On the Hill Updates: April 24, 2020
COVID-19 package 3.5 passes Congress
This week, the House and Senate passed another piece of legislation to address the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, The Paycheck Protection Program, and Health Care Enhancement Act. Informally referred to as “Phase 3.5,” the bill appropriates an additional $484 billion to help stimulate the economy, support business, and boost the nation’s health care system in the face of the pandemic. Specifically, the bill puts an additional $310 billion into the Paycheck Protection Program, which offers small businesses forgivable loans to maintain payroll and other costs; provides $50 billion in economic disaster relief for small businesses; and appropriates $75 billion for hospitals and health care providers and $25 billion for researching, manufacturing and administering COVID-19 tests. While we’re grateful Congress included critical measures in this bill for small businesses and health care workers, we look forward to working with them on the next package to ensure additional relief for women, children, and families. NCJW will continue to push Congress to consider women, children, and families in future coronavirus relief packages and incorporate critical NCJW priorities around all the issues we care about.
- Take Action! Click here to tell your members of Congress to include NCJW priorities in the next coronavirus relief package.
Trump issues new immigration ban
On April 22, President Trump signed a presidential proclamation temporarily banning green cards for certain groups of people outside the United States. Family members of permanent residents, parents, and siblings of US citizens, and thousands of people who access visas as part of the diversity visa lottery are banned for at least 60 days. While Trump made an argument that the ban will protect workers, given the populations impacted, it’s clear this was just a way to subvert Congress and further limit legal immigration to the US. Faith communities, including NCJW, labeled this move a national disgrace.
Protecting abortion access during a pandemic
In the midst of an unprecedented public health crisis, hostile state officials continue to exploit the pandemic to further a decades-long coordinated campaign to restrict abortion rights and access. Providers in eight states (Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Ohio, Alabama, Arkansas, Iowa, and Tennessee) have gone to court on behalf of patients facing canceled appointments and unconscionable delays in accessing time-sensitive care. NCJW recently joined 20 other women’s and civil rights organizations on an amicus brief in the Alabama case arguing that the state’s order is an undue burden on the constitutional right to abortion and that it disproportionately harms marginalized communities, including low-income communities, women of color — in particular, Black women — minors, the LGBTQIA+ community, and victims of domestic and sexual violence. Legal whiplash in the Texas case has also attracted a great deal of attention as the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against providers four different times in three weeks before the state’s order expired on April 22. It remains to be seen how state efforts to reopen and relax restrictions will impact abortion care. At NCJW, we have advocated for access to abortion as a critical component of sexual and reproductive health care for over a century. Medical practice and Jewish sources firmly position abortion as essential, time-sensitive health care, a decision to be made in consultation with one’s provider and family.
- Take Action! Share our Facebook and Twitter posts to say loud and clear that abortion should be protected in this critical time and always.
Anti-health care judicial nominees Wilson and Walker to be prioritized by Senate
In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, President Trump announced his intent to nominate Cory Wilson to the US Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, which includes Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas, as well as Justin Walker to the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Among many other disqualifying characteristics, Wilson is vocal about his disdain for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and his wish to invalidate it, which would eliminate protections for 130 million people with preexisting conditions and take away health insurance from 19 million Americans. Walker, who was rated “Not Qualified” by the nonpartisan American Bar Association last year, has repeatedly praised Justice Brett Kavanaugh for his criticism of the ACA and attempts to dismantle it. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has made it clear that, despite the pandemic, judicial nominations will be his first priority when the Senate returns from recess, which is expected to be May 4. NCJW strongly opposes the nominations of Wilson and Walker.
- Take Action! Click here to learn much more and urge your senators to reject Wilson and Walker.
SCOTUS to hear contraception case over the phone
After delaying in-person oral arguments because of coronavirus and facing backlash from legal advocates encouraging digital hearings, the US Supreme Court announced last week that it would hear oral arguments by telephone in a limited number of previously postponed cases. This is the first time in the Court’s history that oral arguments will take place over the phone, and these arguments will span a total of ten hours over six days in May. A live audio feed of the arguments will be made available to media. Among the cases that will have telephonic arguments on May 6 are the consolidated cases of Little Sisters of the Poor v. Pennsylvania and Trump v. Pennsylvania, which center around the administration’s efforts to decimate the Affordable Care Act’s birth control benefit. NCJW, alongside Catholics for Choice, recently led faith-based organizations on an amicus brief arguing that people of diverse beliefs and traditions support access to contraception as religious liberty and moral right.
EEOC moves forward with plans to stop collecting pay data
On March 23, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued a notice indicating that it planned to stop requiring covered employers to submit data on employees’ W-2 earnings and hours worked by pay band, as well as sex, race, ethnicity and job category. This pay data is critically important in helping to identify compensation discrimination, improving enforcement of pay discrimination laws, and promoting self-analysis and compliance by reporting employers — all of which are particularly relevant during our current national health and economic crisis. People of color and women make up the majority of essential workers facing the current pandemic, and the crisis has emphasized how lost earnings due to pay gaps hurt women of color in particular. Ensuring equal pay, and women and families’ economic security, is more important than ever; continuing to require employers to share pay data will play an important role in uncovering and combating pay discrimination, a crucial factor driving gender and racial wage gaps. NCJW submitted a comment to the EEOC calling on them to continue the pay data collection.
11th Circuit rules in pregnancy discrimination case
On April 17, the US Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit ruled in a closely watched pregnancy discrimination case, Durham v. Rural/Metro Corp. When Kimberlie Michelle Durham, a pregnant EMT, requested accommodation for a heavy lifting restriction imposed by her doctor, her employer refused despite maintaining a policy of providing temporary modified duty assignments to EMTs injured on the job. Durham sued, claiming her employer violated the Pregnancy Discrimination Act; the district court threw out her case, holding that she had not proven that she was similarly situated to other employees in their ability or inability to work, as required by the US Supreme Court case Young v. UPS. Durham appealed to the 11th Circuit, which held that Durham did prove that she was similarly situated to other employees in their ability or inability to work, and sent the case back to the district court for further consideration. Durham’s case highlights the uncertainty surrounding the standard set in Young v. UPS and the ongoing need to pass the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (HR 2694) to set a national standard for pregnancy accommodation. NCJW supports the passage of the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act.
NCJW launches Digital Lobby Day on May 20
Mark your calendars! NCJW, AEPhi, and additional partners are hosting a voting rights digital lobby day on May 20. Given efforts to use the COVID-19 pandemic as a voter suppression tool (see Wisconsin for the most recent case in point) and a patchwork of state laws related to voting rights, people are being forced to choose between their physical safety and their democratic rights. This is a false choice! In advance of the second “Super Tuesday” on June 2 and the next COVID package (“package 4”), join us to urge our federal lawmakers for $4 billion in funding for states to implement and/or expand voter registration, no-excuse absentee voting by mail, voter education, and safe in-person voting (including early voting) for remaining primaries and Election Day. More details coming soon!
And, NCJW joined important sign-on letters related to the coronavirus:
- Joined 20 other women’s and civil rights organizations on an amicus brief in Robinson et. al. v. Marshall arguing that Alabama’s order is an undue burden on the constitutional right to abortion and that it disproportionately harms marginalized communities, including low-income communities, women of color — in particular, Black women — minors, the LGBTQIA+ community, and victims of domestic and sexual violence.
- Joined a total of 112 organizations on a Leadership Conference for Civil and Human Rights letter to Congress sharing our economic security priorities for future COVID-19 legislation.
- Joined 783 organizations on an Alliance to End Hunger letter to Congress and the White House urging increased SNAP benefits in the next coronavirus bill.
- Joined more than 100 organizations on a DC Vote letter calling on Congress to remedy the fact that DC was funded as a territory instead of a state in the most recent coronavirus supplemental bill.
- Joined 184 organizations on a Family Equality Council letter to Congress urging that language be included in upcoming COVID-19 response legislation to ensure that discrimination is prohibited in all federally funded COVID-19 benefits and services.
- Joined 82 organizations on a National Women’s Law Center letter to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) asking them to pause or delay the running of the period of time set forth by a statute of limitations to file discrimination lawsuits, charges, and other remedial actions during the crisis.
- Joined 452 organizations on a National Women’s Law Center letter to Congress urging them to appropriate at least $50 billion in total funding dedicated to child care to offer immediate relief to providers, educators, and families during the crisis.
- Joined 55 organizations on a Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law letter to the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs opposing their decision to temporarily exempt and waive certain affirmative action obligations for federal contracts (such as for the manufacturing of supplies) specifically related to providing coronavirus relief.
- Joined more than 100 organizations on a letter led by Alianza Americas urging Congress to include DACA recipients and TPS holders on the next COVID-19 supplemental bill.
- Joined over forty organizations on a statement outlining four principles for federal, state, and local courts to protect our civil and human rights and provide justice for all during this public health crisis. The principles were sent to the Judicial Conference of the United States, the National Center for State Courts (NCSC), and the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR).