Blog For The City

The Cost of Giving…

Our guest author for this post is BFC Board member, Craig Stevens.

As we prepare for the new presidential administration, Sam Cooke’s foresight rings true: “A Change is Gonna Come”.

Some of the changes the administration is likely to make could impact charitable giving incentives in a big way. As a Bread for the City Board Member and a partner in Aronson LLC’s Nonprofit and Association Industry Services Group, I have an idea: Give today!

Under Mr. Trump’s tax plan, charitable giving may fall in 2017 by at least 4.5 percent and by as much as 9 percent, that’s about $13.5 billion-$26.1 billion. As a result, many families are front-loading their charitable giving plans, according to Robert Frank of CNBC’s Inside Wealth.

 If you expect to make a monetary donation to Bread for the City in 2017, you might consider taking advantage of the current after-tax incentives and increase your giving before year’s end.

Here are the details:

The Tax Policy Center states that President-Elect Donald J. Trump’s 2017 tax plan increases the cost of giving by reducing the incentive to do so, as well as raises the cost of giving for those at all income levels by:

  • Raising the after-tax cost of charitable giving. For example, a donation of $100 would change the after-tax cost from approximately $60 to $67.
  • Raising the standard deduction to $15,000 for individuals and $30,000 for couples. This means that a number of taxpayers who itemize today would opt for a standard deduction; this could result in an overall giving reduction of 60%.
  • Capping itemized deductions at $100,000 for individuals and $200,000 for couples. This means that many high-income taxpayers would lose their tax incentive to give to charity based on state and local tax deductions alone.

Bread for the City hopes the incoming administration will deliver on its poverty fighting promises. In the meantime, as supporters of this organization, there are steps we can take to ensure that Bread for the City can continue serving its clients. Step 1? Donate more in 2016.

Of course, matters like this are uncertain and much can change. However, if there is an increase in after tax cost of giving in 2017, you wouldn’t want to have missed the opportunity to have given in 2016.

Thank you for helping us do what we do!

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Language Access Improvements at DC Department of Human Services

Haga clic aquí para la versión en español

Bread for the City’s limited and non-English speaking clients have struggled for years to get access to important government services at the DC Department of Human Services (DHS). These services include medical insurance for themselves and their children, food stamps, and temporary cash assistance for families with children.

DC already has a law that requires DHS and other DC government agencies to provide interpretation and, in many cases, written translation for customers who do not speak English. But time and time again, our clients have reported that DHS employees refuse to provide interpretation, rely on children to interpret for parents, or simply fail to send important notices about their benefits in their language.dcdhs_logo

As a result, many families have been wrongly denied benefits or have had their benefits cut off.  Many non-English speaking customers never understood what went wrong with their benefits or mistakenly assumed they did not qualify. Families who wanted to challenge their termination or denial of benefits or DHS’s failure to provide language access faced a bureaucratic nightmare of forms, meetings, and administrative hearings. Even with an attorney involved, the process of correcting problems that arose from DHS’ failure to provide language access in the first place, was daunting and frustrating, and as a result, many families just gave up.

In October 2015, Bread for the City, participating as “of counsel,” joined the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs and the law firm of Hogan Lovells US LLP in bringing a lawsuit against DHS for its widespread failure to provide language access to its customers.

As a result of the lawsuit, DHS has committed to restructure the way it provides language access and has directed more resources towards this important mandate. It is still a work in progress- just a few weeks ago I filed another language access complaint against DHS on behalf of a Spanish-speaker who was denied interpretation – but overall, we are seeing improvements in the way DHS provides language access.

Maria Amaya Torres, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, reported that when she recently went to DHS to re-certify for food stamps she was greeted in the lobby by a bilingual employee and was interviewed in person in Spanish, for the first time in all her years of going to the agency.

We are pleased to announce that recently, the lawsuit was officially settled! Under the settlement agreement, DHS has agreed to implement a new formal structure to ensure that customers are provided with interpretation at every point of contact with the agency. If a customer is not provided with language access, they will be able to contact a designated Ombudsman at each service center who will immediately come out to assist the customer before they leave the building, both to ensure they receive language access and to resolve any underlying problems with their benefits that resulted from a communication failure.

Additionally, DHS will also establish a Language Access Customer Advisory Group which will monitor DHS’s compliance with the settlement, communicate with ombudsmen at the DHS service center, and advise DHS on language access practices.

We thank Ms. Amaya Torres and Minerva Nolasco, the other plaintiff in the lawsuit, for their courage in fighting for their rights and the rights of others. We are hopeful that once the settlement measures are put into place there will be a real change and an end to the cycle of unnecessary termination and denial of benefits that has impacted too many DC residents who are limited and non-English proficient.

Haga clic aquí para la versión en español

*Allison Miles-Lee’s work is made possible in part through funds awarded by the DC Bar Foundation.*

Se avecinan mejoras al acceso lingüístico en el Departamento de Servicios Sociales del Distrito de Columbia

Click here for the English version

Los clientes de Bread for the City (Pan para la Ciudad) sin un dominio  o limitado del inglés llevan años batallando para acceder a servicios de gobierno importantes en el Departamento de Servicios Humanos del Distrito de Columbia (DHS, por sus siglas en inglés). Estos servicios incluyen seguro médico para ellos y para sus hijos, cupones para alimentos, y asistencia temporal en efectivo para las familias con hijos.

La ciudad cuenta ya con una ley que exige que el DHS y otras dependencias del Gobierno del Distrito de Columbia proporcionen servicios de interpretación y, en muchos casos, traducción escrita para los clientes que no hablan inglés. Pero, una y otra vez, nuestros clientes se han quejado de que los empleados del DHS se niegan a proporcionarles los servicios de interpretación —dependiendo de que los niños interpreten para los padres—, o de que sencillamente no envían los avisos importantes sobre las prestaciones en su idioma.

dcdhs_logoEn consecuencia, a muchas familias les han denegado o cancelado indebidamente las prestaciones. Muchos clientes que no hablan inglés nunca entendieron que fue lo que pasó con sus prestaciones o erróneamente supusieron que no satisfacían los requisitos para recibirlas. Las familias que querían disputar la cancelación o denegación de sus prestaciones, o el hecho de que el DHS no les proporcionara acceso lingüístico, enfrentaban una pesadilla burocrática de formularios, reuniones y audiencias administrativas. Aun con la mediación o ayuda de un abogado, el proceso de corregir los problemas surgidos a raíz de que, en primer lugar, el DHS no proporcionó acceso lingüístico, era abrumador y frustrante, y, como resultado, muchas familias sencillamente se dieron por vencidas.

En octubre de 2015, Bread for the City, participando como “asesor jurídico”, se unió al Comité de Abogados de Washington para los Derechos Civiles y Asuntos Urbanos y a la firma de abogados Hogan Lovells US LLP para entablar una demanda contra el DHS por su negativa generalizada a proporcionar acceso lingüístico para sus clientes.

Como resultado de la demanda, el DHS se ha comprometido a reestructurar la manera en que brinda el acceso lingüístico y ha dedicado más recursos a cumplir este importante mandato. Sigue siendo un trabajo en progreso — hace sólo unas semanas, entablé otra reclamación de acceso lingüístico contra el DHS en nombre de una persona hispanohablante a la que se le negaron los servicios de interpretación—, pero, en general, estamos viendo mejoras en la manera en la que el DHS brinda acceso lingüístico.

María Amaya Torres, una de las denunciantes de la demanda, señaló que, recientemente, cuando acudió al DHS a renovar sus cupones para alimentos, fue recibida en el vestíbulo por un empleado bilingüe y entrevistada en persona en español, por primera vez en todos los años que lleva acudiendo a la dependencia.

Nos complace anunciar que la demanda quedó oficialmente resuelta hace poco. En apego al acuerdo de conciliación, el DHS ha accedido a instrumentar una nueva estructura formal para asegurarse de que los clientes reciban servicios de interpretación en todo punto de contacto con la dependencia. Si no se le presta acceso lingüístico, el cliente podrá acudir a un defensor designado en cada uno de los centros de servicio, quien de inmediato saldrá en su auxilio antes de abandonar el edificio, tanto para asegurarse de que reciba acceso lingüístico, como para resolver cualquier problema subyacente que tenga con sus prestaciones a consecuencia de una falta de comunicación.

Además, el DHS también establecerá un Grupo Consultivo de Acceso Lingüístico para el Cliente, el cual vigilará que la dependencia cumpla con el acuerdo, mantendrá comunicación con el defensor de los derechos del consumidor asignado al centro de servicio y asesorará al DHS en cuanto a las prácticas de acceso lingüístico.

Agradecemos a las Sras. Amaya Torres y Minerva Nolasco, la otra denunciante de la demanda, por su valentía en la lucha por sus derechos y por los derechos de los demás. Esperamos que, una vez adoptadas las medidas del acuerdo, veremos un cambio verdadero, y el fin del ciclo de cancelación y denegación innecesarias de las prestaciones que ha afectado a tantos residentes del Distrito de Columbia con un dominio nulo o limitado del inglés.

Click here for the English version

*La labor de Allison es posible, en parte, gracias a los fondos adjudicados por la Fundación del Colegio de Abogados del Distrito de Columbia.*

It’s #GivingTuesday!

Have you heard? TODAY is #GivingTuesday­–a global movement to put the giving spirit back into the holiday season. And with a $20,000 matching challenge on the table, Bread for the City is all set and ready to go!

It takes a lot of resources to make sure that our friends and neighbors in DC have what they need to live healthy lives. And with food costs rising and our distribution increasing from three to five days’ worth of food, Bread for the City’s food pantry needs your support now more than ever.6303577754_673d9d35d6_o

Will you help us sustain our work with a $35 donation to our food pantry TODAY? With every dollar up to $20,000 being matched, your generosity will be doubled!

Our goal is to match $20,000 today so that our food services do not have to be restricted or reduced in 2017. As long as the need is here, we’ll be here. Stand with us. Together, we can fight harder against hunger.

We can’t do this work without your support, so please make your #GivingTuesday donation! TODAY ONLY, your gift will DOUBLE!

Let’s get the giving going!

BFC Organizing Post-Election Statement & Call to Action

Things are not getting worse, they are just getting uncovered.  We must hold each other tight and continue to pull back the veil. -Adrienne Maree Brown

America is in crisis, and more visibly so than it has been in at least a generation.

In the wake of the election, first we must sit with our fear, sadness, and anger; lovingly collect ourselves with our communities; and begin planning a new resistance.

As we sit and reflect on the path forward for our communities, city, and country, let us not forget how this country has historically responded to anti-racist movements. The backlash we are witnessing post-election fits into a historical narrative of suppression of progress in movements fighting for the liberation of the most marginalized.

Dramatic shifts like the one we just witnessed with this election show that our movements have polarized society enough to inspire a backlash. It also took opportunity from those who believe in solidarity and justice, and handed it to those who plot to divide us and conquer us.

While the Democratic Party failed, and will likely continue to fail in the near future, our grassroots movements demanding justice and liberation must continue to push forward. When crises befall us and our communities, we must have answers better than those offered by the systems that seek to oppress us.

In this pivotal moment, we cannot afford to remain sullen or complacent, or to allow normalization of bigotry and authoritarianism to set in. The conditions we find ourselves organizing in have shifted, and so our strategies and tactics–what we do, and how we do it–must also shift.

The following principles are coming into focus for us as community organizers at Bread for the City:

Center self-care and healing from trauma. We know the coming socio-political, economic, and physical attacks will land hardest on those already suffering the most. We must pay close attention to the pain and fear that may befall us and our community, and center healing in our work. Even when our attention is pulled in many directions, we must continue to practice self-care as a non-negotiable part of surviving, thriving, and resisting.

Strengthen our relationships and communities as we continue to build our base. As conditions rapidly change over the next three months, it is vital that all people who want to fight for justice and liberation join and create political organizations where we learn, struggle, organize, and fight together. Bread for the City serves as that organization for many of the people we serve, but it is absolutely imperative that we increase our numbers and grow our base. Too many still struggle without community or collective strategy. The boldest and most effective organizing comes from people who are in genuine, trusting, and accountable relationship with each other. In this time of fear and instability, we will only be able to find the consistency and courage needed to fulfill our goals by starting from a foundation based in these powerful relationships. We must build a large, powerful, and politicized base in order to bring to bear our mandate of dignity and justice for all people in our city.

Center the most marginalized among us, while building solidarity among groups of differently marginalized people. Immigrants, refugees, Muslims, low-income people, people of color, women, LGBTQ people, Jewish people, and people with disabilities will face threats that are different but at times overlapping, and always originating from an increasingly unapologetic white supremacist power structure. These are our communities, and it will be imperative that each of us – many of whom live at the intersection of these communities – stand together. As our struggles all intersect, so must our strategies against our common oppressors, if we are to truly transform this country. Our liberations are tied up together – none of us is free until all of us are free.

This is a call to action. These fights will take all of us, and there are many ways to get involved, including:

  • Talk to a Bread for the City community organizer about how you can get involved in our fight against the elimination of low-income folks in DC by emailing us at organizers@breadforthecity.org or calling us at 202-791-3997.
  • Do anything, anything, ANYTHING but nothing.

Abolitionist Frederick Douglass reminds us that: “Power concedes nothing without a demand–it never has, and it never will.” We cannot afford to do nothing. The time to demand justice is now!

BFC’s advocacy program is funded in part by the Open Society Foundation.

Chairman’s Corner: Happy Holiday Helpings!

Welcome to Chairman’s Corner”, where our Board Chair, Paul Taskier, will write about a variety of topics that impact Bread for the City and indeed the community and nation at large. We invite you to Read, Enjoy and Share!

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Many things about Bread for the City have touched my heart and given me many rewards, but our annual Holiday Helpings drive is the most meaningful part of my year, and it is what originally drew me deeply into the organization.

A few years ago, during a Holiday Helpings fundraising effort at my office, a young staff member came to me with a $29 donation. I knew that $29 was a lot of money for him so I asked him why he was donating. His answer touched me deeply. He said that as a child, the only time he ever had Thanksgiving is when his mother got a turkey from Bread for the City. So now that he was earning, he wanted to give back and help another family have a Thanksgiving. That is the power of community, of caring, of seeing yourself in the shoes of another and sacrificing a bit so that others do not go without.

Thanksgiving is special. For so many of us it is the one time each year that our families come together solely in celebration of family and the simple gift of life. It isn’t about religion, or football, or even the Pilgrims. It’s about being grateful for what we have, for the gift of our parents, our spouses, our children, and others dear to us. We need only look at the world around us to see how blessed we have been, even though we know there is much work yet undone.

It is a special day in my family–my mother’s favorite holiday–celebrating that she was able to escape the horrors of World War II in Europe and establish a family here, surrounding herself with dear friends, surviving family, and the children who anchored her. Nowadays, we celebrate with my wife’s brothers and their families, with a meal that is over the top in quantity even for the twenty-plus family members who surround the table. In fact, it’s much too much when I think about the many people who have no Thanksgiving meal at all.

That is why Bread for the City started Holiday Helpings back in 1996. The idea was that we could help our clients have the dignity of a full holiday meal in their own homes. It resonated with me. I made it my own cause, and did a drive to raise money. That effort brought me deeply into Bread for the City even though I had done volunteer work well before that. And Holiday Helpings still remains my favorite program at Bread, just because it touches that part of us that gives thanks and recognizes that we are not alone in this world.

The goal for Holiday Helpings in 1996 was to raise enough money to distribute about 800 turkeys to our clients and their families. Twenty years later our goal is to distribute 10,000 turkeys. But it is no easy task. Donations to Holiday Helpings are what pay for the food we distribute. We can’t do it without our donors and their generosity. A turkey dinner is now $29 for a family of four, because we Paul Taskier croppedhave become super-efficient in sourcing our foods. Please consider a generous gift of $29 or more to Holiday Helpings.

Let’s make Thanksgiving a holiday where we can all truly give thanks. If it’s one meal, 10 or 100, every gift is gratefully received and put to its best use.

May each of you have a wonderful, happy Thanksgiving.

 

 


A Note to the Bread for the City Community

Bread for the City Community,

Tuesday’s election results have stirred up a wide range of emotions for many of us in the Bread for the City family. The past year was filled with hopes and dreams as well as angst and anxiety as our process of electing a new president unfolded. Forty-three years ago, our founders committed to fighting poverty and the conditions that perpetuate it. And for 43 years, we have fought. Many of the promises made in this campaign – including targeting marginalized groups, eliminating the Affordable Care Act, and limiting charitable giving incentives – threaten our ability to serve our community and to do it in an atmosphere of dignity and respect.

Today we gathered Bread for the City employees for a powerful lunchtime discussion. I spoke about our organization’s core values of dignity, respect, service and justice. We have always celebrated diversity, and fought against sentiments that marginalize the community where we live and serve. Our staff discussed our commitment to come together as an even stronger, more determined, and united community.

Over the coming days we’ll all seek to come to terms with the results, and move forward despite them. We will continue to refine our advocacy efforts to affect change in our country and community. We will join together in candid, productive dialogue, and we will continue to lead as we have for the last 43 years. And, of course, we will honor our four decades long commitment to providing critical safety net services to people experiencing poverty.

Our community members are already asking what they can do to help Bread for the City. To that I say, continue to give as you always have. Share your time. Share your ideas. And donate the critical resources that we need to fight poverty in the District and beyond. 

Yours in service,

George A. Jones

Chief Executive Officer

 


Language Access: More work to be done!

Last year, I blogged about an important bill that Councilmember David Grosso introduced – the Language Access for Education Amendment Act. This bill proposes to amend the DC Language Access Act of 2004 to allow for DC government agencies to be fined if they fail to provide language access.

The DC Language Access Act of 2004 was groundbreaking legislation that was intended to ensure the rights of DC’s diverse community to access government services. This law already requires DC government agencies to provide interpretation–in all languages–for limited and non-English proficient (LEP/NEP) individuals that seek to access services, and in some cases government agencies must provide written translations as well.

This is an important law for LEP/NEP Bread for the City clients. It means that a French speaking mother has the right to an interpreter during a special education meeting at her son’s DC Public School. A Spanish speaking family has a right to receive a notice in Spanish from the Department of Human Services letting them know that they need to come in for a meeting in order for their medical insurance to continue. And an Amharic speaker has the right to an interpreter when he is picked up by the Metropolitan Police Department and charged with a crime. If this law did not exist, many Bread for the City clients and other DC residents and visitors would struggle to access basic government services.

DC Councilman David Grosso with the Language Access Coalition

As good as the Language Access Act of 2004 is on paper, in the more than ten years it has been in existence it has become clear that it needs strengthening. The current law lacks “teeth.

Under the law, if someone claims that a DC government agency failed to provide language access to an LEP/NEP individual, the DC Office of Human Rights (OHR) conducts an investigation. If OHR finds that the agency has violated the law, it tells the agency to take “corrective actions” and makes a written finding of non-compliance. But agencies have no obligation to follow OHR’s corrective actions, and the finding of non-compliance has no financial or other impact on the agency.

As a result, DC government agencies simply ignore the law in many instances. One government agency, the Department of Human Services (DHS) has continued to violate the law over and over in spite of multiple findings of non-compliance by OHR.

In response, one year ago, a group of attorneys (with Bread for the City “of counsel”) filed a DC Human Rights Act Class Action lawsuit against DHS on behalf of LEP/NEP individuals who were denied language access. Just last week, I met with another Spanish-speaker at Bread for the City whose food stamps were terminated after DHS failed to provide an interpreter when she went in to re-certify.

The Language Access for Education Amendment Act would not impose new requirements on DHS or other DC government agencies to provide language access. However, under the bill, OHR would order DC government agencies to pay a fine of between $1,000 and $5,000 for each finding of non-compliance with the law. The complainant will get to keep half of the money, and half will go to a fund to promote language access in DC government. If agencies continue to violate the law in the same manner, they may face doubled fines.

This fine structure is exactly the “teeth” that the existing law needs in order to make DC government agencies take note and come into compliance.

The bill has unanimously passed through two DC Council committees already–the Committee on the Judiciary and the Committee on Education–and is just waiting to go before the Committee on the Whole before it can be put up for a vote.

It is crucial that the bill be set for a vote this year so that it does not die out. We urge you to contact your Councilmembers to let them know that our LEP/NEP community members deserve a language access law that is actually enforceable!

The work of Allison Miles-Lee and Bread for the City’s Legal Clinic is funded in part through private and public dollars awarded by the DC Bar Foundation.

Making the Case for Community Lawyering

vs-clients-in-front-of-dc-council-520x388Excerpt from an article posted at Clearinghouse Community:

For 42 years, Bread for the City has delivered poverty-relief services in the District of Columbia. For the last 25 years, a key part of that relief has been given through legal services.

In the 1990s the social services staff noticed that many of their clients were routinely being denied disability benefits. What started as an ad-hoc initiative to try and help more clients burgeoned into the current iteration of the legal clinic, where attorneys assist clients not only on disability benefits but also in the areas of public benefits, family law and domestic violence, and housing law.

Read the full article: “Making the Case for Community Lawyering” HEREhttp://bit.ly/2fzaesl

Watch the video “Making the Case for Community Lawyering”

*BFC’s Community Lawyering work is made possible in part through public and private funds awarded by the DC Bar Foundation.*


Guess What?! It’s Turkey Time!

sylvia-ford-scott-2There is so much excitement in the air right now. Why? Holiday Helpings kicks off today!

That’s right, it’s turkey time. The leaves are turning, winter coats have been taken out of storage, and we’ve got 10,000 families to feed this holiday season!

We need your help. Can we count on your gift of $29 to Bread for the City today?

At Bread for the City, we firmly believe that our neighbors who are living below the federal poverty line shouldn’t have to forego holiday celebrations. That’s why we come together through our Holiday Helpings program to provide free holiday meals—a turkey and all the trimmings—for our clients to enjoy at home with family and friends.

This year, we will provide turkey dinners to 10,000 families. Families like Sylvia Ford-Scott’s.

Sylvia is a longtime client, volunteer, and supporter of Bread for the City. Here’s what she has to say about Holiday Helpings:

“Whoever may come over during the holidays – friends, neighbors, or family – I have to have enough to feed them. That’s just how I was raised.”

You can help bring the excitement of the holiday season to one, two, or even 10 families like Sylvia’s with your donation of $29, $58, or $290 today.

Here’s wishing you the best of holidays!