This past week Empower Missouri held its Annual Week of Action. In addition to 3 virtual days, this year we were able to be back in the Capitol for the first time in over 2 years! It was so good to be back.
On each of our virtual days attendees were able to learn about advocacy as well as legislation. On Monday, we met over Zoom and learned about how to talk with Legislators and about two bills that our criminal justice coalition is working on: the high costs of phone calls for individuals in our jails, and for the costs of private probation companies. We are advocating for HB 2248, which would restrict the length of privately supervised probation to 18 months instead of the current two years. It would also prevent private probation companies from requiring individuals to participate in drug testing at their own expense, even if their offense was not drug or alcohol related. We are also advocating for HB 2299, which codifies a 2021 FCC ruling which limited the price of interstate prison/jail phone calls to include regulations on intrastate phone calls. Phone calls are critical to the well-being of detainees and should not force their families into debt.
On Wednesday, we learned about the impact of legislation that becomes a law as well as about Senate Bill 798: The Restaurant Meals Program. This bill would allow certain SNAP recipients to use their benefits to purchase prepared hot meals from a qualified participating restaurant, deli counter or store, and would be life-changing for individuals who have difficulty preparing meals due to disabilities or lack of access to food preparation equipment or safe storage.
On Thursday, we discussed how to stay in contact with your Legislator and learned from our Affordable Housing Coalition about what Land Banks are and how they could help towns in Missouri. HB 2177 and SB 1089 would allow smaller cities to establish a Land Bank that could dissolve delinquent liens or fines and take over ownership of abandoned home. These homes could then be sold with the stipulation that they be rehabbed and returned to the housing market. These programs support local construction developers, first time home buyers, and households transitioning from homelessness.
All three days ended with an opportunity for direct advocacy and action for the call attendees.
And, on Tuesday, April 5th, advocates from across Missouri convened in Jefferson City at the capitol building after a 2 year hiatus. Empower Missouri staff led educational sessions throughout the day and participants spent the day learning about our policy priorities and putting those lessons into action advocating for anti-poverty legislation.
We hope each of you can join us in 2023 for next year’s Week of Action!