JFCS staff and volunteers active participants in historic legislative session that will benefit agency programs
JFCS Advocacy Committee focuses on obtaining or preserving funding for agency programs
By Lee Friedman • JFCS Chief Operating Officer; and Amy Weiss • JFCS Community Services Director
The Minnesota Legislature recently completed the 2023 session. JFCS staff and volunteers were active participants in what is being called a historic session for the large amount of policy and budget bills that were passed. While JFCS is not an advocacy organization, we are an organization that does advocacy. JFCS’ Advocacy Committee focuses on obtaining or preserving funding for agency programs and advocating for policy and funding that supports the people we serve.
The Advocacy Committee is an extension of the JFCS Board of Directors and is a collaborative effort with staff and volunteers from PRISM and Jewish Family Service in St. Paul (JFS). JFCS’ advocacy is non-partisan, and we value interaction with officials representing multiple political parties and perspectives. JFCS advocacy activities include meetings with legislators and others, calls, emails, participating in coalitions, signing on to position statements, attending rallies or press conferences, and testifying at a hearings.
For the 2023 session, the Advocacy Committee selected several priority issues, and we encouraged legislators and the governor’s administration to pass bills consistent with our priorities. Here are some highlights of results that we supported through our advocacy:
- ParentChild+: JFCS secured funding that is needed to sustain the current level of programming in the Twin Cities and four Greater Minnesota partner communities through 2025.
- Child Tax Credit: With a temporary federal child tax credit ended, a new Minnesota income-targeted Child Tax Credit was passed. The Center on Poverty and Social Policy at Columbia University estimates that it will reduce child poverty in Minnesota by roughly one-third.
- Food Justice (see below for more information about food justice this session): Free school meals for all Minnesota students, emergency funding for food shelves, increased base funding for food shelves, and more.
- Affordable Childcare: Provisions to serve more families, support the childcare workforce, and increase state reimbursement rates paid to childcare providers to better match the cost of caring for children.
- Long-Term Care: A comprehensive funding bill passed at the last moment, which will provide financial support that nursing homes and other long-term care providers desperately need to pay their staff higher wages and keep providing care for seniors.
- Minnesota Family Investment Program (MFIP): Several improvements passed, including indexing of the housing allowance to inflation and elimination of monthly reporting and retrospective budgeting.
- Housing: Legislation simplified and expanded the Minnesota’s Renters’ Credit, which reimburses folks for some of the property taxes they pay through their rent.
- Education and Anti-Discrimination: Passage of a Holocaust, Genocide of Indigenous Peoples, and Other Genocides Education mandate.
- Gun Violence Prevention: Expanded background checks for private transfers at gun shows or between people who connect in other ways, and extreme risk protection orders (red flag law) for emergency removal of guns from people known to be an imminent threat to themselves or others.
- Paid Family and Medical Leave: Mandatory Paid Family and Medical Leave is a new program launching for Minnesotans in 2026. This will expand on the paid family and medical leave that JFCS already voluntarily provides.
JFCS also participates in coalition groups (food security, seniors, etc.) that advocate for policy and funding that supports the people we serve. One example of this is Minnesota Partners to End Hunger, which includes more than 40 agencies from throughout the state working together to reduce food insecurity. Some highlights of our work in this area include:
- The bill to provide free school meals for all Minnesota students
- Secured $5 million in emergency funding to food shelves
- Secured funding to ensure food security for Minnesotans in need:
- Increased base funding for food shelves by $3 million a year
- Funding to improve food access among tribal nations
- Base funding for SNAP Outreach
- Funding $540,000/year for Metro Meals on Wheels to provide home-delivered meals to veterans in need