BJC, others press Congress to prohibit discrimination in future COVID-19 response legislation

by | May 6, 2020

In a letter to congressional leaders, 183 organizations – including BJC – urged that any future legislation providing resources to those impacted by COVID-19 should include explicit language barring discrimination, including religious discrimination. As the government responds quickly to dire economic hardship, protecting against discrimination in funding is an important issue that should not be lost in our current public health crisis. 

As the letter emphasizes, there are already clear inequalities in the American economic health care system along racial and ethnic lines. It’s no surprise then that the coronavirus is likewise disproportionately impacting minority communities. Safeguarding against such inequalities in the government response is that much more important. No eligible person should be denied funding or find it harder to enroll in a government recovery program because, for example, they practice a minority faith.

The signatories write:

[W]e urge Congress to include provisions in future COVID-19 response legislation to ensure that no eligible person in need is excluded from participation in, denied the benefits of, or subjected to discrimination in the administration of programs and services funded by federal COVID-19 response legislation based on non-merit factors such as (but not limited to) age, disability, sex (including sexual orientation, gender identity, and pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions), race, color, national origin, immigration status, or religion; …

Similarly, if emergency government funds – despite the church-state questions they raise – are made available to religious organizations, even houses of worship, protections should ensure that funding decisions are not made on the basis of the faith of the funding applicant.

As states and the federal government react to the economic damage inflicted by this pandemic, issues will continue to arise surrounding those funding mechanisms. Kudos to these groups for making sure that Congress, in the heart of a crisis, is mindful of its responsibilities to the taxpayer not to discriminate using public funds.