As someone who was raised in poverty, cycled in foster homes and was even homeless for a time, helping those in need is personal for me. I can attest to both the inequality that exists and the value to society of lifting citizens out of adverse situations, through educational opportunity, to greater prosperity and productive lives. I bring a unique perspective of what it means to struggle, and that inspires my unwavering commitment to helping others through tough times like these.
Progressive state policies I helped pass in the legislature, like the nation’s best Paid Family Medical Leave and a path towards more affordable child care, will help Washington families as we weather the crisis brought on by the coronavirus. But now we need leaders in Congress who will work to pass these policies and provide relief nationally now. Congress also needs to quickly improve the efficiency and accountability of programs passed to help small businesses survive and unemployed workers get by.
- Protect heroes on the frontline. The COVID-19 outbreak has reminded us of the importance of frontline workers – from nurses to grocery workers – and federal policy must reflect that. Congress must enact a robust federal COVID-19 plan that includes strong workplace safety standards and a strategy for distributing personal protective equipment to workers putting their lives on the line. States also need federal resources to increase testing availability, especially for those on the frontlines of the crisis.
- Safeguard families. Families should not have to worry about losing their income, housing, or healthcare because it is not yet safe to return to work – and they shouldn’t have to choose between going to work sick and their families’ financial security. Congress must deliver emergency relief for unemployment insurance, SNAP, TANF, and WIC to ensure no one goes hungry. Congress must also enact protections on foreclosures and evictions, power and water shutoffs, and student debt collection. It is also past time to enact national policies for paid family and medical leave and mandatory sick days. We must raise the minimum wage, as we have done here in Washington state, where we proved that the argument that such a raise would cause economic devastation was not only false, but in fact the reverse is true.
- Support and train workers in an evolving economy. As we carefully reopen our country, we need to ensure that workers are getting the skills they need to succeed in a rapidly changing economy. I’ve championed efforts like Career Connect in Washington that identifies skills needed in the job force and links thousands of students to apprenticeships and on-the-job training. In my work with Senator Murray I helped develop what became a national model for military transition from service to jobs at home.
- Prioritize severely affected sectors and communities. Congress must protect working families by prioritizing aid to businesses that make a commitment to maintain worker pay and benefits during the pandemic, particularly for the slowest to recover industries including airlines, retail, hospitality, and entertainment. Congress must also prioritize resources for communities most affected and least served by tracking the impact of COVID-19 by race.
- Fight income inequality as we rebuild our economy. More needs to be done at federal level to address the tremendous income inequality and as we rebuild our economy, we have a moment to make needed changes. There is no single solution but multiple steps we can take to invest in growing pay and benefits for working families and strengthening the right to organize in order to restore and expand a thriving, prosperous middle class. We must eliminate the Trump tax cuts for the wealthy and big corporations. We must raise the minimum wage nationally, and we must enforce and strengthen protections for organized labor that allow strong unions to flourish and effectively negotiate for workers.