Week Ending September 11, 2020

Senate Fails to Pass Severely Limited COVID-19 Plan

  • Senate Should Take Up and Pass Heroes Act
  • Governors Testify in Support of States and Local Aid

Senate Should Take Up and Pass Heroes Act

The Senate, by a vote of 52 to 47, mostly along party lines, rejected a legislative package put together by Senate Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) that was woefully inadequate in size and scope to address the economic and health care needs of our nation in this moment when more than six million Americans have COVID-19.

  • Major Flaws in the Plan: The COVID-19 package proposed by Senate Majority Leader McConnell provided no new federal funds for states and localities, failing to provide a lifeline for workers on the front lines. The McConnell plan also would have shielded corporations from their responsibility to keep patrons and employees safe and gives the wealthy additional tax breaks, while snubbing millions of unemployed Americans who need real help to feed their children, pay their electricity bills and keep their health care through COBRA. The package offered an unemployment benefit of $300, reduced from a $600 boost that expired in July, that would have run through Dec. 27. A second round of loans under the Paycheck Protection Program for small businesses was also part of the package. A $10 billion loan given to the U.S. Postal Service would be forgiven and thus turned into a grant. The package offered $105 billion through an Education Stabilization Fund for schools as students go back to classes across the country, but it also included a two-year tax credit for private schools and other scholarship-granting organizations.

  • Senate Should Immediately Take Up and Pass Heroes Act: McConnell used procedural tactics to block senators from voting on the House-passed Heroes Act (H.R. 6800). Passed in May, the Heroes Act provides more than $1.2 trillion to states, local governments and school districts, increases Medicaid payments to states and protects workers on the front lines. It also gives front-line workers premium pay, needed unemployment and food assistance, and subsidizes 100% of the cost of COBRA health care for those who have lost their jobs. 

What You Need to Know: We cannot let Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his allies simply shrug their shoulders and fail to act. We must hold them accountable and urge them to pass a comprehensive 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 students learning remotely. 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.

Fund the Front Lines Day of Action

In addition to the action below, AFSCME is planning a National Day of Action with allies for Thursday, September 17. Please sign up to participate here.

Governors Testify in Support of States and Local Aid

The House Financial Services Committee held a hearing on September 10 where four governors testified, highlighting the widespread need for significant and immediate federal funding relief to help states continue delivering health care, education, job training and other vital public services, as well as minimize COVID-19-related health and economic problems. The witnesses demonstrated that federal assistance is needed to prevent additional layoffs and furloughs in their states and to avoid similar job losses in states and localities across America for hundreds of thousands of nurses, health care workers, teachers, school personnel and other front-line workers, including AFSCME members.

  • Bipartisan Support for State and Local Aid: The governors of New Mexico, Minnesota, Kansas and Guam testified on “The Need for Financial Aid to America’s States and Territories During the Pandemic: Supporting First Responders, Assisting Schools in their Efforts to Safely Educate, and Preventing Mass Layoffs.” The governors noted the strong bipartisan support among state and local government officials across America and the urgent need for Congress to enact additional federal funding. For example, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz testified that, “The National Governors Association has issued a bipartisan call for at least $500 billion in state aid as part of the next COVID-19 response.”

  • All States are Suffering, Not Just Blue States: States across the country have seen a rapid decline in their fiscal situations as a result of the pandemic and its impact on the economy. Minnesota’s surplus turned into a $2.3 billion projected deficit for fiscal year 2021. For example, according to Walz, Minnesota’s 2020 February Budget Forecast surplus of $1.5 billion turned into a $4.7 billion shortfall over the next two fiscal years. According to Walz, nearly every state, regardless of its economic strength, will see their budgets harmed because of the ongoing pandemic. New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham testified that, “New Mexico faces a nearly 20% decline in general fund revenues year-over-year.” She stated, “New Mexicans’ lives and livelihoods depend on essential state- and local-level services. Without them, the suffering of the economic crisis will be prolonged, and the recovery we all desperately want will be significantly slower and more painful for all.” 

What You Need to Know: The hearing illustrated GOP reluctance to approve needed state and local aid and their willingness to ignore the large budget gaps impacting states and localities across America, whether governed by Democrats or Republicans. Many members of the committee pushed back on the Senate’s failure to act and indicated they continue to support the much more robust and comprehensive Heroes Act (H.R. 6800).

Additional State and Local Aid Is Urgently Needed

It’s urgent that you call your senators as soon as possible. Congress needs to provide federal funding support before state and local governments are forced to lay off more workers and cut more vital public services. No job is untouchable. Over 1 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. Tell them at least $1 trillion is needed for states, counties and cities, including more funding for Medicaid and education, for essential public services to fight COVID-19 and reopen our economy. For more ways to take action, visit the AFSCME COVID-19 webpage.

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