Week Ending December 18, 2020

Congress Rushing to Complete Action on a Pandemic Relief Package and Federal Spending, But Not Yet Finished

  • Federal Government Affairs End of Year Wrap-Up

Federal Government Affairs End of Year Wrap-Up

This has been a very consequential year as Congress struggled to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, its health consequences and economic fallout. AFSCME has aggressively advocated for much-needed relief for our states, cities, towns and schools, as well as economic relief for families who are struggling to make ends meet. Congress is still rushing to complete action on a further pandemic relief bill as well as the federal Fiscal Year 2021 spending.

  • AFSCME-Backed Assistance Won in Coronavirus Response Legislation:
    • $8 billion in emergency funding to combat the coronavirus, including $6.5 billion for the Health and Human Services Department (HHS), with public health and emergency preparedness aid specifically for state and local governments. (Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, P.L. 116-123)
    • 2 percentage-point increase in the federal Medicaid match, known as FMAP. This continuing infusion of federal funds helps all states and counties in 26 states that contribute to the non-federal share of Medicaid, including California, Florida, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania. (Families First Coronavirus Response Act, P.L. 116-127)
    • $150 billion for state and local aid to respond to the pandemic. (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, P.L. 116-136, CARES)
    • For the first time in history, a temporary national paid leave policy that provided two categories of new temporary leave options for families – paid sick leave, and paid family and medical leave. (CARES)
    • $30.75 billion in stabilization funds to support elementary and secondary school systems and higher education institutions. (CARES)
    • $25 billion in emergency funding for transit agencies. (CARES)
    • $400 million in election assistance funding to states. (CARES)
  • Fund the Front Lines: In addition to the aid listed above, AFSCME has worked tirelessly to provide more state and local aid, new health and safety protections for front-line workers, and general economic assistance for struggling families. AFSCME supports the House-passed Heroes Act that would provide more than $1.2 trillion in aid to state and local governments, including $915 billion for direct flexible grants to state and local governments; $90 billion for education to public school districts (K-12) and colleges and universities; roughly $55 billion for Medicaid services via an increased federal matching percentage (FMAP) to states, and funding for public transit systems; subsidize 100% of COBRA premiums; require OSHA to issue an emergency temporary standard; provide expanded paid sick days, family and medical leave; increase unemployment compensation; provide direct payments of $1,200 to adults and $500 to dependents; beef up nutrition and food assistance programs, housing assistance, grants for employers to provide pandemic premium pay for essential workers; and more. Unfortunately, this bill did not advance in the Senate. While the end-of-year deal is likely to include funding for vaccine distribution, public transportation, schools, and child care, AFSCME will continue to advocate for greater fiscal assistance in the New Year.

  • Other Significant AFSCME Accomplishments:
    • The Moving Forward Act (H.R. 2) Transportation and Infrastructure Legislation Passed the House and should become the framework for action in 2021. AFSCME worked to increase funding and strip privatization provisions from that bill and will continue to do so in any future legislation.
    • Defense Production Act: Obtaining and Distributing Needed Medical Supplies and PPE to AmericansAFSCME lobbied Congress to fully invoke the Defense Production Act (DPA) to produce, procure, allocate and distribute all necessary personal protective equipment (PPE). AFSCME also lobbied to ensure workers and unions participate in key DPA decisions. Several AFSCME-backed provisions are contained in two bills passed by the House earlier this year: the Heroes Act (H.R. 6800), and the bipartisan National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) (H.R. 6395).
    • Paid Parental Leave for Federal Employees – Included in the National Defense Authorization Act is an AFSCME-backed provision establishing Paid Parental Leave for federal employees.
    • Water ResourcesThe Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) is also close to becoming law, which provides $19.5 billion in water programs and includes a reauthorization of the Clean Water State Revolving Fund program at increased levels for the first time in 30 years. AFSCME successfully worked to prevent inclusion of harmful privatization language in the bill.
    • Hundreds of Other AFSCME-backed Bills Passed the House, But Died in the Senate: Many bills passed over the last two years will die in the Senate because of willful inaction by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who turned the upper chamber into a virtual legislative graveyard. See the Oct. 2, 2020 Weekly Report for a full report on the Senate graveyard. Here are some key highlights: The Senate failed to act on AFSCME-backed civil rights, voting rights and election security needs, including major House-passed bills like the pro-democracy reform For the People Act (H.R. 1), Voting Rights Advancement Act (H.R. 4), and Equality Act (H.R. 5).
    • The Senate failed to act on AFSCME-backed health care needs, like the Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act (H.R. 3), Protecting Americans with Preexisting Conditions Act (H.R. 986), and Strengthening Health Care and Lowering Prescription Drug Costs Act (H.R. 987).
    • The Senate failed to act on AFSCME-backed worker protections, including the Paycheck Fairness Act (H.R. 7), the Raise the Wage Act (H.R. 582), and Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act (H.R. 2474).
  • AFSCME Members Make Their Voices Heard: AFSCME members made calls, texted and emailed elected officials like never before. They joined actions like car caravans and shared the stories of the challenges they have faced as front-line workers. We know that AFSCME essential workers have been giving it their all in person, on the job and from home while working remotely. Even with social distancing and quarantine restrictions, the Green Machine:
    • Sent 1.16 million total Hustle text messages, resulting in nearly 6,000 calls to Congress requesting COVID aid;
    • Directed 112,000 calls to Congress urging aid;
    • Sent 94,000 letters to Congress urging aid.

We’re not done yet. Next year, we will keep at it with a new Congress and a new president. If you aren’t an AFSCME activist, sign up here. And please share your story about the challenges you’ve faced this year on the job to keep your community safe and healthy. 

Thank you for all you’ve done to support AFSCME’s legislative agenda in this very difficult year. We wish you a peaceful and safe holiday season and we look forward to getting back to work and advocating for our members next year!

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