The lives and livelihoods of every Coloradan have never been under more stress than over the past year. As the pandemic has wreaked havoc with the physical health and well-being of many in our state — costing far too many lives — we have also seen its toll on the ability of many people to work and maintain the income necessary to pay for food, rent, child care, and other necessities.
As part of the Christian community, the churches of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America have seen this head-on. Not only have we persevered through many months of online, hybrid, outdoor, and other novel forms of worship, we also have heard the cries of people on the edge of economic desperation.
Churches and other communities of faith have long been sources of physical refuge and economic respite even in good times, but the pandemic has exacerbated the existing challenges of people facing poverty, hunger, and homelessness.
We see these challenges through the lens of faith, and so we are called to respond to love our neighbor as ourselves. As Colorado emerges out of the worst depths of the pandemic, our faith continues to guide us on the policies that we should support in recovery.
We know that, while all of us long to return to “normal” life, the way things were before wasn’t perfect. This pandemic era can and should shape our “new normal,” particularly in how we value our relationships with family, friends, and neighbors.
Our faith informs our belief that the path to recovery from this year must be both individual and interpersonal. This is where public policy comes in.
Congress and President Joe Biden recently passed significant relief, especially for workers and families who earn low and middle incomes. Similarly, we are encouraged to see Gov. Jared Polis and lawmakers looking at ways to get the lives and livelihoods of people in our state back on track.
One of the most remarkable features of the recent American Rescue Plan relief legislation is a major investment in federal working-family tax credits. Parents across the country, many of whom earn very low incomes and have struggled to afford basic needs like food and rent, will benefit.
Estimates show the Child Tax Credit expansion will reduce U.S. child poverty by about half. It is arguably the most significant action to reduce poverty in the last 50 years.
In Colorado, Gov. Polis is calling for doubling the state earned income tax credit, finally funding the Colorado Child Tax Credit, and closing tax loopholes that mostly benefit the wealthy and well-connected.
These state credits boost incomes for hundreds of thousands of Coloradans who earn low and middle incomes — a disproportionate number of whom are Black and Latino and have been affected by COVID at higher rates. These types of tax reforms can create a more just tax system.
We also support ending wasteful and inefficient tax benefits that mostly benefit the richest and most powerful among us. By closing those loopholes and expanding tax credits that help working families, Colorado will be doing the right thing — both economically and from a perspective grounded in love for our neighbors.
We care about these kinds of policies because we believe God is at work in economic life through human decision and actions. Our society values autonomy but, as the pandemic has made clear, we are all interdependent with one another.
Rather than seeing resources as scarce relative to people’s needs, we believe that God promises a world where there is enough for everyone, if only we learn how to share what we have been given for the sake of all.
Peter Severson is the director of Lutheran Advocacy Ministry-Colorado, which represents the shared public policy commitments of over 100 congregations across Colorado through legislative advocacy.
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