For Immediate Release
Contact: Omar Tewfik

Leader Schumer joins front-line public service workers to call for immediate state and local aid

As cases of COVID-19 surge across the country, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer joined AFSCME President Lee Saunders and front-line workers to urge swift passage in the Senate of $1 trillion in aid to America’s states, cities and towns upon the Senate’s return to Washington on July 20.

On Friday, July 17, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer joined AFSCME President Lee Saunders and front-line public service workers from Colorado and Ohio to call on the Senate to immediately pass at least $1 trillion in aid to states, cities and towns upon return from a two-week July recess.

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 resulted in cuts to public services and layoffs for the public service workers who provide them at a time when demand for services is skyrocketing. More than 1.6 million public sector jobs have already been lost, which is nearly three times the number lost during the entire Great Recession. 

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. Democratic and Republican mayors and Republican governors have been calling for aid since March. The Senate must not go on recess in August before fulfilling its duty to America’s communities.  

[Listen to the call]

AFSCME President Lee Saunders said, “On Monday, when the Senate returns to Washington, the dithering and delay has to stop. This issue must be priority number one, and the Senate cannot go on recess in August until aid is delivered. The stakes here are high. This federal assistance will allow us to maintain the essential public services that are the lifeblood of our communities. It is critical to defeating the pandemic and returning to normal life in our country. Everything that matters in our communities hangs in the balance right now. If the Senate doesn’t act, cities and towns nationwide will have trash piling up in the streets, dirtier water coming out of the tap, and longer emergency response times when you dial 911. It will mean fewer hospital workers to handle a surge in coronavirus patients. It will mean our schools don’t have the resources to teach our kids, or to keep them and our educators safe.”

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said, “Here’s my assessment: people are losing their jobs, another 1.3 million have filed for unemployment last week, people can’t pay rent or feed their kids, and small businesses which people sweated for generations are closing due to this crisis. Instead of working with Democratic senators, McConnell is writing a bill in his office with only Republican senators. The fact that he is supposedly circulating a proposal instead of working with Democratic Senators to support working families shows exactly where Sen. McConnell’s priorities are. He knows from previous relief bills (COVID II, COVID III) that he needs to reach across the aisle to pass a law. Speaker Pelosi and I have been working hard in support of the HEROES Act - the main tenant of which is supporting public services workers -- get hazard pay to front line workers, get unemployment to those who need it, and help unemployed workers. For our Republican senators to play political games after months of sitting on their hands is inexcusable. These are dark times, but I have been inspired by local leaders and their commitment to serving their communities. Senate Democrats are with you. We are going to continue to fight to get you the resources you deserve…”

“Will our Republican senators hear that plea? I hope so. So far, we haven’t heard them doing it. To be stingy in this case, and say “Oh, we have real needs and we’ll help a few of them but not most of them” isn’t going to be good enough for us.”

Josette Jaramillo, lead caseworker at the Department of Human Services and Child Welfare in the Foster Care Unit of Pueblo County, Colorado said, “We need a bill geared explicitly toward protecting communities large and small so that so we can continue to provide the essential public services we need to beat the pandemic and safely reopen the economy. That's why I'm calling on Senators Cory Gardner and Mitch McConnell to work with Leader Schumer to finally do what's right and pass a comprehensive, $1 trillion coronavirus aid package now. Without this aid, drastic budget cuts will continue to lead to layoffs and reduction in services in Colorado and around the country. 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.   

Andrew “Duff” Woodside, unemployment compensation examiner/specialist at the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services said, “Before this crisis, I was handling about 400 cases a week, now I am being assigned over 1,000. If we were back in the office, I don’t even think I could fit that many files in my workspace. In 10 years, ODJFS has sliced more 633 Customer Service Reps. from the rolls through attrition and reorganization. This has left the agency struggling when Ohioans need them the most. In 2010, ODJFS employed 976 Customer Service Reps. Today, that number is 343, with a skeleton crew of fewer than 270 responsible for unemployment claims. To get through this pandemic and provide out-of-work families with the aid they need to keep afloat, Ohio’s states, cities and towns need immediate federal funding to help maintain the vital public services our communities rely on us to provide.”