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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. 

Read More . . .

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 

 

 

Support for TPS Holder and Dreamers

January 9th, 2018

On Monday January 8th, Homeland Security announced that Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Salvadorans will end on September 9th, 2019.  Over 200,000 Salvadorans and their families are now at risk, so it is now up to Congress to find a legislative solution. OTOC calls on Congressmen Bacon and Fortenberry, Senators FisJeanne in basementcher and Senator Sasse to get involved and craft a solution which provides permanent residency for law abiding, productive residents who have lived among us  for many years with only Temporary Protective Status.

OTOC leader Jeanne Schuler says, “OTOC calls on our members of Congress to  show leadership.  Find a solution.  Support the bills that have already been introduced or develop new ones.  We need leaders who will serve the people of Nebraska and act.  Now.” 

OTOC leader Kathleen Grant says, “TPS recipients have lived in Nebraska for almost 20 years. They own homes and businesses.  They work in factories, farms and meat packing plants.  Their children, most of whom are US citizens, will move our state’s economy forward. They are neighbors.  They are at risk.” To see Kathleen Grant in the news speaking about this issue, follow this link to Channel 7’s coverage of Monday’s decision in Omaha

 

 

Jeane Schuler calls on assembly goers to “Call every day!”

Read More . . .

OTOC 2017 Delegates Congress

November 28th, 2017

An enthusiastic room of 215 people from thirty five member congregations, solidarity members and guest congregations filled the Parish Hall at St. Pius X Catholic Church on November 13th for OTOC’s 2017 Fall Delegates Congress. They arrived eager to learn how OTOC can become a stronger organization with a more powerful voice for the common good, through expanded membership, financial support and diversity.

Marshall Johnson presenting about what organizing is

Marshall Johnson presenting about what organizing is

Following a lively roll call and focus statement, Rev. Marshall Johnson engaged the room using props to recall the Joshua story and getting everyone to join in singing the familiar Jericho tune. He went on to remind everyone that since biblical times, people seeking justice have had to confront “giants,” just as we do today, and that takes power.crowd 1

Speakers’ stories told of how OTOC has successfully brought people together to achieve common goals for over 20 years—from organizing meat packers and improving the legal process for immigrants to getting the city to devote more money to demolition of condemned houses.  In the stories we heard that frequently people involved in one issue lend support to additional action groups because we know that together we are stronger and our relationships form a bond.

Looking forward, leaders offered ideas to expand the organization as a whole and within individual congregations. They included having more one-on-one meetings, developing core teams, reaching out to additional institutions and others. Cheri Cody and Pat Bass shared specific plans already in place at Second Unitarian and St. Benedict the Moor.  The room welcomed OTOC’s newest member, San Andres Lutheran Church, and its pastor, Rev. Sergio Amaya, who presented the church’s first commitment payment.

Pat Bass Presenting about next steps

The evening culminated with an inspirational final blessing, led by more than 30 clergy and religious womenhigh energy agenda covered a lot of ideas in a stimulating way. It left people so engaged that when it ended early, they stuck around to discuss their congregations’ commitment to build OTOC. Each promised to report back at the February Steering Committee meeting.

Don’t forget that the work isn’t over- meet with your congregation’s core team, fill out your commitment card, and let’s keep the momentum of this event carry us through the growth of people for power.

 

Written by Susan Kuhlman, Holy Name Catholic Church

Immigration, Mental Health, and Predatory Lending Advocacy at City Council

November 22nd, 2017

In the past two months, OTOC Action teams have been present in city council meetings to testify on different issues.

OTOC adds support to City Council Resolution to tell Congress to act swiftly for DACA Dreamers

On October 17th, Jean Reiner of St. Stephens and the Immigration and Refugee Action Team testified about a Resolution for Omaha City Council to urge Congress to act swiftly on behalf of Dreamers and create a plan to protect DACA recipients. The Council voted in favor of the resolution after OTOC and many other individuals and organizations testified in favor of the resolution and City Council’s support of people in Omaha with DACA status. City Council passed the Resolution with five in support, two passing.

Jim Morely at City Council

Jim Morley testifying at he City Council meeting

OTOC and Allies get unanimous City Council support on Pay Day Lending and Mental Health

Omaha City Council  voted 7-0 on Tuesday Nov 21 to support LB 194 or similar legislation to better regulate Pay Day Lending. CM Pete Festersen introduced the resolution for the City to include this support in their  Priority for the 2018 Unicameral Session.  Jim Morely of Urban Abbey and the OTOC Predatory Lending Team testified that OTOC has ahad several house meetings in the last month and an Issue Cafe at Urban Abbey last Friday, all about Pay Day Lending. He said that over 90 people have attended these sessions and most were amazed that lenders are permitted under Nebraska law to charge so much in fees and interest and to trap borrowers in a cycle of debt. 

Read More . . .



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