AFSCME continues call to #FundTheFrontlines

Posted Apr. 17, 2020 by

Take Action! Tell Congress to fund the frontlines!

It’s become clear that relief bills Congress has approved thus far, including the record $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, won’t be enough to quell the health and economic fallout caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

What other aid should Congress provide? AFSCME has recommendations.

For starters, Congress should provide state and local governments with $700 billion in aid consisting of at least $300 billion in unrestricted aid and $200 billion each in education and health care funding. “It is becoming apparent that far more assistance may be necessary if the reduction in economic activity extends into the summer,” according to identical letters AFSCME sent to the House of Representatives and the Senate last week.

While the CARES Act provides $500 billion that can be accessed by business and state and local governments, “it is not a substitute for direct assistance,” we say in the letters. “Many states and local governments have limited ability to borrow funds for normal operating expenses and almost all of them face statutory or constitutional debt limits.”

Congress should also repeal a CARES Act rule that restricts the use of a $150 billion Coronavirus Relief Fund just for “unbudgeted” pandemic-response costs borne by states and localities.

“This restriction blocks states from addressing the substantial revenue losses governments are experiencing at a time when there is a sharp increase in the demand for services,” we say.

AFSCME members have also been pushing President Donald Trump hard to fully invoke the Defense Production Act (DPA) and force private companies to make and distribute enough personal protective equipment (PPE) like N95 respirators, COVID-19 testing kits, ventilators and other essential medical supplies. But Trump has balked.

Now we want Congress to order Trump to invoke the DPA, writing, “AFSCME stands with America’s governors, mayors, and public health care officials, who have demanded that the president fully exercise his powers under the DPA.”