Week Ending February 5, 2021

The Next Round of COVID Aid Advances Through Congress. Let Congress Know That States, Counties, Towns and Schools Need Aid!

  • Fund the Front Lines
    • Budget Votes Advance the American Rescue Plan to Congressional Committees
    • How You Can Help – Calls, Letters and Meetings, Including Labor Roundtables
    • States and Counties to Get $44.5 Billion in Added Medicaid Funds for 2021
  • Senate Update
    • Senate Agrees to Power-Sharing Arrangement
    • Congress Urges President Biden to Provide Student Debt Relief
  • House Update: House Approves National Apprenticeship Act of 2021
  • Biden Administration Update: Mayor Pete Buttigieg Confirmed as Transportation Secretary

Fund the Front Lines Update: Budget Votes Advance the American Rescue Plan to Congressional Committees

Democrats in the House and Senate took the first steps this week to push through President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion economic rescue plan and avoid Republican stonewalling in the Senate by passing a budget with instructions for 12 congressional committees. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and Senate Finance Committee will craft a $350 billion aid package for states, counties, cities and towns. Additional committees are expected to extend unemployment insurance (UI) increases and paid sick leave; provide another round of individual checks; direct $350 billion for specific COVID needs, schools and transit; and more. Following committee votes on each package, they will be grouped together for final votes beginning with the House and then Senate floor as early as late February.

We need help from AFSCME members and allies to steer this needed aid over the finish line. Please call Congress and send letters. Also, many members of Congress are hosting Labor Roundtables where you can share information about furloughs, job losses and cuts in public services. That’s a good opportunity to also raise the Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act, which will be introduced soon to set a federal floor for collecting bargaining rights for public employees nationwide.

Call Your U.S. Senator
at 1-888-981-9704 and say:

“More state and local aid is needed to beat this pandemic and get our economy back on track. I urge you to support the $1.9 billion American Rescue Plan. We can’t afford anything less.”

States, Counties to get $44.5 Billion in Added Medicaid Funds for 2021

AFSCME’s victory last year in securing an extra 6.2% increase in the federal Medicaid match to states and counties continues to help states and counties this year with $44.5 billion in assistance. The assurance of an expected $22.6 billion in funds from July to December 2021 will help states balance their budgets, cover 6.1 million Americans who enrolled in Medicaid during the pandemic and help the providers who treat them.

Senate Agrees to Power-Sharing Arrangement

The Senate is divided 50-50 with Vice President Kamala Harris providing the decisive vote for Democrats. A power-sharing arrangement has Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) in control of the floor and Democrats chairing all the votes can be reported to floor. With no margin for lost votes, actions from AFSCME members and leaders are key to legislative success for COVID aid, expanded labor rights and other priorities.

Congress Urges Pres. Biden to Provide Student Debt Relief

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) led congressional Democrats to re-introduce a measure calling on Biden to take executive action directing the cancellation of up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt for individuals, providing relief for nearly 44 million Americans. The president urged Congress to pass loan forgiveness and is reviewing his authority to take executive action. 

House Approves National Apprenticeship Act of 2021 

The House passed the “National Apprenticeship Act of 2021” (H.R. 447) to strengthen and expand registered apprenticeship programs across the country. AFSCME strongly supports apprenticeships as a proven pathway to gainful employment, which is needed at this time when millions are unemployed.

Mayor Pete Buttigieg Confirmed as Transportation Secretary

Former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg was confirmed as Secretary of Transportation. AFSCME President Lee Saunders stated that Buttigieg “will provide the leadership we need ... at a moment when bolstering our nation’s infrastructure has never been more important.”

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