On Thursday March 11, President Joe Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 into law, providing desperately needed relief to America’s working class and stabilizing communities across the country.
Working families have been waiting on this bill, which will provide critical direct payments (up to $1,400 per eligible individual), fund vaccine production and distribution, and provide emergency state and local funding to jumpstart the economy.
For postal workers, the American Rescue Plan has established paid leave that is similar, but an improvement upon, the Family First Coronavirus Recovery Act (FFCRA) Leave that had expired December 31st, allowing workers to take COVID-related paid time off to care for themselves and for their loved ones. Postal workers also secured a critical workers compensation reform, which will streamline COVID-19 claims.
In addition, the passage of this $1.9 trillion relief bill signals an end in sight for the pandemic, as it affords communities the resources they need to fight COVID-19 and disseminate vaccines.
“In what has been the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, America’s working class has been in dire need of the kind of relief this bill provides,” said the President Mark Dimondstein. “We are proud to have been part of the fight to secure concrete victories for APWU members and working families.”
As postal workers across the country saw their paid leave dwindle while the pandemic continued to rage, Legislative & Political Director Judy Beard teamed up with Industrial Relations Director Vance Zimmerman to ensure your issues were raised on Capitol Hill. APWU fought tooth and nail for the inclusion of key pro-worker provisions in the American Rescue Plan. Here is a sampling of the bill’s key provisions:
- Emergency paid leave: Creates a fund for federal agencies, including the Postal Service, to provide up to 15 weeks of emergency paid leave for postal workers who have COVID-19, are caring for someone with COVID-19, are looking after children during virtual classes, or are obtaining a COVID-19 vaccine.
- Workers Compensation: Improves the process for COVID-19 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.
- Provides direct cash assistance: Provides each qualifying citizen with a $1,400 direct cash payment.
- Provides relief for multiemployer pensions: Provides financial assistance to struggling multiemployer pension plans, which the plans will not have to repay, to cover all benefits due through plan year 2051, with no cuts to accrued benefits.
- Extends unemployment benefits: Extends pandemic-related unemployment assistance that was set to expire on March 14, including the current $300 federal supplement to unemployment benefits, for another six months.
- Increases workplace safety: Provides funding for the Department of Labor to carry out pandemic-related worker protection activities.
- Provides State, Local, and Tribal Aid: Provides billions in aid to state, local, and tribal governments to help meet growing public service needs and address other critical services.
- Funds public health: Provides funding for testing, contact tracing, personal protective equipment (PPE), vaccine distribution, and medical supply production.
“The American Relief Plan has finally set this country on a path of recovery. I would like to thank Chairman Peters of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, for fighting to protect our Emergency Paid Leave, and critical workers compensation provisions from being stripped out of the bill by anti-union Senators. Thank you to President Joe Biden for ushering in the American recovery and we look forward to building on this victory,” said Legislative & Political Director Judy Beard.
“Without pressure from APWU members and our allies in Congress, key pro-worker provisions in this bill would have been watered down or thrown out,” said President Mark Dimondstein. “At the end of the day, it was the power of working people and organized labor that made the American Rescue Plan a reality.”
While the American Rescue Plan brings real relief to struggling families, our fight is far from over. Outrageously, a provision to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour was scrapped from an earlier version of the bill over a technicality. We must continue to push for an increase in minimum wage for our fellow workers.
When it comes to protecting our public Postal Service, we are still fighting to secure the $25 billion infrastructure funding and emergency COVID-19 funding USPS needs to continue serving the American people. As we continue to fight for pro-worker, pro-Postal Service legislation, we do so knowing that the American Rescue Plan is undoubtedly a landmark piece of legislation, and APWU is proud to have supported it.