Saving our communities: Relief for state and local governments

Posted Jun. 3, 2020 by


What would we do without clean water, safe roads, services for seniors or neighborhoods that are safe from criminals? Exactly. What would we do? That’s why a whopping 85 percent of Americans favor federal aid for state and local governments during this unprecedented health care crisis. They know the important work essential workers like correction officers, highway workers, teachers, nurses, inspectors and unemployment workers are doing to keep them safe, healthy and thriving.

Today, all of our communities, from big cities to small towns, are straining under the burden of dealing with COVID-19. Congress must give us the support we need so that we can stay healthy and get through this. A robust federal funding package to maintain public services is critically important if we want combat the coronavirus and safely re-open our economy.

In Ohio, like in states across the country, COVID-19 has devastated communities and threatens to gut safety net public services. Ohio alone is facing a massive budget shortfall and some public employees are already being laid off or furloughed. If Congress does not act immediately to help our states, cities, and towns, front-line public service workers could face layoffs and cuts to service. All in all, our communities as a whole would suffer.

"Some people want us to choose between our health and our paycheck. They’re presenting us with a false choice—choosing between our health, or being able to pay the bills. We reject that," said OCSEA Vice President Rocky Jolly. "We can keep people healthy AND safely reopen our economy, but we must give our communities the support they need to pull through this crisis."

A $1 trillion aid package passed by the U.S. Senate for our state, cities and towns would mean a lot for OCSEA members. It would mean more protection for corrections members who, on top of every day understaffing, are fighting for their lives during this crisis. It would mean more help for Ohio’s Veterans Home workers who are facing high turnover and mandated overtime as they try to keep our veterans safe and healthy. It would mean increased hiring of Unemployment Insurance employees who are trying to get Ohioans back to work. It would mean a boost in funds to state departments of transportation that are seeing a falloff in transportation-related revenue that funds their work. Read more about public members recovering from Covid-19.

“The next stimulus should put families and communities first by ensuring that public services, and the dedicated workers who provide them, are protected,” said two of Ohio’s U.S. House of Representatives members, Steve Stivers (R-OH15) and Joyce Beatty (D-OH3), in a joint statement last week. “Until Congress and the president act, state and local tax bases will continue to crumble, and our everyday heroes will continue to be laid off.”

While Stivers and Beatty agree that Ohio needs urgent relief for workers, families, communities they are divided on how to get there, as are many Americans. But AFSCME, who represents hundreds of thousands of public employees nationwide, say public workers are in desperate need now. This includes workers in both red and blue states that are facing state and local layoffs, furloughs and other cuts, including right here in Ohio.

AFSCME’s legislative team has closely monitored all the stimulus packages going through Congress since the pandemic and says that it is essential for the U.S. Senate to generate a substantial COVID-19 stimulus package that provides urgently needed aid to states and localities, that protects and invests in workers on the front lines and provides support for public workers and public safety nets needed to get the economy on track.

AFSCME says it is key to hone in on the aspects of any stimulus package that will specifically help public workers and public services during this economic crisis, and encourages union members to actively push states and localities to invest in workers and families. One bipartisan proposal includes increased funding to states for hazard pay for those workers putting their lives on the line each day at work during this crisis.