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  • Rev. Sara Lilja

A Time for Advocacy: Lent 2021!


Lent is a season of transformation. As we begin our Lenten journey from death to life, we are reminded of Jesus’ baptism and our own. We know that through this gift we have been blessed by God and are sent to be a blessing for others.


One thing you can do this weekend to start your Lenten journey of transformation and blessing is to advocate for the comprehensive rescue package that will address the economic impacts of COVID-19. Lawmakers need to hear from you this weekend as negotiations unfold.


This weekend, call your Members of Congress and urge them to pass the American Rescue Plan -- Text "ReliefNow" to 747464 or call 1-888-523-8974 to be connected to your Senators. These text and call-in lines are available now through Monday.


Nearly 450,000 of our loved ones have died across the the U.S. from COVID-19 (over 20,000 here in New Jersey). This pandemic continues to reveal the discrimination and systemic racism in our society. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports “increasing evidence that some racial and ethnic minority groups are being disproportionately affected” and that long-standing systemic health and social inequities have put minority communities, including Black, Brown, Latino, Asian and Pacific Islander, American Indian/Alaska Native communities and people in poverty, at increased risk of getting sick and dying from COVID-19.


Women have been disproportionately displaced from the workplace. Many of them are front-line workers on whom our nation depends. Millions of immigrant workers remain excluded from federal relief, even though many are considered “essential.”


The American Rescue Plan will include critical resources for our neighbors who are most in need. Be a blessing, advocate to Congress that they must act boldly and with urgency to minimize further loss of life and suffering. Included in the plan that is being negotiated are the following responses that align with LEAMNJ’s legislative priorities:


HOUSING RESPONSE: Without meaningful action, the U.S. could face a new homelessness crisis stemming from mass evictions and. Early reports indicate minoritized communities could be most impacted. Congress could continue to provide meaningful support to homeless congregant shelters and housing aid to keep families in their homes and should extend an eviction moratorium that is set to end March 31. $30 billion in emergency rental assistance and additional funding for emergency shelters is needed now to keep families safe.


HUNGER RESPONSE: Congress should extend into the summer the maximum Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefit to ensure households have enough resources to feed their families. Unemployment Insurance for many is set to expire in March and must be extended. The plan should aid families and low-income workers by increasing the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit.


HEALTH CARE RESPONSE: Minoritized communities are experiencing a disproportionate health impact from the pandemic. Urge inclusion of meaningful and substantive public health funding and technical resources for the Indian Health Service (IHS) and to address other needs of all people in these communities, including accelerated and equitably distributed vaccinations.


ESSENTIAL WORKERS, CHILDCARE and SCHOOL RESPONSE: Congress should provide direct assistance for childcare to enable more parents to return to work. Schools must be equipped and prepared to reopen as soon and as safely as possible. Essential workers are critical to the economic life of our country and deserve fair wages—not less than $15 per hour.


MIGRATION RESPONSE: Congress should expand eligibility for emergency relief to immigrants and mixed-status families, address the spread of COVID-19 in federal immigration detention centers and prevent further fatal outbreaks in facilities with histories of lapses in care. Farmworkers should be eligible for paid sick leave or unemployment insurance in all states, going beyond the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. The federal government must also ensure that all workers, regardless of their immigration status, are afforded free testing and access to treatment should they have COVID-19.


Responding alongside those who have suffered the most from COVID is an act of neighbor love. As you join this advocacy effort, know that you are living out your baptismal covenant, and participating in a Lenten practice of living for others.


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