Public Justice and COVID-19

Check this page for updated resources about navigating the COVID-19 pandemic with a public justice framework.

The Latest: May 21, 2020
Paper: A Child-Centered Approach
to Paid Family Leave
Prior to and during the COVID-19 crisis, politicians on both sides of the aisle recognized the need for a better family leave policy in America. In March, Congress secured emergency paid leave policy for families affected by COVID-19, including the closure of hundreds of thousands of schools and places of childcare. Once the crisis subsides, policymakers should look again at more permanent approaches to providing paid family leave. Family leave policies can be structured in widely divergent ways and aimed at very different ends. With a proliferation of proposals, it is vital that policymakers make evidence-based decisions with clear pathways to implementation and reasonable expectations of achieving specific policy outcomes. In order to have a family leave policy that fits such a demanding criteria, it is important to first survey existing literature to identify the range of effects that policymakers might expect to see from an expansion in paid family leave. In this paper, Rachel Anderson, Director of the Families Valued Initiative at the Center for Public Justice, and Lyman Stone, Institute for Family Studies Research Fellow and American Enterprise Institute Adjunct Fellow, focus on paid parental leave, a topic that has garnered a sizeable body of research.
Equipping Resources
Sacred Sector Resource: Public Policy Principles for Faith-based Organizational Advocacy

In this current COVID-19 crisis, local, state and federal governments are taking a wide range actions, some of them unprecedented, that affect the ability of faith-based nonprofits to sustain their basic operations and to provide services. Governments are also adopting new policies that directly influence the quality of life of the employees of faith-based organizations and the well-being of people in the communities those organizations serve. Are these aid programs, expenditures, and prohibitions, positive or do they need refinement? Advocacy and lobbying are activities, protected by law, that faith leaders and faith-based organizations can speak to government and the public about the justice and effectiveness of these and other policies. Advocacy helps the government know what works, and helps organizations affected by government policy seek changes important for their own religious freedom and effectiveness and for the good of the people they serve.

Resource: How Changes to Unemployment Insurance Affect the Sacred Sector 

Through recently enacted legislation and new guidance, Congress and the Department of Labor have made changes to the unemployment insurance system that affect individuals across the country, including in the sacred sector. This resource provides sacred sector employers and workers with helpful information regarding the unemployment insurance system, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, and work-share programs.


April 17, 2020 Webinar Recording: Work Loss in a Pandemic 

The U.S. unemployment rate is surging, and faith-based organizations and their workers are feeling the effects. The Center for Public Justice hosted a webinar on what CARES Act changes to unemployment insurance could mean for faith-based employers and workers in the sacred sector. The webinar covered:

- How the sacred sector is affected by loss of work
- How the CARES Act changed the unemployment insurance system
- How states are adapting (or not adapting) to pandemic unemployment conditions
- What CARES Act unemployment changes mean for individuals and faith-based organizations




Sacred Sector Resource: Public Policy Principles for Considering Faith-based and Government Partnerships to Provide Services


Sacred Sector has created six different “Toolboxes” to guide organizations and emerging leaders in the faith-based nonprofit sector through the common challenges that they face. Each toolbox is composed of three parts: Public Policy, Organizational Practice and Public Positioning.

This resource is an excerpt of the Sacred Sector Government Partnerships Toolbox - Public Policy, which is available to members of the Sacred Sector Community and Sacred Sector Fellowship. This resource outlines the major public policy issues involved when faith-based organizations (FBOs) receive government funding to provide services. It also offers key principles for organizations that are considering competing for government funding. FBOs do not become an extension of government, required to act in the uniform secular fashion required of government, simply by receiving government support to provide services. On the contrary, government supports private organizations with a range of different views and practices.


April 3, 2020 Webinar Recording: What Emergency COVID-19 Laws Mean for Faith-based Organizations

Many faith-based organizations have questions about how new federal emergency legislation enacted to manage the COVID-19 crisis and related economic fallout will impact their employees, their donations, and their capacity to continue to operate. CPJ's team describes three aspects of new laws, noting what’s known about these laws’ practical implications for faith-based organizations and houses of worship as well as their prospective impact on religious freedom. Topics include:

- Emergency paid sick and family leave for employees
- Emergency programs and their impact on employment decisions
- Access to loans through the Small Business Administration
- Enhanced Unemployment Insurance during the COVID-19 crisis
- A new charitable deduction to encourage giving during the crisis

March 20, 2020 Webinar Recording: Living Out Our Public Justice Responsibilities During COVID-19 

The spread of COVID-19 has raised many questions for Christians and institutions. We at CPJ are asking those questions, and want to provide you with a helpful way to navigate during this unusual time. Watch this informational webinar from CPJ’s team to learn how Christians, leaders of faith-based organizations and policymakers can and should be thinking about how to address this health crisis in light of a public justice perspective.

Standards for Excellence® Resource: What Nonprofits Need to Know About Coronavirus 

In this article from the Standards for Excellence® Institute, Jess Begue provides nonprofits with helpful information and resources for dealing with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Standards for Excellence is a Replication Partner of Sacred Sector.


Policy Resources

Faith for Just Lending Statement: Faith Leaders Call for Borrower Protections During COVID-19 Crisis

In the wake of the major economic disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic, many Americans have lost their jobs, incomes, and social support. In response, Congress enacted an unprecedented program of relief. But government and civil society must also act to prevent a major spike in predatory debt traps that could undo, for many low-income families, much of the positive impact of the CARES Act. Since its creation in 2015, Faith for Just Lending has called for limits on predatory lending. The current economic crisis makes such protection all the more necessary. Our nation prohibits profiteering and price gouging in times of emergency. We should also prohibit usury and economic exploitation. In this letter, Faith for Just Lending calls upon government to prohibit usury and deceptive lending practices during the COVID-19 crisis.



Article: SBA Affirms Churches and Minstries as Eligible for PPP Loans


In a Frequently Asked Questions document published April 3, the Small Business Administration affirmed the eligibility of religious organizations, including houses of worship, for the new payroll protection (PPP) forgivable loans, and confirmed protections for their religious identity and practices. Although not every issue has been resolved, churches and other faith-based service organizations needing assistance should contact their bank or other financial institution right away.



Resource: What New COVID-19 Legislation Means for Faith-Based Employers

On March 27, 2020, the President signed into law the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act which provides a variety of forms of emergency relief. The Center for Public Justice and the Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance (a division of CPJ) have been monitoring the ways that the necessary relief will support essential components of civil society, notably faith-based organizations and their employees. This document highlights select elements of the CARES Act as well as the previously enacted Families First Coronavirus Response Act, noting their potential significance for faith-based organizations, their employees, and those they serve. 

Letter: Faith-Based Organizations Ask Trump Administration to Consider Proposals to Protect Incarcerated Individuals and Corrections Staff 

April is Second Chance Month and a time to remember that incarcerated individuals cannot be neglected, especially during a national health crisis. Incarcerated individuals and corrections staff are currently vulnerable to the spread of COVID-19. Faith-based organizations, including CPJ, recently submitted a letter to the Trump administration requesting consideration for measures such as expediting clemency decisions and expanding the use of existing elderly and compassionate release mechanisms.


Work & Family in a New Reality: Policies to Safeguard Workers and Workplaces - Families Valued 

Over a matter of days, many of Americans’ work and family lives have been turned upside down. As policymakers make crucial decisions in the coming days, weeks, and months to help families face the COVID-19 pandemic, CPJ offers key principles and policy recommendations.


Letter: Faith Leaders Ask Congress to Protect Borrowers During COVID-19 Crisis 

The Center for Public Justice (CPJ) is a member of Faith for Just Lending (FJL), a coalition of faith-based institutions working to end predatory payday lending. Other coalition partners include Catholic Charities USA, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, Ecumenical Poverty Initiative, Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, Faith in Action (formerly PICO National Network), National Association of Evangelicals, National Baptist Convention USA, National Latino Evangelical Coalition, The Episcopal Church, and United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. On March 22, 2020, the coalition submitted a letter urging Congress to protect borrowers during the COVID-19 crisis by extending the protections of the Military Lending Act, including a 36% rate cap on payday loans, to all Americans during this time.

Policy Paper: Safeguarding the Sacred Sector During the COVID-19 Health Crisis - Rachel Anderson & Dr. Stanley Carlson-Thies 

A unique public health crisis requires compassion, care, and resilience from all sectors of society. Religious communities have sprung into action, sustaining social ties in a time of social distance and caring for those most at risk of homelessness, food insecurity, and isolation. These same religious communities and faith-based institutions will need support now and as the crisis persists. As Congress and the Administration undertakes emergency measures, it should take care to safeguard the sacred sector, attending to both faith-based organizations and their employees. The COVID-19 crisis presents our nation with not a sprint, but a marathon. Public policy responses must respond to urgent needs while protecting those institutions -- including religious communities, faith-based charities, and the family -- that help keep our society strong



Beyond the Public Gatherings Debate: Religious Freedom for Faith-based Organizations During COVID-19 

The national conversation regarding religious freedom right now is largely focused on the question of public, in person gatherings for worship services. This public conversation and its nuances have been relatively well covered. And yet, it is important to recognize that this is not the only element of the institutional religious freedom discussion that needs to be had at the moment. In the weeks to come, this column will take up in detail emerging public policies that impact the freedom of faith-based organizations. This column will focus on making visible the right now largely invisible, untold and often surprising elements and stories of how institutional religious freedom advances human flourishing during COVID-19 and beyond.

Principles for Effective Sacred Public Partnerships During COVID-19
In this editorial response to a Berkley Forum post, Chelsea Langston Bombino responds to the questions, “What weaknesses in the American social welfare system have been exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic? How can religious ethics inform continuing debates on social welfare, especially in light of the coronavirus crisis? How can faith leaders mobilize their religious communities in action on policies that protect workers and ensure access to affordable health care? What are the broader challenges and possibilities of incorporating religious perspectives in policymaking on social welfare?”
COVID-19 Relief and Recovery: A Strong, Multi-Dimensional Safety Net is Needed
In this editorial response to a Berkley Forum post, Katie Thompson responds to the questions, “What weaknesses in the American social welfare system have been exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic? How can religious ethics inform continuing debates on social welfare, especially in light of the coronavirus crisis? How can faith leaders mobilize their religious communities in action on policies that protect workers and ensure access to affordable health care? What are the broader challenges and possibilities of incorporating religious perspectives in policymaking on social welfare?”
Unpacking the COVID-19 Emergency Relief Package

In this article from Shared Justice, the Center for Public Justice's initiative for college students and young adults, Emily Fromke explores key provisions in the CARES Act from a public justice perspective and calls upon Christian young adults to be attentive to the implications of current and subsequent COVID-19 related policies. 


The Esential Role of Child Care Providers in Our Response to COVID-19 

Just as individuals responsible for our food systems, energy systems, and health care play a crucial role in saving lives and sustaining our society, those who care for those who work in essential roles and their families are essential themselves. Child care provided by extended family or by dedicated caregivers has always played a crucial role in our communities. The importance of this has never been as salient as it is now. 

World leaders have called for a “war effort” response to COVID-19. This article from Chelsea Maxwell, Program Associate of CPJ’s Families Valued initiative, explores that analogy in light of the dire need essential workers have for child care, including family-based, home-based, and center-based care. Readers will learn about the current status of child care for essential workers, supports needed to protect children and providers, and current proposals to meet these needs. Additionally, this article—informed by a public justice perspective—identifies three key principles for policymakers and public servants to keep at the forefront as the federal government and states continue to respond to the current public health and economic emergencies.


Making a Sacred Impact During COVID-19: How One Historic Black Church Incarnates its Mission During a Pandemic 

Reverend Harold Dugger shares about how his congregation, First Baptist Church of Capitol Heights, is navigating the impacts of COVID-19. Pastor Dugger’s church, a historically black congregation, is a Sacred Sector Community participant organization, and has a long history of serving its local community. In this article, Pastor Dugger reflects on how Sacred Sector’s learning community has helped his congregation understand how public policy, even during COVID-19, impacts the sacred sector and civil society as a whole. Pastor Dugger emphasizes that it is vital for congregations to understand that government, in times like this, has a distinct role to play.


Making a Sacred Impact During COVID-19: One Church's Response 

Victory Church, a 2018-2019 participant in Sacred Sector Community, has a longstanding, mutually-beneficial relationship with the Center for Public Justice. In this interview with pastor(s) Jamé Bolds and Mark Shanks, Sacred Sector Director Chelsea Langston Bombino talks with both pastors about how they see Victory Church and CPJ’s Sacred Sector initiative strengthening each other as they seek, in community with other congregations and faith-based organizations, to live out their sacred animating beliefs, in every area of their organizational lives. In light of the current COVID-19 pandemic, Pastor Bolds sees the health crisis as an opportunity to live into his congregation’s faith-based commitments in everything they do, with respect to how they engage their own faith community, how they serve the broader community, how they coordinate with other churches and community-based organizations, and how the church interacts with government. This principled pluralist, public justice framework shapes Victory Church’s approach to living into God’s good purposes as a congregation, and recognizes that each institution in society must live into their God-given strengths and innovate based on those strengths, while at the same time, encouraging and working with other social institutions and government to live into their right roles.


Living Out Our Public Justice Responsibilities During COVID-19 - Chelsea Langston Bombino & Katie Thompson 

The Center for Public Justice’s animating framework of public justice offers something unique to the global conversation surrounding COVID-19. The virus has dramatically impacted the institutions within which we live our lives – the institutions that make up the fabric of our daily lives. Institutions like our families, schools, hospitals, workplaces, houses of worship, museums, and our government are all impacted. The very relationships and institutions that provide meaning, livelihood, connection, and joy to our lives are disrupted and leave us collectively wondering: what’s next?  This article will focus specifically on how people of faith and their institutions can rise to the challenge of loving their neighbors during this unprecedented challenge by instituting thoughtful and positive organizational practices. This will require diverse faith-based organizations to be both proactive and adaptive.


News Coverage

"A New Religion Debate: Is It Wrong for the Government to Send Stimulus Money Directly to Churches?" (Deseret News




"Christians Urge Congress to Incentivize Charitable Giving" (Christianity Today




"The Coronavirus Is Pushing Charities to Their Limit. Should Congress Do More to Help?" (Deseret News


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