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Schumer joins AFSCME in calling for at least $1 trillion in federal aid to states, cities and towns

Photo Credit: Getty / Stefani Reynolds / Stringer
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Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer joined AFSCME President Lee Saunders and AFSCME members today in calling on Republicans in the Senate to agree to at least $1 trillion in federal aid to states, cities and towns.

“Time and time again, Leader Schumer has urged his Senate colleagues to take up the aid package passed by the House two months ago,” President Saunders said on the press call. “Unfortunately, his counterparts on the other side of the aisle have refused to do anything at all about the pain our communities are experiencing.”

Schumer praised public service employees and front-line workers for standing up for their communities and called on his Republican counterparts in the Senate to act now.

“Frontline workers … continue to risk their lives to beat the pandemic, serve their communities and safely reopen the economy,” Schumer said. “They deserve more than our thanks.”

Schumer strongly criticized Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and fellow Republicans for “dragging their feet and refusing for months to take up the House-passed HEROES Act.”

“Here’s the assessment: People are losing their jobs,” Schumer added. Fifty-one million people have filed for unemployment since March, including public service workers, he said. “COVID is spreading. I ask Leader McConnell, ‘Is now the time to act?’ Speaker Pelosi and I sent a letter weeks ago to sit down and talk to us. We haven’t heard a peep.”

Pictured: Josette Jaramillo (left) and Andrew “Duff” Woodside (right). Member-provided photos.

Each day without an aid package, everyday heroes in public service who continue to risk their lives to beat the pandemic and safely reopen the economy are being thanked with pink slips. Dire state- and local-budget shortfalls caused by the pandemic have triggered cuts to public services and layoffs for the workers who provide them, all at a time when demand for services is skyrocketing. More than 1.6 million public sector jobs have already been lost, which is roughly three times the number lost during the entire Great Recession. 

“Public service workers – the very people on the front lines battling this virus – are organizing and mobilizing for federal aid,” Saunders also said. “AFSCME members have generated more than 60,000 phone calls and letters to Congress, and that number is growing by the thousands every week.”

Two AFSCME members were on the call: Josette Jaramillo, lead caseworker at the Department of Human Services and Child Welfare in the Foster Care Unit of Pueblo County, Colorado, and president of AFSCME Local 1335 (Council 18); and Andrew “Duff” Woodside, an unemployment compensation examiner/specialist at the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services and a member of OCSEA Chapter 5700.

They both testified to how important this aid is in supporting essential public services in their communities.

“Without this aid, drastic budget cuts will continue to lead to layoffs and reduction in services in Colorado and around the country,” Jaramillo said. “Public service workers are terrified they won't be able to make ends meet, terrified that they won't be able to keep their loved ones healthy and safe.”

Woodside echoed Jaramillo’s concerns.

“I can’t overstate how desperately needed this funding is,” Woodside said. “My colleagues and I have been working harder than ever, and it’s simply still not enough to keep up with the number of cases we’re being given to handle.

“What keeps me going through all of this is trying to stay focused on the case in front of me,” he added. “When I get tired after working 11 hours, I feel like ‘Well, I got one more in me, let me get one more,’ and that helps me from getting overwhelmed. I can’t handle all the millions of applicants. I actually can’t even conceive of that number of applicants. But I can help this one person.”

Without aid to states, cities and towns, economists predict a prolonged depression, and say that every dollar invested in public services will yield $1.70 in economic activity. Business leaders, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, have called on Congress to pass aid. Eighty four percent of Americans support such aid, including a majority of Kentuckians. Governors and mayors of both parties have been calling for aid since March.

The Senate must not go on recess in August before fulfilling its duty to America’s communities.

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