Week Ending July 31, 2020

Urgent Action Needed on State and Local Aid

  • Urgent Action Needed on State and Local Aid
  • House Approves Appropriations Minibus Package
  • House Passes Landmark Bills to Support Child Care

After months of inaction, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has finally released a COVID-19 relief package called the “HEALS Act,” but it falls far short of what’s needed. Further negotiations are going on between House and Senate Democrats and the White House in hopes of reaching a deal. In a statement about the GOP plan said, President Lee Saunders said, “Senate Republicans need to go back to the drawing board and deliver a bill that is worthy of our front-line heroes.”

  • Aid to State and Local Government - AFSCME requests at least $1 trillion in direct and flexible aid to state and local governments, but the GOP plan includes no new aid to states and municipalities. Instead it includes flexibility for use of the existing $150 billion in CARES Act money for the states, but only 25% of Coronavirus Relief Funds are available to be used for lost revenues, and states must first certify that 25% of payments have gone to downstream local governments.
  • Medicaid and COBRA Coverage - AFSCME requests a ​total of a 15-percentage point increase in Medicaid funding to states (known as FMAP) ​at a minimum. The GOP plan includes no additional increase in Medicaid funding and doesn’t help furloughed or unemployed workers maintain their health coverage through for COBRA. 
  • Funding for Schools - AFSCME requests at least $200 billion in additional unrestricted funding for public schools. The GOP plan includes $105 billion largely tied to reopening schools, allocating just $70 billion for K-12 and $30 billion for higher education, with two-thirds of the funding to be unfairly restricted to schools with approved plans to reopen. In addition, private schools would also be eligible for the new funding, which AFSCME opposes.
  • OSHA Safety Standard - AFSCME requests OSHA be ​given a firm deadline to issue a temporary national worker safety standard ​that covers all workers no matter where they live. The GOP plan includes no OSHA safety standard.
  • Liability Shield - The GOP plan offers sweeping new liability protections for business, health care providers, employers, states and localities for lawsuits related to COVID-19. ​The changes undermine worker protections for safe workplaces, minimum wage and overtime, sick leave, and to work in a place free from discrimination. This proposal gives a green light to these entities to do as little as possible to protect their workers and customers.
  • Election Security - AFSCME requests funding be provided for election security and safety to ensure smooth elections. The GOP plan includes no new funding for safe elections.
  • Unemployment Benefits - AFSCME requests extension of the existing pandemic unemployment insurance benefits. The GOP plan reduces the unemployment compensation benefit by cutting it to $200 a week from the $600 a week level that the unemployed now receive under the CARES Act. Starting in October, the $200 a week compensation benefit would be limited to total compensation for 70% of an individual’s prior wages, a plan that most consider unfair and administratively unworkable.
  • Other Provisions - The GOP plan includes more funding for the Paycheck Protection Program for businesses, funding for pandemic treatment and vaccines, another round of $1,200 in stimulus checks, but it also includes unnecessary issues like restoration of the Business Meals tax deduction, a harmful budget cutting plan called the Trust Act that threatens Social Security and Medicare, more funding for defense and funding for a new FBI headquarters.

What You Need to KnowThe Senate must act as soon as possible and pass a plan that provides at least $1 trillion in direct, flexible aid to state and local governments, increases funding for Medicaid, and provides additional support for schools to ensure safety and to meet the needs of distance learning. It’s not an option to allow more Americans to lose their jobs and essential public services to be shut down. Communities can’t afford to wait. Congress must fund the front lines immediately.

Additional State and Local Aid Is Still Needed Right NOW

It’s urgent that you call your U.S. senators as soon as possible. Time is running out for Congress to provide aid before state and local governments are forced to lay off more workers. An estimated 1.5 million public employees have already been given pink slips. Front-line public service workers like you are critical to fighting this pandemic and reopening our economy. America cannot do it without you!

Please call your senators right now at 1-888-981-9704

Tell your senators that it’s urgent to fund the front lines NOW, with at least $1 trillion needed for states, counties, and cities – including more funding for  Medicaid and education – for essential public services to fight COVID and reopen our economy. 

For more ways to take action, visit the AFSCME COVID-19 webpage.

House Approves Appropriations Minibus Package

The House of Representatives is moving forward with passing its spending bills for fiscal year (FY) 2021 despite Senate inaction. So far, the Senate has failed to consider any annual spending bills. In fact, not a single bill has been introduced or marked up. On July 24, the House passed the first FY 2021 appropriations minibus package (H.R. 7608) that included four spending bills: Agriculture, State-Foreign Operations, Interior-Environment, and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs. This $259.5 billion package passed by a 224-189 vote.

  • Important Domestic Spending Included in Minibus Package - The second House minibus package (H.R. 7617) that will be approved this week includes six individual appropriations bills: Defense, Commerce-Justice-Science, Energy and Water, Financial Services, Labor-Health and Human Services-Education, and Transportation and Housing. This package includes a total of $1.31 trillion in discretionary funding and $210 billion in emergency funding for infrastructure investments and coronavirus response.

What You Need to Know: Homeland Security and Legislative Branch appropriations bills will not be voted on yet. When Congress returns in September, members will likely be forced to pass a short-term continuing resolution (CR) to keep the federal government funded until after Election Day and then pass another CR into the new year depending on the election results.

House Passes Landmark Bills to Support Child Care

The U.S. House of Representatives passed two bills, the Child Care is Essential Act (H.R. 7027) and the Child Care for Economic Recovery Act (H.R. 7327) to provide child care resources for parents of young children and child care providers. Both bills received bipartisan support, with 20 Republicans crossing over to support H.R. 7327 and 18 Republicans supporting H.R. 7027. Together, the bills ensure that child care providers have the resources to safely operate, including to reopen when appropriate, and for parents to have the support to get back to work and contribute to a strengthening economy.

  • R. 7027 Provides Critically Needed Funding - H.R. 7027, sponsored by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), would provide $50 billion to stabilize the child care sector and help working parents afford child care.
  • R. 7327 Provides Greater Access to Care - H.R. 7327, sponsored by Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), would expand the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit (CDCTC), making it fully refundable and enable more families access to its benefits in addition to providing targeted tax relief to employers who offer child and dependent care benefits to their workers and child care providers. It would also provide funding to states for child care for essential workers. Further, it would provide a much-needed increase for the child care entitlement to states and child care infrastructure.
  • Child Care Capacity Severely Diminished - Before the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly 12 million children under 5 years of age were in child care. Now, 60% of programs nationwide are closed. Nearly half of all child care capacity, 4.5 million child care slots, are at risk of permanently disappearing without significant public investment.

What You Need to Know: These important bills set a new high marker for negotiations concerning child care funding in the next COVID package that is currently pending in the Senate. The GOP HEALS Act bill includes $15 billion in child care funding, which is significantly less than the $50 billion urged by child care advocates as what is needed and included in H.R. 7027.

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