Caritas Corner | Where We Have Been and Where We Are Going With Covid-19

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We have reached a point in time where we can better see where we have been, and where we are going in the COVID-19 pandemic. The encouraging development and distribution of two vaccines are providing more optimism than we have experienced in months. As the number of cases has declined in Colorado, the Marian House Kitchen has been allowed to reopen for indoor dining for the first time since Thanksgiving. The virus has, mercifully, mostly spared our homeless population, despite the disproportionate risks they face by virtue of not having the “safer at home” option. There is much to be thankful for as we embark on a new year.

COVID-19 has brought people together in amazing ways. Nowhere has that been more evident than in the outpouring of support that has continued since the first days of the pandemic last March. An abundance of philanthropic funding from foundations and individual donors ensured that, while we had to innovate at times, we never had to shut down our operations. With this financial investment, Catholic Charities has been able to provide over $750,000 in rent assistance to 773 households in El Paso and Douglas County since April (numbers reflect those served as of Jan 20, 2021). That is an incomprehensible number of people who would have become homeless or would be facing homelessness without the generosity of our community members.

Yet at the same time, we have been growing apart. The economic effects of the pandemic have worked to dramatically expand the gap between upper and lower-wage earners. The latter group saw a disproportionate number of service and front-line jobs cut amid shutdowns and travel restrictions. According to reports from Opportunity Insights, a nonpartisan research group, employment for those earning over $60,000 has largely returned to pre-pandemic levels. For those earning $27,000 or less, employment levels are 20% below January 2020 levels. On top of employment stability, high earners who hold stocks have benefited from the unprecedented rally in the market. Many of these households have also taken advantage of record-low rates to refinance their homes. Those on the margins have enjoyed no such economic boosts.

These disparities are dangerous. They have led, in many ways, to the discontent of the masses that has manifested throughout our nation this past year. As Pope Francis writes in The Joy of the Gospel, “Inequality is the root of social ills.” The good news is that the past year has provided us with a model to combat these threats to the common good. We have seen and heard from so many of you who have said, “I was blessed, and I want to share it with those who were not.” My prayer is that we can keep that spirit alive in the months and years to come. Thank you to all of you who have helped chart that course.

Andy Barton is the President and CEO of Catholic Charities of Central Colorado.  This article first appeared in the Colorado Catholic Herald.

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