Week Ending April 12, 2019

AFSCME Behavioral Health Care Worker Testifies

Congress is now in recess. The next legislative report will be on May 3.

  • AFSCME Behavioral Health Care Worker Testifies
  • Effort to Increase Domestic Spending Stalls
  • Congress Honors Library Workers Represented by AFSCME
  • Who Benefits from the Trump-Republican Tax Package?
  • Bill Introduced to Strengthen Public Service Loan Forgiveness

AFSCME Behavioral Health Care Worker Testifies

AFSCME Council 4, Local 391, member Shawn Dougherty testified before the House subcommittee that makes decisions on key funding programs for education, health and labor. Dougherty, a correctional substance abuse counselor, called on Congress to fund a loan repayment program for the substance use disorder treatment workforce. 

  • New Loan Repayment Program: AFSCME succeeded last year in getting Congress to enact the new program that provides up to six years of student loan repayments for the substance use disorder treatment workforce. 
  • Full Funding Needed: AFSCME is advocating for the targeted loan repayment program to be fully funded for FY 2020.

What You Need to Know:  In 2018, AFSCME successfully lobbied Congress to create a new loan repayment program for behavioral health care workers who work full time treating individuals with substance use disorders and helping them sustain recovery. Now we must ensure that Congress fully funds this program at $25 million. See a story about his visit here. AFSCME is pressing for this program, which could help reduce the crushing student debt faced by this workforce because, like other workers who provide needed public services in our communities, they deserve respect. Take action here.

Effort to Increase Domestic Spending Stalls

  • House Fails to Lift Tight Spending Caps: As the first step in the process to pass annual funding bills, the House tried to significantly increase budget caps for this year and next in the “Funding For the People Act” (H.R. 2021).While efforts to further increase domestic programs and restrain defense spending prevented the bill from securing enough votes to pass, lawmakers are still trying. At this point, a resolution has  been passed to set overall spending at $1.3 trillion, the aggregate level included in H.R. 2021. It’s now up to appropriators to divide the spending between accounts.
  • Without Relief, Domestic Spending Will be Shortchanged: Without a deal, restrictive budget caps will cut domestic investments by $55 billion, resulting in deep reductions to programs that working families rely on. Since federal funds are responsible for more than 30% of state budgets and more than 20% of state and local budgets combined, this would be devastating to working families and hurt the work of AFSCME members.
  • Next Steps: A final deal on lifting spending caps still needs to be worked out between the House and Senate. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) announced their intentions to begin official negotiations on the caps.

What You Need to Know: Every working family deserves access to basic public services like quality education, safe roads and bridges, and clean water, but funding caps are holding us back. Congress and the president need to lift the caps.

Congress Honors Library Workers Represented by AFSCME

  • Library Week Recognized: On National Library Week, Congress celebrated the importance of libraries in strengthening communities.

What You Need to Know: A number of U.S. representatives created videos to recognize and honor AFSCME-represented library workers in their districts. See a video of several members’ messages here.

Who Benefits From the Trump-Republican Tax Package?

  • April 15 Tax Day: As the April 15 federal tax deadline approaches, millions of working families are filing taxes, and may be wondering who benefited most from the Trump-Republican tax package (Tax Cuts and Jobs Act) enacted in December 2017.  In late 2017, President Donald Trump promised that enacting his tax plan would give typical American households a $4,000 pay raise. Most working families and AFSCME members have not gotten a $4,000 raise. 
  • Corporations Benefitted Greatly: Many large profitable corporations used most of their tax breaks on stock buybacks, which benefit corporate executives and insiders, and spent much less on increasing workers’ base salaries or creating new jobs. 

What You Need to Know: Although Trump claimed these tax breaks would pay for themselves, it didn’t happen and instead the federal budget deficit increased by a lot. While the Republican tax package reduced corporate taxes significantly and cut taxes for the wealthy, it raised taxes for millions of working Americans. Click here for more information about the Trump-Republican tax package’s impact on working families and the wealthiest.

Bill Introduced to Strengthen Public Service Loan Forgiveness

  • New Senate Bill: The “What You Can Do for Your Country Act of 2019” was introduced by Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York) and Tim Kaine (D-Virginia) to strengthen and improve the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program (PSLF), which has been marked by administrative mismanagement and confusion. The bill would grant partial loan forgiveness for half of the loan balance after five years. All federal loans would qualify, including Direct Loans and loans in the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) program, and would allow borrowers to consolidate their loans without losing credit towards forgiveness. In addition, all federal repayment plans would qualify, including borrowers in “extended” or “graduated” repayment plans who were previously ineligible. 
  • Why this is important: President Lee Saunders notes that the bill would “make eligibility requirements transparent, streamline the application process and close loopholes to give public service workers and their families a fair chance to get ahead. No one should have to take on crippling student loan debt to gain access to the opportunities that come with higher education.” The bill will be discussed as part of the effort to reauthorize the Higher Education Act. 

What You Need to Know: AFSCME members and public employees who are forced to assume tens of thousands of dollars in student debt need the assurance that the federal government will keep its promise to forgive their loans.

Get the AFSCME Legislative Report delivered via email by signing up here.

Thank you!

You will begin receiving the AFSCME Legislative Report via email.