From The Episcopal Church’s Public Policy Network:
We have heard from many of you over the past week – sharing your stories of protesting, expressing outrage at the injustices that continue, and asking what you can do. There are, of course, many ways to show up in this moment: you can join protesters peacefully marching for an end to police brutality; you can educate yourself about how to be an anti-racist; you can pray and lament alongside those who are aching right now. We hope that the resources provided by The Episcopal Church can help you find ways to engage meaningfully.
We also urge you to call your elected officials. As we have highlighted, COVID-19 reveals the discrimination and systemic racism that pervades our society, and we have seen that the disease has had a disproportionate impact on communities of color, especially Black and Indigenous Americans. Congress needs to act to help our country make it through this pandemic, and our government has a role in helping us all through this moment of national trauma.
This week, former President George W. Bush released a statement saying, “The rule of law ultimately depends on the fairness and legitimacy of the legal system. And achieving justice for all is the duty of all.” Former President Obama urged us, “aspirations have to be translated into specific laws and institutional practices — and in a democracy, that only happens when we elect government officials who are responsive to our demands.”
We list several key priorities for The Episcopal Church below and would ask that you write your Senators and tell them they need to act now. Take these issues to your members of Congress and share with them the priorities you have. You can find information about the issue areas The Episcopal Church has taken a position on here, including anti-poverty efforts, human rights and peacebuilding, immigration and refugees, creation care, and racial reconciliation. There are dozens of other issues where we have signed on as well.
Office of Government Relations Priorities for Legislation
We urge you to join with the Office of Government Relations in prioritizing legislation that will address urgent health care needs and racial disparities, and that will provide protections for essential workers and incarcerated people. We have identified five major issue areas of focus for our next round of stimulus requests:
- Increased food assistance
- No family should be forced to choose between paying the rent and putting food on the table. Congress should increase the maximum Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefit by 15 percent to ensure low-income families have adequate access to the food they need. (1985-AO80)
- Protections for all immigrants
- Immigrants and their families are particularly vulnerable in the wake of the pandemic. For many of them, treatment remains out of reach due to cost and lack of access. Previous COVID-19 response legislation also excluded undocumented individuals. Congress should ensure access to testing, treatment, and paid medical and family leave, regardless of immigration status. (2018-C009)
- State and local funding
- We urge Congress to provide robust emergency funding for state and local governments. General Convention has long affirmed the importance of the social safety net to the well-being of this country. State and local governments play a vital role in the delivery of safety net services. The pandemic has the potential to wreck state budgets across the country, which would lead to harmful cuts in a wide variety of services. (2015-A092)
- International Programs
- We urge Congress to continue funding current international programs and to provide $12 billion to fund the global response to COVID-19. These additional funds will help mobilize resources for emergency global health response, including supporting local and national healthcare systems as nations respond to COVID-19 outbreaks. We are also concerned about the secondary effects of the pandemic in many low-income countries, including increased risk of hunger and poverty. The $12 billion supplemental funds will help mitigate the impact and provide additional humanitarian assistance and urgent economic relief to vulnerable communities struggling to meet basic needs. As a global leader, the U.S. government must work with other countries to defeat COVID-19 both here at home and around the world, for our well-being depends on countries working collectively.
- Election funding and voting rights
- Most advocacy for voting rights happens at state and local levels, yet in this unique moment with the pandemic, opportunities for federal-level action to support the access to vote across the U.S. have emerged, especially as it relates to accommodating for necessary health and safety measures. Many of these measures, though not all, would be helpful in all elections to expand and protect voting access. For example, extending early voting and guaranteeing adequate voting locations can minimize the number of people present at polling stations at any given time, and allowing no-excuse absentee balloting will expand access to those whose concerns about their health may prevent them from casting their vote in public. The Episcopal Church has a number of resolutions on elections.
We ask you to write your members of Congress to encourage them to pass the next stimulus bill in response to COVID-19.