On Friday, February 12 constituents gathered in Salem for Oregon Thrives’ “Have a Heart Day” in honor of Oregon’s 151st birthday and Valentine’s Day. Oregon Thrivesis an emerging coalition of advocacy and service organizations in Oregon, and Neighborhood Partnerships is a founding member and participates in the steering committee. NP staff went to Salem to participate in the event and encourage legislators to have a heart and remember Oregon’s most vulnerable citizens during this special legislative session and these difficult economic times.
After a brief discussion of the day’s issues and schedule, close to 100 constituents left to talk with 65 of their Senators and Representatives. We spoke to our elected representatives about critical issues facing hard working Oregonians such as the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), Employment Related Day Care (ERDC), and the Emergency Housing Account. Constituents also passed out Valentine messages thanking legislators for remembering hard working Oregonians during this special legislative session.
Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon led an interfaith prayer vigil on the steps of the Capitol, drawing attention to the many homeless school children and families. The vigil was preceded by a conversation focusing on ways to work with schools to serve their homeless students, as well as policy and funding issues. Janet Byrd lent her expertise to the discussion, focusing on policy and NP’s extensive experience with the issue of family homelessness as a result of its involvement with Bridges to Housing. This discussion was spurred by the 18,000 school-aged children who were homeless for at least some part of the 2008-2009 school year. The group is planning an interfaith summit on child and family homelessness in late spring.
The afternoon ended with a legislative hearing on increasing the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). Oregon is one of the few states where income tax is still applied to low-income families. Multiple testimonies cited the ways in which EITC eases the burden on those in Oregon’s lowest tax brackets. Expanding Oregon’s EITC was the first recommendation made by the Corporation for Enterprise Development in their Assets for Opportunity Scorecard suggesting how Oregon could improve its climate for its most financially vulnerable citizens. Increasing the EITC from six percent of the federal credit by three points each year until it reaches 18% in 2014 would benefit over 220,000 households throughout Oregon. It would also help to boost the local economy as EITC dollars are often spent locally and quickly.
Have a Heart Day was a great success! Together with Oregon Thrives and their other partners we were able to thank many members of the Oregon State Legislature, reminding them to have a heart during the remainder of the February session to ensure that all Oregonians have an opportunity to thrive.