Week Ending March 6, 2020

Emergency funding to respond to Coronavirus includes funding for worker training pushed by AFSCME.

  • Federal Funding to Address the Coronavirus
  • AFSCME Retiree Urges Affordable Coronavirus Vaccine
  • House Passes Bill Granting Collective Bargaining Rights and Higher Wages to Airport Screeners (TSOs)

Federal Funding to Address the Coronavirus

With overwhelming bipartisan support, the House and the Senate passed the “Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2020” (H.R. 6074), an $8.3 billion emergency supplemental spending bill to combat the coronavirus. Congress understands the seriousness and scale of this public health emergency and its significant effects on the U.S. economy and the global market. It is disturbing that Trump administration officials did not recognize the severity of this outbreak when they requested only $2.5 billion. AFSCME members work everywhere in our communities. They care for people in hospitals, nursing homes, group homes, mental health care facilities and in their own homes. They are in state public laboratories testing for the virus. They provide transportation, sanitation and public works in our cities. They drive students to school and keep them fed and safe. In short, they are on the front lines of protecting public health and safety and are at risk of exposure to the coronavirus. The supplemental bill provides:

  • Worker training funding: AFSCME succeeded in getting $10 million for worker-based training to prevent and reduce exposure for hospital employees, emergency first responders and other workers on the front lines combatting the virus.
  • Funding to assist states and localities: Over $2 billion has been provided in public health funding for prevention and preparedness, of which $950 million will support state and local health agencies. State and local governments will receive $475 million within 30 days after the bill is enacted, with each state receiving no less than $4 million. The bill also provides nearly $1 billion for procurement of pharmaceuticals and medical supplies to support health care preparedness and Community Health Centers, and to improve medical surge capacity.

Additional strong provisions: States and local governments have already spent money to prepare and respond to this virus. The bill ensures that state and local governments will be reimbursed for costs incurred while assisting the federal response. It also includes a requirement to reimburse $136 million to important health accounts, including mental health, substance abuse treatment and prevention and the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance (LIHEAP) program. The Trump administration transferred money out of these accounts.

What You Need to Know: The funding in this emergency supplemental bill is only the first phase in what is needed to respond to this ongoing public health emergency. It is expected that more supplemental spending measures will be needed to fully contain and combat this virus. A second spending package is already under discussion and could move in May. AFSCME will continue to make sure that necessary training and protective equipment is provided to ensure the safety of our front-line responders and people in their communities. The next phase should also include protections for workers who need to take time off work if they are sick or if they need to get tested or get treated for the virus, or if they are placed in isolation or have to follow quarantine requirements. For more information please see AFSCME’s website.

AFSCME Retiree Urges Affordable Coronavirus Vaccine

            Maryland AFSCME Retiree Josephine Ball joined Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas), Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) and Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) to call on the Trump administration to ensure that any 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine or treatment developed with the help of taxpayer-funded research is affordable and accessible to all Americans.

  • Vaccine and Treatment Development funded in Emergency Spending bill: The soon-to-be enacted emergency spending package responding to the coronavirus includes more than $3 billion of taxpayer support for research and development on vaccines, therapeutics and other treatments.

What You Need to Know: The cost of any eventual vaccine or treatment should be affordable and accessible to all Americans and AFSCME will work to make sure that is the case.

House Passes Bill Granting Collective Bargaining Rights and Higher Wages to Airport Screeners (TSOs)

The House of Representatives voted 230 to 171 to approve the bipartisan “Rights for Transportation Security Officers Act” (H.R.1140), which would ensure federal government employees working as transportation security officers (TSOs) are treated more fairly and have similar workplace rights as other federal government employees.

  • TSO Screeners Get Recognition: TSOs work for the federal Transportation Security Administration and are typically known as “screeners” at airports. While every Democrat who voted supported the bill, Republicans 170 voted to reject it and only 14 voted for approval.

What You Need to Know: AFSCME supports H.R. 1140 because it would provide TSOs with the same collective bargaining rights, workplace rights and protections, and wage scales governing most other federal employees. For example, it would add TSOs onto the federal government’s General Schedule pay scale and enable them to receive higher base salaries, regular pay raises and periodic step increases. More broadly, H.R. 1140 would ensure TSOs work within the fair and transparent personnel system established by U.S. Code Title 5. H.R. 1140 would also reduce TSA’s ongoing problems with TSO attrition, recruiting and training and help improve retention, strengthen America’s national security and protect our transportation system from future dangers.

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