This post was originally published as an ELCA Advocacy Action Alert. Sign up for ELCA Advocacy e-alerts and stay up-to-date on the latest developments in federal legislation at https://elca.org/advocacy/.
On March 27, Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, H.R. 748 (CARES Act), a third economic aid package to help bring direct relief to families, reinforce struggling industries and the healthcare sector, and extend assistance to vital state and federal support programs.
Members of Congress and their staff worked intensely to deliver bipartisan initial response to the crisis, and we thank the many Lutherans who called their lawmakers to advocate for important faith-rooted principles and policies that support those of us at greatest risk in this pandemic. The first bill put $8.3 billion towards healthcare, including funding for global response to the pandemic. The second bill strengthened nutrition assistance programs and unemployment benefits, allowed for free coronavirus testing predicated by kits availability, and also provided extra sick leave for millions of workers.
SOME ELEMENTS OF THE CARES ACT
In the third relief package, Congress passed aid to people experiencing unemployment and economic uncertainty and relief to families and businesses, including several provisions consistent with ELCA Advocacy’s priorities of faithful and timely attention to pressing concerns that affect our neighbor’s well-being and the wholeness of creation.
- Unemployment insurance benefits expanded to people who have exhausted their state unemployment insurance and to people who do not qualify for the traditional state unemployment insurance, such as gig workers, self-employed people and contract workers;
- Housing assistance of $7 billion offered, including targeted funding for those of us experiencing homelessness;
- State, tribal and local government support of $150 billion for urgent needs and $150 billion for healthcare system reinforcement designated;
- Child Care and Development Block Grants made available to states to provide immediate assistance to child care centers;
- Evictions moratorium for 120 days enabled for renters in homes covered by a federally backed mortgage;
- International COVID-19 response increase allotted of $1 billion, including support for repatriation of U.S. government personnel and American citizens, for displaced populations and for global disease detection.
In addition to this overview, refer to the companion ELCA Advocacy blog post for additional information about what’s coming in a fourth package as well as links to connect eligible individuals seeking assistance with sources of aid.
YOUR ADVOCACY MATTERS
The initial draft of the CARES Act proposed that people too poor to pay income taxes would get smaller cash payments than people with higher incomes. Your advocacy made a difference in removing that inequity in the final version – thank you! We will also need your voice in the time ahead to advocate with populations not guaranteed automatic cash stimulus payments, such as recipients of Social Security or Supplemental Security Income. There is more to do.
As Congress will likely adjourn for several weeks, we encourage you and other advocates to watch for possible tele-conference town halls and other forums to connect with your lawmakers while they are in-district. The ELCA Advocacy resource, “August Recess Guide,” contains some tips for in-district opportunities. Express both your thanks for their action and share your specific concerns and community needs as we live aware of our role doing “God’s work. Our hands.” in this uncharted time.
If you are currently working with a hunger ministry, please also see ELCA World Hunger’s blog post “Tips for Responding to Hunger in a Pandemic.”