An Urgent Demand to Elected Officials: Protect All Communities in the COVID-19 Crisis

As the COVID-19 pandemic spreads, we are grappling with the staggering impact this crisis will have, and is already having, on working families, immigrant communities and people of color across Texas and the country. After decades of public policy failures that stripped away worker protections, gutted social safety nets, and criminalized immigrant communities and communities of color, many among us find ourselves one step away from personal and financial disaster. Without immediate, inclusive and decisive action by elected officials, this pandemic and its aftermath will be devastating for our families and communities. 

Emergency measures passed to date have failed to meet the most urgent, basic needs of vulnerable communities. We call on federal, state and local elected officials to immediately ensure the following protections. These protections must apply to all residents, regardless of immigration status, criminal background, work history or employment status.

  1. A People’s Bailout. All people should be able to meet their basic needs. We call on lawmakers to provide for: 
  • Statewide cancellation of rent and mortgages for the duration of the pandemic
  • No shutoffs of gas, electricity and water utilities
  • Restoration of utilities for households that have been shut off for lack of ability to pay, and forgiveness of unpaid accounts 
  • Free medical care and screenings
  • Access to housing, food, utilities, and essential benefits including Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
  • Affordable and accessible childcare while school districts and other daycare facilities are closed
  • Emergency financial relief for all those who fall into economic hardship as a result of the crisis, regardless of immigration status 
  • Ability to extend existing loans without risk of fees or interest and an end to debt collection
  • Affordable technology and reliable internet access for students who now go to class from home 
  • Assurance that immigrants can access these programs regardless of their legal status or the need to present a state-issued ID 
  1. Ensure all workers are protected on the job. Many people will continue working, and they must be able to work safely without endangering their families and communities. We call on lawmakers to ensure: 
  • Hazard pay for all essential workers
  • Access to personal protective equipment, and COVID-19 specific safety measures, including social distancing and workplace hygiene standards 
  • Rigorous, proactive enforcement of COVID-19 safety and social distancing standards at worksites
  • Protection from retaliation for whistleblowers
  • Immediate disclosure by employer if workers may have been exposed to COVID-19 on the job 
  • Ability to self-quarantine and seek necessary medical attention, without fear of retaliation, if someone believes that they have been exposed to COVID-19 at work or elsewhere 
  1. Provide emergency paid leave to all employees. Falling sick or caring for a sick loved one should not put families at risk. We call on lawmakers to ensure: 
  • Access to guaranteed emergency paid sick leave for those unable to work temporarily, regardless of employer size and whether the work is part-time, temporary, tipped or self-employed 
  • Access to severance pay and unemployment insurance for all workers 
  1. Free Them All: Immediately decrease the number of people held in jails, prisons, and detention centers. Being arrested, detained or held in a facility could increase the risk of exposure to individuals and exacerbate conditions for families already struggling economically. We call on lawmakers to ensure: 
  • Reduction in incarcerated populations through compassionate release from jails and detention centers
  • Moratorium on ICE enforcement
  • Elimination of cash bail 
  • End to all discretionary arrests and prioritization of alternative sentencing over prison time 
  • Release of all immigrants currently detained in immigration facilities on parole 
  • Release of prisoners who are most vulnerable to becoming seriously ill, including older adults and those with chronic illnesses 
  • Sanitary conditions and adequate preventative measures to protect detained individuals 
  1. Defend our democracy. We must ensure that voters are able to participate fully in the 2020 elections, without exposing themselves to the spread of COVID-19. We call on lawmakers to provide for:
  • Universal vote by mail so all eligible residents can vote while mitigating the spread of COVID-19 
  • Online voter registration 

As a community, we are facing unprecedented times. If lawmakers do not act now, we risk leaving millions behind and standing by as our nation falls into a humanitarian crisis. We urge lawmakers to take immediate action to provide for these necessary protections for all residents in order to protect vulnerable communities from the most devastating impacts of this crisis.