Updated: May 27
I thank God that members of Congress from our two parties have been able to negotiate their initial response to the COVID-19 crisis quickly. They have been working together intensely, putting their own health at risk. I also thank God that Bread for the World and its members and partners haven’t missed a beat. We’ve been quick off the mark in and are doing our part.
Bread for the World is in the midst of a transition in leadership. But we haven’t missed a beat in advocacy. Congress has now passed two coronavirus response bills and has completed negotiations on the third.
The first bill coronavirus response focused on health, including funds to deal with international aspects of this global pandemic.
The second bill will increase food assistance and unemployment insurance. It will make coronavirus tests free as they become available. It will also provide extra sick leave for millions of workers if they get ill or if they need to care for sick family members or for their children when schools are closed. Bread for the World staff and activists helped to win bipartisan support in both the House and Senate.
The third coronavirus response bill, a $2 trillion economic recovery program, has passed the Senate and is expected to pass the House and be signed by the President within the next few days. This legislation will provide massive credit to keep businesses afloat (with conditions designed to reduce abuse); it will keep millions of Americans employed. The bill also includes cash payments to low- and middle-income Americans, expanded unemployment insurance, investment in hospitals, funding for states and localities to maintain their services (since they can’t deficit finance), and some aid to low-income countries as they try to cope with the pandemic.
The initial draft of this third bill proposed that people too poor to pay income taxes would get smaller cash payments than people with higher incomes. Bread staff worked with several Republican senators to address this inequity.
Bread staff also provided leadership for coalition efforts to increase health, humanitarian, and economic recovery assistance to developing countries. Bread and our partners proposed $1.5 billion to expand USAID’s coronavirus response, and the bill provides $1.15 billion. Separately, Bread and a smaller group of partners secured approval for continued U.S. funding for low-income countries through the multilateral development banks.
Bread for the World members across the country and other church organizations joined Bread’s staff in an intense push to include an increase in SNAP food assistance. We were not successful in the third bill. But Congress will need to respond to the COVID crisis as it unfolds, and we are already pushing to increase SNAP benefits in their next coronavirus response bill.