NASW looks to the new administration and Congress to galvanize the country around fighting the most devastating public health crisis in America since 1918, and its economic and many other impacts. The rapid deployment of the COVID-19 vaccines is crucial in our recovery and the relief packages to date continue to be instrumental in mitigating the devastation. But more action is needed to save lives and livelihoods.
2020 ended with 9.8 million fewer jobs than before the pandemic recession hit in February and 546,000 fewer jobs than January 2016 (Gould & Shierholz, 2020). Job growth has further declined nationally, and unemployment insurance claims have increased from already spiking levels. The economic calamity is exacerbating pre-COVID housing insecurity and homelessness and impacting millions of Americans for the first time.
The pandemic, like other public health crises in the past, has laid bare persistent and unacceptable health and economic disparities, with a disproportionate number of Black, Brown and Indigenous people bearing the brunt of the impacts.
NASW calls on national leaders to:
- Deploy the COVID-19 vaccine as quickly as possible, prioritizing essential workers (including social workers) and those at highest risk for infection and/or poor outcomes.
- Provide additional COVID-19 economic relief and stimulus packages; include direct payments to all adult Americans including adult dependents.
- Implement a nationwide mask mandate and condition COVID-19 relief funding on implementation of effective mitigation strategies, including, but not limited to, the use of masks and social distancing as well as notice to and quarantine of close contacts of individuals infected with COVID-19 in schools and institutions of higher education.
- Create universal testing and contact tracing systems.
- Expand eligibility for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and mandate that states modify work requirements for SNAP eligibility for single adults.
- Extend unemployment benefits, including Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), and Pandemic Unemployment Compensation; expand PUA to individuals who are advised by a medical professional to leave their employment to protect a high-risk household family member.
- Place a sufficiently lengthy moratorium on housing evictions and home foreclosures and provide rent forgiveness.
- Promptly increase the national minimum wage to $15.00 per hour.
- Increase access to capital for minority businesses.
- Take comprehensive action on student loan debt relief.
- Ensure access by immigrant communities to COVID-19 medical treatment and follow-up services.
- Ensure access to COVID-19 medical treatment in jails and prisons, including repealing the Medicaid Inmate Exclusion Policy.
- Strengthen and modernize the public health system.
- Provide grant funding for summer instruction to enable students to catch up to grade-level educational standards and take other steps to tackle the acute learning and achievement gaps and learning loss overwhelmingly faced by Black, Indigenous and Latinx children, and children from low-income households.