Apr 26 2012
A Marathon – Not a Sprint – to Building Power on Beacon Hill
Posted by: Kevin B. Gilnack, Campaign Manager
When we launched The Caring Force at the end of 2011, we were all aware that building a powerful grassroots advocacy movement from the ground up would be a process that took time and an incredible amount of focus.
Building this community of human service advocates and strength on Beacon Hill is a marathon – not a sprint – and, like a marathon, there are moments of joy and pain in each leg of our journey.
We recently felt a setback when the budget amendment to provide a modest salary adjustment to low-paid caregivers went unfunded. And we’re disappointed to see new limitations being proposed for families in need of temporary shelter and that dozens of worthwhile amendments to improve funding for human services will not receive funding.
But that’s exactly why we can’t stop now.
The Caring Force is committed to mobilizing tens of thousands of human service workers, clients/consumers, family members, and community supporters to create action and build recognition and support on Beacon Hill.
In just five months, more than 4,300 people have taken some type of online action with The Caring Force, and more than 1,000 flooded the State House to speak out for fair human service funding at our major rally on April 2.
The rally dramatically increased the visibility of our sector, provided a forum to hear stories from those working or served by the sector, and featured remarks from four of our legislative champions, including Senate President Therese Murray.
Since the rally, members of The Caring Force have written, called, and visited their legislators to speak out for fair funding for a variety of human service programs and for a modest salary adjustment for direct care workers who average salaries of only $12/hour. We also kept up our visibility at the State House as the budget deliberations kicked off on Monday, April 23 (see the picture to the left for a great group that came from MetroWest Center for Independent Living).
Our persistence has resulted in some real wins over the course of the budget debate.
There were many aspects of the Governor's budget proposal and House budget proposals that better-funded programs than we’ve seen in recent years. Furthermore, it was positive to see that during the House budget debate, we saw an increase in funding for employment programs for DTA benefit recipients, the restoration of the Deaf-Blind Community Access Network (DBCAN), and funding increases for HIV counseling and testing, at-risk youth programs, food banks, permanent housing solutions to homelessness, assistive technology, and more. But there is still more work to do.
Despite setbacks, members of The Caring Force are off to an incredible start in the race to build power. None of the gains in this year’s budget would have been possible without your involvement in the State House rally, social media advocacy, and the hundreds of phone calls and emails that helped secure support for many important amendments.
But perhaps the most incredible achievement was the fact that for the first time, nearly 100 members of the House voiced support for a Human Services Salary Reserve, laying the groundwork for even more support and success in the future.
We've heard from legislators and aides who have said that the level of advocacy and the presence of human service supporters this budget cycle is unprecedented.
We, too, fail to understand how an amendment with such support failed to pass but unfortunately only the Representatives know the reason. While we’re preparing to charge full steam ahead into the Senate budget deliberations, you should feel free to call and thank your Rep. for their support if they were a co-sponsor, and ask them what happened.
More work remains -- and that’s why we need you.
In the long-term, we remain committed to working with you to create a climate one day that fully supports human services. To get there, though, we must sustain our endurance, commit our energy to every leg of the race, and cross the eventual finish line, which will include:
- elected officials who know they will be held accountable by the one-in-ten Massachusetts residents who receive services and the hundreds of thousands more who work in or care about the sector
- exponential growth and engagement of members of The Caring Force who continue to advocate and hold their elected officials accountable
- dialogue in the community and in the media that values our investment in state-funded services
In the near-term, we will continue to monitor actions in the House as they finalize a budget proposal this week, and from there, we will turn to the Senate, where further advocacy will be needed to help educate legislators and win support for our many priorities, including a long overdue annualized salary increase for human service workers.
These gains are all possible with your continued support. Will you help The Caring Force continue its efforts by sharing the movement with others?