For Immediate Release
Contact: Natalia Pérez Santos

Speaker Pelosi, Leader Schumer Vow to Fight Alongside Public Service Workers for Robust State and Local Aid

This afternoon, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer echoed calls from AFSCME President Lee Saunders and front-line public service workers to pass urgently needed funding for cash-strapped state and local governments. Workers on the call – including emergency medical technicians, a school custodian who was recently laid off and an unemployment claims processor – highlighted how communities would suffer and be unable to reopen their economies without the vital public services they provide.

Front-line public service workers are putting their lives at risk every day to fight this pandemic. The next stimulus should put families and communities first by ensuring that public services, and the dedicated workers who provide them, are protected. Until Congress and the president act, state and local tax bases will continue to crumble, and our everyday heroes will continue to be laid off. Public service workers – including health care workers, corrections officers, sanitation workers and custodians who maintain our schools and keep them disinfected – are essential to fighting this pandemic and reopening our economy. We can do neither if we lay them off.

Listen to the call:

AFSCME President Lee Saunders said:
“For our service and sacrifice, courageous public service workers just have one simple request: help from the federal government to do our jobs, jobs that have never been more important. Right now, state and local governments are going broke. With the economy in a tailspin and the tax base crumbling, they have begun imposing layoffs and furloughs. So, the very people saving us during this devastating public health crisis – who deserve our deepest respect and gratitude – are fearful of losing their jobs. It’s shameful and unconscionable. The federal government has the power to make this right – to provide the support we need right now when our communities need us most.”

Shirley Thomas, a school custodian with Duval County Public Schools in Florida, said:
“We can’t reopen schools without the work custodians like myself do to keep them clean and safe for our young ones. When this pandemic hit, I didn’t abandon the kids or the school where they come for a safe place to learn. I hope Congress won’t abandon me or others like me who just want to help our communities get back on their feet. My job gave me stability to take care of my kids. It gave me stability knowing that I would be able to retire now that I’m reaching that age. It gave me joy to work in public service. Overnight that stability is gone, but I will continue to live by prayer.” 

Blake Andersen, an emergency medical technician from Northern California said: 
“I can tell you that as someone who is working directly with people who may have contracted the virus, it is vitally important that employers and our elected leaders – from the White House to Congress and on down – provide first responders with what we need to fight this pandemic. But we can’t make our communities safe now, and we certainly can’t reopen our communities, if first responders and other public service workers on the front lines are laid off. My unit goes wherever the fight is – wherever we are needed. But we are already seeing workers furloughed or losing hours at a time when we really cannot afford to let up and take our eye off the ball.”

Jason Suggs, an unemployment claims center associate in College Park, Maryland, said:
“At a moment when a record number of workers across the nation are waiting anxiously for unemployment benefits to help feed their families and keep a roof over their heads, they are facing an unemployment insurance system that is riddled with red tape. The COVID-19 pandemic shows why it’s crucial to strengthen and adequately fund our state government programs and that's why we're calling on Congress to lead with compassion and provide additional funding for state and local governments in this next relief package.”

Jared Rosenberg, paramedic supervisor with the town of Greenburgh Police Department in New York, said:
“About half of our calls are COVID-related with patients reporting high fever, coughs and shortness of breath. I am very concerned about the budget shortfalls we are seeing at the local level. We have already been asked to assess where we can cut expenditures. ...We’ve had to spend local funds to order what we need, often paying a hefty markup to purchase masks. Our communities, local organizations and associations have helped get us thousands of masks, but we shouldn’t have needed to do it that way. After all this, the very prospect of layoffs is downright shameful.”