Posted February 27, 2021
Washington, DC—Following is a statement from Rebecca Dixon, executive director of the National Employment Law Project:
“Now that the House of Representatives has passed the American Rescue Plan, NELP calls on the Senate to take swift action to get this COVID-19 and recession relief package into the hands of people across the country—after making several key improvements.
“The overwhelming bipartisan popularity of the American Rescue Plan is a testament to how desperately needed relief is in our communities. People have been demanding adequate financial relief for themselves and their families, as well as the funds necessary for state and local governments to fulfill all their necessary functions—from public health to education to adequately providing for those who are struggling with hunger and homelessness. We commend Congressional leaders and the administration for putting together a bill that will begin to address the many pressing needs of the moment.
“Crucial to the House bill was its inclusion of a $15 federal minimum wage law and One Fair Wage for tipped workers and workers with disabilities—a vital measure that would benefit 32 million workers across the country, including 60% of workers on the COVID-19 frontlines. While the Senate parliamentarian disappointingly ruled to omit the minimum wage provision from the Senate bill, House and Senate leaders and President Biden must not accept defeat on this important policy because of a procedural hurdle. The very workers of color who elected them need them to deliver this important victory. Workers’ movement will not be deterred from a $15 federal minimum wage and One Fair Wage. Congress and the Biden administration need to figure out how to make it happen.
“Additionally, before the Senate passes this bill, it must make one other crucial improvement. As of now, emergency unemployment insurance (UI) programs are set to expire on August 29, 2021, when Congress is on recess. This all but assures that payments will lapse at the end of the summer, long before our economy has recovered to a point when ending these programs would be appropriate. This would be a cruel consequence for unemployed people and their families, an unnecessary burden for state UI agencies that would then have to re-start programs weeks later, and could cause workers and families to be without income support for months.
“Congress must extend these emergency UI programs until at least October 3, 2021 to ensure there is time to address the need to continue UI without workers missing a single unemployment payment. Unemployed people and their families are among those suffering the most from the pandemic and recession. Designed within the context of structural racism and white supremacy, both at the state and federal levels, unemployment insurance has historically been least successful in supporting Black and Indigenous communities and other communities of color—the very communities most affected by the pandemic and corresponding downturn. A lapse in UI payments will only deepen those negative impacts.
“With emergency unemployment programs set to expire on March 14th, the Senate must move quickly to improve and pass the American Rescue Plan so it can be signed into law early enough to avoid any more lapses in benefits. NELP calls on all senators to do the right thing, to listen to the needs of their constituents, and vote yes on the American Rescue Plan as an urgent step towards relief from the COVID-19 pandemic and recession.”