A quick look at top news stories with empowering opportunities to learn more and take action.
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Your vote and participation in the election process is one of the most impactful ways of amplifying your voice. Regardless of where you live, you will have an opportunity this year to vote for policy makers that make key decisions shaping your daily life.
Statewide primary elections to determine who makes it on the ballot in November began in earnest this month and will continue throughout the summer. In addition to local municipal elections, statewide general elections, like those for governor, attorney general, and secretary of state, will take place in every state this fall.
Remember, it’s not just people on the ballot — it’s policy. Voters in at least 33 states will weigh in on ballot initiatives on a variety of issues ranging from election laws to abortion laws.
On the federal level, all 435 seats in the House of Representatives (members serve two-year terms) and 34 seats in the 100-member Senate (members serve six-year terms) are up for grabs this year. Democrats currently control both chambers of Congress, but Republicans need to net just one seat to take back the majority in the Senate, and five seats to take back the majority in the House.
SHARE KNOWLEDGE: Check out The Policy Circle’s Active Voter Guide and AllSides’ 2022 Elections page for balanced midterm election news. Share them with first-time voters, youth groups, and high school teachers in your community.
WAR IN UKRAINE
After over eleven weeks of conflict, fighting continues to intensify in eastern Ukraine. Countless families and individuals have had their lives upended and forever changed, including the more than 3,500 Ukrainian civilians who lost their lives and the approximately 3,700 injured.
More than a quarter of Ukraine’s population has been forced to flee their homes since Russia’s invasion: over 6 million refugees (90% of whom are women and children) have fled to neighboring countries, and at least another 8 million people are internally displaced within Ukraine unsure if or when they will be able to their homes.
The U.S. has provided more than $3 billion in direct military aid to Ukraine since Russia’s February 24 invasion. In March, Congress passed a $13.6 billion emergency aid spending package for Ukraine and the House just passed a bill for $40 billion more in aid.
How and when this war will end remains to be seen. Speaking to BBC in late April, NATO Deputy Secretary-General Mircea Geoană indicated the timeline ahead is uncertain. “Could be weeks, could be months, could be even years – it depends on a lot of factors. But, in the end, probably this will be fought and won, hopefully, by Ukraine on the battlefield.”
CIRCLEUp to Discuss: Read The Policy Circle’s Brief on the Ukraine-Russia War and participate in the upcoming CirlceUp event on June 1st by hosting a conversation about the refugee crises unfolding around the globe. Most importantly, discover what you can do to help refugees not only survive by thrive as they resettle in the U.S.
The massive influx of migrants at the border is expected to multiply this summer, placing further strains on U.S. Customs and Border Protection. April figures are not available yet, but over 220,000 migrants arrived at the Southwest border in March, a 33% increase from a month earlier, and a 503% increase from pre-pandemic levels in February 2020.
About 7,000 migrants are apprehended daily and recent projections from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) estimate that number could grow as high as 18,000 per day when Title 42 is lifted.
Title 42 was enacted during the Trump administration in order to slow the spread of COVID-19 across the border by preventing migrants, including asylum seekers, from being processed under normal immigration laws. To date, it has been the basis of sending 1.7 million people back to their home country or Mexico.
The Biden administration’s plan to end Title 42 on May 23rd has faced bipartisan criticism, and was temporarily blocked by a federal court last month, but it will likely come to an end soon. Accordingly, DHS is preparing for an expected increase in migration at the border, including a surge of resources and personnel, expanding migrant processing capacity, and expedited removal for those who are not seeking asylum relief.
GO BEYOND THE HEADLINES: Review and share The Policy Circle’s Immigration Brief.
Despite inflation hitting a four-decade high, the latest reports from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed the labor force participation rate continues to approach pre-pandemic levels, job growth, low unemployment, and wage increases.
To rein in inflation, which saw consumer prices rise at an annual rate of 8.3% in April, the nation’s central bank (the Federal Reserve), raised its benchmark interest rates twice this year. Higher interest rates make it more expensive to borrow money, thereby making goods and services more costly, and causing consumers to spend less, which leads to decreased demand, and reduces inflation.
In March, the Federal Reserve raised interest rates by a quarter of a percentage point (the first increase since 2018) and then by half a percentage point in May (the largest increase since 2000). Further increases are expected this year in an attempt to lower inflation and return it to the normal 2% pace.
While not keeping up with inflation, wages and salaries increased 4.7% for the 12-month period ending in March 2022.
April was the twelfth month of job gains above 400,000. The largest gains were in the leisure, hospitality. manufacturing, warehousing, and transportation industries. The unemployment rate stood at 3.6% — unchanged from March, but not so far off from the pre-pandemic unemployment rate of 3.5% in February 2020.
The labor force participation rate, which measures the percentage of the population aged 16 and older who are either employed or actively seeking employment, dipped from March to 62.2% in April, but continues to inch closer to the pre-pandemic level, which was 63.4% in February 2020. The number of people not in the labor force who currently want a job was 5.9 million in April, a modest improvement from the February 2020 level of 5.0 million.
LEARN MORE: Dive into the key indicators used to track the economy in The Policy Circle’s Brief on Economic Growth.