Demand Immediate Action in Response to COVID-19!

Demand Immediate Action in Response to COVID-19

The coronavirus poses serious challenges, not only to our health, but to our economic well-being and our political institutions. This devastating virus will not just spread illness and death, as well as undermine our economy and our lives, but it will do so in ways that will fall unequally on the people of Pennsylvania. Those who have low incomes, or who are ill or disabled, will bear greater burdens—not just from the virus, but also from the business closure policies and social distancing we must all embrace to limit its spread. We must ensure that the burdens of COVID-19 fall on us equally and not mainly on those people with low and middle incomes, people who are Black and brown, and women. We must take aggressive steps to protect those who will suffer the most.

Please use this tool to contact Governor Wolf, your state senator, and your state representative to ask them to take the following steps in addressing the current crisis.

Relief from Economic Distress
1. Critical safety net programs—unemployment compensation (UC), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Temporary Assistance to Need Families (TANF), programs that benefit the disabled, and the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) should be strengthened and expanded to meet the current crisis. By regulation or legislation, and where necessary with the approval and funding of the federal government, the state should

  • increase benefits and quickly adjust benefits as incomes decline;
  • broaden eligibility criteria to ensure that low-income and seasonal workers, the self-employed, and gig workers can take advantage of the UC program;
  • expand emergency benefit programs (e.g. the TANF diversion program);
  • eliminate waiting periods;
  • eliminate or delay verification requirements;
  • eliminate or suspend time limits on receiving benefits;
  • end or limit termination of benefits during the emergency;
  • suspend appeal deadlines and grant continuance to those who are appealing denials of benefits;
  • increase staffing at county assistance offices (CAOs) and call centers;
  • allow clients to apply  online and by phone and minimize all in-person meetings with case workers;
  • broadly inform the public and clients of these new policies.

2. A moratorium should be placed on evictions and foreclosures during the length of the emergency.

3. PHEAA should suspend repayment of both principle and interest on student loans for the duration of the crisis.

4. The state should establish a program to loan funds at low interest rates to small businesses threatened by the pandemic to enable them to ride out the crisis.

5. The state should require broadband providers to make service available to everyone at low or no cost and cell phone companies to provide free mobile hotspots through every cell phone.

6. Require schools to provide “grab and go” meals for school children who rely on free school lunches for basic nutrition.

Public Health and Healthcare
1. We need expanded funding of public health programs that have not been increased since 2008.

2. The state should require that everyone can receive testing for, and treatment of, COVID-19, as well as emergency room visits, whether they are insured or not; all co-pays or deductibles should be suspended. These same services and accompanying provisions should be provided to immigrants, regardless of status, and the state should take steps to ensure that undocumented immigrants are not put at risk when they seek testing or health care.

3. The Medicaid / Medical assistance program should be strengthened.
  • No one should lose public health care benefits or long-term services and supports (LTSS) due to administrative difficulties and delays.
  • Benefits must flow quickly to those who need them.
  • Terminations of Medicaid / Medical Assistance should be suspended.
  • An “express lane” should be created for applications for Medicaid / Medical Assistance, especially for those with issues related to COVID-19 with verification of eligibility minimized and delayed.
4. The health care marketplace should enable smooth transitions between marketplace policies and Medicaid / Medical Assistance for those who suffer loss of income. Those who lose employer-based insurance should be able to quickly secure marketplace insurance, and the availability of those policies should be widely advertised.

Worker Protections
1. There should be fully paid leave for any COVID-19 related issue, including sick time, furlough, self-quarantine, and providing care to infected family members.

2. There should be protections from disciplinary action from employers against workers who utilize sick time or leave due to COVID-19 related issues.

3. The state, state universities and colleges, and local school districts should not lay off employees during this crisis and should prohibit school districts and contractors that use state funds to carry out their work from doing so as well.

Political Equality and Democracy

1. The state should mail ballots with paid return envelopes to all registered voters for both the primary election and the general elections.

2. The primary election should be put off until June, assuming that at that time it will be safe to congregate in public.

3. Pass a resolution denouncing racism and xenophobia in response to the crisis, with special attention to the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities, who are being specifically targeted.

We The People also endorses the proposals of the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center policy brief in response to COVID-19, the American Working Families Relief Action Plan, and the letter titled “It’s Time to Take Care of All of Us” from a number of groups led by Pittsburgh and PA United.

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