Relief from COVID-19

Like vaccine, stimulus package is needed before Christmas

We received the much anticipated good news last week that a vaccine for the prevention of COVID-19 was finally approved. The breakthrough comes after 300,000 Americans have now perished due to the virus.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued its emergency-use authorization Dec. 11 for the vaccine, which allows the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine to be immediately distributed in the United States. Pfizer will supply the U.S. government with 100 million doses of the vaccine by next March. 

The vaccine will be administered as a series of two doses, three weeks apart, to people age 16 and older. Under the agreement with Pfizer, the shots will be free to the public.

According to a New York Times report, about three million people will receive a vaccine in the first week. The FDA hopes to give at least 20 million people their first dose of a vaccine by the end of the year. Another pharmaceutical company, Moderna, will also supply 100 million doses of its vaccine to the government.

While we rejoice in this news, we know that many Americans are still suffering the economic effects of the pandemic. That is why it is a shame that Congress has been deadlocked on the passage of a second COVID-19 aid package. 

Recall that Congress did pass, and President Donald Trump signed into law, the $2.2 trillion economic stimulus bill, known as the CARES Act, on March 27. Despite the assistance this provided to small businesses and families, lawmakers promised that a second relief package would be forthcoming.

However, due to political wrangling, no progress has been made. What makes the need for a second stimulus package so critical are the dire predicaments facing Americans. Twelve million unemployed citizens are set to lose unemployment benefits the day after Christmas, and eviction moratoriums for people renting their homes are also set to expire.

Americans who are fortunate enough not to feel the economic pain induced by the pandemic should not stand idly by while so many others struggle to feed families and pay bills. To help Catholics in the pews take a stand, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has created an online form to contact lawmakers and urge passage of a stimulus package. 

“Tell Congress to act now to provide COVID-19 relief before Christmas,” the USCCB’s Action Center site states.

“Families cannot wait any longer. Failure to act would leave millions struggling to pay rent, buy food, afford health care, maintain employment and meet their basic human needs,” the bishops’ website states.

The bishops outline six ways a stimulus package can help vulnerable Americans, and they encourage people to share their personal stories of struggles with lawmakers. “Let us take action to support those most in need among us so that Christ’s vision of justice and mercy will be born again in us,” the bishops state.

The online form makes it easy to take action.

As we approach the celebration of Jesus’ birth, a time filled with joy and hope, let us pray for our brothers and sisters who are struggling through this pandemic. Let’s also do our part to call on lawmakers to vote in favor of a fair and equitable bill that can save so many from economic hardship.