MN Catholic Conference: Protect vulnerable in midst of COVID-19

| April 24, 2020 | 0 Comments


Minnesota Catholic Conference and other advocacy groups are urging Gov. Tim Walz to take steps to protect prison workers and inmates from the spread of COVID-19 and prevent debt collectors from garnishing people’s federal stimulus payments.

The conference, which represents the public policy interests of the state’s Catholic bishops, also joined groups advocating for nonpublic schools to be included in Minnesota’s application for COVID-related federal assistance to schools.

Each of three separate letters to the governor addressing those concerns were signed by Jason Adkins, MCC executive director, and representatives of more than a dozen different organizations.

“As you consider next steps to fight this pandemic, we ask you to keep in mind some of the most vulnerable among us — incarcerated men, women, and youth in the state’s correctional facilities, the officers who work in these facilities, and neighbors in surrounding communities — and take similarly swift and decisive action within your executive authority,” states an April 15 letter to Walz on prisons and COVID-19.

Advocates including the Minnesota Board of Public Defense and Justice Action Network signed the letter. It recommends a number of actions, including temporarily transferring incarcerated individuals who are elderly and immunocompromised, pregnant or otherwise deemed at grave risk of contracting COVID-19, to home confinement or another location, unless public safety is compromised.

In an April 16 letter, community and legal services groups urged Walz to prevent private debt collectors from claiming federal stimulus checks issued as part of the response to the economic slowdown caused by the coronavirus. The governors of Illinois and Washington have taken such action, the letter said.

“In this time of need, with so many Minnesotans anxious about not only their personal health and safety, but also their financial stability, it is essential that while the pandemic rages Minnesotans are able to marshal all their available resources to continue to be able to buy food and medicine for their families, pay the rent or mortgage, pay utility bills, and survive,” the letter states.

Groups signing the letter included the Legal Services Advocacy Project and All Parks Alliance for Change.

An April 17 letter to the governor asks that Minnesota’s application for $43 million in COVID-related federal assistance to schools — which would help with such costs as distance learning software and equipment — make clear that the funds would be distributed on a per-student basis and be focused on the needs of low- and middle-income students.

“As is true of public schools,” the letter states, “Minnesota’s non-public schools find themselves undertaking extraordinary efforts as a result of the pandemic and have utilized significant resources to assure continuity of educational and support services for students and families during this public health crisis. This includes purchasing technology and services to provide distance learning for students (including for families without access to the internet and technology), continuation of childcare, food assistance, and other services to families in need. As you know, all of our schools — whether they are public, charter or non-public — are an essential part of the fabric of our communities. The COVID-19 pandemic has hurt all schools and communities throughout the state.”

In addition to Adkins and Catholic school representatives, organizations signing the letter included the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas and the Minnesota Independent School Forum.

The letters can be found on the conference’s website.

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