Wolf, lawmakers need to act now to deliver COVID-19 relief to all, not just the 1 percent | Opinion

March 19, 2020 6:30 am

By Jennifer Rafanan Kennedy and Brandi Fisher 

In moments of crisis, how we act and what we say can help define perceptions, assumptions, and policies for generations.

At the same time, we must act quickly and decisively, with compassion, coordination, and at scale. And, perhaps most importantly, we must not stoop to using the ugly rhetoric being pushed by those at the top in our own government — insidious,  xenophobic, racist rhetoric — that will absolutely undermine our ability to get through this crisis.

No matter what we look like, where we live, or how much we make, the COVID-19 pandemic reminds us that at our core we’re all just human.

For too long, we’ve let a powerful few divide us to pad their own profits by making life and health into products for sale.

Now is the time to rewrite those rules to ensure that everyone can access the resources and care that we need without fearing we’ll go bankrupt. Now is the time to demand that government not only helps us weather the outbreak of this virus but sets a better course for the future of all of our communities.

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That’s why we have joined with more than 50 social justice organizations, elected officials, labor unions, small businesses, and community groups from across Pennsylvania to call on Gov. Tom Wolf and the leaders of Pennsylvania’s General Assembly to take immediate action to contain the spread of COVID-19 and alleviate the health and financial burden on working families and our most vulnerable citizens.

The response to this current crisis will have long-term effects. Now is the time for us to unite across our differences, stand in solidarity, and ensure policy choices that help every-day people in pursuit of a safe and thriving nation.

It’s time for our leaders to help all of us — not just the richest 1 percent and a handful of huge corporations. Our local, state, and national governments must do everything in their power to protect everyone’s physical and financial health. And when we say everyone, we mean everyone — no exceptions.

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From people with chronic health conditions to people without shelter, from our undocumented neighbors to people living in detention, people providing vital services or those who can’t forgo a paycheck to stay home — all of us need the ability to make the best choices for everyone’s health.

We need to ensure all people can make ends meet, not hand tax breaks to the richest 1 percent and finance bailouts for corporations.

All workers need fully paid leave, including sick time, furlough, self-quarantine, and providing care to family members. We need to ensure immediate cash assistance to everyone who needs it to stabilize finances for families, small businesses, and our economy. We need to expand the unemployment compensation system to allow the rapid processing of new unemployment applications. We need an immediate suspension of foreclosures, utility shutoffs, evictions, credit defaults, school loan payments, and other liens for workers who may be laid off or have reduced hours for the duration of the national public health emergency. We need enhancement of food security programs for working families, the elderly, and children by increasing funding for nutrition assistance programs.

We need our government to take every possible action to implement policies that will help contain the spread of COVID-19 and alleviate the health and financial burden on working families and our most impacted citizens.

But most importantly, we demand that our government take bold and decisive action now, in this time of crisis, that will set a better course for the future of our communities for generations to come.

Jennifer Rafanan Kennedy and Brandi Fisher write on behalf of Pittsburgh United, a coalition of community, labor, faith, and environmental organizations committed to advancing the vision of a community and economy that work for all people.

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