Congress passes coronavirus package, but much more is needed
On March 18, the president signed into law the bipartisan Families First Coronavirus Response Act that provides free testing and paid sick and emergency leave for some (steps must be taken to cover more); the bill also bolsters unemployment insurance, food initiatives, and federal support for Medicaid. But it’s just a start. Additional legislation is already in the works and we need to weigh in—right now. NEA’s top legislative priorities include:
- Putting money in people’s pockets by sending “stimulus” checks to households, cancelling federal student loan payments, and further expanding unemployment insurance
- Injecting more money into state budgets and Medicaid to help avoid laying off educators and ensure access to health care
- Closing the “homework gap” by providing devices and Wi-Fi hotspots for students who lack internet access at home
- Providing flexibility in U.S. Department of Education regulations, especially those that govern Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) testing and interventions, and reasonable flexibility under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
- Guaranteeing paid sick and family medical leave for everyone who needs it
- Taking steps to prevent housing instability and a rise in homelessness
Email your representatives and urge them to support these legislative priorities to help students, educators, and families weather the coronavirus pandemic. TAKE ACTION
Tell Congress to repeal unfair Social Security penalties NOW
The coronavirus is a double whammy for retirees, threatening to ruin both their health and finances—especially those subject to unfair Social Security penalties who are already struggling to make ends meet. Some 2.5 million people dedicated to public service, including many educators, have their Social Security benefits reduced—or lose them entirely—due to the Government Pension Offset (GPO) and Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP). The Social Security Fairness Act (S. 521/H.R. 141) repeals both the GPO and WEP. Email your representatives and tell them to make it part of the coronavirus legislative package. TAKE ACTION
Senator helps stranded students and educators get home
Teacher Robin Robinson was part of a group of 39 students and educators from Monrovia, Indiana, on a school trip to Europe. Stuck in Krakow, Poland, when the border closed due to the coronavirus crisis, they needed to get to Frankfurt, Germany, to catch their flight back to the United States. When they encountered a series of barriers, the Indiana State Teachers Association and NEA reached out to Sen. Mike Braun (R-IN) for help. He and his staff cut through the confusion and red tape to get the students and educators home safely. NEA President Lily Eskelsen García extended a heartfelt thank you to the senator and his team.
Cheers and Jeers
Federal Communications Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel published an op-ed that reinforces NEA’s message: The FCC should send Wi-Fi hotspots to schools to close the homework gap.
Sens. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Ron Johnson (R-WI), James Lankford (R-OK), Mike Lee (R-UT), Ron Paul (R-KY), Ben Sasse (R-NE), and Tim Scott (R-SC) voted against the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.