AFT launches ad campaign urging the U.S. Senate to pass the HEROES Act

Stephon Johnson | 6/18/2020, midnight
The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) want Congress to pass the HEROES Act and are using the television airwaves to ...
The American Federation of Teachers

The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) want Congress to pass the HEROES Act and are using the television airwaves to be heard.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the Republicans stand in the way of another relief bill that could help Americans during the current economic crisis and global pandemic. With teachers financially impacted by the crisis, the AFT is looking to change minds in certain states to push the Senate to act as soon as possible.

“If the HEROES Act fails to pass, and states and schools don’t get the support they need to reopen safely, then they’ll stay shut and the economy will stall—it’s that simple,” stated AFT President Randi Weingarten. “America is in the midst of a triple crisis: a health crisis, an economic recession and systemic racism, all made worse by a president who wants to divide, not heal. Kids are traumatized, parents and educators are on edge, and many frontline workers are risking their own health to battle the virus.”

Thew new relief bill, announced in May, would include the distribution of more stimulus checks and “economic impact payments” of up to $6,000 per household. Households with a maximum of three dependents would get $1,200 no matter the age of the dependents. Individuals who make up to $75,000 would get a one-time $1,200 like before and couples earning up to 150,000 would receive $2,400. This time, immigrants would also be eligible for stimulus payments if they have taxpayer identification numbers. The bill would also extend unemployment checks to the tens of millions of Americans who have lost jobs due to COVID-19 and extend student loan forgiveness to Sept. 2021.

Because of the details in the bill, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell deemed it “dead on arrival” and referred to it as a “liberal wish list” on Fox News. Senate Republicans have declared that they would block it at all costs. McConnell also vowed that the next stimulus bill would be the last one.

“We’re taking a careful look at a fourth and final bill,” McConnell during a recent media briefing. “You could anticipate the decision being made on whether to go forward in about a month. And it will be narrowly crafted, designed to help us where we are a month from now, not where we were three months ago.”

The bill has received criticism from House Republicans as well who believe that the Democrats’ version contains things they’ve deemed unrelated to the coronavirus (funding for the United States Postal Service, Planned Parenthood and student loan forgiveness).

AFT hopes to persuade the American people to pressure politicians in the opposite direction. In the radio spot, a voiceover wants listeners to know that the government needs to do right by all essential workers...including teachers.

“In these challenging times, who is essential?” reads the voiceover. “Where are the frontlines? How can we reopen...Without teachers…”

The video spots will appear on Facebook as well as CNN, MSNBC and Fox News in 10 states (Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Kentucky, Maine, Montana, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia) and Washington, D.C. The spots, produced by AL Media will start running on Friday for two weeks.

Elected officials and presidential candidates like have criticized McConnell and company for their action. During a call with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), Democratic Presidential Candidate Joe Biden said the Republicans should stop playing politics with people’s lives and questioned their intelligence.

“These last few months have been as painful and challenging as any I can remember – for our union and for the entire nation,” said Biden on the call. “...The Republican Senate need to do its job and pass the HEROES Act. “It passed through the House. Get state and local governments the funding they need to keep millions of people on the job. Because, here’s the — they’re so damn stupid, darn stupid. If you don’t have people on the job dealing with controlling the virus, then it’s just going to get worse.”

For her money, Weingarten said that the refusal to pass the HEROES Act won’t just affect the present.

“There are no magic fixes—the only path to recovery is a stimulus package that funds, rather than forfeits, our future,” Weingarten said.

(A previous version of this story did not have sources expressing different opinions from AFT & Mr. Biden.)