By Willie Dickerson
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, more questions arise: What can we learn from this virus? What positive changes can come from this pandemic? It is a good time for reflection and action as we shelter at home, grateful for those on the front lines. Thank you first responders, grocery, drug store, and other essential businesses that supply our basic needs.
Perhaps most important, the virus has shown up the cracks in our system, where millions of Americans fall through, those unable to pay rent, the hungry, and the homeless. Often these folks are working, many more than one job. Fortunately, as Leonard Cohen said, “There is a crack in everything; that’s how the light gets in.”
It is time to fill these cracks with the light of hope. Initiatives in Congress addressed this work. In the House, Rep. Denny Heck introduced the Emergency Rental Assistance Act (H.R. 6314): $100 billion package of relief for renters. In addition, a national moratorium on evictions is needed to prevent a spike in homelessness. Also needed is an increase to the SNAP (food stamp) program of 15% to ease the current burden of hunger and end the question of “eat or pay rent?” Recently, the House passed a relief bill that included these aspects. It’s time to ask your representatives to support these initiatives of hope and urge their colleagues in the Senate to pass this relief package.
This pandemic has shown us that it only takes one person becoming infected to spread the virus to all of us. This truth emphasizes the reality that each individual in our country, and in our world, matters. No one can be left behind. This plays out on the global stage as well. Every country is a part of the battle against this global pandemic. Fortunately, successful initiatives like the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, and Malaria, and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance are on the front lines helping developing countries to bring COVID-19 under control. Their proven experience in cutting deaths from the world’s biggest killers (AIDS, TB, and Malaria) by over 30%, and cutting child deaths by 50% thanks to vaccinations, gives them credibility for continued funding from around the world, including America.
Although America spends less than one percent of its budget for foreign aid, Congress understands the importance of these initiatives and has consistently overridden the president’s call for cuts to foreign aid, insuring the U.S. does keeps its pledge to fully fund these life-saving initiatives. This effort continues as Reps. Barbara Lee and Martha Roby created a sign-on letter calling for an additional $1 billion for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, and Malaria, to be included in any Phase 4 COVID-19 legislation. This special funding will keep the Global Fund battling global pandemics, including COVID-19. Asking our members of Congress to sign on to this letter will create the political will to make sure this and future battles are successful.
As Ebola, Zika and now COVID-19 have shown us, if we don’t fight these pandemics globally, they will threaten us locally. Our calls, letters, and virtual visits to our representatives and senators can help pass these rescue measures, and begin the fundamental changes in our system to create hope where there once was very little. The good news is these cracks were part of the system we created in this country, so that means we, the people, have the ability to create a new system that works for every American.
Willie Dickerson is a RESULTS volunteer in Snohomish, currently a member of the RESULTS Board, and most recent winner of the 2019 Cameron Duncan Media Award (first non journalist to win).