As a Sister of Mercy who works with Maine’s immigrants and other struggling residents, I urge Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Angus King, I-Maine, to support a COVID-19 stimulus package that includes global relief measures through the International Monetary Fund. This legislation will not only help Maine’s economy, but also enable poor countries to stave off famine – at no cost to Mainers or other U.S. taxpayers.

Sen. Collins’ longtime commitment to ordinary people in Maine and worldwide – especially her work as a founding member of the Senate Hunger Caucus – makes it natural for her to include provisions for debt relief and emergency financial resources for developing countries in her legislative package. Sen. King, a Senate bipartisan committee member working on the stimulus package, is also known for his compassion toward others.

Because of coronavirus, hunger stalks the world again. The virus has led to the worst global recession since World War II, and experts at the U.N’.s World Food Program say that the number of people facing life-threatening food insecurity could nearly double this year to 260 million. Already, pandemic-linked hunger is causing an estimated 10,000 child deaths each month.

In my former role as the Portland Diocese’s Hispanic Ministry director, and as a nun who previously worked in South America – a region hit hard by the pandemic – I witnessed hunger firsthand.

When people can’t feed their children, they become desperate. Many of my immigrant friends have harrowing stories of emigrating vast distances because of hunger. Some were lucky to find jobs in pre-pandemic times in Maine’s tourism industry and farms.

Sen. Collins is no stranger to the fight against hunger. Earlier this year, she co-led a bipartisan resolution that recognized the key role the United States can play in solving global hunger. She has also called to “end preventable maternal and child deaths worldwide in the next decade” through food security funding.

Together, Sen. Collins and Sen. King can do something simple that will have a big impact – and that’s to support Sen. Dick Durbin’s bill (S.4139) calling for an IMF major relief package. These funds would help prevent further global catastrophe. 

Leaders of most major nations, as well as over 100 U.S. organizations, support the release of these funds to help rebuild the world’s economy and save lives. But the U.S. Treasury, which is our country’s IMF representative, refused under President Trump to support this proposal.

The last time the IMF released emergency funds – in 2009 – they stabilized economies worldwide that faced ruin from the last global financial crisis. Sen. Collins voted then in favor of the bipartisan bill that supported an IMF relief package, as did King’s predecessor, Sen. Olympia Snowe. Maine’s senators should do the same today. As Kristalina Georgieva, the IMF’s director general, recently stated, “This is a crisis like no other.”

Recently, the House of Representatives passed an economic stimulus package containing a provision that supports the release of IMF funds. Without leadership from senators like Collins and King, millions across the globe will have to wait indefinitely for relief – and that could mean the difference between life and death.

Because we live in an interconnected world, these IMF funds can directly affect Maine families struggling to recover from the crisis. Before the pandemic, more than 170,000 jobs, or 20 percent of the state’s total jobs, were supported by international trade. Given the significant losses in Maine’s export industries, we would do well to help our trading partners access funds needed to import our goods and support our communities.

That’s why Mainers like me are looking to Sen. Collins and Sen. King for leadership.

As I’ve talked with my immigrant friends during the pandemic, I’ve been moved by their admiration and gratitude toward the United States. They see our country not only as a “land of opportunity” where they can work hard and get ahead, but also as a moral leader that does right by poorer countries.

The time has come for Sens. Collins and King to do right by supporting a release of IMF emergency funds. By doing so, they will ensure that countless people can feed their families and regain their economic mojo in the months and years ahead.

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