NELP on the Biden COVID-19 Relief Plan

The following is a statement from Rebecca Dixon, executive director of the National Employment Law Project:

Today, President-Elect Biden released a $1.9 trillion proposal for the next phase of desperately needed COVID-19 relief. The National Employment Law Project (NELP) commends the incoming Administration for putting together a proposal that understands the deep needs across the country and that rises to this moment of crisis.

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As NELP has said from the beginning of this pandemic, the dual economic and public health crises have made it clear that we will only successfully emerge from this crisis with a bold response that communicates we are ALL in this together and that we all deserve a robust, targeted, and strategic government action in order to help weather the health and economic crises we are fighting.

This pandemic has laid bare the unassailable fact that worker health IS public health.  And that we cannot have a healthy economy when we do not have sufficient unemployment benefits for the up-to 20 million people who are out of work, and when front-line workers are underpaid, under-protected, and unsafe at work.  Many have rushed to call our front-line workers heroes and celebrate the risks they have taken and the sacrifices they have made, but as the President-Elect has said, they deserve more than just praise; they also deserve just pay and protections.  Unemployed and front-line workers deserve fair wages and fair benefits because of the sheer value of their humanity, but also for the contributions they make to our communities, especially in these times when so much has been expected of and extracted from them.

Standing in stark contrast to the current Administration, the Biden proposal responds to the needs of underpaid and unemployed people, ensuring immediate attention to Black communities and communities of color who are bearing the largest impact in terms of public health and economic hardship. There can be no just recovery from our joint crises without focusing on those who have been made to suffer the most due to cruel and unjust policy decisions. We commend the incoming Administration for its laser-focus in this crisis and we will continue to advocate for structural changes that will advance racial and economic justice for all people.

There is much to commend in the proposal including enhanced, extended and expanded unemployment benefits; a comprehensive paid leave and paid sick leave mandate; rigorous and enforceable standards from OSHA to protect workers from exposure to COVID and increased funding for the agency to rigorously enforce the laws mandating safe and healthy workplaces; additional stimulus payments; an extension of the eviction moratorium and rental assistance; hazard pay for frontline workers; and generous funds for state, local and Tribal relief in order to ensure that essential public services are not cut and that public service workers are not laid-off.  Perhaps most exciting, and a credit to the relentless Fight for $15 movement, is the President-Elect’s recognition that raising the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour and eliminating discriminatory sub-minimum wages is also essential to our public health and our economic well-being.

We look forward to working with the incoming Administration to enact this proposal into law, and to ensure that all of the benefits in this proposal are extended to all people in this country, regardless of their immigration status. We call on Congress to pass this proposal into law to bring stability into our communities, aid our health, and create a path toward a just economic recovery.

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