Poor People's Campaign

May 15th, 2020

Dear Madam Speaker Pelosi & Democratic House Members, 

We write on behalf of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival to thank you for your leadership in presenting the HEROES Act to extend relief to local governments and the many Americans who have been left out of Congressional relief packages in response to the coronavirus crisis. Whether the White House and Senate leadership are willing to join you is their decision. But we thank you for offering the nation leadership in this critical moment.

While the immediate relief measures you have outlined are extremely important, we write to reiterate that this crisis has only further exposed the extreme inequality that our movement has sought to address since 2018. If Congress does not act to guarantee healthcare for all Americans—not just those who have received a Covid-19 diagnosis—then the 30 million Americans who were uninsured before this crisis, plus the 11 million plus who have lost their employer-based healthcare due to this crisis, may never receive the care they need to be diagnosed. This widespread lack of access to healthcare is a threat to every American during this pandemic.

Furthermore, this crisis has exposed the need to increase and guarantee wages for all low-income workers in America. Yes, hazard pay and additional unemployment funds are crucial for those who have either lost jobs or been asked to risk their lives on the front lines. But millions of Americans have been asked to stay at home and shelter in place with less than $400 of savings to purchase necessary supplies and pay their bills. Most of these people had spent their $1200 relief checks long before they received them. Another stimulus check alone — without full debt forgiveness, guaranteed adequate incomes, guaranteed health care, housing and utilities assistance, and strengthened social programs — will not meet these pressing and rising needs, especially when we are witnessing rising child and household hunger and economic insecurity even now. According to experts at Columbia University, homelessness is likely to rise by 40% in the weeks ahead. This is immoral and unnecessary in this wealthy nation.

While we are grateful for a bill that could help some of our heroes, we write on behalf of the other heroes and human beings who have been left out of the political conversation in this country.  We need Congress to take bold action to lift up and protect the low income and poor Americans who make this society run: meat packers, nurses aides, garbage collectors, orderlies, childcare providers, janitors, and grocers as well as doctors and nurses. 

In the last two relief bills Congress has passed, corporations received 83 percent of all funds approved. Even in this proposal, much of the money would go to insurance companies, mortgage companies, lobbyists, and additional tax cuts for the wealthy. It’s time for poor and low income Americans to get all they need.

Please, don’t be moderate; be historic. The times demand this. Trump and his Republican and corporate enablers have engaged in policy that resulted in tens of thousands needless deaths. We must now call on you to establish justice, provide for the common defense, and promote the general welfare. Now is the time for transformative leadership. Now is the time to lift up an agenda for a more perfect union.

Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II
President, Repairers of the Breach
Co-Chair Poor People’s Campaign: 
A National Call for Moral Revival 

Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis
Executive Director, Kairos Center
Co-Chair Poor People’s Campaign: 
A National Call for Moral Revival