Fund the Front Lines Letter to Senator Ted Cruz

Thursday, July 23rd, 2020

United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senator Ted Cruz:

On behalf of the over 3400 Members of the Houston Organization of Public Employees, we urge you to help our communities by supporting and urging swift passage of a COVID relief bill that provides critical, flexible assistance to states, cities, towns, and schools that is needed to prevent both a catastrophic shutdown in vital services while ensuring that our state’s economy can safely re-open and flourish. The Senate must act immediately to enact bold, comprehensive legislation to strengthen our communities by providing state and local aid as well as the necessary investments to protect frontline workers specifically and public health generally in this time of crisis.

The COVID-19 pandemic is causing serious problems for families, states, cities, towns, and school districts. The economic fallout due to the pandemic has resulted in drastic increases in unemployment and plummeting state and local revenues, sending our economy into a recession. Since February, cumulative national unemployment claims exceed 40 million and the UI rate representing unemployed and discouraged workers is 18%, nearly double the Great Recession’s peak of 10.0% in 2009. Further, unemployment rates are much higher for Black workers and Hispanic workers. As of this most recent fiscal quarter, unemployment had reached 10.43% in Texas. 

Steep revenue shortfalls for state and local governments, including over a 6.5% decline in Texas, are threatening our ability to fight COVID-19, provide essential public services, and safely reopen the economy. At the same time, communities need services like unemployment aid, Medicaid, and public health investments now more than ever. Without federal assistance, these services will fall short of the growing needs, and schools will not be able to keep students and staff safe or to promote learning. 

Leading economists note that public sector job losses will prematurely stall any broad-based recovery if it is not addressed. “State and local governments desperately need financial support,” Moody’s Analytics economist Mark Zandi said, urging that state and local aid should be “priority No. 1” for Congress to include in the next relief bill. Former Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, Glenn Hubbard, and other economists note that federal aid would generate $1.70 in additional GDP per dollar spent while also protecting vital services.

AFSCME urges that Congress act immediately to provide:

  • $1 trillion in unrestricted state and local grants to replace lost revenues and continue public services.

  • A 14 percentage point increase to the federal Medicaid match (FMAP). This provides relief to ensure states can cover millions of newly unemployed Americans needing Medicaid health services.

  • At least $200 billion to public K-12 including $25 billion to Title I and IDEA.

Without immediate and significant investment that is flexible and goes directly to state and local governments to maintain essential public services, this health care and economic crisis will inflict lasting and irreparable damage on our communities and our economy. Time is running out to save these vital services and keep the everyday heroes in public service who are fighting on the front lines of this pandemic on the job. We urge you to fight for this much-needed aid.

The HOPE Strategic Planning Committee:

Gwen Alexander
Dwight Bradley
Patricia Escalante
Jason Evans
Monica Johnson
Olaf Krause
Cedrick LaSane
Rory Lister
Felix Lugo
Colleen McNeese
Charles Morris
Sandra Otoya
Sonia Rico
Roy Sanchez
Aisha Savoy
Diane Shepherd
Cynthia Sidney
Jesse Springer
Yulanda Veltz