Like everything else, COVID-19 has disrupted WCC’s public witness efforts. We’ve had to shift focus to
election day confusion and federal and state responses to the impacts of the pandemic on health care
and the economy. It sometimes feels like we’re being diverted from working on the advocacy priorities
we laid out for 2020 – child poverty, immigration, gun violence, and issues facing Wisconsin’s native
communities. But of course, these issues have not been sidelined – they have in fact taken on renewed
relevance for public policy.
Child poverty: Sharp increases in poverty are projected as a result of extreme levels of unemployment.
The pandemic is both revealing and exacerbating the systematic racial and economic inequalities that
have plagued our nation. The well-being of children cannot be separated from that of the unemployed
or low-wage adults in their household and extended family. Lack of health care, loss of educational
opportunities, and food insecurity today will undermine children’s life prospects well into their adult
Immigration: Refugees and migrants in detention centers are being held in crowded and unsanitary
conditions, with poor access to basic health and medical services, creating the potential for deadly
COVID-19 outbreaks. Immigrants are among the workers in the service, agriculture and food processing,
health care and manufacturing sectors who have lost their jobs or whose essential work leaves them
more exposed to possible infection. Yet many immigrants lack access to healthcare, testing, and
treatment for coronavirus, and are unable to receive health and unemployment benefits from their
employers or the federal government.
Native Communities: High rates of cancer, diabetes, heart disease and asthma make Native American
communities more susceptible to severe cases of COVID-19. As a result of centuries of systemic
oppression and discrimination by the dominant White culture, Wisconsin’s Native communities also
have higher rates of poverty and food insecurity than the rest of the state. This makes it a critical moral
imperative that these communities are are able to access health care resources and food assistance in
this time of severe economic disruption and hardship.
Gun Violence: One might think that this issue would have little or nothing to do with the coronavirus,
but in fact the pandemic only further underscores the problematic role of firearms in American culture.
Gun sales have surged since the onset of the pandemic, possibly driven by fears of social breakdown.
Some of the largest Facebook groups calling for anti-quarantine protests have been traced to pro-gun
activists. Stay-at-home orders raise concerns about lethal domestic violence. Anxiety and depression
due to unemployment, grief, and other effects of the pandemic can lead to suicide. The presence of
guns in a home are statistically correlated with both forms of tragedy.
Public policy advocacy itself may seem to be a distraction in the face of daily struggles to adapt and
survive in the midst of social distancing and economic shutdown, and it may be so for many people –
especially the unemployed and those working on the front lines. But for those of us who have some
margin of time and energy to spend on it, it is still part of our Christian responsibility. Our elected
leaders in state and federal government are making decisions now that will have enormous
consequences for years to come.
What kind of a state, and what kind of nation, will we be when we finally emerge from the COVID-19
public health crisis? Will we have done anything to address chronic problems such as poverty, racism,
violence, and political polarization that have been revealed and exacerbated by it? Will we have the
courage and imagination to deal with other big challenges, such as climate change, that may have been
temporarily eclipsed by the coronavirus? Will we be better prepared, or less prepared, to confront
Public policy (politics, if you will) is an important way that we act as an organized community – local,
state or national -- to meet the needs of our neighbors and build up the common good. The Council’s
advocacy work is intended to make it easier for you bring your Christian convictions about Jesus’ way of
don’t already receive them, and watch your inbox for opportunities to contact your state and federal
for important action alerts from other organizations, and further information about the above
issues and more. Your faithful voice is needed!