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Struggling Municipal Workers Plead for Aid from Federal Lawmakers

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — As negotiations over another round of federal coronavirus relief funding stall, municipal workers across Florida are calling for aggressive action to protect their health — and their jobs.

Here are five things you should know:

1. How much federal aid do the workers say is needed?

During a Friday roundtable organized by the Florida AFL-CIO, workers from a range of disciplines — Including bus drivers, postal workers and health care assistants — ​complained Congress has been woefully neglectful of providing support for cities and counties suffering from plummeting tax revenues.

Calling out Florida Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott for siding with Senate Republican leaders who view such aid as unnecessary bailouts, ​the workers called for a fourth coronavirus spending package that includes $375 billion in municipal support passed by the Democratic-controlled House in May.

2. How much pandemic-related aid have local governments received to date?

​The CARES Act passed last spring included $100 million for cities, but with a catch: only cities with populations of at least 500,000 people were eligible for direct aid. The only Florida city that met that threshold is Jacksonville.

The state has discretion to disburse CARES Act funds to local governments, but many local leaders have complained of inaction from Tallahassee.

3. What if aid doesn’t materialize?

Scores of localities have already been forced to scale back services and furlough employees. As the pandemic continues to impact tax collections, some cities and counties are warning that layoffs could be unavoidable without help from Washington.

4. How does PPE factor into the debate?

The workers gathering for Friday’s roundtable say they aren’t being supplied with nearly enough masks, gloves and sanitizer.

“Every day, we go out, we’re out there eight to nine hours,” bus driver Shawntrel Jackson told the panel. “One disposable mask will not work. One Lysol wipe will not work. One! We know that funding is required. Operators would like to come to work and be given the proper equipment.”

5. Do federal workers have concerns, too?

Yes. Postal workers are demanding that Congress include a $25 billion U.S. Postal Service aid package in the next coronavirus funding measure.

The service had been facing financial challenges before the pandemic, and the workers say the massive mail-in voting expected this fall will only compound the problems.

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