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Combating the #coronacrisis: Where we stand – Where we need to be -Social Benefits extended to #Vermont workers so far

March 20, 2020. Montpelier, Vermont – In the seven days since the Vermont AFL-CIO put forth a list of demands to State government on behalf of ALL working class Vermonters, we have seen meaningful progress. 

Submitted to Enough 14. Written by David van Deusen.

The following steps have either already been taken, or are in the process of being implemented:

·       Our Labor and Health: An overwhelming number of Unionized employees of Towns & Cities continue to receive full pay and benefits even if ordered home (and in many communities older or health compromised workers have been afforded the right to go home with said pay, even when their job responsibilities are important to base line operations);

·       Unemployment Payments: Unemployment Insurance application processes and thresholds have been lowered;

·       Utilities: Utilities will not be cut for lack of payment to homes struggling through the crisis;

·       Childcare: Free childcare is being organized for parents of essential workers throughout the State (through designated daycare centers and by school employees organized by the NEA);

·       Food Distribution: Systems of free food distribution to low income children are being conducted, often through AFSCME & other Unionized School Bus Drivers (and the Feds suspended work requirements for the Food Stamp program);

·       Transportation: The Green Mountain Transit Authority has made public transportation free (and in part is being carried out through drivers organized with the Teamsters);

·       Medical Care: The VT House passed a bill that would empower the State to mandate no out-of-pocket expenses for healthcare for Coronavirus testing and treatment (this still needs to pass the VT Senate). Such healthcare shall be provided, in part, through hospitals largely Unionized through AFT & UNAP;

·       Paid Sick Leave: The same VT House bill would also provide paid Coronavirus sick leave to impacted workers (this bill is not yet passed by the VT Senate);

·       Paid Family Leave: The VT House bill (not yet approved by the VT Senate) would grant workers paid unemployment benefits to care for immediate family members who contract the Coronavirus. Federal actions are also providing limited Coronavirus paid sick leave for some workers & 3 months of paid family medical leave to care for out of school children. However, aspects of the federal actions concerning paid sick leave exempt workers employed in shops that include more than 500 workers, and allow for businesses who employ less than 50 workers the ability to seek an exception;

·       Mortgages: – The Feds announced it was authorizing the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) to implement an immediate foreclosure and eviction moratorium for single-family homeowners with FHA-insured mortgages over the next 60 days.

·       Direct Cash Assistance: The Feds are also considering a direct payment of $1000 to all persons making under $75,000 a year to help families get through the crisis.

The Vermont AFL-CIO cannot overstate our support for, and recognition of the importance, of these first steps. We have further directed our affiliate Unions to give consideration to how Locals can organize mutual aid not only for our members, but for working class people as a whole. We have additionally encouraged qualified and healthy Union members to volunteer for such crucial social actions as the food distribution & childcare.

We have made these first gains, in part, through pressure being applied to our Governments from working class people via such actions organized by the VT AFL-CIO and other allied organizations. But we need to go much further!

And let us be clear… The health related shutdowns has brought our capitalist economy to a standstill. Economists are warning that we may be heading towards a new Great Depression. Therefore we must continue to FIGHT to make sure that working people remain THE priority. Therefore we call on the State of Vermont to immediately enact the following measures to better respond to the evolving crisis:

·       Labor Coordinating Council: That the Governor to form/work with a Labor Coordinating Council composed of representatives of the leading Labor Unions, especially those representing workers in our healthcare facilities (AFT & UNAP), schools (NEA & AFSCME), department of public works (AFSCME, IBEW, USW, & VSEA), food distribution networks (UFCW & UE), and other sectors that are foundational to the functioning of society, in order to formulate action steps and policy relevant to combating the health & economic crisis;

·       Expanding Unemployment Insurance: That unemployment benefits be further extended to workers who presently would not qualify for this program (as we need to approach a basic universal income for all during these trying times & beyond);

·       Pass The VT House Coronavirus Bill: That the Vermont Senate adopt the measures already taken by the VT House, and that this bill be signed by the Governor;

·       Home Heating Fuel: That heating fuel for any workers who lack a universal base income be paid for by the State;

·       No Evictions: That a VT moratorium be set in place concerning any and all evictions due to failure to pay mortgages or rents;

·       Solidarity With All: That any and all crisis-related social benefits be afforded to ALL working people in Vermont, including undocumented migrant farm workers;

In the medium term we demand the following:

·       Wealth Tax: That any and all State budget shortfalls (as a result of decreased economic activity) be addressed through a progressive wealth tax. Here we strongly assert that the budget must not be balanced on the backs of the struggling working class. Rather we must require the wealthiest Vermonters, those who have massively benefitted from the disgraceful Trump tax cuts for the rich, finally pay their fair share;

·       Essential Worker Pay: That essential workers who are required to continuously put their health on the line through their ongoing labor, be provided additional direct compensation by the State in recognition of their social contributions during this time of mass crisis;

In the end we also demand that, among other things, the following legislation be adopted to better guarantee the social and economic well-being of all working Vermonters in perpetuity:

·       Healthcare: Single payer healthcare for all;

·       Paid FMLA: 12 Weeks of paid family medical leave (with short term disability) for all;

·       Paid Sick Leave: Minimum of 14 days of paid sick leave for all;

·       Childcare: Free public pre-K childcare for all working parents;

·       Transportation: Free public transportation;

·       Universal Income: Expanded unemployment insurance for all working Vermonters;

On the federal level, the Vermont AFL-CIO calls on Vermont’s Congressional Delegation to:

·       Nationalization of Industries: Require that any use of taxpayer money to bail out various sectors also require that said sectors become publically owned.  And that such nationalized industries remain publically owned after said sectors become solvent and that they then be tasked with serving the public good (and not capitalist profit for the few). And finally, that long term revenue generated from these nationalized sectors be used to support a more robust social system throughout the United States of America;

The Coronacrisis has laid bare the weakness of our present social system both here in Vermont and across the nation.  While we demand action in the here and now to mitigate the worst impacts of the virus, we also require a re-ordering of society whereby the needs and desires of working people, and not the wealthy & corporations, become the focus of our collective economic and political life.  We further demand that such a social re-ordering also entail not a retraction of democracy, but an expansion. We must not only continue the long march of the New Deal, but we must also fortify the gains we make through building a more direct and participatory democracy whereby working people themselves have the ability and means to advance and defend the progress we achieve together.

United!

David Van Deusen,

President of the Vermont AFL-CIO

ADDITIONAL CORONACRISIS INFORMATION & RESOURCES:

Important and useful information on the expanded programs implemented by the State of
Vermont and Federal Government during the Coronacrisis. Key contact information and links
to further information provided:

VERMONT

UNEMPLOYMENT – Workers laid-off because of the COVID-19 virus will not have to do the
mandatory 3 job contacts per week. For more information please click on the link or call the
Department of labor: labor.uiandwages@vermont.gov (877) 214-3332.

ELECTRICAL UTILITIES – Utilities will not shut off power to customers who fall behind on
payments because they have been laid off. Below is a list of Vermont utilities with a link to
their website and a phone you can check to see if yours is one of them.

SCHOOL DAY CARE – The State of Vermont orders schools to provide child care for children of
‘essential’ parents. For more information: https://dcf.vermont.gov/childcare/providers Child
Care Hotline,   1-800-649-2642

VERMONT DEPARTMENT OF MOTOR VEHICLE – The State of Vermont announced DMV will be
extending license and registration renewals for 90 days beyond their effective expiration date
beginning March 13, 2020. If an individual’s permit, temporary license or permanent license
and/or registration has expired since March 13, 2020 law enforcement officers should honor a
90 day waiver of those credential expiration dates. https://dmv.vermont.gov/bulletin/inspection-bulletin-20-01 802-828-2000

GREEN MOUNTAIN TRANSIT – Is offering free services until April 1 st . https://ridegmt.com/fare-
free-service/
802-864-2282

VELCO (RUTLAND) https://www.velco.com/ 802-770-6454

VERMONT ELECTRIC CO-OP (JOHNSON) https://www.vermontelectric.coop/ 802-635-2331

BURLINGTON ELECRTIC (BURLINGTON) https://www.burlingtonelectric.com/ 802-865-7300

GREEN MOUNTAIN POWER (COLCHESTER) https://greenmountainpower.com/ 888-835-4672

MORRISVILLE WATER & LIGHT (MORRISVILLE) https://www.mwlvt.com/ 802-888-3348

LUDLOW ELECTRIC (LUDLOW) https://www.ludlow.vt.us 802-228-7766

WASHINGTON ELECTRIC COOPERATIVE (EAST MONTPELIER)
https://www.washingtonelectric.coop/ 802-223-5245

SWANTON VILLAGE ELECTRIC (SWANTON)
http://www.swantonvillage.org/publicworks/electric/ 802-868-3397

BARTON ELECTRIC (BARTON) https://bartonvt.com/electric-department/ 802-525-4747

ENOSBURG FALLS ELECTRIC (ENSOBURG FALLS) https://villageofenosburgfalls.org/general-
administration/water-electric/
802-933-4443

HARDWICK ELECTRIC (HARDWICK) http://www.hardwickelectric.com/ 802-472-5201

HYDE PARK ELECTRIC (HYDE PARK) https://hydeparkvt.com/hyde-park-village-water-and-light/
802-888-2310

JACKSONVILLE ELECTRIC (WHITINGHAM) https://townofwhitingham-
vt.org/business/jacksonville-electric-co
802-368-7010

LYNDONVILLE ELECTRIC (LYNDONVILLE) https://www.lyndonelectric.com/ 802-626-3366

NORTHFIELD ELECTRIC (NORTHFIELD) http://northfield-vt.gov/text/Electric_Department.htm
802-485-5411

STOWE ELECTRIC DEPARTMENT (STOWE) https://www.stoweelectric.com/ 802-253-7215

FEDERAL MORTGAGES – On Wednesday, the Federal Government announced it was authorizing the U.S.
Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) to implement an immediate foreclosure and eviction moratorium for single-family homeowners with FHA-insured mortgages over the next 60 days.

PAID LEAVE – U.S. Senate on Wednesday approved legislation that establishes paid emergency leave, including both 14 days of paid sick leave and up to three months of paid family and medical leave. It also includes some changes to federal unemployment insurance. The law would extend benefits to furloughed workers and suspend the employment requirement behind eligibility for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.

STIMULIS CHECKS – A proposal to send a $1,000 check to every adult is being discussed in Washington. They said they would be distributed in three weeks. The income threshold limit is $75,000 for individuals and $150,000 for couples. If the crisis is still going in six weeks another round will follow.

Paid Sick Days and Paid Family and Medical Leave in the Families First Coronavirus Act (H.R. 6201) –https://actionnetwork.org/user_files/user_files/000/040/109/original/Leave_in_the_Families_
First_Coronavirus_Act_3.16.2020_UPDATED_3-18-2020_with_Comments.pdf

IRS: High-deductible health plans can cover Coronavirus costs-
https://actionnetwork.org/user_files/user_files/000/040/136/original/IRS_Statement_re_HDHP_plans.pdf

High Deductible Health Plans and Expenses Related to COVID-19 Notice 2020-15
https://actionnetwork.org/user_files/user_files/000/040/138/original/Notice_2020-15.pdf

Better Balance Fact Sheet: Federal Coronavirus Proposal: The Families First Coronavirus Response Act
https://actionnetwork.org/user_files/user_files/000/040/261/original/12_Fact-Sheet-on-Federal-Families-First-Coronavirus-Response-Act-That-Passed-House-3-18-2020-final.pdf

For questions under the FEDERAL TITLE contact the congressional delegation.

Senator Patrick Leahy – https://www.leahy.senate.gov/ 802-863-2525

Senator Bernie Sanders – https://www.sanders.senate.gov/ 802-862-0697

Congressman Peter Welch – https://welch.house.gov/ 888-605-7270

General Health And Safety Information Concerning Coronavirus & Additional Resources:
https://aflcio.org/covid-19

*The information is changing daily.


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1 thought on “Combating the #coronacrisis: Where we stand – Where we need to be -Social Benefits extended to #Vermont workers so far

  1. just to make clear in order to report accurately: are the first steps mentioned implemented in Vermont only or are those federal measures?

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