Who/What is GHIAA?
In 2016, the Christian Activities Council (now the Center for Leadership and Justice, CLJ) extended invitations to houses of faith throughout Greater Hartford to explore establishing a broad-based justice initiative for churches, synagogues, mosques, and meeting houses. The goal was to build a diverse organization of lay leaders and clergy unbound from constraints of race, class, gender identity, religion, and geography, to build relational power to address justice issues in local communities and beyond.
After three years of building relationships and learning about the history and practice of faith-based community organizing, this group of diverse faith communities and allied institutions officially launched the Greater Hartford Interfaith Action Alliance (GHIAA) on October 28, 2019. AHCC has the honor of being one of the founding organizations to sign on to GHIAA and we continue to support and work with the coalition.
Each congregation involved forms a trained core team of lay leaders who go through leadership training provided by GHIAA. The role of the Core Team is to engage in meetings of the congregation, host house meetings to learn of congregants’ justice concerns, participate with other GHIAA members in determining the organizational priorities, and represent the congregation during key decisions. So, if you are interested in being a part of our Core Team, please contact Pastor Jordan.
In addition to the Core Team, AHCC is involved in Racial Justice Activation Training though GHIAA, where Pastor Jordan and four others from AHCC (Thulani Davis, Sarah DiCorpo, Jermaine Woodard Jr, and Megan McLaughlin) are taking part in a six-month intensive training on racial justice issues and how to empower and encourage our community to create equity and authentically be a more diverse church.
The clergy of GHIAA communities also have the option of being part of a clergy caucus that provides leadership, insight, guidance, and evaluation of the activities of GHIAA. Tracy, Erica, and Jordan attend the monthly GHIAA clergy caucus’ and other events.
What are some of the campaigns/legislative initiatives?
GHIAA made the choice to focus its energies on five issues or campaigns: Education, Gun Violence, Healthcare, Housing, and Criminal Justice Reform. Each of these campaigns has a group of people who have committed to focusing on legislative and community actions pertaining to those issues.
Three current initiatives
During this year’s legislative season, GHIAA is working on three main initiatives: 1) repealing welfare liens, 2) clean slate legislation and 3) calling upon Governor Lamont to declare racism a public health crisis. This week, Jordan attended a press conference to celebrate a big win for the first initiative, repealing welfare liens. Connecticut is one of the only states that has “welfare liens” imposed against those who receive state assistance. This means that if someone receives welfare or assistance such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), the state keeps a record of how much money was received and then, regardless of how much time has passed, if the recipient ever receives an inheritance, wins a settlement, tries to sell their house, or, upon their death, leaves an inheritance to their children, the state could demand that the recipient of the aid or their family pay the state of Connecticut back for the amount received in assistance. Sadly, the system prevents recipients from achieving financial stability and social mobility by forcing them to pay back what should be social benefits. And here’s where GHIAA comes in … through relationship-building and meeting people in the community, GHIAA met a group of tenants who were attempting to sue their “slumlord,” but were afraid that if they won any sort of financial settlement, most would never see this money as they are currently or had previously received state assistance, and any settlement they won would have to be given right back to the state. After more than a year of working on this legislative action and calling upon CT to repeal welfare liens, HB6516 passed in the House on 02/24, and passed in the Senate on 03/01. And on March 4, 2021 Governor Lamont officially signed the bill immediately repealing welfare liens applying to housing. This is a huge deal and something we should all be proud of as members of GHIAA. But, there is still work to be done, because the bill in its final form did not cover inheritance or personal settlements. So please be on the lookout for more information about what the next steps might be in the fight to fully repeal welfare liens in CT.
It is important to note that GHIAA didn’t just magically know about welfare liens. In fact, most of us, and possibly most of you, had no idea what welfare liens were. Members of GHIAA only discovered that this was a justice issue in the community when they went out and started talking to people. By getting to know our neighbors and having meaningful conversations, GHIAA was able to take up an important cause that affects thousands of CT residents.