higgs and Project Intern Greta Carlson spoke as part of the Sustainability Leadership Presentation Series (SLPS) at Metro Community College about how to use organizing for environmental sustainability. Over 100 faculty, staff, and students watched the webinar in universities across the state of Nebraska. The presentation taught about how leaders can use the cycle of organizing and organizing practices to organize their communities and enhance their sustainability efforts by growing power through their community. Joe Higgs used the example of OTOC formed their environmental Sustainability Action Team to work on local environmental issues in Omaha. OTOC leaders first kept hearing that people were concerned about environmental issues after a great flood in 2011. Then, at an issues conference, enough people were interested and willing to take leadership, that an action team has formed and is now working on issues like the city’s new waste contract and potential ban on plastic bags. These issues use power to talk to and influence city council members as they create policies that affect the environmental sustainability of Omaha.

To view the presentation online, follow this link.

To learn more about Metro’s SLPS program, follow this link.

Pay Day Lending Reform has small victory this Legislative Session

April 25th, 2018

The OTOC Predatory Pay Day Lending Action Team has worked on reforming predatory lending in the last year by informing community members about the

Concerns about the ill effects of the payday loan industry on folks in Nebraska brought a dozen guests from 4 OTOC congregations to the home of Chuck and Gloria Austerberry in Legislative District 8. All were eager to understand how the system works and what we can do to limit how much profit can be made from people needing small amounts of money to meet emergency needs through passing LB 194 this session of the Unicameral.

debt trap that often happens when people take out predatory loans, and by promoting LB 194, Senator Tony Vargas’s pay day lending reform bill that was introduced to the Nebraska Unicameral in 2017 and didn’t make it out of committee until 2018. Through several house meetings and community education events, OTOC leaders explained why there needs to be limits on pay day loans- that people get stuck in a dept trap paying fees and never getting to pay off the principle. The community members who attend these events were encouraged to contact their state senators, especially those on the banking and finance committee, and encourage the elected officials to get LB 194 out of committee. LB 194 originally set limits on the amount of interest that could be incurred and would allow borrows to pay back the loans in partial payments rather than requiring the full value of the loan for repayment.

An amended version of LB194 was passed this unicameral session. This final version did not include a cap on fees and is just a small step in the right direction, but it is a step. More transparency is now required before someone agrees to the loan so they see a clear total on what they will be paying. There is also an option for borrowers to request an extended payment plan once every twelve months that would allow them to make smaller payments rather than pay the full cost at one time. The bill that passed also requires more reporting by lenders to the state Director of Banking and Finance. To read more about what the final version of LB194 does, click here.

Thank you to all leaders who attended house meetings or learned about the issue and contacted their senators.

Housing Action Team explores substandard rental housing in Omaha at Urban Abbey

April 10th, 2018

Nearly 40 people attended a discussion at Urban Abbey, focused on the problems of substandard rental units and what can be done about them. OTOC’s Housing and Neighborhood Revitalization Team sponsored the event and attendees included landlords, renters and interested citizens.

The evening started out with Dennis Walsh, a Housing team member, who gave a presentation, with maps and fact sheets , about the city’s housing code violations since 2015. The data showed trends toward a growth in both the number of rental units in Omaha and the rising costs of those units. It also pointed out how violations and demolitions tend to be concentrated in certain zip codes. To access these maps, follow these links: Click here for graphs, Active Housing Violations by Year, Jan 2018 Active Housing ViolationsActive Violations Bar All Zip codes

His talk was followed by guest speaker Gary Fischer–Family Housing Advisory Services Legal Counsel.  He gave an in-depth report about both substandard rental housing and evictions.  His presentation included handouts of maps showing eviction notices throughout the city. He said two traits correlated to eviction notices:  poverty and locations which are highly populated by African Americans. 

Mr. Fischer said Council Bluffs enacted a landlord registration and inspection ordinance after there had been five children who died in fires in substandard housing units.  Fees from that plan pay for inspections. Omaha faces resistance of landlord registration and inspection because reliable landlords do not want additional costs/burdens when they are being responsible. He noted that additional problems come from substandard housing units that have lead and dander, both adding to health problems, especially for youth. Other youth agencies are working to address this.

Mr. Fischer talked of how evictions affect school children and distributed maps and data showing which schools are most impacted. Karen McElroy, who had visited Liberty elementary along with Joe Higgs, told how that school makes a great effort to work with families who are impacted by evictions.

Mr. Fischer was followed by Terri Mahoney, a member of the Housing team, who gave a brief history of her lifelong experience as a renter and of the problems and uncertainty she has faced.

Intern Greta Carlson shared information about a program she and OTOC have developed to educate refugees and immigrants about tenants’ rights and responsibilities. It has been presented numerous times and in multiple languages.

People broke into small groups to discuss problems and possible solutions. Gloria then brought everyone together to listen to results of the talks and hear possible solutions Attendees had the opportunity to become more involved through a variety of options listed on a signup sheet.

If you are interested in getting more involved with substandard rental housing issues in Omaha, email Charlie Gould at charles.gould@cox.net

Spring training reaches leaders new and old

April 9th, 2018

OTOC Lead Organizer Joe Higgs and other leaders are teaching about leader development in congregations this spring. The trainings revolve around the importance of including justice in our institutional missions, developing leadership in our institutions, and tools for creating relationships that lead to leadership development. The trainings reached 78 different leaders, including those who were new to organizing and those who are experienced, from over sixteen different congregations, including members from new OTOC congregations. Trainings were held in different locations throughout the city to allow many parts of the city to be involved.

 

450 people joined in 9th Celebration of Community on March 24

March 24th, 2018

Over 450 friends, neighbors, supporters and OTOC leaders gathered at Kaneko on Saturday March 24 for OTOC’s 9th annual Celebration of Community. OTOC’s many supporters enjoyed food and desserts, music by two local jazz groups and the light art exhibit at Kaneko. As always, people enjoyed the silent auction of over 350 items from chocolate and coffee, to art and jewelry, and dozens of gift certificates from local restaurants.

Thanks to the many Sponsors who made this Celebration of Community possible.

Urban Abbey events in February encourage Leaders to get politically active

March 5th, 2018

 

 

 

Urban Abbey hosted three different Issue Cafes in the Month of February for OTOC Leaders and community members learn more about relevant issues happening in Omaha.

Michael O’Hara from the Sierra Club (pictured left) spoke about the logistics of the city’s upcoming solid waste policy. Why do we need to care about the trash system? 1. It really affects the environment- methane outputs from landfills, trash trucks driving around, etc. 2. How many trash bins fit in your garage- we would like choices about what size and how many bins each household needs. The OTOC Environmental Sustainability Action Team urges citizens to contact their city council members to ask for community involvement in the planning process and for the council to be engaged and aware when reviewing and choosing a proposal. For talking points about how to contact your city council members, click here

Read More . . .

Warm Energy at Feb. 12 Steering Committee Meeting

February 16th, 2018

crowd closer upOn Monday night, February 12, fifty people representing the OTOC Steering Committee packed the meeting room at First United Methodist Church.  Following the opening prayer and introductions of all attending, Convener, Cheri Cody, set the framework for the gathering.  She noted that the work that OTOC engages in used to be referred to as “the ministry of public life”, a description that she remains fond of. 

Pamela Owens

 A spokesperson for each congregation shared, in turn, the vision and plans they had for growing their presence within their own congregation.  Each person was forthright about their congregation’s unique situation and the challenges confronting them. Each expressed their resolute intention to move forward with their vision.  The acts of some smaller congregations offered challenges to larger ones. Three congregations in various stages of considering joining OTOC also reported their progress. 

Vicki Pratt, new Chair of the Finance Committee, reported that both the Individual Contribution Campaign of last summer, which comes from within each congregation, and the Year End Appeal which is sent from the OTOC Office, had received monies that exceeded what had been budgeted. Thank you for your continued contributions through the years.

Pamela Owens of Metropolitan Community Church gives a positive, exciting report for MCC’s goals this year

Charlie Gould laid out the strategy for this year- Congregational Trainings in March and April, Core Team work in May,Summer Organizing Training in June and July, House meetings and Neighborhood walks in August and September, and Get Out the Vote Campaigns leading to a Candidate Accountability session in October just before the November election. Using these organizing fundamentals, we build power from people, which is needed for a productive and potentially game-changing Accountability Session. This means we are certainly building power through our relationships and growing in effectiveness for the common good.  

Pay Day Lending house meetings make a difference

January 31st, 2018

Leaders from OTOC’s Predatory Lending Action Team have been leading house meetings about LB194, a Nebraska Unicameral Bill that would put some regulations on predatory pay day lending (see below for details about LB194). The house meetings are focused on Legislative District 8, where Senator Burk Harr was just appointed to the Banking committee for this legislative session after the previous Senator Craighead from District 6 resigned from her position. Burk Harr has just become the swing vote needed to get the helpful LB194 out of committee. The timely house meetings invited participants to email or call Sen. Harr encouraging him to vote yes for LB194. Dozens of OTOC leaders have called or written in, and Harr is reported to have changed a probable “no” vote into a “still considering” stance. 

Concerns about the ill effects of the payday loan industry on folks in Nebraska brought a dozen guests from 4 OTOC congregations to the home of Chuck and Gloria Austerberry in Legislative District 8. All were eager to understand how the system works and what we can do to limit how much profit can be made from people needing small amounts of money to meet emergency needs through passing LB 194 this session of the Unicameral.

Concerns about the ill effects of the payday loan industry on folks in Nebraska brought a dozen guests from 4 OTOC congregations to the home of Chuck and Gloria Austerberry in Legislative District 8 on January 27. All were eager to understand how the system works and what we can do to limit how much profit can be made from people needing small amounts of money to meet emergency needs through passing LB 194 this session of the Unicameral.

LB 194, sponsored by Senators Vargas (D) and Linehan (R), improves Pay Day Lending practices by requiring:

1.      Reasonable Payment: Maximum monthly payment is capped at 5% of borrower’s Gross Income—so the monthly payment is manageable and the debt is fully repayable over a longer period of time.

2.      Reasonable Charges: Total charges for the loan can only equal 36% annual interest AND the monthly maintenance fee is proportional to the size of the loan and cannot exceed $20 per month.

3.      Reasonable Total Expense to Borrower: Maximum total charges can be no more than 50% of the principal over the life of the loan (e.g. total charges for a $500 loan would be $250 over the life of the loan.)

If you would like to be a part of the efforts to get LB194 through committee, please call or email Sen. Burk Harr at   (402) 471-2722 or bharr@leg.ne.gov urging him to vote “yes” for the bill to get it out of committee.                                                                                                                           

If you contact Sen. Harr, please let us know by emailing otocfornebraska@gmail.com.

If you are interested in attending a house meeting, please email Vicki Pratt at vlpratt@cox.net 

 

 



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