Michael J. Readinger, president and CEO of the United Church of Christ’s Council for Health and Human Service Ministries today (July 30) sent a letter on behalf of the 435 CHHSM member organizations to Republican members of the U.S. Senate imploring them to add provisions for vulnerable populations to the draft Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection and Schools (HEALS) Act currently being debated in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The letter asks for additional provisions that are critically important in improving the lives of older adults, veterans, people with disabilities, homeless persons, children, youth, and families. He also cites the racial inequities present in the current U.S. health and human services system, which the virus has brought into sharp relief.
“In its current form, the HEALS Act is not an adequate response to the needs of health and human services nonprofits, state and local governments, or people experiencing housing or food insecurity,” the letter reads. “It neglects many of the areas most important to our members. We respectfully ask you to address the urgent remaining needs of the vital nonprofit health and human services sector as negotiations on this legislative package move forward.”
Specifically, CHHSM asks for these provisions:
- Access to forgivable loans for mid-size nonprofits. The draft bill currently narrows existing levels of the Paycheck Protection Program from 500-employee cap to 300 employees.
- An increase in the federal unemployment insurance reimbursement for self-funded nonprofits to 100 percent. The current draft only increases reimbursement form 50 percent to 75 percent.
- Additional targeted financial resources for nonprofit front line health and human services providers in order to provide grants to non-hospital health and human services nonprofits. These would cover unreimbursed expenses attributable to the coronavirus pandemic.
- An increase $2 billion funding for vulnerable children and youth: $1.5 billion for the The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) and $500 million for the Title IV-E Chafee to allow states to continue fnding support for older youth in care and transitioning out of care.
- Additional fiscal relief to state and local government for government-run programs. A lack of funds will cause the closure or reduction in government-run programs that are lifelines for vulnerable people.
- Stronger support for people experiencing food and housing insecurity, including an increase in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. The HEALS Act draft currently provides to funding for SNAP or homelessness services.
Readinger closed the letter by offering to provide additional information and member testimonials on the importance of these programs to the more than 2.8 million Americans CHHSM members serve each year.
“Our U.S. Senators need to respond to the disproportionate impact this pandemic has had on persons of color,” Readinger said. “Our CHHSM members are on the front lines every day, and see the suffering brought on by insufficient funding and lack of programs. We hear the cries of people in need. Proper funding provisions in the HEALS Act are critical to responding successfully.
“God’s love calls us to Be A Voice that advocates for all God’s children as we create a more just, caring and compassionate world.”