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READ: AFSCME’s Saunders: Coronavirus Relief Bill a Good Down Payment to “Fund the Front Lines”

March 27, 2020

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (H.R. 748), cleared the House of Representatives today.

Click here to read a summary of the bill, and below is a statement from AFSCME President Lee Saunders that was released today.

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WASHINGTON – AFSCME President Lee Saunders released the following statement following House passage of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act: 

“Public service workers continue to lead us through this national crisis, confronting the most difficult possible conditions imaginable, doing life-and-death work. But they do not have the critical tools they need, nor the economic support required in the short and long term. 

“It’s appalling and gut-wrenching to see front line workers of all kinds – health care professionals, park attendants, corrections officers and more – going without the gear that allows them to safely do their jobs. Skilled, courageous nurses are resorting to wearing garbage bags! And it’s nothing short of sickening that President Trump is doing the bidding of Chamber of Commerce lobbyists, refusing to accelerate production of protective equipment by exercising his powers under the Defense Production Act. 

“The bill that has now passed the House and Senate provides a good down payment to fund the front lines. It fast-tracks personal protective equipment for first responders; it provides direct assistance to state and local governments; and it provides a safety net for all Americans affected by this pandemic. Specifically, among the important steps in this bill are:

  • $150 billion in direct assistance to state and local governments, a down payment that will go a long way toward meeting immediate needs created by this pandemic, as we monitor the impact on budgets. But state and local government agencies will need more, as they contend with unprecedented demands for services and precipitous declines in revenue due to a cratering economy. We were already being asked to do more with less, long before anyone had heard of coronavirus. This is the biggest piece of unfinished business before the Congress. State and local governments need at least $200 billion more in flexible direct assistance, elimination of the restrictions on the already appropriated $150 billion in aid and substantially more federal funding of Medicaid to address the pandemic and the economic fallout.
     
  • Significant investment in K-12 schools, higher education, transportation, housing, public health, first responders and a host of other public services.
     
  • Essential Unemployment Insurance increases to keep families afloat when a breadwinner is laid off during this crisis, and oversight measures to ensure that support for businesses does not become a vehicle for crony capitalism.

“The bill includes these provisions because public service workers raised our voices, demanding the respect we deserve and the support our communities need. By contrast, Mitch McConnell tried unsuccessfully to jam through a bill last weekend that was little more than a corporate bailout. That went down in flames because Americans know this is a moment to prioritize working families, not the wealthy and well-connected. 

“More intervention will undoubtedly be required to get our economy moving again – look no further than the fact that a staggering nearly 3.3 million people filed for jobless benefits last week. Among other things, AFSCME will continue to fight for stronger worker safety measures, universal paid sick leave and more support for state and local government services. 

“We are in a national state of emergency. We need to brace for a steep economic downturn and massive disruption to American life. Public service workers will continue to do whatever the moment demands. Facing overwhelming demand and the highest possible stakes, we will put our communities first as always. All we ask is that we get the resources we need to get the job done. Congress must continue to fund the front lines.”

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