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News from EPI Policy groups release roadmap for states and cities to build a just and inclusive pandemic recovery

A new joint report from the National Employment Law Project (NELP) and the Economic Analysis and Research Network (EARN) of the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) outlines a policy agenda for how states and cities can build a just and inclusive recovery for working families.

As COVID-19 continues to surge across the country, most states still do not have in place the basic protections necessary to keep workers and the public safe, the supports workers need to weather the current crisis, and the policies needed to ensure a just recovery with expanded access to good jobs. Black and brown workers, in particular, have suffered disproportionately from the pandemic—the result of generations of racially unjust labor, public health, and economic systems that must be reformed to achieve an economy that works for everyone.

“While we call on the Biden administration and Congress to take on bold structural change and reverse the damage of the Trump years, they cannot do it alone. Especially with the prospect of a divided Congress, states and cities have a vital role to play and should act swiftly to complement federal action by establishing the protections and supports that workers need now—and forever,” said Naomi Walker, director of EARN.

The policy agenda outlines four broad categories of action that states—and in many cases, cities—should take to protect working families and promote a just and fully inclusive recovery:

  • Guarantee strong workplace health and safety, support for the unemployed, and other protections for workers during the pandemic: Act quickly to enforce COVID health and safety protections while expanding access to unemployment insurance for the millions out of work, fighting corporate immunity proposals, and expanding COVID-19 leave protections.
  • Promote good jobs to help frontline workers and families survive and thrive: Raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour, guarantee paid sick days and family leave, restore bargaining power to workers, and protect gig economy workers misclassified as independent contractors.
  • Fight for a racially just recovery: Promote equitable access to jobs for Black and brown workers who have been hardest hit by the pandemic and unemployment, strengthen civil rights enforcement, and curb unequal pay.
  • Reject austerity politics: Give state and local government the resources to fight the pandemic and sustain vital service by adopting progressive taxation, ending corporate tax giveaways, and rolling back preemption of local government power.

“Frontline workers and communities of color are carrying the nation through the pandemic—but they are also bearing the brunt of COVID health risks, pandemic-induced unemployment, and generations of systemic discrimination. With obstruction likely to prevent Washington from adequately responding, they are demanding that states and cities step in to provide the protection and supports all workers will need to survive these crises,” said Paul Sonn, state policy program director at NELP. “Working families deserve nothing less than a just recovery.”


The National Employment Law Project is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that conducts research and advocates on issues affecting low-wage and unemployed workers. For more about NELP, visit

The Economic Analysis and Research Network is a nationwide network of research, policy, and grassroots organizations fighting, state by state, for an economy that works for everyone. Learn more at