Sara Lonardo,

Issued May 12, 2020

SEIU’S Henry: House proposal a step forward for working people; even more will be needed to address crisis

Aid for states, localities, our families, essential workers is crucial

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - Service Employees International Union (SEIU) International President Mary Kay Henry released the following statement today on the HEROES Act relief package:

“We are in nothing short of a national emergency and passage of this legislation would help move us closer to being able to meet this moment. COVID-19 has laid bare the economic and racial injustices that always existed in our society. Working people have been calling on their elected officials to take bold action that ensures health, safety and economic security for everyone. Failure to act immediately and inclusively will cost more lives and risk even deeper economic hardship for us all. 

“Too many of the people suffering the worst health and economic consequences are people of color. Because of the systemic inequalities that have long plagued our society they are more likely to have lost their jobs, had their hours cut, or have had to go to work with no protective equipment. So it should come as no surprise that Black Americans in particular are more likely to have fallen seriously ill with COVID-19 and people in Latinx communities are more likely to have been laid off.

“The president has refused to marshal the power of the federal government to ensure enough personal protective equipment or advocate for working people. Our families need him to stop putting corporations and his reelection campaign before their well-being.  We need decisive action that ensures working people come first. 

“We know that our work is not over and the road to recovery is long. Over 33 million people have filed for unemployment in an economy that was already not working for 64 million Americans making poverty wages. Working people are going to continue pushing our elected officials to do even more to unrig the rules that prevent every family from thriving.”

The HEROES Act takes important steps to begin to tackle the twin health and economic crisis working people are facing. 

With nearly $1 trillion in state and local support, the HEROES Act provides a downpayment on funding desperately needed by state and local governments, helping keep public servants on the job so they can protect our communities, process unemployment claims, educate our children and do so much more. It also includes robust funding to ensure that our nation’s election systems are safe and accessible to all voters and poll workers without risk to them or their families. 

The legislation honors the commitment of essential workers like McDonald’s worker Fran Marion of Missouri, nursing assistant Arcadio Mejia of Los Angeles and hospital cleaner Andrea Brooks of Maryland, with a plan for personal protective equipment for working people, and by providing them with supports like extra pay and guaranteed paid sick time and leave for all workers, ending exemptions for large employers, healthcare employers and emergency responders.  

The bill also expands access to affordable health coverage, and provides much needed funding for health programs and coverage like Medicaid and home and community based services. It includes other support for families struggling as a result of the pandemic including more money for food assistance and housing assistance, a second round of stimulus payments, and an extension of the weekly $600 federal unemployment payments through next January.  

And rather than trying to drive a wedge between us for political gain, the HEROES ACT recognizes that we can’t keep everyone in our communities safe if we are not collecting data to address disparate impacts on communities of color or exclude immigrants from access to critical health care and other supports. Also importantly, it extends DACA and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) so that these long time community members can continue to remain with their families and contribute as essential workers. 


The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) unites 2 million diverse members in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. SEIU members working in the healthcare industry, in the public sector and in property services believe in the power of joining together on the job to win higher wages and benefits and to create better communities while fighting for a more just society and an economy that works for all of us, not just corporations and the wealthy.