During a call with a local union members Wednesday, U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto said any attempts by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to stifle additional relief packages that provide aid to local governments was not only misguided but goes against pleas within his own state of Kentucky.
House Democrats passed the HEROES Act in mid-May, which included emergency relief for state and local governments that have been hit with massive budget shortfalls during the pandemic and accompanying economic upheaval. But McConnell said he has “not yet felt the urgency to act.” He previously suggested state and local governments should look at declaring bankruptcy rather than relying on additional federal assistance.
“He is not even listening to his own local government on how important it is to provide this relief,” Cortez Masto said. “For some of the Republicans to claim that they want to take a pause or there is no rush to address this issue, they are not listening to the governors, mayors or local government … It makes no sense to say, ‘We’re not going to help local governments’ and think they should go bankrupt. That is going to harm everybody who is trying to deal with this pandemic and address the spread of the virus and focus on the health care piece of it while still providing the essential services needed.”
The first major stimulus package, the CARES Act, included $150 billion in relief for state, local and tribal governments.
Considering the severity of the crisis that is still ongoing and historic unemployment rates, many fear the CARES funding won’t be enough.
Union members with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 4041 told Cortez Masto and Sen. Jacky Rosen Wednesday they worried local governments, contending with heavy deficits and shortfalls, would balance their budgets at the expense of essential workers.
“Thousands of public services workers across the state like myself have continued to show up during these challenging times putting our lives on the line to ensure our communities have what they need to stay safe and healthy,” said Stephanie Dube, a union member and a custodial worker at Desert Willow Treatment Center. “We will continue to do our part because without us Nevada cannot move forward. We cannot beat this pandemic or reopen and rebuild if people like myself are thanked for their service and sacrifice with a pink slip.”
Daphne Deleon, the president for the Washoe County AFSCME chapter who is also a project manager for the Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation’s vocational rehabilitation division, added it would be especially hard for rural communities to deal with drastic cuts.
“The Senate must pass an aid package that will allow states and localities to avoid layoffs, fund more health care and education, and protect public services for all communities,” she said.
Union members also stressed to both senators the importance of not repeating the same mistakes of the recession 10 years ago by cutting public services.
“Cuts to public services hindered us from rebuilding after the Great Recession,” Dube said as she fought back tears. “State cannot fight this pandemic and reopen without the resources to maintain public services. It is essential for Congress and the Senate to take bold steps to expand aid to states and local governments right away so public service workers have the resources to beat this pandemic and safely reopen our economy.”
Having backed away from this suggestion that states go bankrupt, McConnell recently said the Senate could eventually take up an additional relief bill, though he stresses the thrust of that bill should be protecting business liability as economies around the nation begin to reopen.