Out of Time: Struggling Families Hoping for Assistance Shafted by Congress
AFSCME Rallies to Demand Aid, Promote Jobs, Protect Services
BOSTON – Dire economic predictions turn to reality this week as states prepare for a new fiscal year without billions of dollars in federal Medicaid assistance, small-business tax breaks, and education funding that Congress has failed to pass. Thousands of AFSCME activists from across the country rallied on Boston Common on Wednesday to demand that Congress help state and local governments fill budget gaps to keep Americans working and protect vital public services that support our communities.
“Right now, services and jobs are on the line. America’s workers, with families to support and bills to pay, just can’t wait for Congress any longer,” said AFSCME International President Gerald W. McEntee. “With each vote against the jobs bills in Congress, Washington is slamming the door in the faces of hard-working Americans wondering what they did to lose their jobs, cops, teachers and child-care. States have reached the point of no return and are now facing economic crises of historic proportions. It’s time for Congress to pass a real jobs bill.”
More than 30 states counted on $24 billion in FMAP funds—money which helps states cover the cost of Medicaid, the health insurance program for the poor—while drawing up their 2011 FY budgets. Without this funding, states will be forced to siphon money from other programs in order to close the gap. The results of this shifting will be devastating, and it is likely states will start to see the effects this week.
The rally on Boston Common was also aimed at Massachusetts and Boston politicians who are threatening to close the state’s facilities for people with developmental disabilities and make devastating cuts to the city’s public libraries. The rally called for fair contracts for Massachusetts’ higher education workers represented by AFSCME.
“We are struggling with politicians who want to place the burden of our economic crisis on the backs of public employees and the less fortunate members of society who rely on AFSCME members for essential public services,” said Tony Caso, Executive Director of AFSCME Council 93 and AFSCME International Vice President. “If they think they can beat us then they don’t know what AFSCME is about. When we put our hearts and soul into a fight—nothing can stop us!”
On this last day of the fiscal year in most states, efforts are underway throughout the nation to urge Congress to end the GOP filibuster on the jobs bill and enact legislation to help the unemployed and states dealing with unprecedented budget shortfalls. Ten governors are holding a joint afternoon press conference in Washington, D.C., and rallies are taking place in 18 states. AFSCME members are fighting to preserve essential public services and for working families across the country.