By Fr. Benedict Mayaki, SJ
Bishops in the United States have hailed recent announcements from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) which established increased protections and aid for people made vulnerable by food and housing insecurity.
The USDA in a statement last week announced a 15 percent increase to the Pandemic-EBT (Electronic Benefits Transfer), and said it will continue to explore ways to increase Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits to all participants, especially lowest-income households and those struggling to afford a healthy diet for their families.
In a similar fashion, the CDC said that it will extend the current order temporarily halting evictions till at least 31 March 2021 due to the hardships caused by the pandemic and the resulting housing affordability crisis.
Eviction moratorium extended
Welcoming these recent moves, the president of the USCCB’s Commission for Internal Justice and Human Development, Archbishop S. Coakley of Oklahoma City, issued a statement on Wednesday.
Archbishop Coakley expressed gratitude for the newly-inaugurated administration’s early actions to “address urgent food and housing needs for those experiencing hardship during the Covid pandemic.”
He added that the CDC’s extension of the eviction moratorium is “a positive step towards ensuring housing stability and keeping our communities safe”, as many are behind on rent payments and would be vulnerable to losing their homes without this protection.
“It would be detrimental to the wellbeing of all if more people became homeless in the midst of this public health crisis,” Archbishop Coakley said.
Nutritional assistance boosted
The Archbishop went on to hail the USDA’s announcement to expand nutritional assistance to hard-hit Americans for its timeliness, noting that people have “experienced dramatic income reductions or job loss.”
He further remarked that these actions “demonstrate a strong commitment to those in need”, as they will help “address the unprecedented levels of hunger among children” as well as ensure that the emergency Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits reach those most in need.
Appeal to the government
Concluding his statement, Archbishop Coakley reiterated calls to the government to “pursue the common good and prioritize the poor and vulnerable during this challenging time,” reminding all that adequate nutrition and decent housing are basic rights under Catholic Social Teaching.
“These rights require action,” Archbishop Coakley insisted.