For Immediate Release
Contact: Natalia Pérez Santos

Front-Line Workers Recovering From COVID-19 Push Congress for State and Local Aid

On a press call this afternoon, AFSCME President Lee Saunders joined front-line public service workers and family members of workers infected by the coronavirus to call for urgently needed federal aid for states, cities and towns. 

The workers stressed that the aid is critical to maintain vital public services and to keep the public service workers who provide them on the job so that communities can beat the coronavirus pandemic and reopen the economy. The workers, who are still recovering from COVID-19 and whose families have been infected with the virus, are already back on the front lines, but need help from Congress in the next stimulus package.

New polling reveals American voters overwhelmingly approve of significant federal funding for states, cities and towns to overcome the devastating economic effects of the coronavirus on the economy and vital public services. Unless Congress passes state and local aid, public safety officers, nurses, sanitation workers, home care providers and other public service workers will be repaid for their sacrifices with pink slips.

Already, the nation hemorrhaged 980,000 public service jobs last month – more than were lost in the entire Great Recession. A report today from Bloomberg shows municipalities across the country are projected to lose hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue due to the economic  fallout caused by the coronavirus. Among the hardest hit will be municipalities and rural communities in Kentucky, the home state of Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell.

Listen to the call:

AFSCME President Lee Saunders said:
“There’s no reason and no excuse for this to become another partisan food fight. This is about keeping our front-line fighters – nurses, corrections officers, social workers, home care providers – on the job in the middle of a global pandemic when their communities need them most. There’s nothing partisan about making sure the hospitals aren’t overwhelmed when thousands are testing positive for the coronavirus every day. There’s nothing partisan about expecting your children’s school to be well-staffed, or expecting the garbage to be picked up at your home or business. Democrats, Republicans and independents alike want clean water to come out of the tap. People need the ambulance to show up on time whether they live in red, blue or purple states.”

Henry Garrido, executive director of District Council 37, New York City’s largest municipal employees union, said:
“The truth is, our communities can’t afford to see cuts to the services these everyday heroes provide because without 9-11 dispatchers, EMTs, medical records techs in our hospitals, sanitation workers, social workers, finance department staff and everyone else who works to keep our communities running smoothly, we will not beat this pandemic. If we invest in services, we can – and we will!”

Vincent Variale, a Fire Department of New York EMS lieutenant, said:
“Over the course of mid-March into mid to late April, calls to EMS doubled. EMS workers on sick leave were up 24% – many from exposure to the virus. Folks were working 16-hour days and then sleeping in their cars to not expose their families to the virus. Many of us on the front lines say it’s like 9/11 every day – that's the level we have been working at. ... Congress must act immediately to fund the front lines so we can protect public services. We need to keep EMS workers, nurses, child care providers, sanitation workers and so many others on the job, and we need to keep them healthy so that we can fight the coronavirus and reopen the economy so that we’re stronger than before.”

Carmen De Leon, a respiratory therapist at Harlem Hospital Center in New York, said:
“Public service workers are always essential workers, but especially now, having enough health care workers like myself on staff is crucial to fighting this pandemic. ...With aid for states, cities and towns, we can ensure that these critical public services like health care, EMS and home care continue. My colleagues and I are tough, and we have gone through some of the worst. Together we can beat this.”

Christopher Mabe, president of the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association, OCSEA/AFSCME Local 11, said:
“My wife and other OCSEA members have literally put their lives on the line for the safety and well-being for our community, and they are being thanked by being asked where we think additional cuts can be made. ... Cutting correctional officers would jeopardize security and leave both officers and offenders vulnerable to violence. Cutting sanitation services and custodial staff at schools, hospitals and other public buildings would mean dirty streets and allow germs and the virus to spread freely. Cutting first responders would mean longer 911 and emergency wait times when citizens needs us most.”