Advocacy on Capitol Hill – an interview with Katie Missimer, Government Affairs Manager for SourceAmerica
Approximately 700 nonprofit agencies in the SourceAmerica network have access to advocacy efforts on Capitol Hill. SourceAmerica Government Affairs team member Katie Missimer has been helping network nonprofit agencies advocate on behalf of people with disabilities in Congress for much of the last four years. Read on to learn more about her job and the impact of her advocacy efforts.
Q: What is your role at SourceAmerica?
KM: My primary role at SourceAmerica involves engaging with Congress on the organization’s key priorities, while also assisting the nonprofit agencies in our network when they engage with Congress themselves. That allows for SourceAmerica and the nonprofits to speak with one voice on a particular issue.
Q: How have you been able to accomplish this task?
KM: One of the ways SourceAmerica has tried to do this is through state-focused “Hill Weeks” where I help to bring in advocates from specific states to speak with their congressional delegations in Washington, D.C. about issues pertaining to the employment of people with disabilities. At the outset of 2020, these were in-person engagements. When the pandemic hit, they became “Virtual Hill Days.”
Q: What was the result of going virtually?
KM: Our team set up meetings using video conferencing tools like Zoom with entire state delegations so SourceAmerica’s network nonprofit agencies had the opportunity to meet with members that they might not otherwise have had an opportunity to meet with. These were quite successful because the virtual meetings allowed the nonprofit agencies to accomplish their advocacy objectives without having to travel to Washington, D.C. These weekly events are still ongoing and complement the advocacy that is done throughout the year.
Q: Are there additional areas of support that you provide for nonprofits in the SourceAmerica network?
KM: I help to provide policy analysis to network nonprofits and congressional offices. This helps both parties understand the impact that specific legislations and regulations will have on organizations and people with disabilities.
Q: Who do you mainly interact with in Congress while conducting your work?
KM: I primarily interact with staff members from a senator’s or representative’s personal office or committee staff. Occasionally I will have meetings with members of Congress themselves, but the meetings with staff are just as important because staff will compile key points of emphasis and brief the member on the meeting.
Q: How important is it for you to build those relationships with members of Congress and staffers?
KM: They are incredibly important. The better rapport you have with the offices in Congress, the easier it is to engage with them when you really need to. It is not just the actual members and their staff that I engage with - I also have strong relationships with several congressional committee staff members. These are particularly important because much of the legislative process is driven through the committees themselves. These relationships allow me to connect SourceAmerica network nonprofits to all of the right people in Congress to get them engaged on an issue right away.
Q: Can you give an example of how your advocacy on Capitol Hill made a direct impact on SourceAmerica’s ability to help nonprofit agencies and people with disabilities?
KM: One of the early efforts during the pandemic that I participated in was to advocate for contractor pay to be in the relief package that Congress was writing at the time. In the past, when there have been government shutdowns, the nonprofit agencies and their employees who work on federal contracts have not received backpay like federal employees do. SourceAmerica wanted to ensure that this did not happen during the pandemic. I helped to set up meetings for SourceAmerica and our network nonprofits to engage with members of Congress in key committees who were drafting the relief legislation. The final version of the bill became known as the CARES Act and included language that provided authority to agencies to reimburse costs of paid leave to federal contractors and subcontractors.
Q: How do you communicate the good work that SourceAmerica and people with disabilities are doing to the stakeholders on Capitol Hill?
KM: One good example of this is whenever there is a good news story that I think will interest a member I communicate it directly to their staff. Recently SourceAmerica covered a story where people with disabilities at Goodwill Industries of South Florida were manufacturing the new Army Green Service Uniform. I sent the story directly to U.S. Rep. Maria Salazar to make her aware, and as a new member of Congress she was thrilled to hear about it.
Q: Why is it important for SourceAmerica to advocate on Capitol Hill for people with disabilities?
KM: The Government Affairs unit has all the right elements present to influence policy. We share an important mission – to increase employment opportunities for people with disabilities. Our team has an excellent balance of advocacy leaders, policy experts who have experience working with and for agencies, and Capitol Hill professionals who have important relationships with Hill staff. Combined, our efforts help to advance SourceAmerica’s priorities and promote the AbilityOne® Program with our nation’s lawmakers in Congress. Working together, we can achieve policy outcomes that create jobs and break down barriers for people with disabilities, creating a more inclusive, productive, and innovative economic future for Americans of all abilities.
To learn more about how to get involved in advocacy with SourceAmerica, contact the Government Affairs Department at firstname.lastname@example.org.