Covid-19 is a crisis of public health. But it is also one of labor, housing, care, education, the carceral system and our environment. It is a crisis of a system that already failed to deliver safety and health for a majority of Americans.
Covid-19 is also an opportunity. Some features of the recovery plan have delivered versions of what organizers have wanted for decades: Expanded unemployment compensation; guaranteed paid leave; government reimbursements for hospitals treating uninsured patients; moratoriums on evictions; the accelerated release of elderly and juvenile prisoners. All of these, however insufficient to meet current and future demands, are signals that the government can do what we always wanted it to do. We could have always kept people in their homes; we could have always freed our people. We need to discern these signals from the noise around them—to turn those brief flares into durable sources of light.
We have developed this vision in collaboration with our dear friend and ally, Nikil Saval, who is running for State Senate in the 1st District. This platform draws on both kinds of work: we are amplifying the needs of our constituents and the demands raised by organizations such as Put People First–PA, Amistad Law Project, Abolitionist Law Center, and the Our City Our Schools coalition. It is a response to what we need now, and it is a plan to guarantee and save our future.
There are over 47,000 people held in prisons and correctional facilities in Pennsylvania. 1,900 are over the age of 60, and countless prisoners have health conditions that put them at high risk if exposed to coronavirus.
After the 2008 financial crisis, our government responded by making severe funding cuts to our public education funding while giving tax breaks to the wealthy. We have felt the aftermath of this austerity measure ever since– our schools are overextended, understaffed, and long overdue for repairs.
The COVID-19 crisis is a crisis of care. Our healthcare system is a monumental demonstration of how the insurance companies and many hospitals worship profits over people. People seeking care for a potentially fatal virus are assessed thousands of dollars if they lack healthcare.
COVID-19 is exacerbating our state’s already severe housing crisis. Already prior to this moment, 125,000 Philadelphians paid over half their income in homeownership costs or rent. That number is going to grow dramatically as thousands lose their jobs.
COVID-19 is throwing countless fellow Pennsylvanians out of work: over a million people have filed for unemployment compensation, the highest number in any state. That number accounts for 20 percent of all unemployment claims, even though Pennsylvania only has four percent of the US workforce.