Catholic service organizations ask Congress to pass new COVID relief bill

CNA Staff, Sep 29, 2020 / 10:57 am (CNA).- Leaders of Catholic organizations in the United States have called on members of Congress to set aside political differences and pass a new COVID-19 relief package to alleviate the hardships caused by the ongoing pandemic.

“While we understand there are differences on how to proceed on the COVID-19 stimulus bill, the many needs of the present situation cry out for relief,” said a September 25 letter signed by Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, as well as heads of six Catholic educational, health care, and charitable organizations.

Catholic Charities USA, Catholic Relief Services, and the National Catholic Educational Association were among the groups represented in the letter, which was addressed to U.S. President Donald Trump, as well as party leaders in both the Senate and House of Representatives.

“Our nation is suffering a profound crisis, with over 200,000 lives lost, 30 million Americans relying on unemployment assistance, and health care workers continuing to fight COVID-19 surges,” the signatories said. “For those in need here and abroad, as well as for the common good, our nation’s leaders must do more.”

Progress on a new pandemic relief bill has stalled amid disputes in Congress over what such a bill should include. Republican leaders say legislation proposed by House Democrats offers too much in unemployment assistance and could deter people from returning to work. They also object to funding for state governments.

A leaner Senate GOP proposal would fund additional paycheck protection loans and other types of aid, but would not include additional food assistance or the second round of stimulus checks that leading Democrats have been advocating.

In their letter, the Catholic leaders stressed that organizations serving the vulnerable in the United States and abroad continue to see the impact of the pandemic on those seeking health care, education, and charitable aid.

“Families have lost loved ones in our hospitals; people are losing jobs; food insecurity has risen; staff of our respective ministries have become sick or lost their lives while bravely serving on the front lines; parishes, schools and universities have closed to keep our communities safe; and millions of people we serve around the world are falling deeper into despair.”

Many Catholic organizations have expanded their services in response to the ongoing needs created by the pandemic, the letter noted.

“Even though many schools, universities, parishes, and outreach efforts have had to temporarily close at times during the pandemic, our respective organizations have continued to stand in solidarity to assist those in need. Our staff have ventured into the streets to provide for the spiritual, health, educational, and social needs of millions of unemployed and hungry persons and families.”

But even with these efforts, the letter continued, many Americans are facing dire situations, including food insecurity, unemployment, loss of employer-sponsored health insurance, and inability to pay rent and other bills.

With charities facing additional financial strain from the increased needs in the community, lawmakers must step up to fill in the gaps, the Catholic leaders stressed.

“Doing nothing or delaying only ensures more people will suffer,” they said. “We therefore urge you to put aside partisan politics and prioritize human life and the common good by expediting negotiations to ensure not another day is lost in providing security and hope to people in need at home and abroad.”


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