Week Ending October 2, 2020

State and Local Aid is Urgently Needed

  • House Passes New COVID-19 Relief Bill
  • Avoiding a Government Shutdown Before Elections
  • The Senate Graveyard

House Passes New COVID-19 Relief Bill

The House of Representatives on Thursday approved a $2.2 trillion coronavirus stimulus proposal put forward by House Democrats. At the same time, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) continues to try to reach an agreement with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Senate Republicans. The new House measure passed largely along party lines by a vote of 214 to 207. Eighteen Democrats crossed party lines to vote against the bill, while Republicans were united in opposition.

Time is running out for Congress to pass a COVID-19 stimulus bill that delivers badly needed relief to families and communities nationwide. For several months, AFSCME has been lobbying aggressively for a bill that includes, among many other things, robust aid to states, cities, towns and schools. This aid is essential to maintaining vital public service and health care jobs.

  • House Continues to Press for Relief While Senate Dithers: The House of Representatives has done its part, passing the Heroes Act nearly five months ago, and now passing this new measure in an effort to jumpstart negotiations. However, the Senate majority and the White House have refused to act even as the coronavirus continues to ravage the nation. The new bill that was passed by the House recognizes changed economic and political circumstances while still making important investments in health care, unemployment insurance and COVID-19 testing, as well as providing badly needed state and local aid. AFSCME President Lee Saunders issued a statement in support of the new compromise COVID-19 relief bill.
  • New Heroes Act: The new bill differs from the original Heroes Act in several ways. First and foremost, the funding for state and local governments is for one year, whereas the previous version extended over two fiscal years. The new proposal includes:
    • $436 billion in flexible funding to states, localities and territories;
    • Enhanced FMAP payment for Medicaid by an additional 7.8 percentage points from Oct. 1, 2020, to Sept. 30, 2021, worth approximately $48 billion, and a 10% increase in payments for Home and Community Based Services;
    • $225 billion in education funding, including $185 billion for public K-12 and $39 billion for higher ed;
    • $57 billion to support child care;
    • Increased funding for state Medicaid programs to help safety net hospitals;
    • Medicaid Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) allotment increased by 2.5%;
    • Reinstatement of the $600 weekly unemployment compensation supplement;
    • Another round of direct payments to individuals of $1,200; and
    • An Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standard to protect workers, including state and local government workers not otherwise protected.

What You Need to Know: The new plan includes over $700 billion in short-term funding for state, local and school district aid, which is similar to the amount provided under the first  Heroes Act but limited to year one. However, given the depth and length of the fiscal crisis, additional aid would still be needed even if this bill were to become law. At this point Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and the Trump administration have not endorsed the House bill, but instead, said they would want significantly less than Pelosi’s latest offer. For five months, Senate Republicans and White House negotiators have done little but posture, while the nation continues to be battered by the worst public health and economic crises in a century. Now is the time to lead.

State and Local Aid Is Urgently Needed

The Senate should be focused on one thing - getting us out of this pandemic and helping our economy recover, including addressing unemployment. But right now, they refuse to do any of that. The Senate should not drop everything to rush a Supreme Court nomination while they refuse to act on our health, safety and economy.

It’s urgent that you call your senators as soon as possible. Congress needs to provide federal funding support before state and local governments are forced to lay off more workers and cut more vital public services.

Please call your senators right now at:
1-888-981-9704

Tell your senators that it’s urgent to fund the front lines NOW. Tell them at least $1 trillion is needed for states, counties and cities, including more funding for Medicaid and education, for essential public services to fight COVID-19 and reopen our economy. For more ways to take action, visit the AFSCME COVID-19 webpage.

Avoiding a Government Shutdown Before Elections

The Senate waited until the Sept. 30 deadline when the fiscal year ends to pass the short-term continuing resolution (CR) (H.R. 8337) that the House passed with strong bipartisan support last Thursday. The Senate passed the CR that will fund the federal government at current funding levels to Dec. 11, 2020, by an 84 to 10 vote. The bill was signed into law by the president. 

  • Completing FY 2021 spending bills: The short-term continuing resolution is intended to be noncontroversial to fund the federal government past the general election. The House has passed 10 of the 12 spending bills for fiscal year (FY) 2021 but the Senate has not started its appropriations process. When Congress returns it is expected that they will pass an FY 2021 omnibus package that includes increased funding for programs that so many Americans rely on and measures to address the coronavirus. 

What You Need to Know: Although Congress has been able to keep the federal government funded, they have not been able to come together and pass a relief package that includes unrestricted federal aid to state and local governments. AFSCME continues to push for this.

The Senate Graveyard

When Congress adjourns the 116th Congress, hundreds of important bills that have passed the House over the last two years will die in the Senate because of willful inaction under McConnell’s leadership. Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said, “Republicans have kept the Senate at a standstill while urgently needed bills to protect our elections against the threat of foreign interference, protect Americans’ health care, shield survivors of domestic abuse” have languished. Pelosi said McConnell has turned the upper chamber into a legislative “graveyard.”

 

  • Senate Has Failed to Act on Civil Rights, Voting Rights and Election Security Needs: Among the major House-passed bills supported by AFSCME left to die in the Senate are: 
    • For the People Act (H.R. 1), pro-democracy reform legislation that aims to make it easier, not harder, to vote; ends the dominance of big money in politics; and ensures that public officials work for the public interest, which passed the House on March 8, 2019.
    • Voting Rights Advancement Act (H.R. 4), legislation to combat voter discrimination by restoring the Voting Rights Act, which passed the House with bipartisan support on Dec. 6, 2019.
    • Equality Act (H.R. 5), legislation to provide comprehensive anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ Americans in employment, education, federal funding and housing, which passed the House with bipartisan support on May 17, 2019.
  • Senate Has Failed to Act on Health Care Needs: Among the major House-passed bills supported by AFSCME left to die in the Senate are:
    • Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act (H.R. 3), legislation to rein in drug companies and make prescription drugs more accessible and affordable, which passed the House with bipartisan support on Dec. 12, 2019.
    • Protecting Americans with Preexisting Conditions Act (H.R. 986), legislation that would overturn harmful waivers issued by the Trump administration to weaken the Affordable Care Act’s preexisting conditions protections, which passed the House with bipartisan support on May 9, 2019.
    • Strengthening Health Care and Lowering Prescription Drug Costs Act (H.R. 987), legislation to counteract the Trump administration’s efforts to sabotage the health care system, which passed the House with bipartisan support on May 16, 2019. 
  • Senate Has Failed to Act on Worker Protections: Among the major House-passed bills supported by AFSCME left to languish in the Senate are:
    • Paycheck Fairness Act (H.R. 7), legislation to empower women to challenge pay discrimination in the workplace, which passed the House with bipartisan support on March 27, 2019.
    • Raise the Wage Act (H.R. 582), legislation to increase the federal minimum wage to $15, which passed the House with bipartisan support on July 18, 2019.
    • Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act (H.R. 2474), bipartisan legislation to protect the right to bargain collectively, which passed the House with bipartisan support on Feb. 6, 2020.
  • Senate Has Failed to Act on Other Critical Issues: Among the major House-passed bills supported by AFSCME left to languish in the Senate are:
    • Heroes Act (H.R. 6800), comprehensive legislation that responds to the fiscal crisis caused by the pandemic, including providing significant aid for state and local services., which passed the House with bipartisan support on May 15, 2020.
    • The Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act (VAWA) (H.R. 1585), legislation that strengthens legal protections and resources for all victims of domestic violence, dating violence, stalking, and sexual assault, which passed the House with bipartisan support on April 4, 2020.
    • Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act (H.R. 1230), legislation to protect older workers against age discrimination, which passed the House with bipartisan support on Jan. 15, 2020.

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