TRANSCRIPT: On Call With Frontline Workers & AFSCME President, Schumer Demands Immediate Senate Action On House-Passed Heroes ActJuly 17, 2020
Brooklyn, N.Y.— Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer today on a press call with AFSCME President Lee Saunders and front-line workers discussed the urgent need to pass at least $1 trillion in aid to states, cities, and towns upon return from the Senate’s two-week July recess:
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, state and local governments have had to ratchet up their spending, ripping huge holes in their budgets and drawing from their reserves, as they face significant losses of revenue at the same time. So they're getting hit with a double whammy: greater expenses, less revenue. Even though they knew exactly what the financial consequences would be, they were determined, our local governments and state governments, to provide essential services that keep our communities afloat.
Now, instead of being a lifeline, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the Republican Senate have been dragging their feet, refusing for months to take up the House-passed Heroes Act.
McConnell has repeatedly said Republicans need to assess the conditions in the country.
Well, here’s the assessment, Leader McConnell: People are losing their jobs. Another 1.3 million filed for unemployment last week. 51 million people—huge—have filed for unemployment since March—including 1.5 million unemployed public service workers. People can’t make rent. People can’t feed their kids. Small businesses, which people sweated for for generations, are closing. COVID is spreading. I ask Leader McConnell, is now the time to act?
Speaker Pelosi and I sent Leader McConnell a letter several weeks ago saying sit down and talk with us. We haven't heard a peep out of McConnell, Secretary Mnuchin, or the administration. Now, it appears that Leader McConnell and Senate Republicans have finally woken up to the needs of the American people. They say they’ve got to do something. But instead of working with Democrats to get something done, McConnell’s office is running a partisan process—he says he’s writing the bill in his office with input only from Republican Senators.
McConnell is wasting valuable time. He knows it. He spends more time talking about shielding CEOs from a made up so-called ‘pandemic of lawsuits’ than he does about keeping workers safe, or the looming eviction crisis, or the millions of families who are going to fall into poverty if unemployment insurance isn’t continued.
That Sen. McConnell is now supposedly circulating a summary of his liability shield for CEOs to lobbyists and the White House, instead of working with Democrats to help struggling families shows you everything you need to know about where his priorities are.
Senator McConnell is trying to draft a bill in his office. But he knows that a bill just drafted by Republicans won’t become law. He saw that in COVID-2, COVID-3, COVID-3.5. McConnell knows from the previous COVID bills to pass a bill in the Senate, he needs to work across the aisle. But why isn’t he?
Well, his caucus is in total disarray. They have no plans to help workers, to help families. They have no plans to help our municipal workers, who we’re talking about today who are being laid off. Senate Democrats actually have a plan. Speaker Pelosi and I have worked hard and House Democrats and Senate Democrats are joined at the hip in support of the Heroes Act. And in the Heroes Act, one of the highlights, is to get urgent relief to state, county, and local governments, so we can keep healthcare workers, firefighters and EMS workers, sanitation workers, bus drivers, other public service workers on the job.
We need to get hazard pay to frontline workers. We need rental assistance for struggling families, we need help for small businesses, unemployment—help unemployed people and more.
My Republican colleagues should be jumping at the chance to provide this aid—it’s their own states. All of you saw that the big seven, to governors and the county legislators, and the mayors, and all the other municipal groups, a mixture of Democrats and Republicans, called for dramatic relief. For our Republican Senators to play political games after months of sitting on their hands is inexcusable.
So we know these are turbulent times, some of the toughest and darkest in memory. But I’ve been inspired by the way that local leaders continue to rise to the challenges facing their communities. People like Lee, Josette and Duff are acting in spite of the games Republicans are playing, and they’re continuing to deliver essential services.
Well, I say to Lee, and Josette, and Duff: Senate Democrats are with you. We’re going to continue fighting to get you the resources you deserve.