Communities of faith and good will are deepening generous networks and stepping in to fill gaps. But we cannot fix systemic issues. Washington DC made a terrible mistake by passing trillions of dollars in domestic aid without including paid sick leave or a living wage for America’s workforce. A $1200 check is a band-aid in this unprecedented crisis, and millions of people won’t even receive one. It’s almost as if some leaders think they can put a wall around the groups they’ve left out. Protesters spilling into the streets are trying to prove that no wall can contain the weight of structural inequality and racism.
To reach backwards with policies that preserve the old “normal” will dishonor all who have died, and all who continue to put themselves at risk — from the frontline health care workers to the frontlines of justice. Our government has just one moral choice: to prioritize human needs programs and not policies that lead to the lack of access to housing, healthcare, safe working conditions, and a fair wage, and disproportionately steal the lives and livelihoods of the working poor, especially people of color.
We call on our elected leaders to take the following 12 actions:
1. Law enforcement reform: If we’ve learned one thing from recent events, policing in this country must change. From its roots in early 18th Century slave patrols to 21st Century brutality with impunity, policing can no longer engage in extra-judicial executions of men and women for walking, running, playing, driving and sleeping while Black.
2. Keep people on payrolls: Living-wage recovery rebates to all working families regardless of immigration status, age or tax filing. Preserve employment relationships for all businesses, including small businesses. Ensure federal dollars go to workers and small businesses, not CEOs and Wall Street.
3. Paycheck Protection Program: Prioritize vulnerable communities currently left out. Hold national banks accountable for the equitable disbursement of funds.
4. Tax Changes: Expand the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC) in order to reach more people. Close costly tax loopholes that allow corporations and the very wealthy to avoid paying their fair share.
5. Food and Housing Assistance: Provide emergency food assistance to people, cities, and non-profits so that no one goes hungry. Increase SNAP benefits by 15% to provide a much-needed boost for households with limited means. Implement a 6-month moratorium on foreclosures and evictions to alleviate immediate housing concerns. Provide $100 billion in additional renter’s assistance to help renters along with the moratorium. Provide emergency housing and social services to those without a safe place to stay.
6. Universal Paid Family and Medical Leave: Only 47% of private-sector workers in the bottom quarter of wages have paid sick leave, compared with 90% in the top quarter. Guarantee paid family and medical leave for all workers impacted by COVID-19 and close paid leave loopholes that allow corporations with over 500 employees and certain healthcare companies to abstain from providing their employees paid leave under current law.
7. Detained and incarcerated populations: Immediately release the elderly and those who simply cannot post bail; those who are pre-trial or nearing parole; and those who are non-violent, including immigrants in detention.
8. Re-entry Programs for Returning Citizens: Target funding to re-entry programs led by returning citizens so that every person released from prison can remain safe and not recidivate.
9. No Cost Universal COVID-19 Testing and Treatment: Full health coverage, care and protections for all COVID-19 frontline workers. Provide testing and treatment for all COVID-19 related medical expenses without cost to every person living in the U.S. regardless of citizenship status. Fund community health centers, non-profits, health departments, and safety net hospitals to build a system for testing, contact tracing, community support. Report on racial disparities in testing, confirmed cases, hospitalizations, deaths, and program participation. Once treatments and vaccines are developed, provide for future equitable availability.
10. Humanitarian foreign assistance: Aid pandemic containment in developing countries by providing humanitarian assistance and healthcare strengthening, including access to much-needed water and medical equipment; and fulfilling U.S. commitments to the World Health Organization (WHO). Any COVID-19 medication and vaccine development must be universally ensured.
11. Commonsense Charity: Though foundations have lost substantive assets, they are only required to give away 5% of their endowments annually. Raise giving to a least 15%. For those who can, let us all practice charity.
12. Secure Democracy: The right to vote must be ensured as a sacred right. Enact a vote-by-mail requirement for 2020 federal elections, so that every voter has the option to vote by mail and know their vote will be counted.
Voters face one question: Have we learned from recent events? If we have, we must make sure that our elected leaders choose wisely in the demanding days and months ahead. To our elected representatives, you too, face one question: Will you value people over profits?
- Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III, Senior Pastor, Trinity United Church of Christ/Chicago
- Sr. Simone Campbell SSS, Executive Director, NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice
- Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis, Senior Minister, Middle Collegiate Church
- Rev. Michael-Ray Mathews, Deputy Director & Director of Clergy Organizing, Faith in Action; President, Alliance of Baptists.
- Bishop Gene Robinson, The Episcopal Church
- Rabbi Jill Jacobs, Executive Director, T’ruah
- Rev. Traci D. Blackmon, Associate General Minister of Justice & Local Church Ministries, The United Church of Christ (UCC)
- Valarie Kaur, Founder, Revolutionary Love Project
- Linda Sarsour, co-founder MPOWER Change
- Wajahat Ali, New York Times contributing op-ed writer
- Lisa Sharon Harper, Founder and President, Freedom Road, LLC
- Rev. Jennifer Butler, CEO, Faith in Public Life
- Bishop Yvette Flunder, The Fellowship of Affirming Ministries
- Brian McLaren, author/speaker
- Rabbi Sharon Brous, Senior Rabbi, IKAR
- Rabbi Stephanie Kolin, Senior Rabbi, Union Temple of Brooklyn
- Stosh Cotler, CEO, Bend the Arc: Jewish Action
- Imam Dawud Walid, Executive Director, Michigan Council on American-Islamic Relations
- Rev. Dr. Peter Goodwin Heltzel, Fort Washington Collegiate Church
- Rev. angel Kyodo williams, founder, Center for Transformative Change
- Rev. Dr. Katharine R. Henderson, President, Auburn Seminary