By Lisa Zengarini
US Bishops have commended the recent approval of the new bipartisan Covid-19 Relief Package signed into law by President Trump on Monday, thanking Congress members for their efforts to pass the urgently needed legislation before the end of the year. Previous aid measures introduced in March by the CARES Act are due to expire on 31 December.
After difficult negotiations between Democrats and Republicans, on 22 December both legislative chambers of the Congress agreed to vote for a $900 billion economic aid package which will deliver funds for fighting the coronavirus pandemic and financial relief for individuals and businesses.
Amongst other things, the bill establishes a temporary $300 per week supplemental jobless benefit and a $600 direct stimulus payment to most US citizens, along with a new round of subsidies for hard-hit businesses, restaurants, and theatres and money for health care providers, renters facing eviction and schools.
Ensuring needed social support
In a statement released on 28 December, Archbishop Paul S. Coakley chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, welcomed the bill, commending lawmakers’ efforts “to ensure people have enough food to eat and a safe place to live (in some ways, more than in the CARES Act), to support workers and those who are out of work (although less than before), and to include some mixed status immigrant families in stimulus payments”.
Archbishop Coakley also expresses appreciation for the “generous aid to students and teachers in public and non-public schools that will include meaningful help for Catholic schools”.
Continuing economic distress
The prelate therefore “strongly” encourages “continued bipartisan efforts” in addressing other important issues that Congress will need to take up at the beginning of the new year “to help the millions who have lost health insurance; ensure the safety of persons in prisons, jails, and detention centers; provide foreign assistance for vulnerable people in poorer countries; provide additional state and local funding; and address the expiring relief in this new package as need continues”.
“God is love, and this Christmas season we remember that he assumed our humanity to love us more closely, even in suffering and death. May we find ways to love our neighbors as the Lord has loved us, and may God grant us peace and joy to rejoice and give him thanks”, the statement concludes.
Since the beginning of the crisis, US Bishops have strongly advocated for public aid to support the most vulnerable in the Covid-19 crisis, including migrants, whatever their status.