KINGSTON — Members of local activist groups gathered in Kingston’s Academy Green Park on Saturday to support the HEROES Act, a federal bill that is designed to rectify some of the issues left by the passage of the CARES Act in March.
For example, the CARES Act left out undocumented immigrants from the $1,000 stimulus that was promised to American workers and was meant to provide income for those whose jobs were lost due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“So many of us benefit from the hard work of these people,” said Eduardo Morales of the Ulster Immigrant Defense Network. “It’s easy to turn a blind eye to that, but our economy, our well- being depends on them.”
Loriman Rhodell from Citizen Action of New York’s Hudson Valley chapter describes the bill as a people’s bailout.
“We bailed out major corporations, states, everybody except for the people,” he said. “What the people need is additional funds to help them through this pandemic with unemployment, health care, rent, tuition, because everything is falling apart.”
Rhodell also pointed out how the bill is especially important for communities of color, many of whom are considered essential workers. “We get hit the hardest,” he said. “If anything happens to them, it affects the rest of their family.”
Sheilah Davidson, Citizen Action Hudson Valley’s field director, spoke out about the need for people of color in the area to fill out the U.S. census.
“The abuses of power we’re protesting right now are a direct outcome of black and brown in poor communities being undercounted, underrepresented and underfunded at every level of government for generations,” she said.
She encouraged those who haven’t to take the 10-minute questionnaire that is designed for the federal government to allocate funds for public services such as education, healthcare and infrastructure.
Jeff Collins of Indivisible, a nationwide organization aimed at supporting progressive ideals and candidates, said the pandemic has uncovered cracks in the government.
“COVID is exposed so many inequities, so many problems, so much of our system does not work,” he said. “In some ways it’s broken.”
Collins also expressed a desire to see the American people bailed out by the government in the same way corporations were early on in the pandemic.
“We’re the ones that need that support. We’re the ones that need that financing,” he said.
The HEROES act, which stands for Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions, was passed by the House of Representatives in May. It features another round of stimulus checks, including for college students and undocumented immigrants with a taxpayer identification number; student loan forgiveness; hazard pay for essential workers; and rent and mortgage forgiveness.
The bill currently is in the hands of the U.S. Senate. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schemer of New York has already declared support for it, while majority leader Mitch McConnell called the bill “an unserious product from an unserious majority.”
President Donald Trump, meanwhile, has said the bill is “DOA.”