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Maryland AFSCME member urges swift congressional action on federal budget

Photo Credit: Desiree Hoffman
Maryland AFSCME member urges swift congressional action on federal budget
By AFSCME Staff ·

Jenny Reese, a licensed practical nurse in Maryland and president of AFSCME Local 539 (Council 3), traveled to Capitol Hill this week to urge swift congressional action on the budget.

“Failing to pass a budget would mean cuts to key federal investments in health care, housing, education, child care, workplace training and so much more,” said Reese, who works at Springfield Hospital Center in Sykesville.

Congress is up against a deadline of Jan. 19 to avoid a partial government shutdown. Failure to reach an agreement would mean potential cuts to many federal programs that everyday Americans rely on. A shutdown would also create fear and uncertainty for many AFSCME members who work for Uncle Sam or whose jobs depend on federal funding.

Reese joined several members of Congress and community allies on Thursday in calling on extremist lawmakers to “pass a clean budget.” That means a budget without the “poison pill riders” that right-wing extremists have attempted to insert to attack women’s rights, transgender rights, the environment and more. Such provisions are misaligned with the values of most Americans and would otherwise stand no chance of becoming law.

Reese joined Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), Rep. Deborah Ross (D-N.C.) and Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) in calling for a clean budget. Community allies included Public Citizen, the National Energy Assistance Directors Association (NEADA), Reproductive Freedom for All, and more.

Springfield Hospital Center is a state psychiatric hospital that provides comprehensive mental health services to individuals involved with the court system, Reese said. In her role as a nurse, she collaborates with a team of health care professionals to care for the patients and residents of the assisted living program.

“Investing in public treatment and services matters,” she said. “Investing in public health campaigns to destigmatize mental health issues matters. Early intervention and access to treatment can help prevent some of the legal issues associated with the untreated conditions that I see every day. We cannot let Congress delay action on the budget.”

Reese said the health and safety of our communities depend on the public services AFSCME members deliver, and failure to adequately fund the federal government would compromise such vital services. She added that many public service jobs were lost during the COVID-19 pandemic and remain unfilled today.

“This means many AFSCME members on the front lines are being forced to do more with less, assuming greater workloads, working longer hours with little if any additional compensation,” Reese said. “On my hospital’s campus, there are currently three units non-occupational due to the staffing crisis, and there is an increasing number of patients on the waitlist who require our services.”

AFSCME launched Staff the Front Lines, an initiative to help state and local governments fill vacancies in public service. Now in its second year, the initiative seeks to recruit talented and motivated professionals to serve their communities.

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