You really want to honor ALL the “warriors,” Mr. Trump? 2 actions.

22 mins read

To the 100,000 victims of the pandemic – Our president gives you “thoughts and prayers.” We demand more.

The “White House Proclamation on Prayer for Peace, Memorial Day, 2020,” states “As we pay tribute to the lives and legacies of these patriots on Memorial Day, we also remember that they sacrificed to create a better, more peaceful future for our Nation and the world.  We recommit to realizing that vision, honoring the service of so many who have placed love of country above all else.”

We’re confident Trump has never read this, as he spent last weekend driving his golf cart over the “better, more peaceful future” with racist and misogynistic tweets and  refused to mention, much less “honor the service” of our nation’s latest sacrifices – the front line  “warriors” drafted into an army of necessity and economic convenience. He only lowered the flag for them after being publicly shamed. On Sunday, a White House spokesman stated: “President Trump’s prayers for comfort and strength are with all of those grieving the loss of a loved one or friend as a result of this unprecedented plague, and his message to this great nation remains one of resilience, hope and optimism.”

He didn’t read that either, but the NY Times gave our pandemic “warriors’ their proper due. “More Americans have died of the coronavirus in the last 12 weeks than died in the Vietnam and Korean Wars combined and nearly twice as many as died of battle wounds during World War I. The death toll has nearly matched the number of people killed by the initial blasts of the world’s first atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In terms of American deaths, it is the equivalent of 22 Iraq wars33 Sept. 11 attacks41 Afghanistan wars42 Pearl Harbors or 25,000 Benghazis.

Instead of passing on nasty tweets, Gov. Cuomo provides a model for what Trump could have done.

Now we’re going to do is what our president is incapable of. We’re going to demand that regular people are taken care of in this pandemic, not just the wealthy, and that the heroes amonst us, those who pick our crops, who work in our stores, our restaurants, our factories, and health care facilities, who drive our buses and trains, and clean our cities, are rewarded for the bravery they’ve shown every day.

Action #1 – Call your senators and tell them to pass HR 6800 – HEROES Act, complete as-is, NOW!

On Friday, May 15, House Democrats passed the fourth coronavirus package, HR 6800– HEROES Act. The bill isn’t perfect but it improves significantly on the CARES Act, especially on democracy and protections for immigrants, and provides additional financial relief and public health measures. Some of the items included are:

Voting and the Post Office

  • $3.6 billion in election funding to expand vote by mail and safe in-person voting locations
  • $25 billion in funding for the United States Postal Service
  • Allows any eligible voter in any state to request a mail-in ballot for any reason, and allows them to request them online
  • Bans states from throwing out ballots without giving the voter the opportunity to fix discrepancies
  • Requires mail-in ballots to include pre-paid postage
  • Same-day and online voter registration
  • Extended early voting days
  • Safety measures for in-person voting, including protective gear for poll workers

Payments to help weather this economic downturn.

  • Additional $1,200 payments to individuals, including immigrants and dependents over the age of 16
  • The bill provides roughly $1 trillion in funds for state and local governments, including $500 billion directly to states and $375 billion to local governments, among other allocations of grant money.
  • A moratorium on evictions and foreclosures
  • It provides $175 billion for renters and homeowners in need to support rent, mortgage, utility payments, and other housing-related costs.
  • An increase in SNAP benefit levels by 15%.

Protections for our “warriors”

  • Expanded paid/sick/family leave for all workers
  • Free testing and treatment for all, including immigrants regardless of status
  • The bill requires workplaces to develop and implement infection control plans.
  • The bill strengthens the Payroll Protection Program and enhances the Employee Retention Tax Credit to encourage employers to maintain their workforce.
  • The bill provides $75 billion in grants to state, local, Tribal, and territorial health departments to support a testing and contact tracing infrastructure.
  • It establishes a $200 billion Heroes’ fund to ensure that essential workers who have continued working during the pandemic receive hazard pay. It also protects whistleblowers.
  • It extends the expanded unemployment insurance provisions from the CARES Act into 2021 into early next year

Protections for our immigrant “warriors”

  • Automatic extensions of all work permits and immigration benefits so that people don’t lose status while appointments are on hold, and protection from deportation (through deferred action) for many essential workers.
  • No additional money for ICE or CBP, and transfer restrictions to prevent money intended for other things from being  repurposed for detention or deportations.
  • A requirement that ICE review for release from detention any immigrant whose detention is not required by law
  • Funding for safety net  health care providers, including those who serve immigrant, rural, and low-income communities.
  • The bill would speed up the processing of visas and green cards for medical professionals.
  • Cash payments to immigrants and their families.
  • Essential workers would be shielded from deportation and offered employment authorization during the pandemic, and employers in critical industries would not be penalized for hiring unauthorized immigrants.

Protections for students

  • It provides $100 billion for colleges and K-12 schools.
  • It extends student loan protections created in the CARES Act through September 2021.
  • The bill provides up to $10,000 in debt relief for borrowers of federal and private student loans.

Phone Script

Minimal script for senators: I’m calling from [zip code] and I want Senator [___] to support HR 6800 – HEROES Act, NOW, without any watering down of its benefits.

More script if you want it: If there’s any issue with paying for any of this bill, please cover the costs by rescinding the two tax breaks that were snuck into the CARES Act that benefit corporations and millionaires. If that’s not enough, rescind the GOP’s 2017 tax scam, which will cost our country a total of $1.9 trillion from 2018 to 2027. That should cover it, along with the advance 100,000 of us have already paid with their lives.

Contact information for senators below.

Action #2 – The HEROES Act is a good start. We can make it better. Fix the holes!

Some very good legislation got left out of the HEROES Act. The People’s Agenda Pledge includes the following:

  • Keep People on Payrolls
  • Provide Financial Relief
  • Protect Public Health
  • Defend Elections
  • Universal Relief

These are some of the parts we need to make this happen that are missing.

Keep People on Payrolls – House: “Paycheck Guarantee Act”/Senate: “Paycheck Security Act.”

Unlike Rep. Pramila Jayapal’s Paycheck Guarantee Act, neither the CARES Act, nor the new HEROES Act does enough to ensure that workers are kept on payrolls. It only includes employee retention tax credits that are much smaller and more limited in scope and it doesn’t prevent mega-corporations from merging to gobble up ever-increasing portions of our economy, or improve on the fairly lax oversight standards for the corporate bailout money from the CARES Act.  The Paycheck Guarantee Act, would have guaranteed 100% coverage of workers’ wages up to $90,000 a year. Jayapal argued that Congress needed to “think bigger” and offer “workers as well as businesses, nonprofits and local governments of all sizes a better path forward in this uncertain environment.

Though it sounds expensive, Moody’s chief economist, Mark Zandi, estimated that the net costs of the program would be $654 billion over six months, less than the two rounds of small business loans approved by Congress as part of the Paycheck Protection Program. The proposal also removed banks as profit-skimming middlemen, who chose “winners and losers”, by dispersing payments straight from the IRS to employers and would apply to businesses of all sizes.  Sens. Bernie Sanders, Mark Warner, Doug Jones, and Richard Blumenthal are proposing a similar bill “The Paycheck Security Act” in that chamber.

Provide Financial Relief  – H.R. 6496 – “Emergency Money for the People Act”

Instead of a repeat of the problematic single-payment route, Reps. Ro Khanna and Tim Ryan introduced the HR 6496 – “Emergency Money for the People Act,”which would have provided monthly $2000 dollars checks for 12 months to every American age 16 and older making less than $130,000 annually, with $500 stipends for up to three children. This idea has not only public support, it has attracted increasing support from other House Democrats and similar proposals were introduced by Pramila Jayapal and Rashida Tlaib in the House as well as by counterparts in the Senate, including a proposal by Ed Markey, Kamala Harris, and Bernie Sanders that would provide a monthly $2,000 check to those struggling to make ends meet during the COVID-19 pandemic. “A single check is not sufficient for households that are struggling during this health and economic crisis. Americans need more than just one payment.” said Senator Markey.
(Cosponsors here – Brownley and Carbajal are not cosponsors yet.)

Provide Financial Relief  – “Worker Relief and Security Act”

Automatic economic stabilizers would remove the need to continuously pass additional legislation for more aid, by automatically extending aid, such as enhanced unemployment insurance, until the economy recovers. The “Worker Relief and Security Act”, introduced by Senators Michael Bennet and Jack Reed, along with Rep. Don Beyer, aimed to create this mechanism as opposed to allowing benefits to lapse after a fixed period of time. However, these elements were left out of the House’s HEROES Act and unemployment benefits would simply extend through January, 2021.

Provide Financial Relief  – Improvements in getting checks.

The process of delivering funds to individuals and small businesses was riddled with friction and complexity. Many individuals have still not received their stimulus checksfrom the CARES Act. Others received checks, but for a lower amount than expected and are being told by the IRS that they won’t be able to receive the difference until 2021 when they file their taxesH.R.6438 – The “Leave No Taxpayer Behind Act” would help improve this situation, by amending the CARES Act to ensure that all taxpayers are eligible for their $1,200 relief check.
(Cosponsors here – Brownley and Carbajal are cosponsors)

Protect Public Health – Medicare for all/Medicare Extra

(Vox“The coronavirus shows tying health insurance to jobs is a disaster. Let’s fix it. According to a new analysis by the consulting firm Health Management Associates (HMA), the Covid-19 crisis could lead to between 12 million and 35 million people losing employer-sponsored health coverage due to job losses…

…Here, as elsewhere, Covid-19 is worsening a policy problem that long predates the virus. Tying health insurance to employment is now, and always has been, a disaster. It gives bosses too much power over workersreduces entrepreneurship, saddles businesses with health costs they can’t control and insurance problems they don’t understand, makes the tax structure more regressivereduces wages, bloats administrative spending, and drives up costs throughout the system.

We like Jayapal’s H.R.1384 – Medicare for All Act of 2019 (Vox explainer here). Ezra Klein likes the Center for American Progress’ proposal for universal health coverage – “Medicare Extra,” which is an enhanced Medicare plan that would be open to all Americans while allowing employers to continue offering coverage.

Provide Universal Relief –  Provide Essential workers a path to citizenship.

The HEROES Act does not block:

  • the State Department and Department of Homeland Security from implementing the administration’s public charge regulations, which would penalize people for using the public benefits available to them or their families.
  • all civil immigration enforcement during the pandemic, such as deportations, transfers of people from criminal custody to ICE custody, and collateral arrests.
  • construction of the border wall, which puts border communities, workers and the general public at heightened risk and wastes diverted federal resources.

WTH, America? We have the gall to call these workers “essential” during a pandemic, when their labors feed us and care for us in high-risk environments, and then deport them if they survive? The Migration Policy Institute (MPI) has estimated that immigrants make up outsize shares both of essential workers in the fight against the pandemic and those in the industries hardest hit by its economic impact. Six million immigrants are working in frontline occupations, such as health care, food production, and transportation; they are overrepresented in certain critical occupations, such as doctors and home health aides, where they face heightened risk of exposure. In 2017, more than 15% of the health-care labor force were immigrants, and a larger percentage are home health aides, cleaning and support staff.  48 – 70% of farmworkers lack documentation and there are 652,880 DACA recipients hanging by a SCOTUS decision, including front line workers of all types.

Trump has deemed essential workers “warriors” against an “Invisible Enemy” and “the U.S. has long had special protections and paths to lawful status for immigrants who serve in our military during “periods of hostility.” (In WWI, foreign-born soldiers composed over 18% of the U.S. Army. Almost one in five draftees was born overseas and many could not speak English. Thirteen immigrants received the Medal of Honor during that war.) President George W. Bush designated such a period that is still active after 9/11. Although we are now fighting a very different enemy, the rationale for invoking such an exceptional law is the same. Our essential immigrant workers are putting their lives on the line to protect and serve our communities.

This idea is no more radical that executive action to suspend immigration or to ban travel from more than 11 countries. We need a vision for our immigration system that reflects the most American of values: public service, sacrifice and inclusion.

Phone Script

Minimal script for senators and reps: I’m calling from [zip code] and I want Rep/Sen [___] to fix the holes in HR 6800 – HEROES Act, including:

  • the “Paycheck Guarantee Act”,
  • the Emergency Money for the People Act”,
  • the “Worker Relief and Security Act”
  • “Medicare-for-all” (or Medicare Extra – you choose).

Also, fix the issues associated with distributing funding, such as H.R.6438 – The “Leave No Taxpayer Behind Act.” And please – provide a pathway to citizenship for DACA and all the other immigrants who work in essential jobs during this national emergency. Those are the values of generosity, kindness and inclusion that we believe are the real America.

More script if you want it: If there’s any issue with paying for any of this bill, please cover the costs by rescinding the two tax breaks that were snuck into the CARES Act that benefit corporations and millionaires. If that’s not enough, rescind the GOP’s 2017 tax scam, which will cost our country a total of $1.9 trillion from 2018 to 2027. That should cover it, along with the advance 100,000 of us have already paid with their lives.

Rep. Julia Brownley: email(CA-26): DC (202) 225-5811, Oxnard (805) 379-1779, T.O. (805) 379-1779
or Rep. Salud Carbajal: 
email.(CA-24): DC (202) 225-3601, SB (805) 730-1710 SLO (805) 546-8348
Senator Feinsteinemail, DC (202) 224-3841, LA (310) 914-7300, SF (415) 393-0707, SD (619) 231-9712, Fresno (559) 485-7430
and Senator Harrisemail, DC (202) 224-3553, LA (310) 231-4494, SAC (916) 448-2787, Fresno (559) 497-5109, SF (415) 355-9041, SD (619) 239-3884
Who is my representative/senator?:

Image by rottonara from Pixabay

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