Moral and Courageous Leadership Is Needed To Save Lives

Statement of Debra L. Ness, President, National Partnership for Women & Families

As a health and economic justice organization we, like so many others, have been working day in and day out to ensure that emergency legislation adequately helps the people who need it most during this unprecedented time.

We have been encouraged by many champions and leaders who have stepped up to fight for paid sick days and paid leave. And the fact that a bipartisan group of members of Congress voted in favor of these provisions is a major victory for so many, and for the fight to ensure that all workers will eventually have access to these benefits.

In addition, the inclusion of increased unemployment insurance benefits in the third package, which was just passed by the House, is a significant step toward meaningful unemployment insurance that includes self-employed and gig workers. This benefit will be critical to so many women who are in these industries, and will help many workers who are out of work due to businesses that have rightly closed their doors in order to slow the spread of coronavirus.

While we are concerned and will remain vigilant about whether the CARES Act and future relief packages balance the interest of corporations with the needs of people, we are encouraged that this package, for the first time ever, puts constraints on corporations that receive federal dollars. And the funding for small businesses, the health care system, and states, will do a lot of good.

But we would be remiss if we did not call out the lack of leadership and the outright dangerous rhetoric flowing from so many corners of our country, including many Republican leaders and the White House. We are both saddened and outraged that in this moment in our nation’s history we continue to leave too many workers behind — workers who are on the frontlines of this pandemic and who tend to be women of color in already underpaid professions. These are our nurses, domestic workers, caregivers, restaurant workers, grocery cashiers, farmworkers and so many more who need immediate protection and help.

Instead of reassurance they are met with alarming rhetoric from a White House, and a president, that continues to stoke racism and xenophobia while denying that a crisis is even occurring.

People across the country are looking to our leaders to take all necessary measures to protect their health, safety and livelihoods. That means that we cannot bury our heads in the sand and fail to follow public health guidelines in order to protect profits. Now is the time for innovative, bold leadership. Leadership that is compassionate and walks in the shoes of those who are being impacted. That is the only way we make it through this challenging time.

Today, we hail the passage of the CARES Act and call for stronger protections in the next coronavirus emergency response package. We will not stop fighting for those who need our help most. That means fighting for the PAID Leave Act which would provide comprehensive paid sick days and paid leave for all workers. And fighting for OSHA protections for frontline workers, as well as protections and benefits for caregivers, the homeless, people with disabilities, our immigrant community and people working and incarcerated in correctional facilities. And we call on everyone who has it in their power to do the same.

About the National Partnership

The National Partnership for Women & Families is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy group dedicated to promoting fairness in the workplace, reproductive health and rights, access to quality, affordable health care and policies that help all people meet the dual demands of work and family. More information is available at NationalPartnership.org.

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