July 16, 2020

Cardin, Schumer, Senate Democrats Announce Historic Proposal For $350 Billion Investment In Communities Of Color

WASHINGTON— U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business & Entrepreneurship Ranking Member Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (N.Y.), and Senate Democrats today unveiled the Economic Justice Act, a major new legislative proposal to make $350 billion in immediate and long-term investments in Black communities and other communities of color.  For far too long, Congress has underfunded critical priorities like public health, child care, infrastructure, and job creation in these communities. Senate Democrats’ plan would make a historic federal commitment to communities of color through ten major investments over the next five years.

Senate Democrats’ Economic Justice Act would seek to partially offset the cost of the proposal by re-programming $200 billion of unspent CARES Act funds that were previously provided to the Department of Treasury to facilitate corporate lending by the Federal Reserve. Instead of allowing hundreds of billions of dollars in government assistance to sit idly at the Treasury, Senate Democrats would seek to re-program these dollars during negotiations for a fourth COVID-19 bill, in tandem with the robust provisions of the House’s Heroes Act. Importantly, this proposal would be in addition to the historic House-passed Heroes Act, not a replacement or supplement.

“The protests sparked by the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor have further exposed the public health and economic disparities in communities of color—Black communities in particular—that have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Senator Cardin said. “I am proud to join my Democratic colleagues to introduce this historic bill to make overdue investments in communities of color. Among many other investments, this bill will empower minority entrepreneurs and innovators to start small businesses and create jobs.”

The Economic Justice Act has two main objectives: to immediately help communities of color respond to the pandemic through a $135 billion investment in child care, mental health and primary care, and jobs, and to build wealth and health in these communities over the next five years by investing $215 billion as a down payment for infrastructure, a homeowner down payment tax credit, Medicaid expansion, and more.

Through ten new initiatives, this Democratic proposal would begin efforts to reverse decades of underinvestment in communities of color.

In addition to Cardin and Schumer, the Economic Justice Act is cosponsored by Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Senate Committee on Finance Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Senate Committee on Armed Services Ranking Member Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works Ranking Member Tom Carper (D-Del.), Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Senate Committee on Foreign Relations Ranking Member Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Ranking Member Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Senate Committee on Intelligence Vice Chairman Mark Warner (D-Va.), Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Senator Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), and Senator Kamala Harris (D-Calif.).

A summary of Senate Democrats’ Economic Justice Act can be found here and below and a backgrounder can be found here:

 

IMMEDIATE INVESTMENTS

Child Care is Essential Program

Invest in and stabilize child care providers in communities, including communities of color. Ensure that working families have access to child care, and early childhood educators continue to get paid throughout the pandemic. 

$50 billion

Expand and Improve Access to Community Health Care

Support community-based behavioral, mental, and primary health care providers and services to increase access to care and incentivize providers to serve in high need areas, including communities of color.

$40 billion

Federally Supported Jobs, Training and At-Risk Youth Initiatives

Connect workers to in-demand jobs, like new contact tracing and immunization hiring programs and federal job training programs, including adult education and supported jobs programs, training for disconnected youth, registered apprenticeship, and aligned pre-apprenticeship training, and training and wrap-around services provided by community organizations. Create a Pandemic TANF emergency assistance grant program that would provide cash assistance, in-kind support, and subsidized jobs to low-income individuals and families. Invest in the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act and reform child support.

$25 billion

 

 

Capital and Support for Small Businesses

Make investments in community-focused lenders to facilitate more lending to small businesses in communities of color.  Permanently authorize and expand programs offered by the MBDA as well as the SBA, including the 7(a) Community Advantage and the PRIME programs.  Provide tax incentives for new small businesses.

 

$17 billion for Capital + Support

 

$3 billion PROGRESS Act (2 years)

TOTAL

$135 billion

 

LONG-TERM INVESTMENTS AND POLICY

Down Payment on Building 21st Century Infrastructure

High-speed Internet, Affordable Housing, Community Development Investment, K-12 Public School/Library/MSI Construction, and Environmental Justice.

$115 billion and policy reforms

New Homeowner Down Payment Tax Credit

With historically low interest rates for home mortgages, provide $15,000 per family to expand access to homeownership.

$40 billion

Renters and Low Income Housing Tax Credits

Reduce rent and utilities to 30% of income for low-income individuals and families and build new low-income rental properties.

$25 billion over 5 years (rent) + $5 billion (LIHTC)

Expand Medicaid Coverage

Incent Medicaid expansion in non-expansion states.

$15 billion

Address Maternal Mortality and Health

Expand comprehensive Medicaid coverage to all pregnant individuals for one-year postpartum; fund grant programs to implement maternal safety standards; improve access to midwife and doula services; and more.

$15 billion

 

 

10-20-30 Anti-Poverty Initiative and Hiring and Contracting Opportunities

Require a greater share of federal community and economic development funding go to communities with "persistent" and high poverty rates and create opportunities in federally-funded infrastructure projects for local hiring in communities of color and contracts for disadvantaged businesses.

No cost policy changes.

TOTAL

$215 billion

 

"Long before the pandemic, long before this recession, long before this year’s protests, structural inequalities have persisted in health care and housing, the economy and education,” said Senator Schumer. “Covid-19 has only magnified these injustices and we must confront them with lasting, meaningful solutions that tear down economic and social barriers, and reinvest in historically underserved communities. The Economic Justice Act is a needed step in a long journey to address systematic racism and historic underinvestment in communities of color."

“Our nation’s deeply-rooted legacy of racism has long led to chronic underinvestment in Black communities and other communities of color, and for generations we’ve seen that imbalance manifest as tragic and unjust racial and ethnic disparities in our health care and education systems, in our workforce and neighborhoods, and beyond,” said Senator Murray.  “That’s why during this global health emergency and historic national reckoning on racism, Congress has a responsibility not only to help save lives, but to learn the lessons of our nation’s shameful past so we can ensure true equity in the federal government’s response efforts. I’m proud to join Democrats in outlining the Economic Justice Act that will make a much-needed down payment on our over-due work to address systemic racism in our societies and communities, and help provide Black people and other historically-marginalized communities with the federal resources they need to thrive on the other side of this crisis.”

“Our plan would begin to address the scars left by systemic racism, and help create equal opportunity for communities of color to thrive,” said Senator Wyden. “People of color have for generations been denied access to safe, affordable housing and the capital that’s needed to build wealth. Our bill includes my plans to build new affordable housing, provide cash assistance and subsidized jobs to vulnerable families, and help would-be business owners get their ideas off the ground. This bill also puts important investments towards achieving health justice by taking on the high maternal mortality rate, felt most by communities of color, and funding an expansion of Medicaid so more families  have access to affordable health care.”

“The Economic Justice Act makes a robust economic investment in Black and Brown communities across America that have been underfunded for generations,” said Senator Durbin. “The bill would provide $350 billion to help child care providers, expand public health care, improve job training, support at-risk youth, and increase access to capital for minority-owned businesses.  If we are serious about lifting up communities of color that have faced generations of inequalities, it starts by putting our money where our mouth is and passing this bill.”

“Living up to the promise of America means ensuring opportunity and justice for all.  Racial disparities and structural inequities in housing, health care, education, employment, and other foundational building blocks for advancement have held back communities of color and our country as a whole,” said Senator Reed.  “This proposal will jumpstart the urgent work of reversing economic injustice through targeted investments that have been overlooked or neglected.  We must seize this opportunity to live up to America’s ideals by tapping into our nation’s strength and unlocking equitable growth that will help America thrive.”

“Communities of color have historically been located downstream or downwind from dangerous pollution, near industrial facilities or factories, or in places where highways divide them from goods and services instead of connecting them to greater opportunity. For decades, systemic racism has left too many communities of color and Indigenous communities without clean air to breathe, safe water to drink or a healthy environment to call home. By making significant investments in the infrastructure and programs that serve communities of color, we can address the racial inequities and injustices that still pervade our society today,” said Senator Carper. “As Americans rise up from coast to coast demanding equality and justice, we have a moral responsibility to meet their calls for change with compassion and urgency. Investing in communities of color can help us begin reversing the wrongs of the past and uphold the promise for a brighter future.”

“We know communities of color have faced systemic barriers for generations and COVID-19 has only amplified economic and health care disparities,” said Senator Stabenow. “While we address the racial discrimination around policing, we must also address critical needs of people that have been underfunded in our communities for far too long. Our bill will make sure behavioral health centers have the resources they need to support their communities and will address the historic underinvestment in communities of color.”

“The public health and economic crisis gripping our nation has exposed the ugly truths about the systemic inequalities and injustices faced by communities of color,” said Senator Menendez.  “The pandemic has presented us with an historic opportunity to invest in our communities, our children, our families and our infrastructure, so we can address the social, economic, educational and health care disparities facing low-income and communities of color while building back better, fairer, smarter and more prepared for the future.”

“We will not make progress until we acknowledge and tackle all of the ways that centuries of racism and oppression have affected the lives of Black and brown Americans – their health, job opportunities, housing, education, generational wealth and so much more,” said Senator Brown. “Congress must act to eradicate the systemic racism that permeates every aspect of American society. I am proud to join my colleagues in this effort to address some of the disparities that Black and brown communities have endured for generations. People of color built this country. We must stand with them and work with them to find long-term solutions to these pervasive issues.”

“The disparate impacts of the COVID-19 crisis have laid bare the truth that for far too long, we have failed to invest in and support communities of color in this country,” said Senator Warner. “We need to act now to help low-income and minority communities withstand this unprecedented economic downturn and create new opportunities in neighborhoods that have been overlooked for decades.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic has further revealed and worsened the systemic obstacles that communities of color have faced throughout our nation’s history,” said Senator Gillibrand. “The truth is that our country has never lived up to the notion that all men are created equal, especially as it relates to Black and brown Americans. The Economic Justice Act would invest $350 billion in communities of color to begin the necessary work of addressing deep disparities in wealth creation, economic opportunity, health care, child care, infrastructure, housing and more. I am proud to join my colleagues to introduce this proposal, which starts to right these historic wrongs, and will help lay the foundation for a more just future.”

 

“Native Hawaiians and other communities of color have felt the pandemic’s devastating economic and public health consequences—and serve as essential workers helping respond to COVID-19. The Economic Justice Act responds to historic underinvestment in these communities, and will provide support for longer-term efforts to address systemic racism by immediately investing $135 billion in child care, mental health and primary care, and jobs, and funding $215 billion over the next five years for Medicaid expansion, a homeowner down payment tax credit, and infrastructure,” said Senator Hirono. “Congress must act boldly and take up the Economic Justice Act—not take a pause on assisting families and communities of color during a pandemic and in its aftermath.”

“The coronavirus pandemic has not only exposed, but also exacerbated, the deep, structural racial inequities that have been taking the lives and livelihoods of people of color, and Black Americans in particular, for centuries,” said Senator Booker. “Righting these wrongs will take deliberate and sustained effort and investment, and we can’t afford to go back to what was accepted as normal before the pandemic began. This proposal is an important step forward in building a new normal and an economy that truly works for every American.”

“This deadly pandemic has put a spotlight on the overwhelming inequities in our healthcare, economic and environmental protection systems that have plagued communities of color for far too long,” said Senator Duckworth. “I’m proud to join Leader Schumer in introducing the Economic Justice Act, a critical piece of legislation that would help address decades of injustice by increasing access to child care and community healthcare, confronting the maternal mortality crisis and investing in infrastructure in communities of color in Illinois and across our nation.”

“Our nation has been gripped by COVID-19 and the impacts have been felt across all of society, particularly in communities of color,” said Senator Harris. “Even before this crisis, longstanding income and wealth disparities, reduced access to health care, unaffordable housing, and generations of disinvestment have widened the gaps in health and well-being. The federal government must proactively work to right historical wrongs that have contributed to racial inequities for generations and do more to prevent historically underserved communities from falling further behind. The Economic Justice Act is a necessary step to address structural barriers and make targeted investments that correspond with communities’ needs.”

“Incremental and piecemeal investments will never repair the centuries-old systems that have kept African American and other communities of color at the bottom rung of the ladder,” said Marc Morial, President and CEO, National Urban League. “The Economic Justice Act is the first comprehensive and targeted effort to break down the systems that exacerbate every economic crisis and deny the benefits of every economic upturn for African Americans. We applaud Leader Schumer and his colleagues for a forward-looking approach that incorporates many of the goals the National Urban League has pursued for decades. This economy will only recover when we address the critical issues of childcare, healthcare, infrastructure, homeownership, and access to capital. The Economic Justice Act is a bold plan that sets the table for any real discussion of social and economic justice in this country." 

“The historic underfunding of communities of color is no mistake—it’s the result of the persistent failure to center the humanity of our nation’s most marginalized,” said Fatima Goss Graves, President and CEO, National Women’s Law Center. “The disparate impact of this pandemic on Black, Indigenous, and brown people is a policy choice we make every day we let pass without taking swift and immediate action for communities to thrive. It will require taking on the structural inequities that have left Black women with higher rates of maternal mortality and lower rates of health insurance. It requires investing in the sort of opportunities that disrupt the dramatic wage and wealth gap that is felt even more acutely by those who are both breadwinners and caregivers. A historic crisis calls for a historic response, and we thank Minority Leader Schumer for introducing this bill to help move us towards true economic justice.”

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