The Social Safety Net is a vital part of keeping local communities healthy, strong and safe. The social safety net is a set of services and programs - like unemployment, health programs like Medicare and CHIP, food and nutrition, education and training, housing, and others -- that support individuals and families in our communities to get through difficult times in their lives and reach their full potential.
For too long, the Safety Net has been ignored and underfunded by policymakers and its value misunderstood by many in our communities. The COVID-19 pandemic and accompanying economic crisis has quickly exposed deep inequities, disparities, and gaps in our society. Yet, unprecedented levels of unemployment, income and healthcare coverage loss, and general uncertainty have shown us all just how critical the Safety Net is.
As a coalition, we commit to advocating for stronger, safer, and healthier communities in Montgomery County by:
1. Increasing public awareness of and respect for the critical role the Safety Net plays in our communities
The Safety Net provides a lifeline when we need it most. By investing in the safety net now, it is guaranteed to be there when we need it. When the needs of our most vulnerable community members are met, we all benefit.
2. Building anti-racism and equity into everything we do
As a coalition, we cannot fight to strengthen the social safety net without acknowledging and understanding the racist and oppressive policies that got us here in the first place. The coalition commits to lifting up Black, Brown, & other oppressed voices to guide our work, both in our policy advocacy and in the work of our individual member organizations.
3. Supporting local communities, especially those that are historically oppressed and underserved, in advocating for policies and services that represent their self-identified needs and interests.
Oftentimes in advocacy, members of oppressed communities are ignored in favor of well established leaders with political and social connections. Community members are the experts on their own unique circumstances, and we must follow their lead when it comes to advocacy. The Coalition has established a Consumer Advisory Panel made up of people who use safety net services that is integral to developing community-led policy priorities and understanding community needs and concerns.
4. Ensure policymakers prioritize investing in the services that their constituents need to thrive, and planning ahead for the next crisis.
Our policymakers were not prepared for the COVID-19 crisis, and we all suffered because of it. We must ensure that policymakers do their jobs to protect all Montgomery County residents now and in the future so that we’re prepared for future crises as well as invest in the long-term potential of our communities.
5. Working together to find common solutions to the common challenges our organizations face.
As organizations that support Safety Net services, many of us face common operational challenges. As members of the coalition, we commit to working together to pursue creative and innovative policy solutions to strengthen our own work and to strengthen the Safety Net as a whole.