Reform requests changes to stimulus bill

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The Reform Jewish movement is calling for two changes to the economic stimulus bill before the U.S. Congress.

In a letter to the House of Representatives and the Senate, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism director Rabbi David Saperstein said his organization backs the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 because of its "strong emphasis on investing in our most vulnerable communities," but suggests some "improvements" in the areas of housing and aid to faith-based and community organizations.

The letter urges an increase in the "pool of affordable housing," specifically calling for investments in the National Housing Trust Fund and the provision of housing vouchers "to help stabilize the lives of individuals who will be unable to maintain jobs without an affordable place to call home."

The RAC also requests that pervasively sectarian entities receiving taxpayer dollars from the Compassion Capital Fund for faith-based and community organizations be required to set up affiliated 501c3 organizations, which it says would obviate government regulation and monitoring of houses of worship.

The missive also emphasizes a number of provisions already in the stimulus legislation as particularly important, including an expansion of nutrition programs, the funding of "green jobs" and "green infrastructure" projects such as weatherizing low-income homes, an increase in the federal medical assistance percentage rate, an extension and modernization of unemployment insurance and an expansion of eligibility for the child tax credit.

Also Tuesday, the RAC sent another letter to the U.S. Senate urging support for the reauthorization and expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, calling it "crucial" in providing "access to quality, affordable, life-saving and preventative care." The organization noted that the legislation would provide health coverage for an additional 4 million children.

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