Carmen Gonzalez

Rochester – The passage of the American Rescue Plan (ARP) is a watershed moment for state and local governments. It is an opportunity to undo much of the damage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and begin to address some of the long-standing inadequacies and inequities caused by decades of disinvestment in public services.

Working people began feeling the benefits of the ARP almost immediately, the 1.9 trillion coronavirus aid package that President Joe Biden signed into law on March 11, 2021.

Carmen Gonzalez, a CSEA library clerk at the Sully Branch Library in Rochester, NY, says she is grateful for any financial help she receives, especially because she works part time and is underemployed.

“When the stimulus came through, I was able pay some bills and then pay some more bills,” said Gonzalez. She readily admitted it wasn’t a cure-all for her family budget woes, but it certainly helped lighten the load.

Gonzalez was referring to the $1,400 stimulus check included in the ARP she received mid-March, which proved to be extremely helpful to getting herself and her family back on track since the pandemic began last year.

Gonzalez said, “I have given my all to this job, and I really love working here at my local neighborhood library. Most of my coworkers including myself would love the opportunity to be employed full time, but those career opportunities do not exist. For folks who are underemployed or do not make a living wage, the ARP plan is a lifeline. Without this help, I believe many of my friends and my library coworkers would be out of a job right about now.”

Once fully implemented, the ARP will have an even bigger impact on all working families. The plan contains nearly $700 billion to support public services and front-facing workers like Gonzalez, including $350 billion in unrestricted aid to states, cities, municipalities, libraries and schools. The spending bill will critically help many localities fill in for revenue losses, stem budget cuts, and respond with important flexibility over the next few years to massively increased fiscal demands caused by the pandemic.

Elections matter

Since the advent of the pandemic, CSEA members have been relentlessly lobbying legislators to fund the front lines. By mobilizing the power of the union voice, CSEA activists helped elect pro-worker leaders who understand the value of public services and the virtue of working people.

According to CSEA President Mary Sullivan, the political action efforts of member activists played a pivotal role in getting the legislation passed.

The ARP’s passage means library workers like Gonzalez, who was instructed by her employer to go on unemployment insurance last summer, can continue to work with less fear of further layoffs or furloughs.

“I feel like things are going to get better,” said Gonzalez. “Now I have more confidence in my federal government doing the right thing when it comes to representing working people. Elections really matter. Congress heard our voices.”

-Ove Overmyer

Profile Photo: Sully Branch of the Rochester Public Library. Photo Ove Overmyer, ©2021

 

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About Author

Ove Overmyer is an award winning photojournalist and writer who has promoted the virtue of working people and the value of public service throughout his career. His work has been published by many well-respected international media outlets, including PBS Moyers & Co., Steward Update UCS Worker Institute Cornell ILR, CBS News, The Weather Channel, SCI-FY Channel, Associated Press and LOGO-TV. Before joining the CSEA Communications Department staff in 2015, Overmyer was a CSEA member employed by the City of Rochester and an officer of the union for more than 18 years. He covers a 14 county area of Western New York and lives in Rochester, NY.

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