Ashley Harris, United Ways of Texas – Digital Equity
Ben Martin, Texas Housers – Housing Stability
Elizabeth Henneke, Lone Star Justice Alliance – Criminal Justice Reform
To start off the event, Harris stressed the importance of policymakers supporting workforce development policies that specifically focus on low-income and underserved populations.
“We’re going to be asking policymakers next session to ensure that any of our workforce strategies get to the attainment of family-sustaining-wage jobs,” she said. “We want to make sure that’s built into any state-wide workforce goals. We should be investing in education and training opportunities that ultimately get families to those quality, high-wage jobs.”
On the topic of housing stability, Martin explored the role of affordable housing, emphasized the importance of legal representation for tenants in eviction court and called on legislators to pass a law that prohibits landlords from discriminating against Section 8 voucher holders.
“Finally, of the $16 billion in American Rescue Plan Act funds that the state had for discretionary purposes, there’s $3 billion remaining,” Martin said. “We believe that as much of that as possible needs to go to income-restricted housing development and tenant stability, like replenishing our successful state-wide emergency rental assistance program.”
Lastly, Henneke discussed how the “revolving door” of the criminal justice system—which sees recidivism rates of more than 75%—keeps the state from making progress in other areas, such as education, financial security and housing.
“What you’re going to see at the Texas Legislature is a real focus on criminal justice,” she said. Some of the key topics Henneke expects for policymakers to tackle this session include the role of police in our communities, the use of force on citizens, cash bail and sentencing reform.
Advocate with United Way
As you can see from our All Eyes on Austin income event, the upcoming legislative session is poised to have a significant impact on North Texans. We invite you to join us in advocating for our key income-related priorities:
- Ensuring access to safe, quality, affordable housing stability for all
- Enhancing innovative solutions for moving workers into good jobs and ensuring employers have a pipeline of skilled, ready-to-work employees
- Expanding access to financial products that will allow Texans to build and grow savings and assets
Throughout the 140 days of the 2023 legislative session, United Way of Metropolitan Dallas will work with advocates like you to demonstrate community-wide support for key policy issues that impact education, income and health in North Texas. No one organization or person can successfully create significant change on any given issue; rather, we are most successful when we can rally the entire community—individuals, corporate partners, nonprofits and more—and make it a true movement.
We make it easy to advocate for lasting change. Sign up for our Advocacy Alerts, and we’ll let you know when and how to contact your elected officials to make the biggest possible impact.
Interested in learning more? Read our blog about how and why we advocate.