With COVID-19 (the coronavirus) continuing to spread, we are being vigilant about taking every step possible to protect AFSCME members and the communities they serve. Whenever there is a crisis or challenge, people are counting on us to be part of the solution. When public health is at stake, public service workers are all in. But we are also uniquely at risk.
Timely and accurate information is essential at moments like these. We have put together a new online resource webpage where you can access all materials in one centralized place. It includes links to state and local health departments, essential tips about symptoms and prevention, industry-by-industry guidance and much more. The webpage is www.afscme.org/covid-19.
Congress is also moving quickly. By an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote, the House passed an $8.3 billion emergency spending bill to increase resources at the federal, state and local levels to prepare for and respond to the evolving coronavirus. We expect the Senate to pass this bill today and the president to sign it into law quickly. It includes:
- $475 million for new CDC funds through existing grants to state and localities within 30 days of the president signing the bill into law. No state will get less than $4 million within the 30 days.
- States and localities can use these funds for close monitoring of individuals exposed to the virus, identify patterns of the spread of the virus, increase testing for the virus, improve infection control and other activities to prepare for, respond to and lessen the spread of the virus. An additional $475 million will be available to states and localities for similar activities after the initial amount is disbursed.
- $10 million for worker-based training to prevent and reduce exposure of hospital employees, emergency first responders and other workers who are at risk of exposure to coronavirus through their work duties.
- Roughly $500 million to purchase pharmaceuticals, masks, personal protective equipment and other medical supplies, which can be distributed to state and local health agencies in areas with a shortage of medical supplies.
- $100 million for Community Health Centers, supporting smaller health clinics in underserved urban and rural areas.
- $20 million in new funds to increase low-interest disaster loans through the Small Business Association (SBA). These loans can help meet working capital needs or normal business operating expenses for business and nonprofits impacted by the coronavirus.
Because this situation is evolving, we expect that Congress will introduce a second emergency supplemental bill as needed. We will continue to be in touch as new developments arise. Thank you for everything you do.