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  • Condemn Congress for Ending $600 COVID-19 Unemployment Benefits
    Posted On: Jul 23, 2020

    Washington, D.C., July 23, 2020 — The AFL-CIO and its affiliate labor unions condemn Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for his body’s failure to pass the HEROES Act, deepening economic hardship for millions, especially those who will lose the additional $600 in unemployment insurance benefits expiring at the end of the month.

    For months, millions of laid-off American workers have relied on these increased weekly supplemental benefits to pay the bills and stay afloat amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The termination of this benefit will have devastating impacts on the economy and America’s workers.

    “I’ve been a banquet server since I was a teenager, so I understand that we will be among the last people to return to work, since we serve large crowds,” said Willie Woods, a member of UNITE HERE Local 23 and employee of the Hilton New Orleans Riverside.

    “The Hilton stopped paying their portion of my health insurance as soon as the hotel was shut down in March, and since then I have been paying $747 a month to cover me and my wife,” he said. “I’m scared to think of the hard financial choices that I will have to make for me and my family next month if Congress doesn’t extend the $600 unemployment assistance. In Louisiana, unemployment benefits are only $247 per week before taxes, and who can live on that? Without the additional $600, this will be an economic disaster.”

    “My last day of work was March 20, and in four months I’ve only received a one-time payment of $275 from Florida unemployment,” said Cristina Aguirre-Sevillano, a member of UNITE HERE Local 355 and guest room attendant at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach hotel.

    “Because Governor DeSantis held on to my unemployment checks, I had no money coming in,” she said. “When I was called back to work on June 1, I had to make a choice between feeding my daughter and protecting my health. I should have benefited from the $600 extended federal unemployment — and I fear I could be re-laid off as coronavirus cases continue to rise in Florida — but our state unemployment system has failed us.

    “When I tested positive for COVID-19, I wasn’t even able to buy medication,” Aguirre-Sevillano said. “Congress will fail the rest of the country’s workers, too, if it does not extend the $600 unemployment beyond July 31.”

    Responding to the Senate’s failure to act, the labor movement has been mobilizing in all 50 states, D.C. and Puerto Rico to pass the HEROES Act. On June 17, thousands of union members across the nation took an action of some kind. This groundswell has only grown as the COVID-19 crisis has worsened in recent weeks.

    On Wednesday, nearly 20,000 calls flooded into Senate offices to demand passage of the HEROES Act. In the days to come, actions will continue, with worker-led conversations with senators over Zoom, such as a call happening with Sen. Tina Smith (Minn.) on July 23, plus car caravans and rallies planned in Florida, Iowa and Tennessee, among others.

    The HEROES Act, which includes America’s Five Economic Essentials, is the road map to rebuilding America and empowering working families. The labor movement refuses to stand idle as McConnell’s Senate sits on its hands. It’s time to pass the HEROES Act and put the lives of America’s working families first.

    For the latest, follow @RichardTrumka and @AFLCIO on Twitter and check out the AFL-CIO blog

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