WASHINGTON (ChurchMilitant.com) - House Democrats are not interested in rescuing Catholic schools suffering financial loss after being shut down by the Wuhan virus scare.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's $3 trillion stimulus bill that Democrats narrowly passed on Friday is cutting out Catholic schools that are financially strapped by the pandemic-related closures.
The bill, titled Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act, or HEROES, goes so far as to rescind previous funding provided to Catholic schools that was already earmarked in the earlier $2 trillion CARES stimulus act passed with overwhelming bipartisan support in March.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is urging state Catholic conferences to push back in attempts to defeat the bill.
The USCCB's associate director for public policy in the Secretariat of Catholic Education, Jennifer Daniels, is questioning why a relief bill isn't offering relief to everyone.
"The key thing to this bill is not that it is an education bill, it's an emergency relief bill," remarked Daniels. "When in history have we excluded those suffering from an emergency from federal relief?"
The Democrats' HEROES package cuts out funding for equitable service to all nonpublic schools that was already legislated by the CARES act, which President Donald Trump signed into law in March. HEROES further targets U.S. private education in other ways.
The House bill excludes direct assistance to families for tuition expenses or any tax incentives that could be used towards tuition. It also contains a measure that excludes funding for nonpublic schools, except for limited cases involving children with disabilities. It rescinds such schools receiving $90 billion in school aid already set up by CARES as well as benefiting from a discretionary fund placed under the secretary of education also contained in CARES.
"When Congress releases emergency relief bills, it's available to everyone who is suffering from that emergency," Daniels commented to CNS. "All we're saying is that private schools are suffering right next to the public schools, and we should have access to emergency relief funds."
She added, "All we want is our fair share and for our children to be served in an equal manner."
Bishop David O'Connell of Trenton, New Jersey is urging Catholics in his diocese to fight back. He's directing them to storm members of Congress and demand the bill be defeated.
"We're trying to urge Congress to maintain equitable access to federal funding for nonpublic schools and their [students'] families as they have in previous legislation," commented O'Connell to CNS.
His Catholics are mobilizing as of May 15, according to O'Connell. Within 24 hours of his directive, O'Connell related that more than 7,000 messages hit Congress with 5,200 coming directly from his own diocese of Trenton.
One letter sent to Congress on May 14 came from Michael Schuttloffel, executive director of the Council for American Private Education or CAPE. The USCCB is a member of the CAPE council. In his letter, Schuttloffel expressed "extreme disappointment" with the "unworkable" education provisions in the HEROES act.
"If passed, these provisions would eliminate from eligibility for aid almost all students enrolled by their parents in private schools," wrote Schuttloffel. "To approve such policies would be to send a message that the House of Representatives is only concerned with the safety of some of America's students and teachers, not all."
The Republican-controlled Senate is taking a dim view of the Democrats' bloated $3 trillion stimulus bill. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell last week called the 1,815-page package a "liberal wish list." The Senate is vowing to draft its own version instead.