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The St. Joe’s Accountability Coalition, a grass roots partnership representing residents, community groups and unions, calls for justice and equity focused action to deal with pandemic and the socioeconomic crisis it will exacerbate.
The St. Joe’s Accountability Coalition (SJAC) is calling on elected officials representing Milwaukee at the city, county and state levels to take bold action to address the COVID-19 pandemic. The work of SJAC has always focused on improving access to health care on the North Side of Milwaukee and fighting racial inequity in health care. We believe that this pandemic will exacerbate the existing inequities in health care access and quality of life for black and brown communities.
Milwaukee County is ranked second to last in the state in health care outcomes according to a study done by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute. At the time of this writing, the majority of COVID-19 cases in Wisconsin are located in Milwaukee County. After years of ever-decreasing health care access for black and brown communities in Milwaukee, we need decisive, justice-driven, equity-oriented action from elected officials during this pandemic.
With this understanding, SJAC raises these demands:
1. Moratorium on rent and mortgage payments: Institute a moratorium on rent, mortgage payments and utility payments (including internet access and cell phone access) for the people of Milwaukee County so that nobody has to choose between practicing safe social distancing and going to work.
2. Child care support: Enact child care subsidies or alternative methods of child care for all community members in need of child care. Also, quality protections for child care providers with the influx of need during this crisis.
3. Free, accessible testing and medical treatment: Provide COVID-19 testing and related medical treatment at no cost to all residents of Milwaukee County. We have the largest population in the state and the majority of COVID-19 cases. Testing to combat the pandemic should beat the need.
4. Basic income support: Institute an emergency guaranteed basic income to all Milwaukee County residents to cover the costs of purchasing basic supplies (such as groceries, medicine and cleaning products) that will allow our community to remain as healthy as possible.
5. Expand health care access: Push all health care institutions, whether private or public, to expand their capacity to meet the demands of the pandemic. Push the federal government to support this effort as well.
6. Paid Leave: Push all employers to enact paid leave for all workers in Milwaukee County. In an effort to support the public health of Milwaukee County residents, many businesses have shuttered. We need to support the workers of those businesses as we work through this pandemic.
7. Reduce jail and prison populations to reduce COVID-19 pandemic: Move as swiftly as possible to reduce jail and prison populations as the incarcerated are more vulnerable to disease due to overcrowded conditions.
The St. Joe’s Accountability Coalition includes community groups and unions committed to ensuring that St. Joseph Hospital – and its corporate parent Ascension Health – live up to their obligations as nonprofit institutions. SJAC believes that St. Joe’s must not only provide health care services that address the community’s pressing health needs, but also be a high-road employer, a responsive community partner and a responsible local business.