This pandemic has revealed in stark terms how fragile our economy is. Our “essential workers” who are now “heroes” are not just frontline medical staff, but often the very workers who are usually overlooked as low-skilled or expendable.
The Legislature’s pandemic priority has been public health and safety, as it should be, and a critical piece of that has been creating a safety net that allows people affected by covid-19 to stay home for their own health or for their family’s health. The federal boost to unemployment insurance means that those “essential workers” remaining at their jobs often earn less than their unemployed counterparts. With many childcare centers closed for safety working full time is just not possible for some parents.
In the rest of the nation, many people who fear they may be infected have avoided testing (if it was available at all) for fear of the cost of the test, let alone the cost of treatment. The state of Vermont early and wisely made testing and treatment free.
These are all issues I have been fighting for in Montpelier: a livable wage, family leave, universal health care, and affordable child care. Now imagine if these safety nets were not emergency responses, but normal. Let’s work to make it the new normal.