WASHINGTON – Green Party leaders have expressed alarm upon learning the U.S. House legislation passed on March 13 addressing the COVID-19 pandemic fails to guarantee paid sick leave for roughly 80% of workers. Citing the government’s ineffectual response in the early days of the outbreak, the Green Party is concerned that economic barriers could prevent many workers from participating in “social distancing,” one of the most effective remaining tactics for protecting vulnerable segments of the population from infection.
“COVID-19 has exposed how poorly prepared the U.S. healthcare system is to handle an epidemic,” said Green Party National Co-Chair Margaret Flowers, who also serves on the Board of Advisors to Physicians for a National Health Program. “We’ve missed the window for containing the virus through screening, testing and monitoring infected people and their contacts — as they did in China, South Korea and other countries. And so we can expect millions of cases.” Flowers also warned that “getting ill in the United States carries the extra burden of potential financial ruin. We need to move to a National Improved Medicare for All health system and paid medical leave as rapidly as possible.”
The World Health Organizations (WHO) declared the outbreak a pandemic on March 11. As of Sunday, March 15,over 3,000 cases, including over 60 fatalities, have been reported in the United States. That number could rise exponentially unless swift, decisive measures are taken to limit the spread of COVID-19, but equally intensive measures must address the needs of millions who depend on food, childcare and income from institutions and business that will be impacted by quarantines.
“When it comes to crises — be it climate destruction, the 2008 financial collapse or COVID-19 — our country tends to fixate on individual choices instead of collective systems of support,“ said Green Party National Co-Chair Gloria Mattera, who works in public health. “Of course anyone who has the option to work from home and order in their groceries should do so, but we must acknowledge those options come from a place of relative privilege — we can’t leave everyone else to simply fend for themselves.”
“Capitalism rewards greed and puts the accumulation of private wealth above all else. It will always regard the most vulnerable in our society as expendable,” added Mattera.
The federal relief package would provide tens of billions of dollars for sick and family medical leave,free virus testing, additional food aid and funds for Medicaid but Greens are concerned it prioritizes bailing out corporations while falling short on measures to extend unemployment benefits, sick and family medical leave, mortgage and other loan relief or forgiveness.
“Greens call for a Real Green New Deal,” said Tina Rockett, co-chair of the Green party of Virginia. “Our plan goes beyond the transition to clean energy and includes ambitious investment in all public infrastructure — like Medicare For All and the Center For Disease Control and Prevention — so we are better prepared to protect the health, safety and well-being of everyone regardless of their individual economic means.”
In a statement released Friday, March 13, independent Green U.S. Senate candidate from Maine Lisa Savage called on the federal government to partner with state governors to provide testing kits that can be deployed to every corner of the United States as quickly as possible; to enroll everyone without health insurance immediately in some kind of Medicare plan and provide treatment and testing without individual cost; and to pass emergency legislation that suspends rent and mortgage collection in quarantined and restricted areas and subsidizes companies manufacturing items that are essential to daily life.
For More Information
Nancy Pelosi and the White House reached a deal on a sweeping relief package; Tankersly, Jim, Emily Cochrane. The New York Times, Mar. 13, 2020
White House, House Democrats reach deal on coronavirus economic relief package, Werner, Erica, Mike DeBOnis, Paul Kane, Jeff Stein. The Washington Post, Mar. 13, 2020
Tracking every Coronavirus Case in the U.S.: A Full Map, Smith, Mitch, Keith Collins, Allison McCann, Jim Wu and Karen Yourish. The New York Times, Mar. 13, 2020
Trump’s False Claims About His Response to the Coronavirus, Qiu, Linda. The New York Times, Mar. 13, 2020
More Green Party content on this issue: https://www.gp.org/tags/covid_19Print