As of the beginning of September, there have been more than 6 million confirmed cases of the COVID-19 coronavirus in the United States. The total number of U.S. deaths is more than 185,000. This staggering number includes at least some UE members. With the virus impacting work in many ways, the unemployment rate topped 10 percent this summer. (The official rate dropped to 8.4 percent in August, but that was largely due to temporary hiring for the U.S. Census.)
A recent NPR poll found that the economic impact on working people has been “much, much worse” than expected, even before expanded unemployment benefits ran out this summer.
Last spring, the federal government passed two bills intended to address the economic impact of the virus. Those measures, which included the Families First Coronavirus Response Act and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Recovery Act, provided some immediate relief for working people, such as paid sick leave for most workers and a one-time direct payment. However, many of the measures, like expanded unemployment benefits and housing protections, have expired. Other aid, such as money set aside for states, territories, and tribal governments, has yet to be disbursed. More information about benefits in this legislation is available on the UE website at ueunion.org/covid19.
UE has joined many allied organizations in calling for a “People’s Bailout” for both immediate relief and long-term recovery from the social and economic impacts of this virus. Additionally, we have joined with our allies at National Nurses United in calling for clear workplace health and safety standards and improved access to personal protective equipment for all those who must continue to work during the pandemic.
Despite widespread pressure from working people, Congress failed to pass any additional aid measures during their summer sessions. The House passed a comprehensive relief bill that was far from perfect, but would have provided extensive relief. The Senate refused to take up the measure, and Senate Republicans could not agree on a proposal to bring up for a vote at all. In early August, President Trump signed some executive orders that gestured towards additional relief measures, but the executive branch has limited abilities to act independently. On September 1, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced a broad rental eviction moratorium through December 31. In the short term, this is a great relief to many tenants, but it will not solve the growing financial burden caused by unpaid rent, which tenants will continue to owe. It also does not address evictions caused by unpaid mortgages.
Working people need a robust federal response in order to prevent millions of Americans from being evicted from their homes, to keep food on the table and state and local government services operating, and to ensure the safety of our elections. Congress must pass a new bill to meet the needs of the millions of unemployed workers and all of us who are still facing the threat of this virus. A majority of senators are ready to vote on a relief bill, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has refused to let a bill come forward.
Call your Senators at (202) 224-3121 and demand they take up meaningful relief measures now!