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Saunders blasts COVID relief package as ‘a slap in the face’ to working people

A face covering hangs on a fence outside the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
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By AFSCME Staff ·

AFSCME President Lee Saunders called the latest COVID relief package from Congress “a slap in the face to front-line public service workers and communities across the country.”

The measure, negotiated over the weekend, contains some positive proposals – like direct payments, unemployment and support for schools and child care – and AFSCME will not oppose its passage.

Still, it leaves the very people who have been working through these trying times out in the cold. Saunders highlighted ways in which public service workers and the communities they serve will be harmed.

“The pandemic blew holes in budgets nationwide. Unlike the federal government, states and localities cannot run deficits. Already, 1.3 million front-line public service workers have been thanked for their heroism with pink slips, with more than a million more on the chopping block,” Saunders said.

He added: “In communities nationwide, this means slower emergency response times, higher patient loads for nurses, fewer answered cries for help from domestic violence victims, dirtier streets, overcrowded prisons, and decaying roads and bridges.”

Those front-line workers include first responders, sanitation workers, corrections officers and many others.

“Emergency funding for essential services – and the front-line workers who provide them – is not some special interest giveaway like waiving corporate liability; it is critical to getting the virus under control and getting our economy moving again,” Saunders said.

Economists across the political spectrum agree that funding for states, cities, towns and schools is one of the best ways to jumpstart the economy. Moreover, this is not a “blue state” or “red state” issue, though Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has claimed that such aid would amount to “blue state bailouts.”

In fact, states, cities and towns across the country, regardless of who leads them, are facing shattered economies as a result of the pandemic and need urgent federal funding to control the pandemic and get the economy moving.

In his statement, Saunders pointed out: “There are several positive items in this package, including enhanced unemployment insurance, and funding for schools, child care and transportation. That is why AFSCME will not oppose passage of this bill.”

While Saunders thanked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Schumer for their “steadfast perseverance” in the fight to fund the front lines, he concluded: “Congress has turned its back on our front-line heroes and the communities they serve. Make no mistake: it will be America’s communities that pay the price with further job losses and cutbacks in essential services.”

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