Anti-Poverty Advocates Welcome COVID Relief, Say More Is Needed

Suzanne Potter | California News Service
Workers rallied at the state Capitol for additional COVID relief in May. Photo Credit: ULA

HARTFORD, Conn. — Workers’ rights groups are hopeful Congress will pass a $900 billion COVID relief bill but said it’s just a first step.

The bill reportedly includes a direct stimulus payment to needy families and billions to facilitate distribution of the vaccine and help struggling businesses and the unemployed stay afloat.

Megan Fountain, coordinator of advocacy and partnerships for Unidad Latina en Accion said help can’t come soon enough.

“The food lines are long, the jobs are scarce and COVID is reaching the peak of a second wave,” Fountain cautioned. “So things are very dire. ”

The compromise bill is a far cry from the $2 trillion HEROES Act proposed by Democrats, which would have sent billions to shore up state budgets and avoid cuts to social services.

That bill passed the House in May but was a non-starter in the Republican-controlled Senate.

Fountain stated she’s disappointed the current bill would not send direct aid to the states.

“We need a robust health-care system right now,” Fountain contended. “Our schools need resources right now. And we’re in the worst economic recession since the Great Depression, so states need aid from the federal government. ”

Republicans ended up dropping their demand for COVID liability protections for businesses. Fountain said essential workers, like those who clean our hospitals or stock grocery shelves, need more protections, not fewer, during the pandemic.

“It’s not about employers being sued,” Fountain argued. “It’s about workers having the right to a safe and healthy workplace. And it’s about workers getting health care if they get sick on the job. ”

Advocates are now trying to prevent a wave of evictions that could come once the moratorium on evictions expires Dec. 31.

About 200 protestors are expected to rally at the Governor’s mansion in Hartford this Saturday at 2:00 p.m. to call for an extension of the moratorium and more funds for the state rental-assistance fund.

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