On June 21, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in an 8-1 decision in United States v. Rahimi to uphold a federal statute, 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(8), that prevents individuals subject to domestic violence restraining orders from possessing a firearm. The longstanding federal protection is essential to protecting victims and survivors of domestic violence from their abusers.

Firearms can severely escalate risk within incidences of domestic violence, posing credible threats of death which can prevent individuals from leaving abusive relationships. Perpetrators of domestic violence may use firearms to further threats and intimidation, force compliance, or as psychological abuse. However, their use is not necessarily restricted to acts of coercive control. Victims and survivors of intimate partner violence are five times more likely to die when an abusive partner has access to a gun.

The danger of firearms within incidences of domestic violence enforces the gravity of the Supreme Court’s decision. Protective orders are a key step countless advocates have worked to protect, especially as guns are weaponized to further abuse. Justice Sotomayor’s concurring opinion, which Justice Kagan joined, highlighted the danger communities face. In approximately one quarter of cases in which abusers have murdered an intimate partner, they have also killed an additional individual, such as a child, family member, and roommate. The Supreme Court’s decision similarly benefits law enforcement officers as a study of those killed during domestic disturbance calls revealed 95% of homicides were committed with a firearm.

The ruling upholds key precedent protecting survivors and victims. The federal statute has been associated with a 27% reduction in state-level intimate partner homicide rates. The ruling of United States v. Rahimi is supported by President Biden and his administration. In a statement issued by Attorney General Merrick B. Garland, the Justice Department vowed to continue to enforce the statute and utilize all available resources to support law enforcement, prosecutors, courts, and victim advocates in addressing the pervasive problem of domestic violence.

Senate Finance Committee Discusses Challenges Social Security Insurance and Social Security Disability Insurance Recipients Face Alongside Potential Reforms

On Tuesday, June 4, the Senate Committee on Finance held a hearing titled, “Work and Social Security Disability Benefits: Addressing Challenges and Creating Opportunities.” Senators and expert witnesses discussed the challenges individuals with disabilities face in seeking employment as well as saving for key life expenses without endangering the benefits Social Security affords, including health insurance. They discussed key legislation and guardrails to ensure individuals with disabilities who wish to work do not exceed their eligibility limits. A loss of benefits can be especially harmful for recipients as their disability prevents them from working full-time.

Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) opened the hearing by commending the efforts of Senators Brown (D-Ohio), Casey (D- Pa.), Lankford (R- Okla.), and Cassidy (R- La.) in introducing the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Savings Penalty Elimination Act. The Act adjusts savings allotted from $2,000 to $10,000 for individuals and from $3,000 to $20,000 for married couples, while adjusting for inflation annually. Wyden highlighted an additional safeguard he introduced alongside Sen. Cassidy, the Work Without Worry Act. The act prevents a parent’s work history from disqualifying an individual from receiving Social Security benefits. The final protection outlined in the act lay in a pledge made by Martin O’Malley, the Commissioner of Social Security Administration (SSA), to offer Americans increased time and flexibility in correcting overpayments.

Ranking Member Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) highlighted the challenges individuals with disabilities can face in rejoining the workforce and the complexities of work incentives. He emphasized the importance of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, which created a provision permitting the Social Security Administration to create a data-sharing agreement with payroll providers. Despite the delay in its implementation, Crapo emphasized the importance of such steps to prevent or limit work-related overpayments before they occur. Alongside the reform, Crapo encouraged the SSA to update occupational data to ensure relevant careers are included in determining an individual’s eligibility for disability benefits.

William R. Morton Analyst, an Analyst in Income Security at the Congressional Research Service, provided an overview of the Social Security Administration’s disability programs, including eligibility requirements and available work incentives. He discussed potential barriers to employment, including an individual’s physical or mental condition, feeling discouraged by previous work attempts, inaccessible workplaces, and the inability to find a job for which they are qualified. Morton also spoke of barriers within the SSI and Social Security Disabilities Insurance (SSDI) programs, including the complexity of work incentives. Overpayments may further discourage employment, leading the SSA to revise its guidance on recovering and waiving overpayments to reduce the burdens beneficiaries may experience. 

Susan Wilschke is the Associate Commissioner of the Office of Research, Demonstration, and Employment Support at the SSA. Her testimony centered on work incentives, highlighting SSA’s efforts in providing a path to jobs with self-supporting futures while removing work determents. Wilschke additionally discussed a comprehensive study conducted in 2021, examining four decades of SSA’s disability demonstration research. Notably, implementation issues and the complex nature of interventions reduced their overall effectiveness. For most demonstrations, a small number of individuals took up work programs offered through SSDI. Wilschke shared how additional funding may assist in improving service levels and reducing wait times, especially as the number of Social Security beneficiaries rise. 

Erin M. Godtland, the Assistant Director Education, Workforce, and Income Security for the United States Government Accountability Office highlighted three key disincentives to work: the loss of cash and medical benefits, overpayments, and complexity of rules surrounding work. Despite research to examine the potential impact of policy changes, a comprehensive study examining 11 demonstrations found there were “essentially never increases in [program] exits” and “rarely reductions in [disability insurance] expenditures.” Difficulty addressing key issues and modernizing have led the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) to place SSA’s disability programs on its high-risk list since 2003. The challenges are exacerbated by the agency’s staffing shortages, although the SSA is working with local offices to potentially increase pay and implement initiatives to improve job satisfaction, recruitment, and retention.

Katherine Zuleger is the manager of the Wausau, Wisconsin Social Security Administration field office and the President of the Chicago Social Security Management Association. Zuleger testified on behalf of the National Council of Social Security Management Associations, a professional association comprised of those providing direct assistance to SSI and SSDI beneficiaries.  In detailing the complexities of SSI and SSDI, she recommended standardizing the treatment of work across both programs. She further suggested pursuing early intervention measures once a beneficiary is enrolled and raising the substantial gainful activity limit to encourage individuals to return to the workforce. Lastly, to ease administrative burden, Zuleger proposed simplifying SSI wage reporting through automatic updates to the agency’s system without requiring faxing or mailing pay stubs, which require manual updates.

The challenges and associated reforms discussed are essential to addressing key obstacles which individuals who receive SSI and SSDI benefits face, including earning livable wages and understanding complex, stringent work limits. The reforms discussed take vital steps to ensure recipients retain access to needed benefits, including health insurance.

The Immediate and Long-Term Challenges Facing Public School Teachers: Low Pay, Teacher Shortages, and Underfunded Public Schools: A Senate Hearing Recap

On June 20, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions held a hearing titled, “The Immediate and Long-Term Challenges Facing Public School Teachers: Low Pay, Teacher Shortages, and Underfunded Public Schools.” Senators and witnesses discussed key challenges our schools are facing, from the underlying causes of teacher shortages to declining test scores.

Chairman Sanders (D-Vt.) highlighted the daily challenges teachers face due to low pay and independent costs of maintaining their classrooms, often leading educators to obtain a second, part-time job. He reiterated his commitment to fair wages through his introduction of S. 766, the Pay Teachers Act, which provides funding to support education programs and addresses teacher shortages. Sanders concluded by thanking teachers and commending their profound impact on students.

Senator Cassidy (R-La.) similarly opened his remarks by highlighting the profound influence his teachers have had on his life before expressing concern surrounding the state of public education. He stressed the decline of reading and math scores before fourth grade alongside spikes of absenteeism, despite the dramatic increase of education spending. Cassidy issued multiple recommendations, including screening for dyslexia, addressing the negative impact of Tik Tok and social media, examining the impact of school closures related to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the rising cost of college.

John Arthur is a National Board Certified Teacher who has taught at a Title I public school in Utah for 11 years. He spoke of how increasingly difficult conditions have challenged the joy teaching brought him and countless of his colleagues. Arthur illustrated through his testimony how compensation, community, respect, and room to grow as professionals are the key elements teachers need to thrive.

Gemayel Keyes is a middle-years special education teacher in a Philadelphia public school and a member of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, a local branch of the American Federation of Teachers. Keyes began his career as a bus attendant before becoming a paraprofessional, in both positions earning such a low salary he struggled to afford daily necessities, let alone further education. He stressed the importance of investing in teachers and paraprofessionals as well as creating pathways to assist paraprofessionals in becoming teachers.

Dr. William Kirwan, the vice-chair of Maryland’s Accountability and Implementation Board, discussed the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, a recently enacted PreK-12 education reform legislation. The bill outlays a multiyear, comprehensive plan which addresses all aspects of a child’s education from birth to high school completion, including the recruitment, retention, and compensation of high-quality teachers. The foundation of the Blueprint lies in five practices of the highest performing schools internationally: invest in early childhood development and education; prepare, compensate, and treat teachers like other professionals; develop a fully aligned, rigorous PreK-12 instructional system; invest heavily in students who need the most support to be successful; and require a high degree of accountability at the school level. Through his testimony, Dr. Kirwin emphasized the importance of addressing childhood poverty, pointed to the utility of community schools, and stressed professional growth and collaboration between teachers.

Robert Pondiscio, a senior fellow for the American Enterprise Institute, highlighted the limitations of increasing teacher pay in addressing burnout, specifically in light of their growing responsibilities, poor preparation, and deteriorating classroom conditions. He pointed to a 2022 poll conducted by the National Education Association in which nearly half of teachers reported a desire or plan to quit because of school climate and safety. In addition to student behavior, Pondiscio described how time creating lessons can detract from time available to analyze students’ work, offer feedback, build subject matter expertise, and cultivate strong relationships with students and parents. While pay is an essential component, he reiterated the importance of examining the scope of a teacher’s role and responsibilities.

Nicole Neily, the president and founder of Parents Defending Education, expressed concern surrounding the topic of the hearing as incongruent with families’ concerns and priorities. Neily pointed to falling test scores and literacy rates as well as ruptured relationships between parents and their child’s school. She illustrated instances of curriculum differing with families’ values. Neily further stressed limited transparency, particularly in instances related to school safety capacity. While she maintained teachers deserve to be paid commensurate with their worth, she reinforced the need for a careful evaluation of educational quality and examination of how education funds are distributed and utilized. The hearing underscored the value and profound impact teachers hold while addressing the complex and multifaceted issue of teacher shortages. Low wages, unsustainable workloads, and difficult working conditions are just a few factors contributing to declining rates of teacher retention. Means of supporting teachers and students are especially important to consider as districts continue to witness high rates of absenteeism, low literacy rates, and declining test scores.

Overtime Final Rule Enjoined in Texas Ahead of Designated July 1 Implementation 

Judge Sean D. Jordan of the US District Court for the Eastern District of Texas granted Texas’ request for an injunction on Friday, June 28. The ruling temporarily prevented the U.S. Labor Department’s Overtime Final Rule from going into effect for the state of Texas, as an employer. Private sector employers, including charitable nonprofits, are excluded from the ruling. 

The Department of Labor issued the rule in April with the intent of ensuring fair compensation.  Previously, the Fair Labor Standards Act exempted certain white-collar employees from overtime pay requirements if they were salaried, met a certain pay threshold, and worked in executive, administrative, or professional capacities. The new rule automatically extends overtime eligibility to employees earning less than $58,656 a year if they work more than 40 hours a week.  

The first phase of the rule, which was scheduled to go into effect July 1, would have increased the yearly salary threshold for overtime eligibility from the current $35,568 to $43,888. Then, on Jan. 1, the salary threshold would rise again to $58,656, before updating every three years. Eventually, the rule is expected to expand time-and-a-half pay protections to four million workers who were previously ineligible.  

The court concluded the Department of Labor’s rule extends beyond their ability to define and delimit the exemption for employees in executive, administrative, or professional capacities. Judge Jordan clarified determining whether an individual works within an executive, administrative, or professional capacity depends upon their function and duties – not compensation. Moreover, the Fair Labor Standards Act does not expressly authorize the Department to utilize an objective salary level test.  

An additional lawsuit seeking a national injunction, Flint Avenue LLC v. U.S. Dep’t of Labor, No. 5:24-CV-130-C (N.D. Tex.), is pending.

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On June 12, the Senate Committee on Finance held a hearing to address concerns regarding the treatment of children in some Youth Residential Treatment Facilities (YRTFs), focusing on instances of abuse, unsafe conditions, and inadequate care. This hearing followed a report detailing such harms. However, it is essential to note that most of these facilities operate safely and are standards-based, providing critical care to children with complex needs.

Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) emphasized the trauma that children can endure in certain facilities and criticized profit-driven motives leading to falsification of records and understaffing. He vowed to end the abuse cycle and praised survivors for their courage. Wyden stated, “The experiences and trauma these kids are left with read like something out of a horror novel” and called for bold actions to improve oversight and standards for YRTFs.

Ranking Member Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) highlighted the need for oversight and patient-centered, best-practice-informed care, emphasizing that residential facilities should be a last resort. He stressed the importance of integrating patients into the community as soon as possible and ensuring that facilities provide high-quality, medically necessary treatment in safe, therapeutic environments.

Reagan Stanford, an abuse and neglect managing attorney for Disability Rights Arkansas, described widespread abuse, neglect, unsafe conditions, and lack of therapy and educational services in some Arkansas facilities. She recounted numerous incidents of violence and neglect, illustrating the need for significant reforms. Stanford recommended investing in community-based services, discontinuing funding for inadequate models, and improving oversight and data transparency.

Elizabeth Manley from the University of Connecticut identified challenges like insufficient infrastructure and misaligned funding incentives in certain facilities. She emphasized the importance of accessible, community-based, trauma-responsive care. She highlighted the success of New Jersey’s model, which has resulted in low rates of group care utilization and youth suicide. Manley underscored the necessity of technical assistance and comprehensive care systems to effectively support children and their families.

Kathryn A. Larin from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) echoed prior GAO reports on the misuse of psychotropic medications and restraints and the need for better staff training, a single state agency for abuse cases, and information sharing on best practices. Larin’s testimony highlighted the challenges of monitoring out-of-state placements and ensuring the appropriate use of medications and restraints. She stressed the importance of federal and state oversight in safeguarding the well-being of youth in residential facilities.

Throughout the hearing, senators and witnesses stressed the importance of providing high-quality in-home and community-based services and the potential of allowing Medicare to incentivize such services. They highlighted the need for oversight of specialized treatment, aligning funding with effective, patient-centered care models, strengthening staff training and penalties for abuse, and improving data transparency and research to validate effective therapies.

While significant issues were highlighted during the hearing, it is crucial to recognize that not all YRTFs experience these problems. Many facilities strive to provide safe, supportive, and effective care for children in need. The majority of YRTFs operate with a commitment to high standards, offering essential services to children who cannot be adequately cared for in family or community settings due to the complexity of their needs.

Examining the Impact of Abortion Bans on Women’s Health and Equity: A Senate Hearing Recap

On Tuesday, June 4, 2024, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions held a hearing titled “The Assault on Women’s Freedoms: How Abortion Bans Have Created a Health Care Nightmare Across America.” The hearing marked nearly two years since the Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, which granted states the authority to determine the legality of abortion. The focus was on the severe impact of abortion bans on women’s health care, particularly for those in marginalized communities, and how these bans intersect with broader issues of health equity within the current federal policy agenda.

Although Senator Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) is the chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, he asked Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.) to chair the hearing. In his opening statement, Sanders detailed the historical struggle for women’s rights and the ongoing lack of representation in the Senate, emphasizing the importance of this hearing in addressing these critical issues.

Senator Murray shared poignant stories about the daily struggles women and families face when forced to carry pregnancies against their will and the challenges in accessing reproductive care. She highlighted the threats physicians face, including the risk of incarceration and the loss of medical licenses for providing reproductive health services.

Ranking member of the committee, Dr. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), acknowledged the diverse political views on abortion and encouraged continued dialogue. He emphasized the importance of supporting women throughout pregnancy and postpartum to ensure their health and wellness while underscoring the value of a child’s life before birth.

Madysyn Anderson, a college senior from the University of Houston, shared her personal experience with pregnancy just two weeks after Texas’s S.B. 8 law went into effect, banning abortion after six weeks. She recounted the difficulty of finding a clinic that would provide an abortion, eventually traveling to Mississippi at great financial and emotional cost. Her story highlighted the significant barriers and stress women face under restrictive abortion laws.

Dr. Nisha Verma, a board-certified obstetrician and gynecologist, spoke about the severe impact of abortion bans in Georgia, where she practices. She described the challenges her patients face, including increased economic hardship, staying with violent partners, and serious health issues due to the lack of access to abortion care. Dr. Verma emphasized the broader implications of abortion bans on women’s overall health, including mental health conditions like postpartum depression, which is a leading cause of pregnancy-related deaths in the U.S.

Destiny Lopez, acting co-CEO of the Guttmacher Institute, discussed the profound impact of abortion bans on people of color, those already parenting, and individuals with limited financial resources. She noted that the number of abortions provided by clinics increased by 10% from 2020, a testament to the resilience and determination of those seeking care despite the barriers. Lopez called for evidence-based policies that ensure all people have access to high-quality, affordable abortion care where they live.

Dr. Allison Linton, a complex family planning specialist, detailed the complexities of determining when an abortion is necessary to preserve a mother’s life under Wisconsin’s restrictive laws. She described the fear and confusion among physicians and patients alike, leading to delays in care and increased risks to women’s health. Dr. Linton stressed the need for clear guidelines and protections to allow healthcare providers to offer necessary care without the threat of legal repercussions.

Dr. Christina Francis, an OB/GYN hospitalist, presented the risks associated with abortions, including preterm birth and mental health issues. She highlighted the importance of in-person consultations to ensure fully informed consent and screen for coercion, intimate partner violence, and trafficking. Dr. Francis emphasized that while some view abortion as a necessary service, it carries significant health risks that must be carefully considered.

Melissa Ohden, founder of the Abortion Survivors Network, spoke about the experiences of individuals who survive abortion attempts and the need for comprehensive support beyond pregnancy termination. She stressed the importance of providing emotional, medical, and financial assistance to those affected by failed abortion attempts.

The hearing underscored how abortion bans disproportionately affect marginalized communities, exacerbating existing health disparities. Social Current, in its 2022-2024 federal policy agenda, considers abortion and other reproductive healthcare as critical health equity issues. The organization emphasizes the importance of advancing equity, ensuring equitable access to resources, and responding effectively to behavioral health needs. The testimonies highlighted the need for a holistic approach to health care that includes reproductive rights as a fundamental aspect of women’s health and well-being. Ensuring access to abortion care is essential for achieving health equity and supporting the broader goals of federal policy initiatives aimed at improving health outcomes for all communities.

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2024 will mark the fourth year Juneteenth is recognized as a federal holiday, and an increasing amount of employers are including it on their holiday calendars. In 2021, just 9% of employers had made Juneteenth a paid company holiday. That jumped to 33% in 2022 and rose again to 39% in 2023, according to a report by Mercer.

In addition to honoring Juneteenth as a paid holiday, organizations can recognize it with dedicated time for education and connection. Some resources with ideas and inspiration include:

Although recognizing Juneteenth is one step toward promoting equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI), organizations should look to create an EDI-enriched organizational culture in meaningful and strategic ways as well.

“It is good to see that more organizations are now closing their offices for Juneteenth, but it’s not enough. To truly move the needle, leaders should be assessing their organizations and looking for how they can support their employees and communities in more substantive ways that meaningfully address inequities,” said Undraye Howard, vice president of equity, diversity, inclusion, and engagement at Social Current.

Comprehensively addressing EDI is a powerful strategy for increasing belonging and is inextricably linked to foundational pillars of workforce resilience, including psychological safety, creating space for difficult conversations, and increasing brain science awareness.

However, if an organization doesn’t have a plan or a multilevel commitment from staff, efforts can fall short and negatively impact staff engagement and morale. In a recent report released by WebMD Health Services on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Belonging: Uncovering What Employees are Offered, Want and Need, 62% of workers surveyed say Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Belonging (DEI&B) programs aren’t effective, and nearly half (46%) say the programs had failed them personally.

To help equity efforts gain momentum and have lasting impact, Social Current recommends that organizations address it at the individual, organization, and systems levels. In addition, it is critical to engage all staff as important in this work, but also create measurable goals and clear accountability.

Effective Strategies for Advancing Equity and Workforce Resilience

Given that most organizations are feeling the strain of shrinking resources, increasing costs and demands for services, and significant workforce challenges, concurrently addressing equity and workforce resilience is strategic and increases the potential for impact. Organizations must partner with staff and prioritize advancing equity as core to how they look to advance workforce resilience.

“Nurturing a positive and supportive culture that aligns with our values does not happen overnight. Learning and building capacity around the concepts and interconnected strategies for EDI and workforce resilience, developing individualized plans, and putting plans into action and course correcting along the way is the surest way to make progress toward their goals,” said Karen Johnson, director of the Social Current Change in Mind Institute. “This work requires us to be innovative, curious, and courageous, but it is doable, and our workforce is worth the investment.”

Free Resources from Social Current

How organizations can help their staff to support their coworkers of color:

Impact Partner Exclusive

In-Depth Training and Networking Opportunities

  • SPARK 2024 In-Person Event. This conference, Oct. 2-22 in Denver, will have a dedicated track for EDI, as well as a pre-conference session Oct. 20 that delves into how to navigate our polarized environment and sustain practices over time.
  • Advancing Equity Workshop: Fundamentals to Support Your Journey. This three-part virtual workshop, July 9, 16, and 25 and Nov. 6, 13, 20, will provide a safe environment for participants to explore their relationships with EDI, gain strategies for promoting an inclusive workplace culture, and learn about the systems that impact us all.
  • Save the Date: EDI Essentials for Supervisors. Using EDI principles as the foundation, this virtual learning series will help supervisors support and engage their teams. Sessions are July 31, Aug. 14, Sept. 18, and Dec. 4.
  • Save the Date: Translating EDI Practice Into Action. This virtual learning series is designed for staff who are leading their organizations’ EDI efforts and want to grow their understanding and application of key EDI concepts. Sessions are Sept. 9, Sept. 24, and Oct. 1.

Advancing equity takes sustained commitment from leaders and organizations and at the same time, needs to begin somewhere. This Juneteenth, affirm your commitment to your workforce and advancing EDI.

Many social sector organizations are facing staffing challenges and tight budget constraints. For leaders striving to hold on to their organizational commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI), keeping the work going can feel like navigating hurdle after hurdle.

Amid the ebbs and flows in support for EDI in the workplace, staff capacity is a constant factor. In our work at Social Current, we have seen that the organizations that are able to successfully advance equity over the long term pay attention to the time and resources needed to achieve their goals. They also allow provide the flexibility and support their staff need to thrive.

Some strategies for managing through times of reduced capacity include:

Adapt Your EDI Goals and Action Plan

Review your goals for the year and for the longer term. Which are already embedded into existing work and job responsibilities? Make sure to capture their progress. Identify the strategies and tactics that will require a significant lift from your committee or new resources and revise your plan to reflect the reality of your staff capacity and existing commitments. It’s better to prioritize and reduce the number of goals for the year than to risk burnout by asking people to take on more than is feasible.

Keep Goals Aligned and Focused

It’s often easier to give up the difficult work and keep the bare minimum going during times of low capacity. When identifying core goals to focus on for the year, choose what’s most important, the ones that address root causes of your biggest challenges. This may look like:

  • Pausing your EDI newsletter and quarterly brown bag discussions in favor of implementing your staff professional development plan.
  • Eliminating subcommittees or discussion groups to engage staff members in conducting your program equity audit.
  • Prioritizing learning for staff members on topics/issues they’ve identified as critical, holding off on implementing other action items until core training is complete.

Be sure to consider the data on your organization’s current needs and readiness when making choices. Identify the leverage potential of each strategy and create a balance that allows you to continue making progress toward embedding EDI over the long term.

Strengthen Your Committee Structure

It’s important not to relegate implementation of the organization’s EDI goals to one or two people, even during lean times. Committees are a proven strategy for maintaining momentum over the long term. It’s important to build a network of staff EDI champions and increase the diversity of voices when making decisions. Committees also serve as an important anchor for your champions, as well as the skeptical, to see the continued commitment to your stated EDI goals and values.

Communicate Progress and Challenges

Transparency is critical for shifting the organization’s culture to embed EDI values and practices. Report to staff on the changes made to the EDI plan, the goals that will be prioritized, and the reason for the shifts. Follow up with regular reports on the data so that staff can see the progress made.

Additional Resources and Support

  • Guide to Creating an Effective Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee: If your committee needs support or could benefit from a review of structure, download Social Current’s free guide on effective EDI committees. It includes recommendations for a committee’s purpose and authority, size and makeup, and troubleshooting common committee challenges.
  • Virtual Training: Advancing Equity Workshop: Fundamentals to Support Your Journey, offered in July and November, is a three-part training to help you advance your personal EDI journey, build an inclusive workplace culture, and become more aware of the systems that impact us all.
  • Customized Consultation: Social Current’s experienced staff can help you jumpstart your efforts or troubleshoot challenges, which could save you time and money in the long run. Our services can be tailored to your organization’s specific needs.

On May 22, over a dozen business organizations filed a lawsuit to block the Overtime Final Rule from going into effect. Filed in Plano, Texas, the same federal district court that struck down the Obama-era overtime rule, the business groups seek to vacate and enjoin the rule, declaring it beyond the Labor Department’s authority. They aim to block the salary threshold increases set for July 1, 2024 and Jan. 1, 2025 as well as the Department of Labor’s (DOL) plan to index the thresholds for inflation every three years.

The core argument is that the 2024 Rule raises the minimum salary threshold to a level the business groups believe is no longer a plausible proxy for the categories exempted from the overtime requirement by Congress. For over 80 years, salaried workers earning below a certain threshold have been entitled to time-and-a-half pay when working more than 40 hours per week. The threshold, however, has increased far slower than wage growth, excluding many lower-paid salaried workers from overtime protections.

The DOL’s rule will raise the minimum salary threshold for the overtime exemption for executive, administrative, and professional employees in two stages, additionally providing increases every three years to keep up with wage growth. This change will extend overtime protections to nearly one million workers, with an initial salary increase to $43,888 on July 1, up from $35,568. It will extend protections to about three million more workers on Jan. 1, 2025, with a second increase to $58,656 annually.

The plaintiffs argue the new rule will drastically increase labor costs and complicate employee relations, particularly for small businesses and non-profits. They claim the rule will require the reclassification of millions of employees from salaried to hourly workers, resulting in restricted work hours, reduced opportunities for advancement, and hindered job performance. The automatic indexing provision for salary thresholds is also seen as problematic, adding to potential operational costs and economic strain.

In the complaint, the plaintiffs argue the 2024 Rule will impermissibly deprive millions of employees of their exempt status, making their duties, functions, or tasks irrelevant if their salary falls below the new minimum. They claim the rule contradicts congressional intent and the statutory limits of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The business groups are seeking expedited consideration of their complaint to avoid the impending changes set to take effect in July 2024 and January 2025.

The outcome of this legal challenge will have significant implications for employers and employees across various industries, particularly in how businesses manage and compensate their workforce under the revised overtime regulations.

Senate Finance Committee Reviews Progress and Challenges of the Family First Prevention Services Act

On May 22, during Foster Care Awareness Month, the Senate Finance Committee held a hearing titled “The Family First Prevention Services Act: Successes, Roadblocks, and Opportunities for Improvement.” The session gathered experts, policymakers, and stakeholders to discuss the progress and challenges of the Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA) since its 2018 enactment.

Sen. Mike Crapo highlighted the bipartisan nature of FFPSA, focusing on transforming child welfare to prioritize prevention and family preservation. He emphasized the importance of mental health and substance use disorder treatments in keeping families intact and reducing reliance on foster care. Crapo noted recent regulations to reduce bureaucratic barriers for family members to become licensed foster parents, which support children living with trusted caregivers. Chairman Ron Wyden stressed the necessity of federal funding to empower kinship caregivers and the importance of prevention services to address mental health and substance use disorders. He called for removing bureaucratic barriers that prevent states from fully utilizing available prevention funds and urged better allocation of resources towards prevention services.

JooYeun Chang from the Doris Duke Foundation discussed the impact of FFPSA in shifting the child welfare paradigm toward prevention. She noted barriers to accessing necessary services and recommended structural changes to broaden eligibility for prevention services, including support for domestic violence and economic hardships. Chang emphasized community-based support systems and data-driven approaches to serve at-risk populations effectively. David Reed from the Indiana Department of Child Services highlighted Indiana’s success in reducing the number of children in foster care by over 50%. He emphasized the importance of flexible, comprehensive service models like Indiana’s Family Preservation Services, which address various family needs. Reed shared examples of targeted interventions, such as providing transportation support, which have kept families together and reduced racial disparities in child removals.

Rebecca Jones Gaston from the Administration for Children and Families discussed the broader implementation of FFPSA across states and tribes, emphasizing cultural responsiveness in prevention programs and regulatory actions to strengthen kinship care. She pointed out workforce shortages as well as the need for better collaboration across service systems. Gaston stressed the role of federal support in overcoming these challenges and the importance of continuous evaluation to measure prevention program effectiveness. The hearing underscored the commitment to improving child welfare through FFPSA. Significant progress has been made, but challenges remain. Continued collaboration between federal and state agencies and community partners is essential to refine and expand prevention services, ensuring all children can grow up in safe, stable, and loving environments.

Senate Committee Examines Reauthorization and Impact of the Older Americans Act

On Thursday, May 23, the United States Senate Special Committee on Aging held a hearing to discuss the impact of the Older Americans Act and its upcoming reauthorization. May is recognized as Older Americans Month, celebrating the contributions of older persons to our nation and highlighting the need for resources and services to support the aging process. Chairman Bob Casey (D-Pa.) spoke of the Act’s success in helping countless older adults access nutrition services, legal support, and social networking, among other services. He emphasized critical priorities for the reauthorization, including the Strategic Plan for Aging Act to improve public-private partnerships and the importance of Long-Term Care Ombudsmen in monitoring nursing home safety.

Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.) highlighted older Americans’ economic challenges, especially amidst unprecedented inflation. He emphasized the importance of innovation and flexible spending to meet individual needs. He addressed the administrative burdens and changing definitions of “Greatest Social Need” that impact access to nutrition programs. Braun advocated for transparency and increased oversight, requiring the Administration to summarize state ombudsman long-term care annual reports and publish a list of funded resource centers.

Janet Billott, a former nursing aide and recipient of Meals on Wheels, testified about the immense impact of the service during her illness, noting the connection she built with Fred, her delivery person. She also praised the Area Agency on Aging for providing transportation to medical appointments and vouchers for a local farmers market, advocating for the program’s expansion.

Laura Holscher, executive director of Generations Area Agency on Aging, discussed the funding provided through Title III B of the Older Americans Act, which enables critical interventions such as in-home services, senior transportation, home modifications, and legal services. She highlighted the flexibility of OAA Title III B in meeting community needs and recommended additional flexibility for Title III D funds to support evidence-informed programs.

Leslie Grenfell, executive director of Southwestern Pennsylvania Area Agency on Aging, detailed challenges her agency faces, including transportation, recruitment and retention of direct care workers, and increased reimbursement. She advocated for increased funding to meet the needs of a growing older adult population, noting the vital support provided by the American Rescue Plan Act.

Connecticut State Long-Term Care Ombudsman Mairead Painter emphasized ensuring residents’ rights in care facilities. She spoke about the challenges of insufficient and unstable funding, which hinder the Ombudsman’s ability to respond to complaints and monitor facilities effectively. Painter called for increased funding and refilling the national director position for the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program to address these issues.

The hearing underscored the need for increased transparency in long-term care funding, flexible funding to serve diverse communities, and enhanced connectivity to combat the lasting effects of loneliness exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Older Americans Act is essential in helping older adults age healthily by increasing access to nutrition, healthcare, and transportation. Providing support before individuals reach higher levels of need can improve quality of life and generate significant cost savings. However, a rapidly growing aging population and workforce shortages have hindered service provision. Increased flexible funding that accounts for unique community needs is essential to maintaining the progress and value of the Older Americans Act.

Senate Finance Committee Addresses Comprehensive Strategies to Combat Fentanyl Crisis

On May 23, the Senate Finance Committee held a crucial hearing titled “Front Lines of the Fentanyl Crisis: Supporting Communities and Combating Addiction through Prevention and Treatment.” The hearing underscored the severity of the fentanyl crisis and brought together experts and policymakers to discuss strategies for combating this epidemic, which has wreaked havoc across the United States.

Sen. Mike Crapo emphasized the devastating impact of fentanyl on communities, particularly highlighting a nearly fourteen-fold increase in overdose deaths involving fentanyl in Idaho from 2017 to 2022. He called for a comprehensive approach that addresses both the supply chain of fentanyl and the need for expanded access to mental health and substance use disorder treatments. Crapo also stressed the importance of bipartisan efforts to develop treatment options and reduce barriers to care.

Chairman Ron Wyden focused on integrating healthcare services into the fight against fentanyl. He criticized the high rates of prior authorization required by big health insurers, which delay access to life-saving medication-assisted treatment (MAT). Wyden advocated for better support for individuals reentering society from incarceration and stressed the need for innovative pain management therapies to prevent opioid addiction from developing in the first place.

Dr. Caleb Banta-Green from the University of Washington highlighted the persistent treatment gap in opioid use disorder care. Despite the effectiveness of medications like methadone and buprenorphine, many individuals remain unable to access these treatments. Banta-Green called for a new model of care that combines low-barrier clinical models with community-based access points and team-based care to improve engagement and outcomes for people with opioid use disorder.

Dr. Jeanmarie Perrone from the University of Pennsylvania emphasized the role of emergency departments as critical touchpoints for initiating treatment. She detailed a successful program in Philadelphia where emergency physicians provide immediate access to MAT, supported by peer-led models that help patients navigate their recovery journey. Perrone highlighted the need for telehealth services to continue offering a vital safety net, particularly for individuals reentering the community from incarceration.

Dr. Abigail J. Herron from the Institute for Family Health discussed the importance of integrated, whole-person care models that provide primary care, behavioral health care, and addiction treatment in a single setting. She stressed the need for better reimbursement for case management and preventive mental health services and advocated for maintaining telehealth flexibilities to ensure continued access to care.

Tony Vezina, a person in long-term recovery and Executive Director of 4D Recovery shared his journey and the importance of youth-focused interventions. He highlighted the need for increased investment in prevention, treatment, and recovery support services, particularly for adolescents and young adults. Vezina called for the expansion of recovery centers and recovery residences, as well as greater access to medications for opioid use disorders in various settings, including jails and via telehealth. The hearing underscored the multifaceted approach needed to address the fentanyl crisis, combining supply chain interventions with robust treatment and prevention strategies. Continued collaboration and investment in evidence-based practices are essential to combat this epidemic, and support affected communities nationwide.

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Through COA Accreditation, a service of Social Current, we seek to empower organizations to implement best practice standards to improve service delivery and achieve better outcomes for individuals and communities. COA Accreditation provides a framework to help organizations manage resources, incorporate best practices, and strive for continuous improvement.

We believe there is rich expertise in our field, so we ground the COA Accreditation process in our human and social services community. Our volunteer peer reviewers conduct our site visits and finalize accreditation decisions.

We are proud to spotlight the latest Volunteer of the Quarter: Francisco Javier Brizuela.

About Francisco Javier Brizuela

Francisco J. Brizuela received his first COA Accreditation training in 1998 during his tenure with Catholic Charities of Miami, where he was the director of the child welfare division. He also served as an assistant professor at Graceland University and Miami Dade College, where he eventually advanced into the role of director of assessment and compliance. 

As a volunteer, Francisco was given the opportunity to train in the COA Accreditation process for U.S. military children and family services, including school age programs and family services. Serving as a COA Accreditation peer reviewer for military programs opened the doors of the Department of Defense for Francisco when he received an offer to work for the U.S. Department of the Army in 2011. Currently, Francisco serves as the chief of child and youth programs at Dover Air Force Base.

Q&A

What three traits define you?

Integrity, honesty, and gratefulness.

What are your strongest beliefs about the value of COA Accreditation?

The accreditation process is a peer review rather than an audit. It is an opportunity for us to “peel the onion” and help agencies unveil and share their best practices. 

What advice would you give someone interested in being a COA Accreditation volunteer?

Always be willing to learn, be humble and considerate to others.

What excites, surprises, and/or challenges you the most about the work you do as a COA Accreditation volunteer?

Being a COA Accreditation volunteer allows me to learn new things and validate the wonderful things agencies from the US and around the world do to change people’s lives.

What led you to become a COA Accreditation volunteer?

I fell in love with COA Accreditation while going through my first COA Accreditation process during my tenure with years in Catholic Charities of Miami in 1997.

Learn more about how to become a peer review volunteer and apply online.

On May 22, 2024, the Senate Finance Committee convened the hearing, “The Family First Prevention Services Act: Successes, Roadblocks, and Opportunities for Improvement.” This session was part of Foster Care Awareness Month, reflecting the ongoing commitment to enhancing child welfare in the U.S. The hearing brought together experts, policymakers, and stakeholders to discuss the progress and challenges of the Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA) since its enactment in 2018. The discussions highlighted both the successes achieved under the act and the obstacles that continue to impede its full implementation.

Social Current submitted this written testimony, which incorporates feedback from our network.

Key Statements

Senator Mike Crapo’s Opening Remarks
Senator Crapo, the committee’s ranking member, emphasized the bipartisan nature of FFPSA and its role in transforming the child welfare system to prioritize prevention and family preservation. He highlighted the importance of front-end interventions, such as mental health and substance use disorder treatment, to keep families intact and reduce reliance on foster care. Crapo also noted the recent regulation to reduce bureaucratic barriers for family members to become licensed foster parents, which he believes will further support children living with trusted caregivers.

Chairman Ron Wyden’s Remarks
Chairman Wyden underlined the necessity of federal funding to empower kinship caregivers and the importance of prevention services to address issues like mental health and substance use disorders. He called for removing bureaucratic barriers that prevent states from fully utilizing available prevention funds and stressed the need for more comprehensive support systems to keep families together. Wyden also expressed concern over the government’s disproportionate spending on traditional foster care compared to prevention services, urging for better allocation of resources.

Expert Testimonies

JooYeun Chang, Doris Duke Foundation
Chang highlighted the significant impact of FFPSA in shifting the child welfare paradigm toward prevention. Despite its promise, she noted that many families still face barriers to accessing the necessary services. Chang recommended structural changes to broaden eligibility for prevention services and include support for addressing domestic violence and economic hardships. She emphasized the importance of community-based support systems and the need for data-driven approaches to effectively identify and serve at-risk populations.

David Reed, Indiana Department of Child Services
Reed provided insights into Indiana’s implementation of FFPSA, showcasing the state’s success in reducing the number of children in foster care by over 50%. He emphasized the importance of flexible, comprehensive service models like Indiana’s Family Preservation Services, which address various family needs, including economic support to prevent unnecessary foster care placements. Reed shared specific examples of how targeted interventions, such as providing concrete support like transportation, have kept families together and reduced racial disparities in child removals.

Rebecca Jones Gaston, Administration for Children and Families
Commissioner Gaston discussed the broader implementation of FFPSA across various states and tribes. She underscored the importance of cultural responsiveness in prevention programs and highlighted regulatory actions to strengthen kinship care and provide legal representation for families in the child welfare system. Gaston also pointed out the challenges of workforce shortages and the need for better collaboration across service systems. She emphasized the role of federal support in overcoming these challenges and the importance of continuous evaluation and data collection to measure the effectiveness of prevention programs.

Key Takeaways

  • Bipartisan Support: FFPSA represents a significant bipartisan effort to transform child welfare by focusing on prevention and keeping families together whenever possible.
  • Kinship Care: Enhanced support for kinship caregivers is crucial. Simplifying licensing standards and providing financial assistance can help more children stay with relatives rather than entering foster care.
  • Prevention Services: There is a need for broader and more flexible prevention services. Addressing issues like domestic violence economic hardship, and providing concrete support can prevent family crises that lead to foster care placements.
  • Implementation Challenges: Despite the successes, states face hurdles like bureaucratic red tape and insufficient evidence-based models in the Prevention Services Clearinghouse. There is a call for streamlined processes and increased federal support to overcome these barriers.
  • Data and Evaluation: Continuous evaluation and data collection are vital to measure the effectiveness of prevention programs and make necessary adjustments to improve outcomes for children and families.

Conclusion

The hearing underscored the ongoing commitment to improving child welfare through the FFPSA. While significant progress has been made, roadblocks remain to be addressed. Policymakers, advocates, and stakeholders must continue working together to refine and expand the reach of prevention services, ensuring that all children can grow up in safe, stable, and loving environments. The continued collaboration between federal and state agencies and community partners is essential to realize the full potential of the FFPSA and create a child welfare system that genuinely supports and strengthens families.

Subscribe to the Policy and Advocacy Radar to receive our biweekly policy roundup, which includes commentary on issues in Social Current’s federal policy agenda, opportunities to take action, and curated news and opportunities.

In a significant shift in policy, House Republicans have announced changes to the annual process for funding community projects, excluding nonprofits from eligibility for Community Project Funding (CPF) through the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Economic Development Initiative (EDI) account. This decision, part of broader modifications to align projects with federal community development goals, has sparked concern and opposition within the nonprofit sector.

The House Appropriations Committee, led by Chairman Tom Cole (R-Okla.), emphasized the need for changes to avoid political conflicts related to earmarks, especially concerning contentious issues like abortion and LGBTQ services. “I shouldn’t have to have a political problem in my district because I voted for a bill that had your earmarks in it,” Cole explained, highlighting the bipartisan frustration with some earmark requests.

However, Democrats, including House Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), argue that these changes unfairly target nonprofits, which play a crucial role in community development. DeLauro pointed out that nearly half of the 2024 House-funded EDI projects were directed to nonprofit recipients, including organizations like YMCAs and Boys & Girls Clubs.

“Deeming nonprofits ineligible for Community Project Funding in the Economic Development Initiative (EDI) account is a seismic shift,” DeLauro stated. “The restrictions House Republicans started last Congress were misguided. The changes to eligibility announced today are even worse. When House Democrats are in control next Congress, we will reverse these decisions.”
The nonprofit community, represented by leaders from major organizations, has expressed deep concern over the ramifications of this policy change. In a letter addressed to House leaders, including Speaker Mike Johnson and Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, nonprofit CEOs outlined the negative impact this decision will have on their ability to serve millions of Americans.
“Nonprofits count on this funding to support and expand access to essential services,” the letter stated, listing programs such as child care, mental health services, affordable housing, and support for survivors of domestic violence. The exclusion from CPF grants will significantly limit the ability of nonprofits to provide these critical services, affecting the most vulnerable communities.

The controversy over nonprofit earmarks is part of a broader debate about the role of federal funding in community development. As the nonprofit sector grapples with increasing demands and decreasing charitable donations, the loss of CPF eligibility through T-HUD and other key appropriations bills poses a significant challenge.

Nonprofit leaders call on Congress to restore eligibility and explore alternative ways to support their organizations and critical services. The sector’s ability to meet the growing needs of communities, especially in the aftermath of the pandemic, depends on continued access to federal funding.

As the debate unfolds, Social Current remains committed to working with lawmakers to find solutions that ensure the continued provision of essential services to millions of people in the U.S.

House Ways and Means Committee Passes Bills Impacting Nonprofits and Human Service Organizations

On May 15, the House Ways and Means Committee held a markup session and approved several bills that could have significant implications for nonprofits and human service organizations. The following summarizes the critical pieces of legislation and their potential impacts:

H.R. 8314 – No Foreign Election Interference Act
This bill, which passed with a vote of 25-15, amends the Internal Revenue Code to impose penalties on tax-exempt organizations that receive contributions from foreign nationals and then contribute to political committees. Nonprofits inadvertently violating these provisions could face severe financial penalties, undermining their operational capacities.

H.R. 8293 – American Donor Privacy and Foreign Funding Transparency Act
Passed by a vote of 23-17, this legislation requires tax-exempt organizations to report detailed information about contributions from foreign sources publicly. While aimed at increasing transparency, this bill could burden nonprofits with additional reporting requirements, potentially deterring foreign donations and straining administrative resources.

H.R. 8292 – Taxpayer Data Protection Act
Approved with a vote of 27-13, this bill increases penalties for unauthorized disclosure of taxpayer information. Although primarily targeted at government employees, the increased scrutiny and penalties could indirectly affect nonprofit organizations that handle sensitive donor information, necessitating enhanced data security measures.

H.R. 8291 – End Zuckerbucks Act
This bill passed with a vote of 22-18 and aims to prohibit specific tax-exempt organizations from providing funding for election administration. This restriction could limit the ability of nonprofits to support election-related activities, potentially affecting voter turnout initiatives and civic engagement efforts.

H.R. 8290 – Foreign Grant Reporting Act
This act, which passed with a vote of 24-16, mandates public disclosure of grants made by tax-exempt organizations to foreign entities. While transparency is crucial, the additional reporting could complicate the international grantmaking process for nonprofits, affecting their ability to provide timely support to foreign partners.

Next Steps and Potential Impacts
These bills must now pass the full House of Representatives and be considered in the Senate. While the chance of these bills becoming law is low, their passage in the House Ways and Means Committee reflects a shifting attitude among House Republicans regarding nonprofits and human services organizations.

The proposed legislation could impose significant administrative burdens on nonprofits, diverting resources from programmatic activities to compliance and reporting efforts. The penalties and reporting requirements associated with foreign contributions and grants could deter international collaborations and impact the funding landscape. Moreover, restrictions on election-related funding could hamper civic engagement and voter participation efforts, particularly those aimed at underrepresented communities.

Social Current’s Engagement and Advocacy
Social Current is actively engaging with legislators to voice the concerns of nonprofits and human service organizations. We will continue to track these and other developments closely, providing updates and advocating for policies that support the vital work of our sector. Nonprofits and human service organizations must stay informed about these legislative developments and consider engaging in advocacy to address their concerns.

President Biden Announces New Actions to Advance Racial and Educational Equity

On May 17, 2024, the 70th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education decision, President Biden announced new measures to promote racial and educational equity, ensuring all students have access to high-quality education. These actions are particularly relevant for nonprofit and human service organizations supporting underserved communities.

One key initiative is the allocation of $20 million in new Magnet School Grants to help create programs in seven states designed to attract a diverse student body and reduce segregation. Additionally, the Department of Education is establishing a new technical assistance center on fiscal equity to support states and school districts in developing equitable resource allocation strategies, enhancing fiscal data transparency, and prioritizing support for high-need communities.

To address ongoing racial inequities, the Department of Education will release a report highlighting access to math, science, and computer science courses, providing data to inform advocacy and program development. Furthermore, an interagency effort will focus on preserving historic sites, literature, and educational resources related to African American history, ensuring these integral parts of American history are accessible.

Significant investments are also being made in underserved schools. The American Rescue Plan allocated $130 billion to schools, focusing on underserved areas. At the same time, additional Title I funding and increased support for Full-Service Community Schools aim to close resource gaps and provide essential services like healthcare, housing, and childcare.

The administration is prioritizing efforts to increase teacher diversity, awarding nearly $450 million to programs to improve teacher preparation and retention. Over $23 million has been allocated to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Tribally Controlled Colleges and Universities (TCCUs), and Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs) to prepare diverse educators.
Finally, to improve school diversity, the Department of Education is investing over $300 million to enhance diversity through magnet programs and new initiatives to increase socioeconomic diversity. Increased funding for Head Start and the Child Care & Development Block Grant program will help close the readiness gap for Black children and improve long-term educational outcomes.

These initiatives support nonprofit and human service organizations in their mission to foster equitable, high-quality education for all students, building on the legacy of Brown v. Board of Education.

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Throughout Social Current’s decades of partnering with social sector leaders to advance equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI), we have seen support for this work ebb and flow. However, we believe we are at a critical moment for this work. Last year’s Supreme Court decision on affirmative action was a significant blow to EDI efforts, with thousands of EDI executives leaving or losing their jobs. Today, we continue to face ever-increasing polarization and preemptive efforts to roll back EDI policies.

Phyllis Richards and Jerica Broeckling, who provide Social Current’s EDI training and facilitation services, recently published an article on this topic in Nonprofit Business Advisor. In it, they outline why, despite ongoing challenges, we cannot afford to turn our backs on EDI. Additionally, they outline three truths they have seen emerge from Social Current’s work with organizations around the country:

  • We are still just getting started
  • We won’t make large-scale progress until we bring more people, more groups, and more systems into the work
  • We have to be united in our beliefs and a common vision; this journey requires all voices

“The end goal of this growth is shifting of mindsets, which we believe is the deepest level of change that needs to be achieved for this work to be successful. People who think differently about the work will have different expectations, different goals, and ultimately different practices,” they say in the article.

At Social Current, we believe advancing equity is a journey, not a sprint. Organizations should look to embed EDI in many areas – from staff engagement to service delivery – and maintain steady progress toward durable change.

Read the article, “Why We Can’t Afford to Turn Our Backs on Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion” online. The full text is available through August.

Training and Support for Your Journey

Social Current is offering a variety of trainings for supervisors and staff leading EDI initiatives. Learn more and register online.

For tailored assistance in EDI, we offer customizable consulting services.

The U.S. Department of Labor has announced pivotal updates to the Fair Labor Standards Act regulations, marking a substantial shift in federal overtime pay requirements for salaried employees classified under executive, administrative, and professional (EAP) exemptions. Scheduled to take effect on July 1, these revisions aim to extend overtime protections by raising the salary thresholds necessary to classify workers as exempt from overtime.

The newly established regulations will initially increase the standard salary level to $43,888 annually, an adjustment based on the previous methodology from the 2019 update. This threshold is set to rise to $58,656 beginning Jan. 1, 2025. These changes reflect the department’s commitment to ensuring the salary level continues to serve its function of effectively differentiating between exempt and nonexempt employees. Moreover, the rule introduces adjustments to the compensation threshold for highly compensated employees, with scheduled updates occurring every three years starting July 1, 2027, to respond to ongoing changes in wage data.

Acting Secretary Julie Su emphasized the rule’s intent to uphold the principle that employees who work 40 hours per week should receive appropriate compensation for overtime. The adjustments seek to correct imbalances in which lower-paid salaried workers performing similar tasks to their hourly counterparts receive no additional pay for extra work hours.

This revision came after extensive consultations with various stakeholders, including employers, unions, and workers, and considered over 33,000 public comments. The updates aim to provide better pay equity and more quality time with families for those affected.

Wage and Hour Administrator Jessica Looman highlighted the rule’s benefits, stating it will bring more predictability and economic security to millions working long hours without corresponding overtime pay. By clearly defining EAP employees, the department ensures those deserving of overtime receive it, while others gain more time with their families.

The Department of Labor projects these updates will initially enhance the livelihoods of approximately one million employees, with millions more benefiting from the full implementation of the new salary thresholds. This regulatory change underscores a significant advancement in labor standards, aiming to reinforce numerous American workers’ earning potential and work-life balance.

Biden-Harris Administration Allocates $3 Billion to Eradicate Toxic Lead Pipes

In a significant move to secure clean drinking water for all Americans, President Joe Biden’s Investing in America agenda is dedicating $3 billion to replace toxic lead pipes nationwide. Announced in North Carolina, this funding is part of the president’s broader commitment, per his Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal, to eliminate all lead pipes in the U.S. within the next decade.

Lead exposure, known for its severe impact on health—particularly in children, where it can damage brain development—is prevalent in over nine million homes, schools, and other establishments that still rely on lead piping. This issue disproportionately affects low-income and minority communities, compounded by historic underinvestment in infrastructure.

The $3 billion investment is administered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as part of an unprecedented $15 billion explicitly allocated for lead pipe replacement. The initiative aims to rectify legacy health hazards and generate numerous high-quality jobs, many of which are unionized positions. This initiative aligns with the Justice40 Initiative, ensuring that 40% of the benefits from such federal investments are directed towards disadvantaged communities.

Furthermore, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is bolstering these efforts with nearly $90 million to mitigate health hazards in public housing, encompassing threats from lead-based paint and other environmental risks.

The funding has spurred action across the states, with North Carolina alone investing nearly $2 billion in over 800 water-related projects. Additionally, significant funds are being used to test for and eliminate lead hazards in schools and child care centers throughout the state, setting a precedent for nationwide educational safety standards.

This comprehensive approach not only addresses immediate health concerns but contributes to the workforce development in the water infrastructure sector. Unions like the Laborers’ International Union of North America and the United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters are actively training workers to replace lead pipes, highlighting the administration’s dual focus on public health and economic growth.

By fostering collaboration among federal, state, and local entities and directly engaging with communities most affected by lead exposure, the Biden-Harris administration is making a historic push toward a safer, healthier future for all Americans. This initiative promises to dramatically accelerate efforts to replace hazardous lead pipes, ensuring cleaner water and healthier communities nationwide.

Senate Finance Committee Hearing Addresses the Fallout of the Change Healthcare Cyberattack

On May 1, the U.S. Senate Finance Committee convened a crucial hearing titled “Hacking America’s Health Care: Assessing the Change Healthcare Cyber Attack and What’s Next,” with testimony from key stakeholders, including Andrew Witty, CEO of UnitedHealth Group, which owns Change Healthcare. This hearing aimed to dissect the impacts and future implications of the February cyberattack on Change Healthcare—a significant incident that starkly compromised the U.S. health care system.

Overview of the Cyberattack Impact
The cyberattack, identified as a nation-state-associated threat, led Change Healthcare to disconnect its systems to thwart further data breaches. This move, however, severely disrupted health care operations across the country. Providers could not process insurance verifications, claims, or payments, significantly straining the health care delivery system. According to an American Hospital Association survey, over 90% of hospitals reported financial repercussions, with more than 70% noting direct impacts on patient care.

Statements from Senate Members
Senator Mike Crapo emphasized the extensive disruption caused by the attack, highlighting the federal government’s delayed response, which exacerbated the situation. He stressed the importance of learning from this incident to bolster cybersecurity measures across the health care sector.

Senator Ron Wyden criticized UnitedHealth Group for its inadequate cybersecurity measures as well as the lack of transparency and accountability in the aftermath of the attack. He pointed out the broader implications of such cybersecurity vulnerabilities, emphasizing the necessity for stringent cybersecurity standards and enforcement within the health care industry.

Testimony from UnitedHealth Group’s CEO
Andrew Witty expressed profound regret over the incident, detailing UnitedHealth’s immediate and extensive measures to mitigate the impact, including severing connections to affected systems and collaborating with law enforcement. Witty outlined the proactive steps taken to secure systems, ensure continuity of care, and support financial operations within the health care sector. He acknowledged the ongoing challenges but reassured the committee of the company’s commitment to restoring trust and security in its operations.

Committee’s Response and Future Directions
The hearing underscored the critical need for enhanced cybersecurity protocols and preparedness across the health care sector to prevent future incidents. Discussions focused on establishing mandatory security standards and the potential for more rigorous federal oversight and support for cybersecurity in health care.

The Senate Finance Committee’s hearing marks a pivotal moment in addressing cybersecurity in health care, highlighting the urgent need for comprehensive strategies to safeguard patient information and ensure the resilience of health systems against cyber threats. The testimonies and discussions from this hearing will likely influence future legislative and regulatory actions to strengthen the nation’s defense against cyberattacks in health care.

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