AFSCME president urges swift Senate action on COVID-19 relief bill

AFSCME President Lee Saunders praised the House of Representatives for passing the American Rescue Plan on Saturday and urged the Senate to follow suit as soon as possible.

“House passage … moves us one step closer to the investments needed to crush this virus, distribute the vaccine, reopen our schools and revitalize the economy,” Saunders said in a press statement.

Among other things, the bill would provide $350 billion in aid to cash-starved states, cities and towns to help maintain and restore vital public services that have been on the chopping block. By doing so, the funding would help save the jobs of countless everyday heroes who have risked their lives and those of their loved ones to keep their communities safe.

For the sacrifices they have made, these front-line workers and AFSCME members have been thanked with pink slips – roughly 1.3 million public service jobs have vanished in the past year, AFSCME research shows.

The bill also seeks to provide much-needed relief to individuals and families in the form of $1,400 stimulus checks, child tax credits, housing assistance, unemployment insurance and a minimum wage increase. It also allocates $20 billion to create a national COVID-19 vaccination program.  

From the beginning of the pandemic one year ago, AFSCME members have been on the front lines of the war against the virus. From nurses and EMTs to correctional officers and child care providers, they answered the call with courage, dedication and sacrifice as they always do, especially in moments of great challenge. They have done everything they can at great risk to themselves and their families to protect their communities and keep the pandemic at bay.

In the year that has passed since the first COVID-19 cases were confirmed in the United States, our country is mourning the deaths of more than half a million people, a number that once seemed inconceivable. Although we may see the light at the end of the tunnel and millions of Americans are being vaccinated, including many front-line workers, we are still coping with massive job loss and a once-in-a-century national crisis.

“The Senate must now move quickly and decisively, passing a strong bill that provides the relief our families and communities need and getting it to the president’s desk in short order,” Saunders said. “We have waited too long already. It is time to fund the front lines.”