JUF makes real impact during its first virtual advocacy mission

Mission participants lobby in Springfield and DC for positive change

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Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (D-9) took time between key votes on the House floor to join JUF’s virtual Advocacy Mission, speaking about the increased sense of urgency in Congress to deliver strong support for those in need during the COVID-19 pandemic.

More than 120 JUF and agency professionals and volunteer leaders participated in the first-ever virtual Washington, DC/Springfield Government Affairs Agency Advocacy Mission from April 12-16 and 19. Traditionally two separate, in-person advocacy trips to the national and state capitals, this year's virtual format allowed more professionals and volunteer leaders to join JUF's advocacy efforts.

Mission delegates for this year's advocacy experience came together online for 90 minutes each day. These sessions included briefings from policy experts in both Washington, DC and Springfield, as well as meetings with elected officials and their staffs.

The group heard from key JUF legislative allies, such as U.S. Representatives Robin Kelly (D-2), Jan Schakowsky (D-9), Brad Schneider (D-10), and Darin LaHood (R-18), as well as all four Illinois General Assembly leaders: Speaker Emanuel Chris Welch (D-7), House Minority Leader Jim Durkin (R-82), Senate President Don Harmon (D-39), and Senate Minority Leader Dan McConchie (R-26). The group also watched recorded messages from Governor JB Pritzker (D), and Illinois Senators Richard Durbin (D) and Tammy Duckworth (D).

Mission participants advocated for a variety of policies and programs impacting the work of JUF's family of agencies throughout the Chicago area. These direct conversations with elected officials are more important than ever during the COVID-19 health and economic crises.

At the federal level, the group advocated for the continued expansion of telehealth services, the ABLE Age Adjustment (which would expand access to tax-advantaged savings accounts for individuals with disabilities), and some of JUF's key federal funding priorities: the Nonprofit Security Grant Program, the Holocaust Survivor Assistance Program, and the Emergency Food and Shelter Program.

At the state level, the group advocated for permanent adoption of telehealth services, including payment parity, continuation of telehealth as service delivery option in the Early Intervention program. We promoted strengthening common-sense gun laws and allowing individuals with disabilities to remain in school until the end of the school year after their 22 nd birthday. And we advocated the implementation of the state's Guidehouse Rate Study to best support agencies, workers, and individuals eligible for and/or receiving Home and Community based services.

Led by Government Affairs Committee Chair Judy Smith and Vice Chairs Susan Silver (Federal), Steven Victor (State), and Emily Pevnick (Local), the mission included participants from the JUF Board of Directors, the JUF Government Affairs Committee, JCRC, CJE SeniorLife, JCFS Chicago, Sinai, Keshet, The ARK, JCC, and the EZRA Multi-Service Center. 

"The virtual Mission allowed many first-timers to learn both about issues critical to our community and the basics of advocacy," Smith said. "I am thrilled that we now have an entire cadre of energized, educated advocates who are eager to take their place beside our longstanding Government Affairs committee members."

After learning about the issues from nationally recognized experts, the mission delegates lobbied ten congressional offices and eleven Springfield legislative members. This opportunity to speak directly with so many key decision-makers was critical. In fact, shortly after the meetings several members signed on to support JUF priorities in both Springfield and Washington, D.C.

Speaking about the Biden administration's proposed American Jobs Plan, Congressman Schneider highlighted JUF's work in the community: "We need to invest in people and that is what Federation does so well... I wouldn't be who I am without Federation, and I wouldn't be able to do what I do without Federation's support."

Speaker Welch directly addressed the importance of working across the aisle, emphasizing that "[p]eople may doubt what you say, but they believe what you do." He highlighted areas for partnership, including ethics reform and allocation of federal relief funds.

"While we missed advocating for these issues with our agency professionals and volunteer leaders in person, we look forward to building on the momentum gained from involving many new delegates--and communication options--in our federal and state advocacy efforts," said Dan Goldwin, JUF Executive Director of Public Affairs. 

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