Faith in Action believes that faith-based community organizing is the answer to the far reaching effects of the pandemic that have exacerbated centuries-long racial inequities and injustices. And to make their voices heard, members recently held an online meeting with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY).
“We are a grassroots organization,” said Rev. Alvin Herring, executive director of Faith in Action, in explaining his role to the senator and the numerous faith leaders on the call from 25 different states. “We want to set the captives free – ending mass incarceration, deportation, the criminalizing and caging of human beings.
Guaranteeing and protecting the right to vote for everyone.”
Before last November’s election, the group held more than 1 million conversations with directly impacted individuals, making sure they had access to voting information. They believe their efforts were integral to winning the election for Joe Biden in key states.
The group spoke to Schumer about the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.
“We’re already experiencing the dawn of a new era,” Schumer said. “Help is on the way. This is the biggest package of jobs legislation in generations.”
Schumer mentioned that in addition to securing billions of dollars to make free covid vaccines available to everyone, the package contains a section lifting the ban against incarcerated persons receiving Pell Grants and expansion of child tax credits.
“That is going to take half the kids in America out of poverty,” he said. The act also extends the Paycheck Protection Program. Schumer fought to include religious institutions, realizing that tithes and offerings are not available for some churches which have had to close during the pandemic.
“They can get the money,” he said. “The application is easy. We know that churches are the cornerstones of our communities.”
Schumer and the group discussed gun violence prevention and the president’s stance on the issue.
“Ninety percent of Americans want background checks and 80 percent of gun owners want background checks.” Schumer said, noting that he authored the Brady Bill, which mandated federal background checks on firearm purchasers in the United States, and imposed a five-day waiting period on purchases.
Schumer promised the group that he would do everything he could to get the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act passed in the senate, since the House passed the measure in March. It’s currently being considered in the judiciary committee.
“Even if it’s a tie vote — 10 to 10 — I’m allowed to bring it to the floor and I will,” Schumer said. “With folks like you, we have a really good chance. You with the activism and the faith, which go hand in hand. I very much appreciate your organization and I’m with you all the way.”