Nina Jackson, an SEIU Local 668 member and an income maintenance caseworker in Philadelphia County, wants the next federal stimulus package to help workers better weather the job difficulties caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
“We’ve had multiple instances where people have either tested positive or they have come with contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19,” Jackson said. “Currently, the leave we have only covers a quarantine period [once] So, if this happens more than once, you run into situations where workers are potentially running out of time, which can impact your job, [or prompt] discipline possibly.”
“We want to make sure workers are covered and that with this new stimulus package, additional time is granted.”
Another issue is childcare.
“Workers who are at the worksite are having issues trying to find affordable childcare,” Jackson said. “Workers who are teleworking from home are facing a new challenge of ‘how are they going to do their best job’ while also supervising school-age children who are home and are required to work from their homes instead of being in school.
“We are hoping for paid leave so people who are unable to make those arrangements where they can do both at the same time can have their jobs protected while they are caring for themselves and their children,” she said.
The Local’s Secretary-Treasurer, JoAnne Sessa, added that workers also find themselves at risk without enough access to testing or PPE: “Public sector workers continue to interact with the public and put themselves at risk on behalf of the commonwealth.”
The costs of covering these worker needs concern Jackson, who said SEIU members have not received any information about potential layoffs or furloughs but every state worker is aware that the budget is beginning to bleed.
“We need funding [from the federal government] because it costs money to provide vital services such as SNAP and Medicaid,” she added. “As the [state] budget continues to deplete, all of us are concerned about how they are going to be able to continue to pay us”
During a virtual press conference on July 23, members of the Local called for provisions to be included in the federal stimulus package, to ensure that Pennsylvania’s public sector can continue to adequately provide vital services. Those provisions include:
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- Hazard pay for all essential workers
- Additional paid leave to cover childcare and sick leave for subsequent COVID-19 cases
- Expanded access to testing
- Additional funding and resources to ensure employers can provide public employees with safe working environments
- Additional funding for essential social services, like unemployment, SNAP, Medicaid, and child welfare
- Funding for state and local governments to make up for pandemic-related revenue shortfalls.
“Our commonwealth, as well as many local governments, are facing dramatic revenue declines that threaten to cripple our public safety net,” SEIU Local 668 President Steve Catanese said. “The next stimulus package must not only contain additional funds to shore up revenue losses in the wake of the pandemic, but also resources to make sure Pennsylvania’s public sector workforce is safe, and able to provide resources citizens need now perhaps more than ever before.”-30-
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