Legislative Letters

Re: Priorities for Congressional Action Related to COVID-19

May 7, 2020

May 7, 2020

United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510

United States House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515


The COVID-19 pandemic is exposing deep injustices in our country. This health and economic crisis is hitting communities of color, low-income communities and Indigenous communities hardest; data shows that COVID-19 is killing members of the Black and Latinx communities at disproportionately high rates and threatening job security and safety at higher rates as well. Environmental injustice, systemic racism, and structural inequality in our country are driving this disparate impact. Communities of color in the United States are exposed to higher levels of toxic pollution and have much higher rates of asthma, cancers, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease, making them more vulnerable to dying from COVID-19. This crisis is also exposing the fragile foundation of our recent economic growth and the lack of protections workers — especially undocumented and migrant workers — have in this country.

As Congress considers additional legislative action in the weeks and months ahead, we strongly encourage you to protect frontline workers, support communities and families struggling with the economic and health ramifications of this pandemic, protect our democracy, and make transformative investments to build a more just, equitable, and sustainable society. Congressional investments into programs that reduce pollution, build clean water infrastructure, grow clean energy, reduce energy waste, promote clean transportation, restore our lands and waters, and build more resilient communities are essential ways to put people back to work, protect public health, and strengthen our economy. Additionally, there is no place for fossil fuel bailouts and this crisis must not be used as an excuse to let polluters off the hook from requirements that protect our health and our safety.

Congress must protect communities and support the workers on the frontline of this crisis. State and local governments need federal support to maintain the essential services they provide, including emergency response, public health protection, health care coverage, education, transit, food security and more. Water and energy service must stay on for all people during this pandemic and we support a moratorium on all disconnects and investments in programs that help with repayment. Frontline workers must be protected in a variety of ways. One example is that on the most basic level, workers do not currently have the personal protective equipment they need to keep themselves and their families safe and the Occupational Safety & Health Administration must issue a temporary standard to protect all frontline workers. And, health and economic relief measures should be delivered to all families, including immigrant families.

We must also invest at least $4 billion in overall election assistance funding to help states ensure every eligible voter has safe access to the ballot during the pandemic, and eliminate the state matching requirement so states do not have to choose between funding pandemic response and election preparedness. These funds are needed now in conjunction with guardrails to extend voter education, early voting, expand no-excuse absentee voting, improve printing and ballot tracking capabilities, allow online and same-day voter registration, and provide sanitation of polling locations for the protection of poll workers and voters.

Congress should prioritize investments that build cleaner, more resilient and equitable communities, protect public health, improve built and natural infrastructure, and create good, high-quality jobs and a stronger economy. We should be fixing our crumbling water infrastructure, including replacing lead pipes, to ensure everyone has access to clean water. We should be supporting the hard hit clean energy sector by extending the deadlines for and enabling direct pay or refundability of tax credits for clean renewable energy, energy efficiency projects, and electric vehicles, expanding these programs to include energy storage and offshore wind. We should build out electric charging infrastructure, replace diesel buses with clean, electric ones, and expand transit. We should be cleaning up Superfund sites, redeveloping brownfields and investing in community development that addresses economic and public health challenges created by historic and present racial and economic inequities. We should be modernizing our grid and making homes and buildings more energy efficient. We should be investing in outdoor recreational infrastructure and restoring nature, including through the Great American Outdoors Act—which fully and permanently funds the Land and Water Conservation Fund and addresses our public lands’ maintenance backlog—and other investments to increase access to nature and protect sources of drinking water.

We look forward to working with Congress and partner organizations to center the needs of frontline workers and communities most impacted by COVID-19 and to put people to work rebuilding and transforming our economy to be stronger, more equitable and sustainable.


Gene Karpinksi