UPDATE #10: DEMOCRATIC ATTORNEYS GENERAL LEADERSHIP IN ADDRESSING COVID-19

May 15, 2020

Democratic AGs Taking Necessary Steps to Protect the People

As states across the country balance the loosening of stay-at-home orders with public safety concerns, Democratic AGs continue to lead the way on protecting and fighting for their communities.

Here is the latest from Democratic AGs:

PROTECTING THE ENVIRONMENT DURING A GLOBAL PANDEMIC
On Wednesday, a coalition of 9 Democratic AGs filed a lawsuit against Trump’s EPA challenging the agency’s decision to halt its enforcement of a range of federal environmental laws due to the COVID-19 crisis. “The EPA’s non-enforcement policy puts our already damaged public health in danger by freely allowing pollution from big corporations,” said New York AG Tish James. Noting the dangers of this new enforcement policy, California AG Xavier Becerra said “[t]oday, we’re pushing back against the EPA’s regressive policy. This is 2020, not 1920.” 

SAFEGUARDING FRONTLINE WORKERS
On Tuesday, a coalition of 20 Democratic AGs sent a letter urging the Trump administration to enforce heightened COVID-related safety protections for meat-processing employees who are working during the pandemic. “The industry’s workers are risking their lives to maintain production in these facilities under extremely unsafe working conditions,” the Dem AGs write. The letter notes recent reports that 45 meat-processing workers have died from coronavirus and another 10,000 cases are tied to meatpacking plants so far. 

FIGHTING FOR COMMUNITIES OF COLOR

  • Massachusetts AG Maura Healey released an issue brief detailing the environmental factors that compound the pandemic’s disparate impact on communities of color. Massachusetts communities with the highest percentage of Black, Brown, and immigrant residents experience higher rates of asthma-related hospitalizations, particularly among children. These are also the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, and—coincidentally—are “hotspots” for the COVID-19 pandemic. The brief includes an analysis conducted by the Boston University School of Public Health using data compiled by the Massachusetts AG’s Office and outlines steps that should be taken to address the longstanding impact of environmental injustice on these vulnerable communities.
  • New York AG Letitia James called on the NYPD to address recent reports of unequal enforcement of the city’s social distancing rules. This request follows reports and videos of aggressive enforcement tactics used in Black and Hispanic communities, in stark contrast to reports of enforcement in predominantly white neighborhoods. “It is inherently wrong to aggressively police one group of people, yet ignore another group that commits the same infraction. The NYPD must better ensure that a New Yorker’s race, color, and neighborhood does not determine how they are patrolled,” said AG James. In addition to calling for equal treatment, AG James also requested enforcement data from the NYPD.

PROTECTING KIDS ONLINE
As families adjust to distance-learning and sheltering at home, children are spending more and more time online. Nevada AG Aaron Ford, a father of four, offered some tips to help families avoid scams while their children play games online. “While playing your favorite game, keep in mind that real criminals are eager to access your personal and financial information,” AG Ford said. District of Columbia AG Karl Racine’s office recently published a blog to help families adjust to the new realities of increased internet usage and provide tips to avoid online exploitation.

PUSHING FOR SAFE AND HEALTHY NURSING HOMES
Democratic AGs are taking action to protect nursing home residents during this global health crisis. Just this week, Pennsylvania AG Josh Shapiro announced the opening of several criminal investigations into nursing homes for criminal neglect. His office also launched an easy way for the public to file complaints and reports of neglect in nursing homes. “Protecting seniors and our most vulnerable in the care of others, is one of the core responsibilities of my office and we’re stepping up to protect older Pennsylvanians during this crisis,” said AG Shapiro. “While we salute and appreciate nursing home staff on the front lines during this pandemic, we will not tolerate those who mistreat our seniors and break the law.”

The actions above are just a snapshot of the important work Dem AGs are doing to keep our families and communities safe. In addition to the highlights above, Dem AGs are:

  • Providing guidance to government agencies on how to address Open Meeting Acts & Sunshine Laws in this new environment;
  • Pushing large corporations to provide paid family leave;
  • Advocating for a pause in eviction proceedings;
  • Urging utility companies to postpone late payment fees and service shut-offs;
  • Fighting against hate crimes and discrimination against the Asian American and Pacific Islander populations;
  • Working with the courts and the criminal justice system to guarantee both justice and fairness through the courts during this emergency.

For more on Democratic AG leadership during this challenging time, check out the previous updates here:

And be sure to follow along on DAGA’s social media accounts linked here: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.