In March, when the impending reality of a global pandemic became apparent, Congress took decisive action to support working people and families with the passage of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Initially, the CARES Act seemed promising for millions of workers who were suddenly without employment. However nearly four months later, Congress’ failure to enact further relief has deeply widened income inequality across the country - a devastating problem that has been only made worse by the pandemic. Recent reports have shown that U.S. billionaires have made $584 billion since March, as country clubs & private jet companies have received millions in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans that were intended for small businesses. In addition, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, whose company has fired employees for demanding better working conditions, is on track to become the first trillionaire in history.
In order to mitigate the financial burden working people face, it is incumbent upon Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his Republican colleagues to pass the HEROES Act.
The HEROES Act, which House Democrats passed in May, is grounded in America's Five Economic Essentials, the desperately needed measures to keep working people safe and economically secure. It would implement enforceable on-the-job protections for workers with a federal workplace infectious disease standard. It would include large-scale aid to state and local governments and the Postal Service, to preserve public schools and public services and support the teachers, first responders, and front-line workers who serve our communities. It would extend the additional $600 a week in unemployment benefits that tens of millions of laid-off workers are relying on and help these workers retain their health care. And it would protect earned pensions and take important steps to keep workers on the payroll.
Earlier this week, Oregon AFL-CIO President Graham Trainor framed the consequences faced by working Oregonians during the pandemic in a NW Labor Press guest column:
“At the end of this month, millions of workers across the country will lose the additional $600 in weekly unemployment insurance benefits —benefits that have greatly helped keep workers and the economy somewhat afloat — because of Senate Republicans’ inaction... It’s now up to Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans to start acting with the kind of urgency this crisis demands in passing the HEROES Act. Without additional federal stimulus and relief, working Oregonians will, yet again, suffer due to the inaction, elitism, and callousness of these leaders. We expect and deserve better.”
The undeniable truth of the COVID-19 Pandemic is that working people, specifically BIPOC workers, have been hit the hardest. Since the U.S. House passed the HEROES act in May, more than 35,000 people have died of COVID-19 and millions remain without work. If Senate Majority Leader McConnell fails to act, working people will face generational consequences. It’s not good enough to call workers “heroes.” It’s time to treat workers like heroes. It’s time to pass the HEROES Act.