CLEAR COALITION, GOVERNOR WOLF, PHILADELPHIA & PITTSBURGH MAYORS, PA HOUSE AND SENATE DEMOCRATS, AND PA MUNICIPAL LEADERS URGE CONGRESS TO SUPPORT ADDITIONAL FEDERAL FUNDING FOR STATE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENTS
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Danielle Gross
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HARRISBURG, PA (May 14, 2020) – The CLEAR Coalition, a group of public sector unions that represents approximately 900,000 workers in Pennsylvania, in partnership with the State Innovation Exchange (SiX), have joined together with Governor Tom Wolf, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, nearly the entire Pennsylvania House and Senate Democratic lawmakers, and a bipartisan slate of mayors, county, and municipal leaders from every corner of the state, to urge Pennsylvania’s Congressional delegation to support at least $500 billion in federal funding for state and local governments, $200 billion in education stabilization funds, and a minimum 15 percent increase in Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) funds for Medicaid home and community based services in response to local communities’ urgent needs due to the COVID-19 crisis. Additionally, the allies and lawmakers are asking Congress to absolve restrictions to the funds in the original federal CARES Package, which only allows state and local governments to expend additional monies for COVID-19 related efforts, versus help to fill in budget deficits due to the pandemic.
The pandemic has punched a hole in Pennsylvania’s budget, with shortfalls of approximately $4 billion in tax revenue expected over the next 15 months. Without investment from the federal government, Pennsylvanians will be facing serious cuts to essential services provided by the Commonwealth, including cuts to all levels of public education, human services, health care services, and local governments, further crippling our economy and government services when they should be strengthened, not weakened. Like many states, Pennsylvania is not able to create a budget deficit, and without assistance from the federal government, Pennsylvanians of all ages will suffer.
“Our communities are hurting. Our friends and neighbors have been sick or isolated, and we’ve lost many to the COVID-19 virus,” Sen. Jay Costa said. “As we begin to recover, we need a plan that works for everyone — particularly working families. Our strategy must get folks back on their feet and back work. We intend to focus on assistance for working people, protection for front line workers, investments in education and childcare, and loans and programs that will enable our communities to thrive again.”
“The partnership of our federal government with state and local governments is a historic American success story, improving the lives of people everywhere,” said House Democratic Leader Frank Dermody. “In this pandemic, we are asking our national leaders to find the necessary money to maintain all kinds of public functions such as fixing roads and bridges, collecting trash, feeding hungry people, helping job seekers, preserving childcare options and even holding elections. There are so many public needs that deserve the same helping hand that was already extended to parts of the private sector.”
“The COVID-19 crisis has revealed sharp inequities in public education funding in Pennsylvania, and beyond, and we need to ensure that our public schools are adequately funded,” said Rich Askey, President of PSEA, a member of the CLEAR Coalition. “School districts face additional costs due to the pandemic, and it is critical that they are able to continue to provide an education to all students, as well as nutrition, family support, and mental health services.”
CLEAR members and allies are urging Congress to take steps to help protect frontline, essential workers by establishing a federal emergency infectious disease standard; providing personal protective equipment (PPE) and cleaning supplies to all workers; and directing President Trump to activate the Defense Production Act (DPA) to accelerate the production of necessary protective equipment and cleaning supplies.
Additional investment of funding for America’s childcare system is needed to ensure that once workers return to the workplace, their children may be cared for in a safe environment.
“It is critical that our members are protected while they are on the frontlines of the COVID crisis. The work they do is critical to our society, and Americans of every stripe have been, rightfully, calling them ‘heroes’ for it. But even heroes need protection,” said Steve Catanese, President of SEIU Local 668.
“Many of our workers are working parents, and they need to know their children are safe while they are at work.”
Beyond workplace safety, the organizations and elected officials urged additional federal funding to ensure voting is accessible throughout the COVID-19 crisis, encourage investment in technology and staff for unemployment compensation at the state level, increasing SNAP and WIC benefits, and ensure that state and local governments maintain pre-crisis employment levels.
“It is unfortunate that some lawmakers, in Harrisburg and in the Congress continue to ignore the science and the data they continue to put workers and all Pennsylvanians at risk of exposure,” said Wendell W. Young, President of UFCW Local 1776. “We need the support of our federal and state lawmakers. We need to come together and begin to recover and rebuild our economy. Now is not the time to talk recklessly about reopening the economy before the experts tell us it is safe to do so.”
FULL LETTER TEXT BELOW
Dear Members of Congress:
We the undersigned have been working tirelessly to uphold our oaths of office and protect our constituents from the health and economic impacts of the novel coronavirus. COVID-19 has caused an unprecedented global crisis; we fear that the economic disruption caused by this pandemic will have disastrous effects across the entire country in the coming weeks, months, and years.
Working people are on the frontlines of this pandemic and are doing their jobs during this difficult time. Healthcare providers and other essential workers are continuing to care for the sick. Janitors are still keeping buildings clean while airport workers are risking their health to help Americans travel safely. Public employees are still leaving their homes to ensure Americans continue to receive the services they rely upon.
State and local governments are in desperate need of additional funding. As America’s economy grinds to a halt, state and local governments are on the front lines, using their finite resources to fight COVID-19 while helping their residents stay safe, healthy, and financially stable. With all of this in mind, we are writing to you all with requests for Congressional action. The specifics of our requests are detailed below:
Support for State and Local Governments
Direct Support to State and Local Governments – With most of the nation’s population under lockdown, state and local governments may see their steepest revenue decline ever. This will have far-reaching implications for our communities and for public servants on the front lines delivering essential services like unemployment and food assistance to families that suddenly find themselves out of work with limited resources. We urge additional funding for states and localities of at least $500 billion which expressly calls for a sharing of funds with all local governments. Entities receiving grants should not be authorized to lay off any workers during any fiscal year covered by the grant. Additionally, we call on Congress to provide at least $200 billion in education stabilization funds – $175 billion for K-12 public education and higher education and $25 billion for Title I and IDEA programs to provide targeted support to vulnerable students most likely to be affected by prolonged school closures. Lastly, restrictions limiting the use of the $150 billion in the CARES Act to coronavirus-related expenditures should be removed and there should be additional funding for the CARES Act education stabilization fund.
Investment in training and new technology is urgently needed to update our public services infrastructure and equip our public servants to deliver essential services in this crisis and beyond. Lastly, to ensure state and local governments have the financial confidence and support they need in this time of crisis, we urge the Federal Reserve to continue to purchase state/local government debt.
Increase Medicaid Resources – Congress should provide, at a minimum, a 15-percentage point increase in FMAP that should be added to the 6.2 percentage point increase in FMAP adopted in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. Both increases should be retroactive to Jan. 1, 2020, and last at least until Dec. 31, 2021. Congress should add language ensuring that states can receive the increased FMAP until unemployment rates return to a normal level. Also Congress should consider additional funding on top of the across-the-board FMAP increase, for Medicaid home and community based services. This must be conditioned on supporting the workforce including worker protections, pay and paid sick/leave as well as maintaining consumers access to services. Lastly, Congress should create a 100 percent FMAP match for the expansion population.
Provide Local & State Employers with the Same Support Provided to Private Industry – The federal government should reimburse public employers for paid sick/paid leave provided to public workers. In addition the federal government should provide public employers with funding to support hazard or premium pay for essential public workers.
Protect workers on the front lines by: 1) passing into federal law an emergency infectious disease standard so front-line workers in all states are covered, 2) getting all workers needed equipment (N95 masks, shields, gowns, gloves, hand sanitizer, etc.) and cleaning supplies (wipes, bleach, etc.) to be safe, and 3) directing the president to fully activate the Defense Production Act (DPA) to accelerate the production of necessary equipment and supplies and to centralize and prioritize their fair distribution.
Support our Child Care System – While the CARES Act provided additional child care funding that states can use for the childcare needs of essential workers, more must be done. Child care providers are risking their own health to provide care for the children of essential workers even as they struggle to keep their doors open. At the same time, essential workers still on the job during this crisis cannot locate safe and affordable childcare. A much larger and urgent infusion of funds is needed to preserve our child care system through this crisis and beyond.
Protecting Democracy During Pandemic – Provide at least $4 billion in funding and resources to states and localities to support accessible voting methods during the COVID-19 crisis including vote by mail, safer in person voting, and online registration. In addition, any matching requirements for federal support should be waived for states for past and future funding.
Provide further investment in UI – Given the unprecedented increase in UI claims at the state level, states need additional funding to ensure that they are able to invest in the technology and staff needed to process and pay out claims. Congress should also provide funding to states to expand UI benefits to new populations such as gig and non traditional workers like adjuncts and school workers.
Increase SNAP and WIC – Boost funding for these critical programs that help vulnerable people meet their nutritional needs and address barriers to accessing these programs.
Keep people on payroll – The federal government should invest in providing direct support to employers, including state and local governments, to maintain pre-crisis employment levels allowing workers to maintain their health insurance, contribute to Social Security, and limit economic disruption.
Thank you for your leadership during this time of crisis.
Governor Tom Wolf
Mayor William Peduto, Pittsburgh
Mayor James F. Kenney, Philadelphia
Senator John Blake
Senator Lisa Boscola
Senator Jim Brewster
Senator Maria Collett
Senator Jay Costa
Senator Larry Farnese
Senator Wayne Fontana
Senator Art Haywood
Senator Vince Hughes
Senator Pam Iovino
Senator Timothy Kearney
Senator Katie Muth
Senator Sharif Street
Senator Judy Schwank
Senator Tina Tartaglione
Senator Anthony Williams
Senator Lindsey Williams
Representative Ryan Bizzarro
Representative Kevin Boyle
Representative Matt Bradford
Representative Tim Briggs
Representative Donna Bullock
Representative Danilo Burgos
Representative Frank Burns
Representative Thomas Caltagirone
Representative Mike Carroll
Representative Morgan Cephas
Representative Joseph Ciresi
Representative Carolyn Comitta
Representative H. Scott Conklin
Representative Angel Cruz
Representative Mary Jo Daley
Representative Margo Davidson
Representative Austin Davis
Representative Tina Davis
Representative Jason Dawkins
Representative Pamela DeLissio
Representative Anthony DeLuca
Representative Daniel Deasy
Representative David Delloso
Representative Frank Dermody
Representative Maria Donatucci
Representative Michael Driscoll
Representative Elizabeth Fiedler
Representative Isabella Fitzgerald
Representative Marty Flynn
Representative Dan Frankel
Representative Robert Freeman
Representative Ed Gainey
Representative John Galloway
Representative Neal Goodman
Representative Gwendolyn Green
Representative Liz Hanbidge
Representative Patrick Harkins
Representative Jordan Harris
Representative Carol Hill-Evans
Representative Joseph Hohenstein
Representative Kristine Howard
Representative Sara Innamorato
Representative Mary Isaacson
Representative Malcolm Kenyatta
Representative Patty Kim
Representative Stephen Kinsey
Representative Brian Kirkland
Representative Bridget Kosierowski
Representative Leanne Krueger
Representative Summer Lee
Representative Mark Longietti
Representative Maureen Madden
Representative Steven Malagari
Representative Brandon Markosek
Representative Robert Matzie
Representative Stephen McCarter
Representative Joanna McClinton
Representative Jeanne McNeill
Representative Robert Merski
Representative Daniel Miller
Representative Gerald Mullery
Representative Kyle Mullins
Representative Ed Neilson
Representative Jennifer O’Mara
Representative Danielle Otten
Representative Eddie Day Pashinski
Representative Joseph Petrarca
Representative Christopher Rabb
Representative Adam Ravenstahl
Representative James Roebuck, Jr.
Representative Mark Rozzi
Representative Chris Sainato
Representative Steve Samuelson
Representative Ben Sanchez
Representative Christina Sappey
Representative Michael Schlossberg
Representative Peter Schweyer
Representative Melissa Shusterman
Representative Brian Sims
Representative Pam Snyder
Representative Jared Solomon
Representative Mike Sturla
Representative Wendy Ullman
Representative Greg Vitali
Representative Perry Warren
Representative Joseph Webster
Representative Jake Wheatley
Representative Dan Williams
Representative Rosita Youngblood
Representative Michael Zabel
Commissioner Tony Amadio, Beaver County
Commissioner Laura O. Burke, Blair County
Commissioner Gene DiGirolamo, Bucks County
Commissioner Bob Elbich, Lehigh County
Commissioner Dave Harrington, Lehigh County
Commissioner Dan Hartzell, Lehigh County
Councilmember Ronald R. Heckman, Northampton County
Councilman Kevin J Lott, Northampton County
County Executive Lamont G. McClure, County of Northampton
Commissioner Marian Moskowitz, Chester County
Councilmember Christine A. Reuther, Delaware County
Councilmember Monica Taylor, Delaware County
Commissioner Amy Zanelli, Lehigh County, Chair
Councilmember Tara M Zrinski, Northampton County
Councilman Bryan G. Callahan, City of Bethlehem
Mayor Robert J. Donchez, City of Bethlehem
Councilmember J. William Reynolds, City of Bethlehem
Councilmember Joshua Siegel, Allentown
Michael Ksiazek, Township Supervisor, Middletown Township
Anna Payne, Township Supervisor, Middletown Township
Amy C Strouse, Township Supervisor, Middletown Township
Tom Tosti, Township Supervisor, Middletown Township
Supervisor Jeff Warren, Hanover Township, Northampton County