By Linda Jackson AAI Program Director
As we go into shelter-in-place mode, we remember our clients who are going to be more isolated than ever, our colleagues who worry about paying the rent or mortgage, and our family members who are worried about the ones they love. More than ever, we need to check in with our co-workers and our older neighbors. We can buy food from our local markets and take-out from our favorite restaurants. We must advocate for laws in Washington that will save social security, and provide health care reimbursements related to COVID-19 and rent holidays for low-income workers. Finally, find respite in the arts: read poetry aloud, play music and sing, write your story (or a story of a client), draw the scenes of your shelter.
And, when this is over, let’s talk about what worked, what didn’t, and what was most effective for our community.
What do we need at this time?
- Increase hospital and clinical capacity: We need enough beds and equipment BEFORE the existing hospitals fill up. Our federal and state resources should be mobilized to respond to surges in demand.
- Massive investment in nursing home and senior community preparedness: We must face the fact that seniors and people with disabilities will face the brunt of this pandemic and ensure adequate protection of residents of senior facilities and the workers who care for them.
- Clear protections for front-line workers: We must have clear standards and sufficient distribution of necessary protective equipment for health care and other workers who are in contact with people who have been exposed or are suffering from the virus as well as the people responsible for cleaning buildings and public facilities.
- Paid sick leave: Workers impacted by quarantine orders or responsible for caring for children impacted by school closures must receive paid sick leave to alleviate the devastating consequences of lost wages.
- Enhanced unemployment insurance: We must ensure unemployment insurance benefits are available and sufficient for workers who may lose their jobs from the economic impacts of the epidemic.
- Food security: We must expand SNAP, WIC, school lunch, and other initiatives and suspend implementation of any regulations that weaken federal food assistance in order to ensure vulnerable populations do not lose access to food during this epidemic.
- Widespread and free coronavirus testing: To control the spread of coronavirus, the administration must ensure that all Americans who need an evaluation are able to access locations for cost-free testing and rapidly increase the unacceptably low daily test processing capacity inside the U.S.
- Treatment for all: Patients must be reimbursed for any non-covered coronavirus-related costs, or else the epidemic will be worsened because Americans will fear they cannot afford the costs associated with treatment.
- Anti-price gouging protections: We must ensure that Americans are protected from price gouging of medical and non-medical essentials during this emergency.
- Housing security: We must ensure that Americans can keep their homes. To avoid a massive loss of housing by service workers and low-income workers, we need to adopt a mortgage and rent and eviction holiday for the weeks that people are unable to work.