It was a busy but inspiring week for Empower Missouri: our 2024 Week of Action! Throughout the week we offered three virtual training sessions (recordings coming soon!), and on Wednesday we gathered at the Capitol to meet with legislators, learn from our team and other advocates, and make our voices heard to end poverty in Missouri!

We opened our week on Monday learning about the legislative process in Missouri, and how Clean Slate legislation can automate the expungement process and offer a second chance to individuals with old criminal records. We were grateful that Clean Slate bills were heard in committee in both the House and Senate this week as well, and over 40 of our community partners were able to join us to provide testimony in support!

On Tuesday, virtual attendees learned about all the reasons why advocacy matters and why we need your voice in this work. Our issue education focused on housing and HB 2385, which would preempt local policies that ban source of income (SOI) discrimination. The most common form of SOI discrimination is a refusal to accept Housing Choice Vouchers, which greatly limits housing options for low-income households already struggling and increases the risk of homelessness for vulnerable populations.

Our final virtual session on Thursday gave advocates the opportunity to learn about building relationships with their lawmakers, and focused on one of our food security priorities – expanding the free school lunch program. With one in six Missouri children experiencing food insecurity, expanding the free lunch program to include families up to 185% of the federal poverty guideline (who already qualify for reduced-price lunches), would help ensure that more students are hunger-free and ready to learn, and also ease the administrative burden on schools.

Our Week of Action also included one in-person opportunity – our Day of Action on Wednesday. Over 130 advocates from across the state convened in Jefferson City. We had several student groups with us, getting involved with the legislative process and learning how they can make a change in their communities, and groups from several of our community partners who sent advocates to share about the direct service work they are doing and why we also need policy change to truly end poverty in Missouri.

We opened our day with a rally, which you can hear much of in a special episode of Under the Dome here. We discussed Missouri’s motto: “Salus populi suprema lex esto”, or “Let the welfare of the people be the supreme law”, and how we, and our lawmakers can live up to that statement. We also heard from legislators and community partners about some of our high priority issues – the Summer EBT program, an annual supply of contraceptives, Clean Slate, and preemption of tenant protections such as a ban on source of income discrimination. Our opening rally set the stage for an incredible day, with attendees meeting with legislators to impress upon them the importance of all of these issues, learning more from our staff and each other, and lifting up the message of “Salus populi suprema lex esto” to everyone in the Capitol.

Our team is so grateful for everyone that joined us this week, and in our continued work fighting for policy change that can change lives for low-income Missourians. If you couldn’t make it this year, watch for information about our next big event, our Anti-Poverty Advocates Summit, coming soon!

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