WASHINGTON— Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City and chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, praised members of Congress and the President for passing and signing into law the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), a historic package of emergency relief for those suffering from the effects of the COVID-19 crisis. He expressed gratitude for the enormous aid in the bill and noted issues that merit further assistance in the future.
Archbishop Coakley’s full statement follows:
“We are in a time of twin crises and united purpose: during the worst global public health crisis in our lifetimes, we are also experiencing what may be the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Yet, around the world, we are united in common purpose of caring for the sick, pursuing a cure, and lifting the human spirit. It is inspiring to see the tireless efforts of health care providers, supermarket employees, and others who are working to keep us safe and healthy. Videos from Italy show people singing to their neighbors from their balconies. Although they must stay home, they found a way to offer beauty and hope.
Our government has been hard at work as well. Members of Congress and the President are to be commended for working together through long hours and late nights to reach a bipartisan agreement that provides emergency relief to millions of Americans who are suffering. Given the extraordinary needs of the moment, this $2.2 trillion package is the most expensive single piece of legislation in American history.
We are grateful for many provisions that will help the poor and vulnerable, including several provisions that will help employers retain their workers, and provisions that will help the many people who unfortunately have been laid off and will need immediate income when present circumstances make getting a new job much more difficult. It is good that there will be direct financial assistance to low- and middle-income Americans, and that there will be an infusion of financial resources for hospitals and charitable institutions which will be asked to do more than ever during this crisis.
Nothing is perfect, and there is already discussion of a future round of legislation that will be needed as the crisis continues. There are some areas where aid and relief can improve. We will continue to advocate for those most in need, for food security, for the homeless, for prisoners, for the sick who have large medical bills, for all Americans who are struggling to make ends meet, and for those who have lost friends and loved ones. It was disappointing that certain aid and relief was not extended to the undocumented, and extremely concerning that testing and access to health care coverage was denied to certain immigrants. The health and wellbeing of all in this crisis is threatened if anyone is categorically excluded from getting help.
On Friday, Pope Francis offered a profound reflection on the Gospel story of Jesus calming the storm at sea. Now is a time of great anxiety and distress. We are less in control than we thought. This Lent is a time to return ever more to our faith, to trust in the Lord even in the midst of all this trouble. As Pope Francis said, the Lord ‘will not leave us at the mercy of the storm.’ We ask the Lord once more to tell us: ‘Do not be afraid’ (Mt. 28:5). And at the urging of Pope Francis, we should accept the advice of St. Peter: ‘Cast all your worries upon him because he cares for you.’ (1 Pet. 5:7).”
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