The American Rescue Plan (ARP) is a godsend for Teamster retirements, and one that should be celebrated. But it is also protecting the livelihoods and safety of workers who have been hit hard as part of the coronavirus pandemic.
This union played an active role in fighting for additional worker support in the wake of COVID-19 this year ago by pushing for stimulus legislation. And that continues with the passage of ARP, a $1.9 trillion package that brings billions of much-needed funds for states and local governments, unemployed workers and health care benefits as well as in the form of checks to hardworking American families.
Many Teamsters and other essential workers are still working in unsafe conditions and without access to quality personal protective equipment (PPE). The ARP sets aside $10 billion to use the Defense Production Act to purchase, produce and distribute equipment including tests, PPE and vaccines. The bill also provides funding to support the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s enforcement in high-risk sectors and expands incentives for employers to offer paid leave.
More than 200,000 Teamsters work in the public sector. This legislation provides states and localities with funds to address revenue loss, not just unanticipated COVID-19 related expenses. The flexibility will help states to avoid mass layoffs and furloughs that would worsen the recession, delay recovery and undercut public health response efforts.
Significant support is given to states and localities to expand vaccine distribution, testing and contact tracing. The bill also provides necessary funding to support in-person teaching – where it is safe to do so for teachers, staff and students – as well as expenses associated with equitable access to distance learning.
Over 600,000 Teamsters start their workday by turning the key of a vehicle. The ARP supports transportation industries and workers with funding for transit agencies, airports, airlines and Amtrak that can be used to cover operating expenses including payroll costs and purchasing PPE.
And while the majority of Teamster members have been on the job throughout the pandemic, many Teamster industries have been hard hit by lack of consumer demand and mandated property closures associated with social distancing guidelines. The ARP provides displaced workers with access to uninterrupted unemployment benefits as well as mortgage and rental assistance.
The bill also authorizes another round of direct payments to struggling households to help families pay for their everyday expenses. Additionally, the ARP also supports continued access to affordable health care through the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid and a 100-percent federal subsidy for COBRA benefits.
Workers deserve all the gains included in this legislation.