WASHINGTON (CNS) — The chairman of U.S. bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development offered prayers for those suffering from coronavirus and those providing health care to the sick as well as “those affected by disruptions, such as quarantines and closures of workplaces and schools.”

Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City also had words of encouragement for lawmakers “considering with urgency a number of policies that could provide aid and relief” for those affected by COVID-19.

“Because of the quickly developing nature of the situation, it is appropriate simply to offer encouragement to members of Congress and the (Trump) administration for their efforts to address the many challenges ahead,” the archbishop said in a statement released late March 12.


“Special consideration is warranted for those most vulnerable: the poor, the elderly, the homeless, those in prison or detention facilities, immigrants and refugees, and those with severe underlying health conditions,” he added.

Mercy Sister Mary Haddad, president of the Catholic Health Association of the United States, echoed many of Archbishop Coakley’s recommendations in a March 12 letter to members of the U.S. House. She also urged bipartisan passage of a coronavirus response bill.

In his statement, Archbishop Coakley noted the U.S. bishops have supported a number of policies now under review by Congress and the administration, “such as increased food security measures, paid sick leave, adequate care for immigrants regardless of status, and greater assistance for low-income workers, the unemployed, and those experiencing homelessness or housing instability.”

He asked lawmakers to also consider suspending work requirements related to programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known as SNAP, “given likely workplace disruptions.” He suggested they also consider additional resources for the Emergency Food and Shelter Program.

In addition, he said more federal funds could perhaps be made available “through a federal disaster declaration,” and he called on government officials to refrain from immigration enforcement “at sensitive locations, like hospitals and clinics.”

In her letter to House members, Sister Haddad wrote: “Any legislation must contain immediate remedies that promote public health and protects the health and economic well-being of individuals, their families and communities.”

At the top of her list was making testing for coronavirus “available to everyone, including those who are uninsured, without cost to the patients and with reimbursements to providers to ensure universal access.”


Sister Haddad also called for “protections and support for workers on the frontline responding to this crisis, including health care personnel in hospitals and long-term care settings, including support for child care expenses.”

Among other recommendations she called for:

— Increasing Medicaid Federal Matching Assistance Percentage funding necessary to provide immediate relief for states to address public health needs.

— Extending Medicaid and community health programs due to expire soon and requiring 12-month continuous eligibility and enrollment in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program “to ensure that low-income and vulnerable children, individuals and families maintain their health care coverage through this crisis.”

— Protecting access to care and emergency testing for migrants living in the United States by suspending or repealing the recent public charge regulation; and providing emergency financial assistance to prevent home evictions and housing instability.

“From our early history and throughout our nation’s public health crises, Catholic health care has answered the call to serve populations affected by disasters, influenza pandemics and the opioid epidemic,” Sister Haddad said.

“We are now working at the forefront of the coronavirus outbreak,” she added. “Our members continue to work with their federal, state and local agencies to ensure that effective measures are in place to respond to this current public health emergency.”

CHA is the national leadership organization of more than 2,200 Catholic health care systems, hospitals, long-term care facilities, sponsors and related organizations.

In his statement, Archbishop Coakley said: “We are grateful for the efforts by lawmakers during this difficult time and urge them to go forward in finding a path to bring greater relief to everyone suffering from coronavirus and its effects on society, especially those most in need.”

“May the Divine Physician be with all those affected by this illness and restore us quickly to health and peace,” he concluded.