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AFSCME Calls for More Aid to States, Localities in ‘Phase 3’ Coronavirus Package

A health worker directs motorists at a coronavirus (COVID-19) drive thru testing location in Stamford, Connecticut. (John Moore / Getty Images)
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AFSCME President Lee Saunders is calling on the House and Senate to quickly fund a “Phase 3” stimulus package that would include robust general grant assistance to state and municipalities, to maintain services now and into the future.

“We are in an unprecedented moment. The COVID-19 outbreak is causing a massive disruption to the economy and threatens to destabilize state and local government finances,” Saunders said in statement issued late Thursday.

“Over the last decade, public services in public health and other areas have been chronically underfunded, with staffing levels never rebounding to where they were before the Great Recession. The shortsightedness of those austerity measures is now being exposed, and it’s up to the federal government to step in,” Saunders added.

The New York Times recently offered context for the funding and staffing crises experienced by health departments: “Nationwide, local and state health departments have lost nearly a quarter of their work force since 2008, according to the National Association of County and City Health Officials. As the nation’s local and state public health officials confront a pandemic that has paralyzed much of the world, many of them have made their situation plain: They are heading into a crisis without the resources they need.”

Saunders said that the first two bills that Congress passed were important first steps. But bigger and bolder action is still needed.

“In 2009, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act assisted states and localities, primarily through Medicaid and education aid. But this approach won’t be adequate to the current challenge, especially since much of it won’t filter down to local governments,” noted Saunders.

“The federal government must provide each state with a grant equal to 7% of combined state and local government own source revenue collected last fiscal year. The estimated investment would be $175 billion.”

During the biggest public health emergency in a century, when public service workers are working around the clock on the front lines, Congress must act now to ensure that the people who protect the health and safety of their communities have the resources they need to do their jobs.

Fiscal Stabilization for State and Local Governments

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