With steady paychecks and the ability to work from home, teachers are among the workers likely to fare better during the COVID-19 pandemic and related economic downturn.
A group of Philadelphia teachers and other school-based employees is calling for colleagues in a position to do so to donate their federal stimulus checks to people in need — including some of their fellow school staff.
The Caucus of Working Educators, a group focused on social-justice issues within the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, began the campaign this week. In two days, 50 people have signed on to hand over all or part of their portion of the federal stimulus package, said Adam Bailey, a teacher at Hunter Elementary in North Philadelphia.
“As the largest union in this city, we’re in a unique position, and we should be standing in solidarity with other workers,” Bailey said.
The recently passed package will pay up to $1,200 per adult to workers who earned less than $99,000 in 2019. It also includes payments of $500 for children under 17.
One group that could benefit are the district’s paraprofessionals — aides, bilingual counseling assistants and other low-wage classroom employees whose salaries are capped at $30,000. Many district paraprofessionals rely on second jobs to make ends meet, and the newly created ParaPower Relief Fund allows workers to apply for one-time grants of $500 to pay rent or utility bills, buy food, or take care of other basic needs.
“Right now, thousands of Philadelphians are suffering, trying to figure out how they’re going to pay their bills — our neighbors, our students’ families, and even some of our fellow PFT members,” a video posted to Facebook by the Caucus of Working Educators said. “We know relief is coming too slow, and it’s not going to actually meet the needs of so many.”
Organizers emphasize that not all teachers will be in a position to donate their stimulus money, but say contributions could make a significant difference for paraprofessionals.
Though the paraprofessionals and other district workers will be paid throughout the coronavirus shutdown, many have already been hit with the loss of second jobs or other burdens, said Bailey.
“As a single mom, there’s nothing more soul-crushing than the inability to take care of your children,” said Leah Wood, a district paraprofessional active in the Caucus of Working Educators. “How can you take care of the children in your care at school if you can’t take care of your own at home? We lose so many wonderful paras because they can’t afford to stay. The ParaPower Relief Fund was created to relieve some of that pressure.”
The campaign also lists several other organizations donors can give to that will benefit Philadelphia families, including the North Philly Peace Park Free Produce Program, VietLead, COVID-19 Trans/Queer Relief Form, and the PA Domestic Workers Alliance Relief Fund.
For more information on donating or applying for funds, go to https://phillyparapower.wordpress.com/contact/