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Circle of Protection

We are heads of Christian denominations, agencies, organizations, and educational institutions who believe that God expects national leaders to prioritize the needs of poor and hungry people.

Selected Letters and Statements

September 16, 2020

The Urgency of Continued COVID Relief and, in particular, Extension of Pandemic EBT

We urge Congress not to go home without passing a COVID relief package that prioritizes those most in need. With millions of people unemployed, unable to pay rent, and struggling to put food on the table, failure cannot be an option.

We are especially alarmed by the Pandemic-EBT (P-EBT) program’s September 30 expiration date. Congress enacted P-EBT in the spring to prevent a spike in child hunger as schools closed and transitioned to remote learning, preventing children from accessing school meals. P-EBT enables parents to buy groceries for school lunches and school breakfasts that their children miss from not being at school.

According to U.S. Census data, an estimated 9 to 17 million children are in households where they aren’t getting enough food. The numbers are even more grave for Black and Latino children. More than 40 percent of Black children and more than a third of Latino children live in a household that’s behind on rent or mortgage, didn’t get enough to eat, or both. Failure to extend the P-EBT program will further exacerbate this crisis, and the consequences will be long-lasting. Children who experience food insecurity face worse developmental, health, and economic outcomes as adults.

All 50 states adopted P-EBT in the spring and have the structure in place to continue delivering benefits this fall. The need remains urgent as remote learning continues in various forms across the country. P-EBT provides states with flexibility to ensure that children who are not consistently getting meals at school can receive critical food assistance.

We call on Congress to extend the P-EBT program.

As we are reminded in Proverbs: “Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.” (Proverbs 14:31). Neglect of the people in greatest need will lead to an even more deeply divided nation and world. We urge you to act with the urgency and magnitude this crisis requires. Read the full statement

July 20, 2020

COVID response bill needed to address swelling ranks of people in poverty

We write to you as the steering committee of the Circle of Protection, a coalition of church leaders representing the diversity of U.S. Christianity – including Latino Churches, Historic Black Churches, Protestants and Evangelicals, Catholics and Orthodox, Pentecostals and Peace Churches. One thing on which we all agree is that our country’s policies should reflect Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 25 about how we should treat “the least of these.”

Thank you for the legislation you have passed in response to COVID-19 and the ensuing economic crisis. The death toll from COVID-19 continues to rise and millions of people remain out of work. We implore you to quickly pass another COVID response bill that addresses the swelling ranks of people in poverty, and we urge you to prioritize the following: Nutrition assistance, international assistance, elections, and racism.

The COVID-19 crisis makes us all more aware of the connections among all people, including people on the margins of our economy and society. People of color are being hit especially hard by the virus and economic downturn. Black and brown people with less access to safe and secure housing, steady incomes, and health care are more likely to be infected and die from this virus. Poverty and racism have created pre-existing conditions that also increase the chances of contracting and dying from this lethal disease.

Neglect of the people in greatest need will lead to an even more deeply divided nation and world. Our nation is faithful to God when we provide help to poor and vulnerable people; and our commitment to racial justice must become as systemic as racism is increasingly revealed to be. Read the full letter

April 15, 2020

Congress must quickly pass fourth COVID-19 response bill addressing the needs of struggling households

We write to you as the steering committee of the Circle of Protection, a coalition of church leaders from the main families of U.S. Christianity – Catholic, evangelical Protestant, ecumenical Protestant, the Historic African American churches, and Latino churches. As Christians, we believe that God is especially concerned with the plight of people in poverty – and that a key moral measure of government policies is how they treat those Jesus called “the least of these” (Matthew 25:45).

And for us, poverty and racism are integrally connected, and must always be dealt with together–we are all equally created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27) and public policy must always reflect that. People say that the COVID-19 coronavirus does not discriminate. But in fact, black and brown people with less access to safe and secure housing, to steady incomes, and to medical care and healthy bodies are more likely to be infected and die from this virus. Poverty and racism have become pre-existing conditions that also increase the chances of contracting this lethal disease.

We also believe that special attention is required for many vulnerable groups, including incarcerated individuals, people in detention, Native Americans, and people experiencing homelessness– which is critical for an effective and compassionate response and must be reflected in all efforts to lessen the impact of the spread of COVID-19.

Thank you for quickly passing the first three COVID-19 response bills. Your legislation will provide urgently needed support to struggling families and help stabilize the economies of the US and its territories. Further significant action is needed. We implore you to quickly pass a fourth COVID response bill that addresses the needs of our country’s struggling households. Assistance measures should last not just for the duration of the health crisis or other short-term period but should be extended to remain in place as long as the economic crisis continues, and we urge you to give priority to the swelling ranks of people in poverty. Read the full letter

March 24, 2020

Call for increased SNAP food assistance in the recovery program

In the name of God, we ask you to include an increase in SNAP food assistance in the recovery program the Senate is negotiating now. An expansion of SNAP would help the millions of households who are vulnerable to destitution and severe, prolonged hunger in this crisis. The great majority of these people are children, seniors, or disabled people.

We are particularly concerned for those who are going to be most impacted by the economic fallout from the spread of COVID-19—low income workers and families at economic risk. Millions will likely lose their jobs, be furloughed, or have massive cuts in their working hours which will impact their ability to meet basic needs for their families.

Please do everything you can to ensure we get this crucial provision in the final deal. Nothing will do more for Americans and the American economy in this moment than an increase in SNAP benefits. We will be watching this closely. Read the full letter

February 11, 2020

Church leaders speak out on administration actions that affect people in poverty

As leaders from all the families of U.S. Christianity, representing church bodies and networks serving more than 100 million Americans, we are concerned about administration action to cut safety net programs that help low-income people. The gospel of God’s love for all people moves us to speak together on this issue.

We support the goal of helping Americans move from poverty to financial independence. But some of the administration’s policy changes and proposed cuts in funding for low-income programs are likely to add to the hunger, poverty, and economic insecurity which are already far too widespread in our country. Read the full letter

March 6, 2019

Letter to Congress on discretionary spending budget agreement

We believe budgets are moral documents; they reveal our values and show our priorities. Budgets show who and what we view as important.

Later this year, Congress and the President will need to come together to reach a new budget agreement on topline funding levels for discretionary programs. Without such a deal, discretionary funding levels will return to austere levels required by the 2011 Budget Control Act, putting non-defense discretionary programs at risk of deep cuts. Read the full letter

February 2018

Unity statement on racism

The integral relationship between poverty and racism unifies us against both. They are both issues to which the gospel of Jesus Christ speaks — which also calls us to love our neighbors, without exceptions.

Our unity on these issues is because they are theological issues for us, not merely political or partisan ones. These fundamentally biblical concerns challenge all of us and both of the major political parties. Read the full unity statement

Elections 2020

‘Tell us what you will do as president to end poverty and hunger’

The Circle of Protection has a simple request to all presidential candidates: Make a short video telling the American people what you would do as president to offer help and opportunity to poor and hungry people in the U.S. and around the world.

The request is critical to scores of top leaders from a broad spectrum of Christian traditions. In our letters to all the 2020 presidential candidates, we say, “we care deeply about many issues facing our country, but ending hunger and poverty is a top priority of our work together.”

As we say in our letter, “We want to know how each candidate proposes to fulfill the mandate to those who govern to ‘give deliverance to the needy’ (Psalm 72).” Read more about this initiative