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Furloughed Florida Member Needs More Than Prayer to Survive

Previous Pelosi, Schumer Join AFSCME Members to Push Congress for State, Local Aid
Furloughed Florida Member Needs More Than Prayer to Survive
Pictured: Shirley Thomas. Member-provided photo.

Editor’s Note: The following is a story from the front lines of the fight against COVID-19, as told by AFSCME Florida member Shirley Thomas. She was one of four AFSCME members who, along with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and AFSCME President Lee Saunders, urged Congress on Tuesday to provide aid to state and local governments:

“I have worked as a custodian at Duval County Public Schools for over 19 years. After all this time, my motivation is still the same: I love taking care of the children. I treat them like my own – with care and love.

“Every day I am happy knowing that I work to keep our children safe and secure. I make sure that the classrooms, bathrooms, cafeteria and all common spaces are sanitized, so the kids can stay focused on learning and growing.

“[Last week] I was called into a meeting and told that I would be let go. Although we have technically been furloughed, there is no telling when and if we will be asked to come back to work.

“This news left me scared, worried and unsure of how I was going to make ends meet.

“As the head of my household, my paycheck helps keep the lights on and puts food on the table for myself, my two daughters, my sister and my brother.

“My sister and I also take care of my brother who suffered a bad stroke. Without income, I worry about paying for gas so we can take him to his doctors’ appointments.

“I am diabetic and will also have to cancel a procedure I need to remove a blood clot from my ankle, because I can’t afford it right now. My medications are expensive and I’m hoping that what I have will last me until I am able to work again.

“I am very thankful that my church is helping me, and I am doing my best to keep my head up and keep it moving.

“As our leaders debate over what additional funding is needed, I ask them to consider how failing state and local governments will hurt our communities.

“We can’t reopen schools without the work custodians like myself do to keep them clean and safe for our young ones. When this pandemic hit, I didn’t abandon the kids or the school where they come for a safe place to learn. I hope Congress won’t abandon me or others like me who just want to help get our communities back on their feet.

“My job gave me stability to take care of my kids. It gave me stability knowing that I would be able to retire now that I’m reaching that age. It gave me joy to work in public service.

“Overnight that stability is gone, but I will continue to live by prayer.”

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