Senate Urged to Pass $1 Trillion in Aid to Prevent Racial, Economic Divisions

Senate Urged to Pass $1 Trillion in Aid to Prevent Racial, Economic Divisions

by June 19, 2020

Without immediate aid to states, cities and towns, the structural inequalities – which have exposed systemic racism, led to disproportionate deaths and economic catastrophe among black communities – will worsen.

WASHINGTON – On a conference call Thursday afternoon, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries joined AFSCME President Lee Saunders, senior economist at the Center for American Progress, Gbenga Ajilore, and front-line nursing home worker Sandra Herbert to discuss the urgent need for state and local funding to beat this pandemic and safely reopen the economy. Speakers discussed how this aid is vital for black communities, which have been hit the hardest by three simultaneous crises: a public health pandemic, an economic free fall and long-standing structural racism.

COVID-19 has exacted a brutal toll on the black community and exposed the impact of systemic racism in America. The underlying inequalities exposed by the COVID-19 crisis has helped fuel the Black Lives Matter protests across the country. African Americans are dying at disproportionately high rates throughout the country due to less access to health care and, therefore, high rates of underlying conditions. The pandemic-related recession interrupted the tight labor markets that helped close the wage gap suffered by African Americans, and the historically high African American unemployment rate remained unchanged last month despite the rate decreasing for Caucasians. They are also overrepresented in front-line service and health care jobs, putting them directly at risk of contracting COVID-19.

If the Senate doesn’t immediately provide aid to our states, cities and towns, we will continue to hemorrhage public-sector jobs and that will disproportionately hurt black workers and black communities whose jobless rate is 33% higher than the unemployment rate among Caucasians.



AFSCME President Lee Saunders said:

Without this aid, longstanding racial and economic divisions will only get worse and further disenfranchise communities that have already been so unfairly hurt. Let’s be clear what we mean when we talk about investing in our states, cities and towns –because it’s not an abstract concept. It means keeping nurses and other front-line health care workers on the job, and it means the trash gets picked up and it means someone answers the phone when you call 9-1-1. That’s why mayors, governors and legislators from both parties overwhelmingly back federal support for public services – as does 84% of the public. And top economists … also say providing this aid is a no-brainer. Earlier this week, in an op-ed in the Washington Post, former Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Glenn Hubbard, former chair of the Council of Economic Advisers for President George W. Bush, projected that every dollar spent protecting public services will yield $1.70 in additional GDP.

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries said:

We must make sure that public employees are treated with the respect and the dignity they deserve. Public employees should be respected, not put down, and public employees should be embraced not ostracized, because what they do greatly impacts our country and our economy. We know public budgets have been hit hard at every level. We must step up as Congress for counties, municipalities, states and territories and specifically for the communities of color who are most vulnerable and will suffer the most. When state and local budgets completely collapse, this adversely impacts public health, transportation, sanitation, education and safety and the provisions of the public good if budgets are cut, and who will be hurt the most are the people of the African American communities, who have been systematically victimized by racism and disparities when the first slaves were brought over 401 years ago. … Now, the Senate must step up to provide the necessary funding for our states, counties, municipalities and for the American people.

Sandra Herbert, a certified nursing assistant at the Paramus Nursing Home and president of AFSCME Local 3354, said:

Now, after all our hard work, the governor of New Jersey has announced that without financial help from the federal government the state will have to make cuts to health care, education and more. I worry about how future cuts will hurt our veterans. If they don’t have enough staff members around, they won’t be able to get the care they need. I also worry about how further cuts will harm the African American community, which has been hit especially hard by COVID-19. I am worried what will happen to millions of black workers like myself who have depended on good public sector jobs to provide for our families.

Gbenga Ajilore, senior economist at the Center for American Progress, said:

Post-Great Recession we saw the greatest economic growth, but this did not expand to every community. As we have seen, the pain has fallen disproportionately to African Americans, and it continues to rise for these communities, many who are public employees. This public health pandemic is leading states to make difficult choices, and as a result leads to budget cuts. The relief seen from the CARES Act was insufficient since there were restrictions on how it could be spent. Instead states had to make drastic cuts that would have adverse effects and hit many communities of color. This pandemic is exacerbating the issues they face. $150 billion is insufficient to confront the pandemic and economic disaster and instead assistance should be $1 trillion to fund needed services like education, housing and child care. It will support the people who have been left behind time and again and who have been hit hardest by the pandemic.


AFSCME’s 1.4 million members provide the vital services that make America happen. With members in communities across the nation, serving in hundreds of different occupations — from nurses to corrections officers, child care providers to sanitation workers — AFSCME advocates for fairness in the workplace, excellence in public services and freedom and opportunity for all working families

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