At WSLC virtual town hall, senator backs key elements of HEROES Act
WASHINGTON, D.C. (July 30, 2020) — U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) on Thursday reiterated her strong support for the key features of the HEROES Act, legislation to provide economic and healthcare relief amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and called for an extension of the $600 per week federal Unemployment Insurance (UI) supplement that is scheduled to expire today.
“Our economy has been so hard hit that I support the continuation of the $600 as a supplement to the UI which is so beneficial to our state,” Cantwell said at a virtual town hall meeting hosted by the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO. “We’re fighting to get the extension of that benefit.”
The HEROES Act passed the U.S. House of Representatives on May 15, but has been blocked from a vote by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)
In addition to extending the $600 UI benefit, it would provide billions of dollars to struggling state and local governments and the U.S. Postal Service, while bolstering hospital safety and promoting access to health care amid the deadliest pandemic in a century. After more than two months of refusing to act on the HEROES Act — or vote on any alternative legislation — Senate Republicans this week have finally agreed to negotiate on the next coronavirus relief legislation. The AFL-CIO is calling for senators to end the logjam immediately and vote on the House-approved HEROES Act.
Nikki McKinney, Labor Policy Director for Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), also joined Thursday’s virtual town hall and echoed the senators support for much of what is included in the HEROES Act.
TAKE A STAND — Send a message to Sen. Maria Cantwell or call her office at 202-224-3441 and thank her for continued advocacy and dedication in making sure the people of Washington state are getting the support, care and resources they need right now during the COVID-19 pandemic. Also send the same message to Sen. Patty Murray or call her office at 202-224-2621.
In addition to the Unemployment Insurance extension, Cantwell emphasized some other important elements of what she called the “COVID 4” legislation, including hazard pay for frontline healthcare workers and making sure all essential workers — from health care to transportation to manufacturing to agriculture — have access to the proper Personal Protective Equipment.
“Our health care workers deserve to have the equipment necessary to perform their jobs,” Cantwell said. “It’s sad to say that they don’t, and we need to keep pushing the administration to be accountable on the production of the rights masks and equipment that we need.”
Thursday’s town hall also featured Sherelle Claiborne, a UFCW 21 member who works at Fred Meyer in Burien, Wash.
“Being a frontline worker during this pandemic is scary and stressful and it doesn’t help when management is not ensuring the safety of the workers and the customers alike,” Claiborne said. She added that five of her co-workers have tested positive for coronavirus in the past two weeks and management has been slow to notify other workers who may have been exposed to them. She said the grocery industry needs to get necessary PPE in place and begin enforcing the rules and guidelines recommended by experts to keep them safe.
Also joining the panel on Thursday’s town hall were:
● Lynnette Vehrs, President of the Washington State Nurses Association, who emphasized the importance of maintaining and expanding health care coverage (vs. healthcare insurance) during the pandemic.
● Steve Segall, a Disability Adjudicator for the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services and WFSE/AFSCME 443 member, who discussed the need for immediate assistance for state and local governments and the Postal Service, as provided in the HEROES Act.
● Tracy Lai, an instructor at Seattle Central College and member of AFT Washington and APALA, who described the “personal and terrifying” racism related to the coronavirus that has targeted the Asian and Pacific Islander communities.
● Nathe Lawver, Political Director of Laborers Local 252, who addressed the ongoing need to invest in state and national infrastructure to bolster the economy.
Watch the whole town hall here: