Rep. Johnson Meets with Local Pastors to Discuss Recovery Funds
Facilitates Meeting with White House, Black Caucus and Congressional officials
On the heels of a June 1 meeting in Decatur to discuss the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act with local pastors, Rep. Hank Johnson hosted more than 25 Atlanta-area ministers in Washington on June 17.
The pastors were seeking support for their congregants struggling with the recession.
"Just like the pastors, we want government to work for every single person in our congregation and Districts," said Johnson. "We want people to understand how things work and what is available to them. And we want to be the catalyst for change that brings a better life for those we serve."
Although there are no Recovery funds set up to directly go to churches, there are a number of Health and Human Services grants, among others, available to pastors that could be used to help their congregants.
"People are complaining every week to us about foreclosures, no loans for their small businesses, elderly who cannot afford their prescriptions and young people who cannot get jobs," said Rev. Jasper Williams Jr. of Salem Bible Church in Lithonia, who led the delegation of ministers called the Georgia Stimulus Community Coalition.
"While we are a little frustrated by the bureaucracy surrounding Recovery Act funds, it was important for us to come to Washington to see our options. I think we have a better idea of how things work, and how to proceed in the future. We must keep our eyes on the prize," stated Rev. Williams.
The day began with a morning briefing from Congressional Black Caucus staff on Capitol Hill, an address by Chairman of the House Judiciary John Conyers, followed by a meeting with the White House office of Faith-Based and Community Partnerships on the Recovery Act.
Community Coalition's main mission was to make sure their communities benefit from the stimulus package spending.
Following the White House meeting, the Community Coalition traveled back to Capitol Hill for a meeting hosted by Johnson with members of the Congressional Black Caucus, including CBC Chair Barbara Lee and Majority Whip Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, among many others.
The $787 billion Recovery Act provides funds for schools, infrastructure, healthcare, weatherization, energy and housing needs. The pastors learned how to navigate the often confusing and complicated funding mechanisms attached to the Recovery Act, and how they can apply directly for funds to help their congregants.
While voting against the $700 billion Wall Street bailout, Congressman Johnson approved the $787 million Recovery Act, which has not only provided funding for non-profit organizations, but more than $100 million to Fourth District schools and more than $150 million for local infrastructure.
"Overall, the meetings were a success," said Johnson. "This meeting was the first of its kind that I am aware of where clergy were presented first hand with information from the authors and policy makers associated with the Stimulus Act. I am proud that I was instrumental in providing the Georgia faith-based community with unparalleled and unprecedented access to information and the key players behind the stimulus. I will continue to work tirelessly to ensure that our underserved, poor, and minority communities get access to the funds that they so need and deserve."