Peace & Justice

This is the blog of the Commission on Peace and Justice for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, New York.

Monday, February 22, 2021

A COVID relief bill

 Last August, Pope Francis said that the current pandemic “has highlighted how vulnerable and interconnected everyone is. If we do not take care of one another, starting with the least, with those who are most impacted, including creation, we cannot heal the world.” 

With that in mind, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops has issued some guidance on what a COVID relief bill should contain. In doing so, they noted that the USCCB “has consistently advocated for Congress to address peoples’ need for food, housing, health care, employment and income support, and safety in prisons and detention facilities.” They said that relief legislation passed by Congress last year has been a lifeline for families and individuals struggling to make ends meet. Still, they say, more is needed to reach all sectors of society and ensure that help lasts for the duration of the economic crisis.

In the area of hunger and nutrition, the bishops praise increases to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which they say is a proven way to combat this food insecurity, delivering resources directly to low-income households. They also call for continued investments in vital nutrition programs such as the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) and Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) which will also help respond to food insecurity that has been exacerbated by the pandemic.


To help the millions more at risk of losing their homes due to the resulting economic crisis, the bishops are requesting robust investments in Emergency Solutions Grants, emergency rental assistance, housing counseling services, and mortgage payment assistance as well as greater eviction and foreclosure preventions will help address the health and housing needs of America’s lowest-income renters and people experiencing homelessness.


Because millions of people have lost their health insurance coverage during the pandemic, individuals have a need for affordable healthcare coverage. Necessary efforts to provide such coverage should ensure no federal funding goes to health care plans that cover abortion, the bishops said. Expanding Medicaid resources for states and tribes is an important tool to respond to public health needs while avoiding cuts to healthcare or other vital services. We also need to address racial inequities in healthcare, which existed in many forms before the COVID-19 crisis and “have manifested in disturbingly disproportionate rates of coronavirus infection and death in patients of color.” Additional resources to methods of care for low-income and historically marginalized communities are examples of the type of investments needed. The bishops note that, as is even more clear in a pandemic, the exclusion of some from health care threatens the health of all.


To learn more, and to see what other issues should be addressed in any COVID relief bill, go here.

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