Back in 2017 as hundreds of elderly Nevadans were on a waiting list for the Meals on Wheels program, Natalie Eustice and her friends at Nevadans for the Common Good learned the state was spending just 27 cents a meal for the program.
It was the lowest rate in the country -- by far -- and Eustice, a member of St. Thomas More Parish in Henderson, near Las Vegas, knew it was time for the state to boost funding so the long list could be pared down.
So when the state Legislature, which meets every two years, began considering Nevada's biennial budget, Eustice agreed to testify on behalf of Nevadans for the Common Good, which had mounted a campaign to build grassroots support. Eustice had two minutes. She told the legislators it was important that Nevada do a better job of supporting seniors so they could maintain their independence.
"It was very scary because I had never done anything like that before," Eustice, now 71, recalled in an interview with Catholic News Service ahead of Poverty Awareness Month, which is observed in January.
Her testimony and the voices of others at the hearing and hundreds more in writing convinced the Legislature and the governor to boost Meals on Wheels funding by $3.4 million. During this year's four-month legislative session, Nevadans for the Common Good secured an additional 50 cents per meal on top of the funding increase two years earlier....
[In photo: NCG leader Barbara Paulsen, at right with microphone, listens as a gubernatorial candidate agrees to support the organization's agenda at a 2018 accountability assembly. Her story is also covered in the articles below.]
Nevada Religious Communities Unify to Magnify the Voices of the Poor, Intermountain Catholic [pdf]
Encore: Nevada Religious Communities Unify to Magnify the Voices of the Poor, Catholic News Service
So far in this spring legislative session, Nevadans for the Common Good, sent 4,000 postcards to the governor and state legislators in support of $40 million in affordable housing tax credits and a substantial increase in funding for Nevada public schools.
NCG leaders are furthermore engaged in an impassioned fight with the payday lending industry over passage of SB 201, which would establish a payday lending database that would track short-term, high-interest loans to better protect consumers. NCG initially sent a delegation of 10 leaders to the Capitol, which met with 17 legislators in one day. Since then, leaders have communicated their concerns through hundreds of emails and phone calls that included personal stories to legislators about the harmful effects of predatory lending.
Most recently, 50 leaders attended a midday hearing and delivered powerful testimony about the impact of high-interest loans on families. Rev. Sandy Johnson with United Methodist Church in Boulder City, spoke on behalf of NCG, sharing that her personal friend experienced great financial difficulties brought on by payday loans.
“If existing state laws were enforced," said Pastor Johnson, "consumers like her would be protected from being trapped in a debt cycle for more than two decades. The long term economic stability of families should not be undermined if they take out a short-term loan.”
Payday Lending Opponents, Industry Clash in Charged Hearing Over Loan Database, Nevada Independent
Payday Lending Industry Could See Rate Caps, Database Under Legislative Proposals, Nevada Independent
NCG Leaders Postcard Mailing Party, Facebook Video