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August recess opportunity

Congress traditionally takes a recess during the month of August, allowing lawmakers time to return to their home states and congressional districts to connect with constituents. That may look a bit different this year, but the month still holds meaningful potential for local advocates to advance relationships and engage with elected officials, ask questions and share concerns.  

New to help you connect with lawmakers in 2020 is a Virtual Visits resource with tips on how to utilize digital communications options more widely in use this year. Our August Recess Guide also contains ideas for communicating with your elected officials and candidates indistrict this month. 

Here are some timely questions and talking points based upon ELCA Advocacy priorities. 


“Because of sin we fall short of these obligations in this world, but we live in light of God’s promised future that ultimately there will be no hunger and injustice. This promise makes us restless with less than what God intends for the world.” – from ELCA social statement  Sufficient Sustainable Livelihood for All 


As impacts of the coronavirus pandemic cascade, ministry demands expand and more workers are left without employment. Our role to care for our community and each other is more valuable than ever. Hunger and lack of access to healthy and nutritious food are devasting and can also make communities even more vulnerable to COVID-19. 

With unemployment at a record high and schools closed, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) needs to be expanded so that individuals and households can get enough to eat. This includes increasing SNAP benefits by 15%, increasing the minimum monthly SNAP benefit from $16 to $30 and suspending all administrative SNAP rule changes indefinitely, during this time of economic distress and long-term recovery.   


  • What exactly do you support in additional federal response for the U.S. to stop the virus and the health and economic disparities that are so present in our communities? 
  • Will you support a temporary increase in SNAP benefits to provide food to hungry people? 



As persons called to love one another as God has loved us, we therefore proclaim our commitment to speak with one voice against racism and white supremacy. We stand with those who are targets of racist ideologies and actions. With them, we demand and will advocate for a more just, loving, and peaceful world where the gifts of all people are appreciated, and the lives of all people are treasured. – From ELCA social policy resolution “Condemnation of White Supremacy and Racist Rhetoric 


The discrimination and violence experienced by black and brown Americans at the hands of law enforcement is again at the forefront of our nation’s awareness and concern We need Congress to advance meaningful legislation to protect Black communities from the systemic perils of over-policing, police brutality, misconduct, and harassment, and end the impunity with which officers operate in taking the lives of Black people. Congress must act with bipartisan urgency toward a just society that treasures the lives of all, including changes in policing policy and practices. 

Eight legislative measures “to ensure that police officers live up to their oath to protect and serve” were identified by over 400 organizations including the ELCA in a June 1 letter to congressional leaders. There are federal actions that could have impact. 


  • What are you hearing from constituents about the need for policing reform?  
  • What policing reform policies do you support and why?  


THIS MOMENT IN TIME: Housing and Homelessness 

God’s love in Jesus Christ does, however, move us to care for homeless people as God cares for all. Christians who have shelter are called to care, called to walk with homeless people in their struggle for a more fulfilling life and for adequate, affordable, and sustainable housing.” – From ELCA social message “Homelessness: A Renewal of Commitment 


The COVID-19 pandemic and its economic repercussions has exacerbated many inequalities in our communities, including access to housing, the risk of eviction and homelessness. Many houses of worship and religious service agencies are involved in sheltering and lifting up our neighbors without homes and would like to see greater investment in and focus on affordable housing.  

Exorbitant housing costs have been a growing crisis long before the pandemic, with nearly 71% of extremely low-income renters paying over half their incomes on housing needs. Black and brown individuals are more likely to be renters or at risk of housing insecurity than their white counterparts, making an equitable housing response a significant matter of racial justice as well. Skyrocketing housing costs force many to decide between paying for food or settling their other bills, leaving many with the constant threat of eviction and losing their home. 


  • With enough resolve, we have the means to end homelessness and close racial housing divisions in our communities. As a national leader, how will you work to make access to housing programs a top priority in Congress and in our national responses to crisis? 



Concern for the well-being of others lies at the very heart of Christian faith. Christians have a variety of social identifications through their nation of origin, race, ethnicity or political affiliation, but all Christians have a common identity as children of a loving creator…” – From ELCA social message “Human Rights 


In June, the Administration issued a new rule that would severely restrict access to asylum to the U.S. In addition, the Administration is also in the middle of litigation to keep asylum-seeking mothers in detention. We know community-based alternatives to detention is humane and keep everyone’s health as a top priority and that making efforts to address the issues that force many to flee is a better long-term strategy. All of these efforts are putting the wellbeing of people seeking protection at risk. The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees reported that a blanket measure to restrict asylum seekers and refugees on the basis of public health does not meet international standards and many public health experts also report that there is no public health rationale for effectively ending asylum. Welcoming people seeking safety in our country is faithful work for me and my community. 


  • As a member of an influential member of our leadership, how are you making sure the U.S. is honoring international laws and standards in our asylum policy? 
  • How are you supporting legislation that makes our asylum system both safer and more accessible for those seeking protection? 
  • How are you ensuring that families are not kept in detention or separated in the process of seeking safety in the U.S.?  


THIS MOMENT IN TIME: International Aid 

“Healing is restoration of wholeness and unity of body, mind, and spirit. Healing addresses the suffering caused by the disruption of relationships with God, with our neighbors, and with ourselves.” Lutherans can “inform themselves of global health concerns and support global ministries of health.” – from the ELCA social statement Caring for Health: Our Shared Endeavor 


The U.S. has a rich history of providing humanitarian and development assistance to countries that are 

experiencing humanitarian emergencies and extreme poverty. For example, through these programs the U.S. government is able to provide treatment for HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, address issues of food insecurity and malnutrition, and provide care for mothers and children. Millions of lives have been saved over the years because of U.S. support. But we cannot stop here now. This work must continue, especially because more people need assistance due to global instability and ever-increasing humanitarian crises. 

The International Affairs budget constitutes just one percent of the federal budget. With so many diverse and complex challenges, we must protect and sustain our development and humanitarian programs to avoid more costly interventions in the future.  

We know that even short bouts of hunger and malnutrition in the critical 1,000 days between a woman’s pregnancy and her child’s second birthday can lead to needless death and can have devastating lifelong consequences for children who survive – reducing their overall health, learning ability and earning potential. 


  • How important do you think it is to provide foreign assistance to low-income countries? 
  • What would you do to address global health challenges such as Ebola, TB, HIV/AIDS and malaria? 


THIS MOMENT IN TIME: Interconnectivity and inequality when promoting next steps 

We will examine how environmental damage is influenced by racism, sexism, and classism, and how the environmental crisis in turn exacerbates racial, gender, and class discrimination.” – From ELCA social statement  Caring for Creation 


The COVID-19 pandemic exposed the weaknesses in the U.S. economic, health, and food systems. People of color and people with low wealth are more likely to contract COVID-19, with the death rate among the American Black population being greater than any other ethnic group within the United States. Though not conclusive, a recent American University study appears to make a connection between air pollution and increased rates of COVID-19. People of color are more likely to live in areas where air, water and soil pollutions are more prevalent. The CDC states: “Long-standing systemic health and social inequities have put many people from racial and ethnic minority groups at increased risk of getting sick and dying from COVID-19.” 

The interconnectivity of race, environment, economic, health and food are particularly glaring currently. Numerous bills have been introduced separately in Congress including the most recent Economic Justice Act whose summary states: “Federal underinvestment in communities of color has created systemic disparities that cross nearly every sector…” 


  • How does Congress come together in a bipartisan manner in these most challenging times to make concrete steps to pass bipartisan legislation to begin to address the injustices that have been perpetrated against people of color?  
  • What actions do you need to see from constituents to make this a priority at the highest level?  


Reach out to your ELCA state public policy offices in more than 19 states or to the ELCA Advocacy national office at We are available to answer your questions and aid you in the process. Please send an In-district Activity Form if you meet with policy makers locally to help us build upon and strengthen one another’s efforts. 

Your question can spark an important conversation and provides an opportunity to hold your elected official publicly accountable. Thank you for your advocacy in service to your neighbor! 


FAQs in time of COVID-19 for faith-based leaders from DHHS – 3/27/20 update

Guidance updated on March 27, 2020, was shared through the coronavirus for faith leaders White House briefing network. ELCA Advocacy staff participate in the opportunity for access to public health experts and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advice for religious communities.
The following Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) list from The Partnership Center, Center for Faith and Opportunity Initiatives, U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services (DHHS Partnership Center) has been updated with March 27, 2020 questions and responses (replacing information originally reposted by ELCA Advocacy on March 24)  and may be helpful in our ministry settings. Refer to the HHS website for additional DHHS Partnership Center recommended preventative practices, including these sections titles: primary resources, the role of faith-based and community leaders, recommended preventative actions for your community, and follow guidance for prevention and preparedness activities.


ORIGINAL INTRODUCTORY NOTE: The following recommended preventative practices and answers are in response to common questions [DHHS Partnership Center has] received and are based on what is currently known about the Novel Coronavirus Disease 2019  (COVID-19). Should  you  have  questions  not  listed  below,  please  contact  the  Partnership  Center:partnerships@hhs.govor 202-260-6501. We will do our best to respond in a timely fashionand will continue to update this document as further questions and information come to our attention.

Frequently Asked Questions (section reprinted from DHHS Partnership Center resource)


  • What Are the Signs and Symptoms of COVID-19?

Reported illnesses have ranged from mild symptoms to severe illness and death for confirmed COVID-19 cases. The following symptoms may appear 2–14 days after exposure:

      • Fever
      • Cough
      • Shortness of breath


  • Should We Have a Gathering at All? How Close Does an Infection Need to Be to Our Community to Consider Cancelling Our Gathering?

The President’s Coronavirus for America recommends avoiding social gatherings of 10 or more people. Check with your state and local health authorities for the latest information. Public health officials may ask you to modify, postpone, or cancel events if it is necessary to limit exposure to COVID-19. Be mindful of the vulnerable members of your community and seek to protect them from exposure to other people.

Review “Implementation of Mitigation Strategies for Communities with Local COVID-19 Transmission.”

Use the CDC’s Guidance on Mass Gatherings as a guide for reviewing your community’s calendar and to make decisions on which events may need to be canceled and by when.

Track efforts by the federal government, the following websites have been launched:



  • Are Elbow Bumps Enough to Keep Us from Spreading the Virus?

Practice social distancing however possible ― staying at least six feet away from other persons.

Review the “Interim Guidance for Administrators and Leaders of Community- and Faith-Based Organizations to Plan, Prepare, and Respond to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)” for best practices.

At this time, community members should not hug or touch one another, but offer hand signals like a peace sign or the American Sign Language sign for “I Love You.”

Greeters at all gatherings should be especially aware and refrain from offering handshakes. As one community noted, “Greeters can model hospitality with their words and their smiles.”


  • What Should I Tell People Who Are Concerned?

Reassure them that your faith- or community-based organization, as well as local, state, and national authorities, is taking all necessary precautions to ensure their health and safety. Your response can soothe concerns and create an atmosphere of calm. The best way to prevent illness is to practice routine and common sense hygiene practices. These everyday practices also help to prevent the spread of respiratory diseases, including the flu:

      • Stay home when you are sick, except to get medical care.
      • Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue and then throw the used tissue in the trash.
      • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially
        after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing,
        or sneezing. If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
      • Avoid touching your face with unwashed hands, especially your eyes, nose, or mouth.
      • Clean high-contact surfaces and objects thoroughly and repeatedly.

Leaders may find it helpful to review the guidance provided by the CDC in its “Interim Guidance: Get Your Community- and Faith-Based Organizations Ready for Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).”

Check with your state and local health authorities to learn if your community has experienced a COVID-19 outbreak.


  • How Can We Advise the Elderly, Those with Special Health Considerations, Their Caregivers, and Other High-Risk Populations?

Provide special consideration in communicating risk to vulnerable populations in your community, including older adults and others with access and/or functional needs. Assign, or encourage those whom you serve to seek out, a “buddy” who will check in on and help care for them, should they get sick.

Make plans to stay connected.

      • Ensure community contact lists are up-to-date and that ‘calling trees’ ― or other practices to account for individuals who may be living alone, elderly, and vulnerable ― are in place.
      • Convey ways they can stay connected via virtual worship, gatherings, and staff and leadership meetings.
      • Ensure there are clear means to communicate any “connection plans” with them.


  • What Should I Do if Someone at a Community Gathering Says They Are Feeling Sick?

Identify space in your facility or event to separate people who may become sick and may not be able to leave immediately.

Designate a separate bathroom for those who are feeling sick. Develop a safe plan for cleaning the room regularly.

Isolate the individual immediately from staff and participants.

Assist the person in CALLING AHEAD to their health care professional if they have a fever and symptoms of respiratory illness, such as cough or difficulty breathing. Tell them to avoid taking public transportation, ride-shares, and taxis.

People with confirmed COVID-19, with a loved one in the home with a confirmed case, or those experiencing symptoms should remain under home isolation. The decision to discontinue home isolation precautions should be made on a case-by-case basis, in consultation with health care providers and state and local health departments.

For more information:


  • Is Information About COVID-19 Available In Spanish?

The following website provides a wide range of information on COVID-19 in Spanish:

Los Centros para el Control y la Prevención de Enfermedades (CDC) tienen información en español sobre COVID-19 en su sitio web en


  • Does the Virus Live on Surfaces?

COVID-19 is a new disease and experts are still learning how it spreads. It may be possible to be exposed to COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes; however, this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads. Review the CDC’s “How COVID-19 Spreads.”

Clean frequently touched surfaces and objects several times daily (e.g., tables, countertops, light switches, doorknobs, cabinet handles, smart phones, and keyboards) using an appropriate cleaner to minimize the event of a COVID-19 outbreak in your community. For disinfection, most common EPA-registered household disinfectants should be effective. A list of products that are EPA-approved for use against the virus that causes COVID-19 is available here. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for all cleaning and disinfection products.

If an object is frequently touched, for example as a part of religious observance, it should be cleaned, as appropriate within the religious tradition, after each use.

If surfaces are dirty, they should be cleaned using a detergent and water prior to disinfection.

For the future, consider ways your community can reduce the number of objects that are collectively handled.

      • For example, consider no longer passing offering plates down the row; instead, place the offering plate on stands and ask people to leave their offering. Remind those who oversee and administer offerings, or similar items and elements, to wash their hands after administration or use.
      • Organizations may also consider removing shared books and encouraging people to bring their own.


  • What Type of Items Should We Have in Our Emergency Preparedness Kit?

Consider having supplies on hand, such as hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol, extra tissues, and trash baskets.

Refer to the CDC’s “Preventing COVID-19 Spread in Communities” for additional information about supplies and materials.