On February 27th, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 1319, the “American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.” This bill promises to help stabilize communities across the country and provide emergency assistance to the working class. If passed in the Senate and signed into law by the President, the $1.9 trillion package will provide workers long-overdue and much-needed relief they deserve.
Many workers had hoped that the previous package which passed in December would have extended the leave provided in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). Unfortunately, the FFCRA paid leave was not included in the December package and expired on December 31st. As your paid leave dwindled, Industrial Relations Director Vance Zimmerman collaborated with the Legislative Department, and we shared your stories with members of Congress and built support for a legislative solution. After intense advocacy, we were able to secure several postal worker provisions in the House’s American Rescue Plan Act of 2021:
Emergency paid leave. The pandemic has exacerbated many workers’ need for paid leave, whether they have fallen ill, been exposed to COVID or have increased need to care for their family. This bill creates a fund for federal agencies, including the Postal Service, to extend additional paid leave under certain conditions for workers to take time off to for COVID-19-related leave.
Workers Compensation. This bill will improve the process for COVID related workers compensation claims. Workers who contract COVID-19 will be assumed to have contracted the illness on the job, streamlining the workers’ compensation claims process from. In addition, individuals who filed COVID-19 related claims and were denied will be able to resubmit them.
Direct cash assistance. The bill provides each qualifying citizen with a $1,400 stimulus payment.
Raising the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour.
State and local aid – The bill will also provide billions in aid to state and local governments to help meet growing public service needs and to help safely re-open schools and other critical services.
Now that this bill has passed the House, it has been sent to the Senate for deliberation. During this process, APWU will continue to fight off attempts to weaken the bill or remove worker protections.
“I would like to thank the Chairwoman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, Carolyn Maloney, and the House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott for their leadership and hearing our needs and taking action to address them,” commented Legislative and Political Director Judy Beard. “Once this bill becomes law, our members can help slow the spread of COVID-19 by staying home when they are sick or take leave to care for a sick loved one, with fewer worries about how to make ends meet.”
“This positive step shows what we can accomplish when we all work together,” said APWU National President Mark Dimondstein. “Director Beard has shared your stories with members of Congress and we fought successfully to ensure these pro-worker provisions in the bill.”
In future legislation, we will continue to work collectively to address the challenges that face our members during this pandemic. Together, we will work to ensure that the Postal Service receives the $25 billion infrastructure funding and emergency COVID-19 funding it needs to continue serving the American people.