Empower Missouri Holds Virtual Week of Action To Mobilize United Action On Legislative Bills

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 19th, 2021

(JEFFERSON CITY, MO)…Empower Missouri and its network of supporters in Missouri will be joining in a coordinated Week of Action from April 19th – 22nd on Zoom this week, demanding that state lawmakers support legislation that helps Missourians have food, shelter and justice. 

The actions include fighting back against SB 138 & HB 217 that would threaten SNAP benefits for thousands of low-income families, calling for state lawmakers to pass HB 316, which would provide thousands of new job opportunities for formerly incarcerated individuals, and providing funds to help low-income families afford housing in the state. The week will end by rallying support for SB 65 and HB 755, which will update Missouri’s outdated, harmful, medically inaccurate HIV criminalization laws. Members of the public, corporations and nonprofits are expected to join in the effort.

“It is critically important that Missourians are informed about legislation that will impact their lives and the lives of their neighbors,” said Mallory Rusch, Executive Director of Empower Missouri. “We’re steadfast in our commitment to partner with communities across the state to advocate for legislation that will impact some of our most vulnerable citizens.”

This year’s virtual Week of Action is a substitute for in-person advocacy days hosted by Empower Missouri’s coalitions annually. Each day this week, supporters of Empower Missouri will spend one hour learning about target legislation and its intended impact across the state. Participants will then reach out to their legislators to share their opinions about the legislation.

As we approach the end of the 2021 legislative session, Empower is striving to pass these key pieces of legislation that may not be making headlines every day but that would be immensely meaningful to thousands of Missouri residents if passed. HB 316 would open up thousands of new job opportunities at gas stations, convenience stores, grocery stores and restaurants to formerly incarcerated individuals who are currently barred from working there because of bizarre state restrictions on ex-offenders working in establishments that sell alcohol or lottery tickets. Access to employment is a key tool in lowering recidivism and ensuring successful reintegration to the community for those who have completed their time in prison.  

SB 65 and HB 755 are important bills to destigmatize HIV and ensure that criminal penalties for transmitting HIV only apply to actions where it is medically possible to transmit HIV.  Our current statues carry outrageous penalties for “reckless” transmission that don’t reflect the current medical realities of HIV, which can now be treated with one pill a day.  These bills are critically important public health initiatives to encourage testing, diagnosis, and disclosure without fear of criminalization. 

Finally, Empower is working to block the passage of SB 138 and HB 217, harmful and unnecessary work hours tracking requirements that place an undue burden on hard-working low-income families who are just trying to make ends meet. This policy is projected to cause over 40,000 Missourians to lose access to SNAP benefits, costing Missouri $92.4 million annually in federal SNAP funds that flow into the state and benefit our economy.  The state does not have the infrastructure or budget to implement the required E&T program mandated by federal laws when work tracking is required by a state, making this legislation expensive in addition to cruel.

Empower is proud to lift up community voices in demanding that our legislators pass bills that will help communities in Missouri thrive and abandon efforts to implement harmful barriers to basic needs. Adequate nutrition, affordable housing, and equal justice are essential for Missouri’s success. 

If you wish to attend, go to this LINK to register. 

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Empower Missouri (www.EmpowerMissouri.org) is a statewide not-for-profit organization working to secure basic human needs and equal justice for every person in our state through coalition-building and advocacy. Founded as the Missouri Conference on Charities and Corrections in 1901, Empower Missouri has operated under four names in its 120-year history, but always with a focus on access to basic human needs and basic fairness.