On Monday night, Congress passed a $900 billion COVID-19 relief package that includes just $600 in direct relief payments to millions of Americans. As Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) noted, along with the $1200 checks that were approved in the Spring, that comes out to just 450 pennies a day since the lockdown was declared in March. Meanwhile, Congress approved untold billions in subsidies for big businesses.
As a soon-to-be mom, watching Republicans in the U.S. Senate delay and water down the relief our families desperately need has been breaking my heart. As a member of the organizing collective for a mutual aid fund in the Atlanta area, I’ve seen people—especially in marginalized communities—come together and care for each other like never before. But our government isn’t caring for us. It doesn’t even seem to care about us.
This relief package is barely a band-aid over a gaping wound. More than 300,000 people have lost their lives to COVID-19. Millions have lost their jobs. More than half of the dead in my state of Georgia were Black, and a staggering 80% of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Georgia are Black folks. Black unemployment is double white unemployment. Hospitals have closed and our state’s healthcare system is at the breaking point.
But in the face of the pandemic and the economic collapse, we are not powerless. In Georgia, we are speaking out for change that could transform American government in the next two weeks. In the lead-up to the U.S. Senate run-off elections on Jan. 5, we are organizing like our lives depend on it—because they do.
Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and his loyal foot soldiers—including Georgia Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue—have blocked the relief we need. But if Georgian voters throw out Loeffler and Perdue in January, we take back the Senate and put real relief and recovery for working families on the table. Most recently, even President Trump acknowledges families need more relief. But instead of protecting working families, Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue made themselves rich.
They are not deserving of the public trust, and we will vote them out.
It’s about more than just the checks. As working families barely tread water, Republicans in Washington seem to want to push us under. They cut supplemental unemployment insurance included in the relief package in half, while millions remain unemployed. They blocked aid to state and local governments, which will mean cuts to schools and hospitals just at the time they need funding the most. They killed hazard pay for essential workers who put their livelihoods and lives on the line to come to work.
They did say yes a few times. Yes to a tax break for owning a racehorse. Yes to the “three-martini tax deduction” that allows business people to write off 100 percent of the cost of business luncheons, versus the current 50 percent. And because some high-end business lunches run as much as $600, a CEO could receive more in COVID-19 relief in one-hour than the average American received in months.
If you are in the wealthiest 1%, you have Senate Republicans on your side. America has 614 billionaires. Their net worth has grown by $931 billion dollars since the pandemic began. They’re sucking up cash while food pantry lines keep growing. At Christmas.
But when it’s relief for working people, Black and brown people, and those who have been historically wronged by our systems, the cries of “we can’t afford it” grow deafening.
This enrichment of the wealthy at the expense of the rest of us isn’t just a matter of greed. This is a slow and steady drumbeat that conditions people to accept the idea that government cannot and will not make sure everyone is cared for, even in the worst of times.
That’s why the Working Families Party introduced The People’s Charter in October. The charter is our roadmap out of the current crisis, and towards a country that cares for all of us. It includes emergency care for workers and small businesses during the pandemic, a job that pays a living wage of at least $15/hour for every worker, paid family leave and paid sick days for all workers, and robust investments in the future.
Those policies are popular, and they’re within reach if we organize, build power, and pick the right fights. A new generation of Black women organizers is proving that Republicans can be beaten in Georgia. We defeated Donald Trump in November, and now we have our eyes set on the Senate. That’s why the Georgia Working Families Party is talking to millions of Georgian voters about what’s at stake in this election.
For too long, the wealthy interests that control our country have told voters that we don’t have the resources to care for all of our people. But this crisis is opening up people’s eyes to the fact that it’s a lie.
On January 5, I’m headed to the polls to vote for a government that finally puts all of the people first. I won’t be alone. Hundreds of thousands of Georgian voters are coming with me. Because coming together and caring for each other in a crisis isn’t optional; it’s the only path forward to the future we deserve.
Britney Whaley is a Senior Political Strategist with the Working Families Party and runs their southeast region. She is based in Atlanta.