For Immediate Release
Contact: Natalia Pérez Santos

Speaker Pelosi joined front-line public service workers to call for urgent state and local aid amid new spikes

As states experience unprecedented spikes in coronavirus cases and budget shortfalls due to the pandemic, Speaker Pelosi joined AFSCME President Lee Saunders and front-line workers from Arizona, Texas and Florida to call on the Senate to deliver aid to America’s states, cities and towns in July

On a conference call Thursday afternoon, Speaker Pelosi joined AFSCME President Lee Saunders and front-line public service workers from states experiencing surges in coronavirus cases to call on the Senate to pass at least $1 trillion in aid to states, cities, towns and schools upon returning from a two-week July recess.

The Senate has left Washington without taking up the House-passed Heroes Act, which delivers urgently needed aid to maintain essential public services. Each day the Senate delays on an aid package, everyday heroes in public service who continue to risk their lives to beat the pandemic and safely reopen the economy are being thanked with pink slips. Dire state and local budget shortfalls caused by the pandemic have resulted in cuts to public services and layoffs for the public service workers who provide them at a time when demand for services is skyrocketing. More than 1.6 million public sector jobs have already been lost, which is nearly three times the number lost during the entire Great Recession. 

Without aid to states, cities, towns and schools, economists predict a prolonged depression, and say that every dollar invested in public services will yield $1.70 in economic activity. Business leaders, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, have called on Congress to pass aid. Eighty four percent of Americans support such aid, including a majority of Kentuckians. Democratic and Republican mayors and Republican governors have been calling for aid since March. The Senate must not go on recess in August before fulfilling its duty to America’s communities.  

Listen to the call:

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said:
“We’re not worthy of praising our heroes working on the frontlines until we do everything possible to support them. We must fund the front lines. That’s why our legislation is called the Heroes Act, because it's about these heroes on the call with us today and others across our nation. How can we expect these front-line workers to do their best when we aren't even respecting them with a certainty of their health and jobs? Sen. McConnell’s idea of protections for workers is to take a vacation. He says workers must go risk their health and well-being but refuses to fund states and cities to end this crisis. The Senate must immediately pass the Heroes Act, for you, those who are on this call with us today, whom the bill is named (for), who are risking their lives to crush this virus and open our economy.”

Lee Saunders, AFSCME president said:
“[Public services] will remain on the chopping block unless Congress comes through with a robust package of aid – at least a dollars’ worth – to states, cities and towns across the country. ... This shouldn’t be divisive or controversial. This isn’t about red and blue; it’s about right and wrong. Public service workers keep answering the call every day, stopping at nothing to get the job done at the most difficult possible time. When they get back from their vacation, senators need to get their jobs done and fund the front lines.

Tanisha Woods, correctional officer at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s Dr. Lane Murray Unit in Gatesville, said:
“It is my duty to maintain safety and security within my unit, but I can’t do that if I don’t have the proper information and resources. We need the Senate to do its job to keep us safe and provide $1 trillion in aid to our states, cities and towns. The prospect of cuts and layoffs due to budget shortfalls is contributing to an atmosphere of concern and anxiety. We must maintain essential services and protect public service workers. We need steady leadership to get through this. Speaker Pelosi and the House have stepped up, but now we need the Senate to do their job and fund the front lines now.”

Rene Sanchez, a trauma operating room technician at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, said:
“I invite our senators to come work the nightshift and find out what it is like to be covered in sweat after caring for 10 or even 16 patients on ventilators. I invite them to see how your coworkers huddle together over shorts breaks of nothing but ginger tea to stave off hunger because you are afraid of touching food once you put on your PPE. ... We feel slighted. We feel forgotten because we are doing this every day without proper PPE, let alone hazard pay. We’re doing it without the number of staff we need, and the uncertainty of how long we will even have a job due to budget cuts. Do my job for a week and then you tell me if the Senate should just keep waiting to pass the necessary aid to maintain essential public services that hospitals like Jackson provide to our communities. We need all hands on deck. We can’t wait.”

Keith Lowry, paramedic serving rural communities in Arizona, said:

“State and local governments also need the resources to expand testing and contact tracing. There is a lack of available rapid testing across the state which makes it hard to identify whether someone has coronavirus and needs to stop going to work. We’re at a point where many can’t afford to lose out on a paycheck, and they are continuing to work and spread the virus in the four- to 5-day period it takes get their test results. It can also take days to even get an appointment to get tested. Testing also still isn’t available for front-line workers unless we are symptomatic. I’m concerned that this lack of full testing is hiding how many cases are out there and that people are continuing to spread this virus unknowingly.”