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  • Rev. Jen Butler

Freedom and Flourishing | COVID Relief

Updated: Mar 15, 2021

We often say that elections have consequences, but seldom have we seen that as starkly as in the passage of Biden’s COVID relief bill or the American Rescue Plan Act. This historic legislation will provide much-needed relief on a massive scale for struggling families, workers, and our overstretched healthcare systems.

The Covid Relief bill delivers rescue checks and resources to address the devastation of the pandemic, by investing in human flourishing--putting the vulnerable ahead of the uber-wealthy and corporations, but it also has the potential to fundamentally reshape our economy in a way that can work for everyone and help address the needs of those usually left behind in our greed-based economic policies: people of color, women, children and the disabled.

For example, the bill provides $10.4 billion in support for agriculture, half of which will go to what the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) calls “socially disadvantaged” farmers or those who have been “subjected to racial or ethnic prejudices because of their identity as a member of a group without regard to their individual qualities.” Child poverty will be cut in half by the child tax care credit in the legislation, a measure that Democrats hope to extend for years to come. The bill also includes a $40 billion investment in child-care, giving each family $1400 per child, which will provide support to working moms. The bill has targeted funding for special education that will support students with disabilities and strengthens the Medicaid program, which is the largest payer for women’s health.

As a pastor, I delight in knowing the Bible is fundamentally about a God who frees people from economic oppression, and there are over 2,000 verses of scripture that call on us to shape our economy in ways that ensure all human beings can flourish. A few examples: Psalm 140:12, "I know that the Lord maintains the cause of the needy, and executes justice for the poor."; Luke 4:18-19, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

God frees us all to trust that we can live out of abundance, not scarcity. God frees us to live free from exploitation as well as from the damage done to our souls and communities when we exploit our neighbor.

Elections can save lives. The American Rescue Plan Act is an important step in the right moral direction, but we have much more work to do for economic, racial, and gender justice. Part of that is recognizing why the COVID pandemic had a disproportionate impact on marginalized communities, and the way in which our economy has discriminated against them. People of faith will keep organizing, working, and holding our elected leaders accountable as we continue rooting out old systems that don’t serve us as a whole. That’s how we build a nation of dignity and justice for all, where everyone can thrive.

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