COVID-19 Policy Priorities
by WREN Staff on May 1, 2020
The WREN team is committed to serving our network by continuing to educate and advocate for the health, economic well-being, and rights of women, girls, and their families. Our COVID-19 policy priorities will center women and caregivers by focusing on protections for front line workers, addressing women’s economic devastation, paid leave, and reproductive freedom. The priorities below also include recommendations for decision-makers at the state and federal levels.
Protections for Front Line Workers
Women work in some of the highest-risk, essential jobs in our state and they should be protected and prioritized during this crisis.
- Require the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to issue an Emergency Temporary Standard to ensure that health care workers and other frontline workers are protected from the spread of COVID-19
- The state should provide free childcare for all essential workers by issuing a 100% tuition credit to those that have been deemed an essential employee.
- Workers have the right to safe working conditions and also have the right to file complaints without fear of retaliation.
- Ask lawmakers to spread accurate information during this time and ensure that folks stay home to avoid the spread.
Addressing Women’s Economic Devastation
The data is clear that the economic devastation of COVID 19 is impacting women, particularly women of color, at a higher rate. The impact of job loss is made worse by the fact that the women losing their jobs now were underpaid; women comprise two-thirds of the lowest-paid workers in South Carolina. In order to mitigate widespread economic hardship we need comprehensive relief packages that center the most impacted.
- Ensure SC DEW and the unemployment insurance program is properly funded, structured, and staffed to facilitate unemployment and relief aid.
- Halt all evictions, foreclosures, and utility shut offs to prevent more families from experiencing homelessness.
- Increase benefit amounts for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and relax eligibility requirements to ensure food security during this crisis. Submit a state plan to participate in the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) program, which was created in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act of 2020 to provide EBT cards to families with children who would have received free or reduced school meals but their schools are closed for at least five consecutive days during a public health emergency.
The COVID-19 public health emergency has shone a spotlight on the impossible choice workers have long faced between caring for their health or the health of a loved one, and bringing home a paycheck. Every worker deserves paid sick and family medical leave to maintain their health and economic wellbeing as well as the health of the community at large.
- Pass the Providing Americans Insured Days of Leave (PAID) Leave Act. This bill would ensure emergency paid sick days and paid leave during a public health emergency, plus it would permanently ensure seven paid sick days and permanently enact the FAMILY Act.
- Governor McMaster should guarantee 14 emergency paid sick days to state employees for those who may have been exposed to the virus to self-quarantine; for those who contract the disease to heal, seek treatment and self-isolate; and to provide care for affected loved ones.
- Governor McMaster should provide 12 weeks paid family and medical leave to all state employees
- The South Carolina General Assembly should pass an emergency sick leave policy to provide additional emergency paid sick leave to employees who are covered beyond the federal law and provide a right to emergency paid sick time on a permanent basis for future public health emergencies as well, beyond December 31, 2020.
During this crisis no person should be denied access to time-sensitive reproductive healthcare. All pregnancy-related care is essential, whether it’s ensuring a healthy pregnancy and safe birth, preventing pregnancy, or ending a pregnancy.
- As we face a global pandemic and health care essentials become increasingly inaccessible nationwide, the need for the FDA to approve over the counter (OTC) access to birth control pills has never been clearer. Not only has the threat of COVID-19 exacerbated the many barriers people already face in accessing birth control, but also highlighted them as never before. The ability to access pills OTC from your local drugstore or grocery store, right off the shelf, is essential to bridging critical gaps in access for everyone.
- Governor McMaster should explicitly state that one support person can be with a person in labor in SC hospitals via executive order
- All health insurance plans, including the state health plan and Medicaid, should increase contraception supply allowance via pharmacy or mail- up to 3 months as a minimum standard
- Any city, state or hospital-specific policies limiting or eliminating “elective procedures” at hospitals must allow hospitals to continue to provide any time-sensitive reproductive health care that must be performed in a hospital setting, or direct hospitals to provide referral information for nearby facilities.
- If the city or state orders the closure of “nonessential” facilities, emergency policies must exempt reproductive health care facilities that provide time-sensitive reproductive health care such as abortion, contraception or pregnancy-related care, at least for the purposes of providing such care.
- If the city or state finds it necessary to impose any limitations on travel, emergency policies should contain exceptions for people accessing time-sensitive reproductive health care, including abortion, filling prescriptions for contraception, or pregnancy-related care.
We should all have the agency, information and support to get the services we need to manage our health and plan our families – including being able to access contraception and abortion. Unfortunately, obstacles are being created to make this care harder to get. We should be eliminating barriers to the care we need to ensure our rights, health and opportunities. Take a moment to be the voice for reproductive health, rights, and justice in South Carolina.
To view the WREN statement on COVID-19, click here.