A group of 20 Church entities are calling for financial and material support for those who cannot afford to pay for shelter, food or medicine as the world reels from the coronavirus outbreak.

“We urge the authorities to take further concrete measures to ensure that people living in poverty are not left without the basic necessities for a dignified life,” they said on Thursday.

Although illness does not discriminate between people on the basis of financial, social, health or immigration status, there is little doubt that the economic fall-out of the pandemic will, and the worst affected will be the poorest and the most marginalised, the group said.

Last week Caritas Malta told Times of Malta that the outbreak will increase solitude and the financial burden of vulnerable people.

Meanwhile, migrants have expressed concern about asylum seekers who paid social security or were in regular employment but did not qualify for the support and employment measures announced by the government in recent days.

The Church entities acknowledged the government support services for vulnerable people, like the support line, food delivery for the elderly, increased unemployment benefit and extension of the rent subsidy scheme. 

However, while these initiatives were critical, it was becoming increasingly clear that such measures alone will not be sufficient to ensure that all are able to live with dignity during the coming months. 

For this to happen, it is essential that steps are taken to provide financial and material support to all who cannot afford to pay for shelter, food or medicine.

Support should be based on need, not on immigration status

They pledged their support to the authorities to implement such services, insisting that entitlement to this support and basic services such as medical care, should be based on need and not on other criteria like immigration status.

“Our work brings us in daily contact with people for whom survival is already a struggle – people with mental illness or disability, people struggling with addiction, ex-prisoners, survivors of domestic violence striving to rebuild their lives, refugees, migrant workers, or large families living off a single income. 

“Most earn little more than the minimum wage, which is barely enough to cover rent, food and water and electricity bills. Few will have any money put aside to carry them through a period of unemployment lasting months, or possibly longer. While some might have access to social benefits, this is not the case for all.”

The organisations calling for concrete measures are the Commission for Peace and Justice, Diakonia Commission, Council for the Religious Major Superiors, Church Homes for the Elderly, Caritas Malta, Dar Merħba Bik Foundation, Dar Hosea, Dar tal-Providenza, Fondazzjoni Sebħ, Fondazzjoni Paċi u Ġid, Jesuit Refugee Service (Malta), Peace Lab, Malta Emigrants Commission, Millenium Chapel, Paulo Freire Institute, Salesjani Dar Osanna Pia, Segretarjat Assistenza Soċjali Azzjoni Kattolika Maltija, Society of St Vincent de Paul – Malta, St Jeanne Antide Foundation and the Youth Alive Foundation.

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