Presbyterian Office of Public Witness advocates for Congress to assist families in ‘urgent need of economic stability’

The Rev. Jimmie Hawkins speaks at press conference of the need for a ‘faithful budget’

by Darla Carter | Presbyterian News Service

The Rev. Jimmie Hawkins of the Presbyterian Office of Public Witness speaks at a press conference hosted by the Washington Interreligious Staff Community. (Photo by Laura Peralta-Schulte, NETWORK)

LOUISVILLE — The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s advocacy director spoke at a press conference in the nation’s capital Wednesday afternoon to press Washington lawmakers for a “faithful budget” and income tax breaks for struggling Americans.

The Rev. Jimmie Hawkins was among several religious leaders who made their voices heard during the event, which was hosted by the Washington Interreligious Staff Community (WISC) to advocate for families in what he described as “urgent need of economic stability” and not just temporary measures like the ones approved by Congress this week.

“Leadership need not wait again until days before a shutdown to focus on government funding ever again,” said Hawkins, who oversees the Presbyterian Office of Public Witness (OPW) and the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations. “Negotiating must start now if we want to avoid another continuing resolution. Therefore, we who are here today stand together as a community of faith, demonstrating unity in our belief that that our system of governance can work in a healthier manner than what we are experiencing.”

WISC called the event, which included speakers from multiple faith traditions, to help persuade Congress to “avoid a government shutdown and pass a faithful budget that provides funding for critical human needs programs without funding harmful border militarization,” according to a news release.

The press conference came a short time before the Senate passed a stopgap bill late Wednesday to keep the government from shutting down at the end of this week. The bill to temporarily fund the government through Jan. 19 now heads to President Joe Biden for his signature.

Bridget Moix, general secretary of the Friends Committee on National Legislation, urges Congress to “love thy neighbor.” (Photo by Laura Peralta-Schulte, NETWORK)

Recently, dozens of faith organizations, including OPW, sent a letter to House Speaker Mike Johnson asking Congress to fund the government after Nov. 17, produce a budget that allows all communities to thrive, and to pass a revised child tax credit to bolster millions who work but don’t earn enough to qualify.

Similarly, OPW released an Action Alert on Nov. 11 that called for “restoring the expanded, monthly refundable Child Tax Credit (CTC) and the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)” to help families during an “uncertain economy.”

“The previously enacted expanded CTC successfully reduced child poverty, infused tens of billions of dollars into local economies, and immediately decreased food insecurity by nearly one-third,” according to the Alert. “If reinstated, the expanded CTC and EITC could provide rapid relief to 36 million families with kids and 17 million individuals without children within weeks.”

Press conference speaker Bridget Moix, who is general secretary of the Friends Committee on National Legislation, said, “Rarely do we have policies with so much evidence that they work. … They help lift millions of families and children out of poverty and they help close the racial gap between Black and brown kids and their white peers. We saw that with the child tax credit, and it was taken away. We need a strengthened and expanded child tax credit.”

She also noted that “we need a budget that includes greater economic, racial and environmental justice that provides for the basic needs of people, families, children across this country,” adding, “It’s what every one of our faith traditions calls for.”

Hawkins said people of faith have an obligation to stand alongside those who are marginalized and not people driven by greed.

“As a Christian, you’re always bound by the words of Jesus in Matthew 25: ‘When I was hungry, you fed me; when I was thirsty, you gave me something to drink; when I was a stranger, you came to visit me; and when I was sick, you came to me,’” Hawkins said. “We are called to echo the words of our faith beliefs.”

To watch the press conference, go here.

The Presbyterian Office of Public Witness and the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations are part of the Compassion, Peace & Justice ministries of the Presbyterian Mission Agency.

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