Category Archives: Social Justice

Biden: Trump Has Failed Black Americans

Black Lives Matter protest in suburban Long Island, NY, following George Floyd’s murder at the hands of police . The Biden Campaign issued an indictment of how Trump has failed Black Americans and what a Biden administration would do to empower Black Americans (c) Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

In the 2016 campaign, Trump, whose real estate business was sanctioned by the Department of Justice for discriminating against Blacks, absurdly told Black Americans, “What have you got to lose?” Well, in 2020, it is clear: your lives and your livelihoods. Blacks are disproportionately sickened and dying of COVID-19 and climate crises and are the victims of police brutality, killed by police and self-appointed vigilantes, in accelerated numbers.

While the Trump campaign parade Black Americans and people of color at the Republican National Convention and thousands assemble for a new March o n Washington in person and virtually, the Biden Campaign issued an indictment of how Trump has failed Black Americans and what a Biden administration would do to empower Black Americans.

Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Kamala Harris issued a statement on the 57th Anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom:

“The murder and violence toward Black Americans of the 1960s is happening today in broad daylight for the world to witness,” . A pandemic and economic crisis lays bare the systemic racism that still plagues our way of life. And instead of seeking to heal and unite, too many in our nation seek to inflame and divide.

“We’re in an ongoing battle for the soul of our nation. We condemn the violence. We cannot afford our cities and the bonds between us to be burned, broken, and scarred any further. We have to root out the racism, hate, and the vengeance.

“As our late friend John Lewis said with his final words, we must lay ‘down the heavy burdens of hate at last.’ We need to treat one another with the respect and dignity that each one of us deserves.

“And we must channel the spirit of this day 57 years ago as we’ve seen so many people of every age, race, and station do across the country over the last few months, and again this morning on the National Mall.

“With wisdom, courage, and faith, we must not turn away.

“We must choose the light and overcome.”

FACT SHEET:
Trump Has Failed Black Americans

Trump has failed to deliver results for Black communities since Day One of his Administration. His failure to control COVID-19 has hurt Black Americans even more, leaving the community bearing the disproportionate brunt of COVID infections, deaths, and job loss.  And, Trump’s failure to get the virus under control has worsened the economic crisis. It didn’t have to be this bad, and Black families are paying the price with their lives and livelihoods. Trump has:
 
Failed to address the racial disparities in the coronavirus pandemic and overseen a corrupt recovery that passed over Black small business owners. Trump didn’t have a plan to address COVID-19 and still doesn’t today. It didn’t have to be this bad — particularly for Black Americans and other people of color, who are disproportionately getting sick. Black unemployment hit 14.6%, and the unemployment gap between Black and White Americans widened further last month. And, Trump botched the delivery of assistance to small businesses, cutting out Black-and other minority-owned businesses in particular.
 
Sabotage Black Americans’ health care. Obamacare has saved the lives of countless Black Americans, increasing the number of insured by millions and prohibiting insurers from denying coverage due to pre-existing conditions like asthma, cancer, and diabetes. Now, Trump is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down that landmark law, leaving millions without coverage in the middle of a deadly pandemic.
 
Put the wealthy and well-connected ahead of Black workers and communities. Trump has watered down key wage and workplace protections. He promised to veto a $15 minimum wage, and proposed a tip-pooling rule that would’ve let employers pay many non-tipped workers even less than today. He let federal contractors break laws requiring them to give workers of color a fair shot, and tried to let companies hide the truth when they don’t pay Black workers equal wages. And, Trump has done just as badly by Black entrepreneurs: he tried to slash funding for and even eliminate the federal agency that’s wholly dedicated to developing minority-owned businesses. Wealthy investors and Trump associates have reaped the benefits of Trump’s Opportunity Zones, while communities of color they’re supposed to help have been left behind.

Undercut the path to homeownership and affordable housing for Black Americans. Trump is trying to make it harder to fight housing discrimination and easier for lenders to exclude communities of color. He rolled back the Obama-era Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which fought racial bias in housing. He repeatedly called for cuts to affordable housing programs, slamming Black families, which have lower homeownership rates and are more likely to be low-income renters. And, Trump called for drastic cuts to subsidized housing and voucher programs, and for changes that would raise rents for low-income families.
 
Reversed work for racial equity in education. Trump and Betsy DeVos revoked rules designed to protect students of color from racial bias in school discipline. They did away with measures meant to help schools to diversify or implement inclusive affirmative action plans. And, Trump abandoned his promise to help students manage crippling college loans, leaving Black Americans three times more likely to default on that debt.

Highlights: How Joe Will Empower Black Americans 

For too long, Black Americans have lived with a knee on their neck. Joe Biden knows they’ll  never have a fair shot at the American Dream, so long as entrenched disparities are allowed to quietly chip away at opportunity. With Senator Kamala Harris, he will rebuild our economy in a way that finally brings everyone along—and that starts by rooting out systemic racism from our laws, policies, institutions, and hearts. Highlights of Joe’s plans include:
 
Create wealth in the Black community. The typical white family holds approximately ten times more wealth than the typical Black family. Joe’s plan to Build Back Better will close the racial wealth gap, opportunity gap, and jobs gap. He will create millions of good-paying jobs, increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour, end paycheck discrimination, provide affordable child care for families, and leverage more than $150 billion in new capital and opportunities in economically disadvantaged areas, especially for Black owned small businesses and other small businesses that have been structurally excluded for generations. Because homeownership is key to building wealth, he’ll create a $15,000 down-payment tax credit for first-time home buyers. And Joe will set a goal that disadvantaged communities – including many Black communities – receive 40% of the overall benefits of his spending on infrastructure and clean energy.
 
Tackle health inequities. Black Americans are dying from COVID-19 at a higher rate than whites, shedding light on the long-standing, pervasive disparities across our health care system.  Joe will protect and build on Obamacare to ensure access to high-quality, affordable care beyond the crisis, including by providing Black Americans with a new health insurance option – a public option. He’ll also ensure Black communities have clean air to breathe and water to drink, and healthy foods to eat.
 
Address racial inequity in our education system. Joe will eliminate the funding gap between white and non-white districts, improve teacher diversity, and provide high-quality, universal preschool for all three and four-year-olds. He will invest over $70 billion in Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Minority Serving Institutions to lower students’ costs, establish research centers, build high-tech labs, and more. Joe will also ensure Black Americans can attend community college without debt and make public colleges and universities tuition-free for families earning under $125,000 (including 90% of Black families). And he’ll relieve student debt, especially key for Black students who hold more debt and are three times more likely to default on loans than white borrowers. He’ll forgive undergraduate tuition-related federal student debt from public colleges and private HBCUs and MSIs for Americans earning up to $125,000.
 
Root out systemic racism in our police departments and justice system. Joe will outlaw choke holds, create a model use of force standard and a national police oversight commission, and push police departments to review their hiring, training, and de-escalation practices. He’ll expand and use the authority of the Justice Department, created by legislation he authored, to address systemic misconduct in police departments and prosecutors’ offices. He’ll also invest in public defenders’ offices, eliminate the death penalty and mandatory minimums, and end cash bail and private prisons. He’ll decriminalize the use of cannabis and automatically expunge all cannabis use convictions, and end incarceration for drug use alone.

Biden Presents Plan to ‘Build Back Better’ by Advancing Racial Equity Across the American Economy

Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic candidate for president, has offered a long list of specific plans to solve the nation’s most pressing problems, and now crises (c) Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com.

Against an incumbent who only knows how to destroy, tear down, break up, cast blame, Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic candidate for president, has offered a long list of specific plans to solve the nation’s most pressing problems, and now crises. Here he outlines his plan to Build Back Better with a specific agenda for advancing racial equity in the American economy. This is from the Biden campaign:

The Biden Plan to Build Back Better by Advancing Racial Equity Across the American Economy

Joe Biden’s jobs and economic recovery agenda is built on the proposition that we must build our economy back better than it was before the COVID-19 crisis.
 
Over the last month, Biden has been laying out his vision for a stronger, resilient, and inclusive economy. He believes in an economy where every American enjoys a fair return for their work and an equal chance to get ahead. An economy more vibrant and more powerful precisely because everybody will be included in the deal. An economy where Black, Latino, Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI), and Native American workers and families are finally welcomed as full participants.
 
Today, multiple, overlapping crises reinforce how far we have to go to deliver on that vision. The pandemic has shone a bright light on racial disparities in health and health care — as Black and Brown Americans have suffered and died from the coronavirus at rates far higher than white Americans. The economic crisis has hit Black and Brown communities especially hard, with Black unemployment at 15.4 percent, Latino unemployment at 14.5 percent, and businesses owned by Black, Latino, and Asian American people closing down at alarming rates. We are also seeing a national reckoning on racial justice and the tragic human costs of systemic racism in the murder of George Floyd and so many other Black men, women, and children. And through it all, the climate crisis mounts, with air and water pollution, superstorms and extreme weather, disproportionately impacting Black and Brown communities.
 
Biden believes we cannot build back better without a major mobilization of effort and resources to address these challenges and to advance racial equity across the American economy. That is why racial equity is a distinct pillar of his Build Back Better plan, as well as incorporated in each of the other pillars. Biden will remove barriers to participation in our economy, expand access to opportunity, and fully enforce the policies and laws that we already have on the books — and the pledges Biden has made in this campaign.
 
In laying out his Build Back Better agenda, Biden has announced bold investments — in infrastructure, innovation, manufacturing, education, housing, clean energy, federal procurement, and small businesses. Today, as the fourth pillar of the Build Back Better Agenda, he is announcing how he will direct many of these investments to advance racial equity as part of our nation’s economic recovery.
 
Specifically, Biden will:

  • Spur Public-Private Investment through a New Small Business Opportunity Plan
  • Reform Opportunity Zones to Fulfill Their Promise
  • Make a Historic Commitment to Equalizing Federal Procurement
  • Ensure His Housing Plan Makes Bold Investments in Homeownership and Access to Affordable Housing for Black, Brown, and Native Families
  • Achieve Equity in Management, Training, and Higher Education Opportunities Connected to the Jobs of the Future
  • Boost Retirement Security and Financial Wealth for Black, Brown, and Native Families
  • Ensure Workers of Color Are Compensated Fairly and Treated With Dignity
  • Ensure Equity in Biden’s Bold Infrastructure and Clean Energy Investments
  • Support Second Chances for Economic Success
  • Strengthen the Federal Reserve’s Focus on Racial Economic Gaps
  • Promote Diversity and Accountability in Leadership Across Key Positions in All Federal Agencies
  • Build a 21st Century Care Infrastructure
  • Address Longstanding Inequities in Agriculture 

SPUR PUBLIC-PRIVATE INVESTMENT THROUGH A NEW SMALL BUSINESS OPPORTUNITY PLAN
 
Small business ownership is one of our country’s cornerstones for wealth building and job creation. However, persistent racial disparities in wealth and access to capital, combined with outright discrimination in the financial sector, have contributed to inequities in small business ownership, growth, and success. To address the racial wealth gap, the opportunity gap, and the jobs gap for Black and Brown people, Biden will launch a historic effort to empower small business creation and expansion in economically disadvantaged areas – and particularly for Black-, Latino-, AAPI-, and Native American-owned businesses. In addition to providing small businesses with an ambitious “restart package” to survive the current crisis and come out the other side strong, he is launching a special, ongoing initiative to empower these entrepreneurs to succeed and grow with a three-prong Small Business Opportunity Plan. His plan is consistent with key elements in the Jobs and Neighborhood Investment Act recently proposed by Democratic Senators Chuck Schumer, Mark Warner, Cory Booker, and Kamala Harris. Biden will:

  • Spur more than $50 billion in additional public-private venture capital to Black and Brown entrepreneurs by funding successful state and local investment initiatives and making permanent the highly effective New Markets Tax Credit.
  • Expand access to $100 billion in low-interest business loans by funding state, local, tribal and non-profit lending programs in Black and Brown communities and strengthening Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs), Minority Depository Institutions (MDIs), and the Community Reinvestment Act.
  • Eliminate barriers to technical assistance and advisory services by investing in a national network of cost-free business incubators and innovation hubs and intensive business seminars.

Collectively, Biden will leverage more than $150 billion in new capital and opportunities for small businesses that have been structurally excluded for generations. Biden will devote $30 billion (or 10%) of the $300 billion in innovation funding as part of his plan to ensure the future is “Made in All of America” to the Small Business Opportunity Fund to leverage private investment of $5 for each $1 of new public investment to reach this $150 billion. And, by empowering the financial institutions that support businesses owned by Black and Brown people, generating new capital, and providing robust technical assistance, Biden will unleash the full potential of small businesses and entrepreneurs.
 
Spur More than $50 Billion in New Equity Investment and Venture Capital for Entrepreneurs in Economically Disadvantaged Areas: Black and Brown entrepreneurs face unique barriers to obtaining the capital that they need to start and grow a business. For example, three-fourths of venture capital goes to just four cities – and far too little flows to businesses owned by Black and Brown people. To address this problem, Biden will:  

  • Dramatically increase the availability of venture capital investments for small businesses, especially those owned by Black and Brown people. The Obama-Biden Administration’s State Small Business Credit Initiative (SSBCI) succeeded in expanding venture capital in states and areas too often left behind. More than 80% of venture capital supported by the SSBCI went to states that typically receive just 20% of private venture capital. Biden will expand those efforts by allocating $10 billion from the new Small Business Opportunity Fund to state and local venture capital programs that, based on past SSBCI investments, can spur $50 billion in new equity investment for small businesses. This new investment will be targeted to entrepreneurs who create jobs and growth in lower-income urban, tribal, and rural areas, with an emphasis on reaching businesses owned by Black and Brown people. This robust funding will help meet the goal Biden laid out in his “Made in All of America” initiative of venture capital and innovation investments benefiting all Americans across all of America.
  • Encourage private equity investment in businesses owned by Black and Brown people by expanding the New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) to $5 billion yearly and making it permanent.  The NMTC provides a credit of up to 40% for equity investment in small businesses that are pre-approved as benefiting low- and moderate-income areas. It is highly efficient: Every $1 of public funding leverages $8 of private investment. Through 2019, the NMTC supported $100 billion of investments in businesses and economic development projects to help revitalize disadvantaged communities. Expanding the NMTC will provide more investors the incentive to fund businesses owned by Black and Brown people. By increasing NMTC funding and making it permanent  – together with the bold new venture funding in the Small Business Opportunity Fund – Biden will help ensure that more than $50 billion in additional venture and equity capital flows to small businesses and communities that have been held back due to systemic racism. And he will work to ensure that tribal projects benefit from the credit. 

Leverage $100 Billion in Additional Financing for Small Businesses: In 2019, only 10% of funding from the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) major lending programs went to Black, Latino, and Native American entrepreneurs. Meanwhile, the Paycheck Protection Program has been rife with inequities: A recent “secret shopper” study by the National Community Reinvestment Coalition found that when Black small businesses applicants contacted a bank, nearly half the time, they were given inferior treatment to white applicants with nearly identical credit histories and business profiles. To address this problem, Biden will:

  • Expand lending through the expanded Small Business Opportunity Fund. Every $1 for state lending programs under the Obama-Biden SSBCI was proven to leverage anywhere from $5 to $23 of increased lending for small businesses through lending programs like capital access programs, revolving loan funds, and collateral assistance. Approximately 80% went to small businesses with 10 or fewer full-time employees. Biden will dramatically expand and broaden successful state, local, tribal, and non-profit programs that provide low-cost lending to minority small businesses and others serving underserved areas. In addition to supporting state initiatives for disadvantaged small businesses, Biden will also include an innovation fund that will allow coalitions of cities, CDFIs, or non-profits to seek funding to create or expand small business lending programs that disproportionately benefit small businesses owned by Black, Latino, AAPI, and Native American people and those serving low income communities.
  • Capitalize Community Development Financial Institutions. CDFIs are on the frontlines of the battle to close the racial wealth gap. Biden will seek to expand the role of CDFIs in underserved communities around the country by doubling their direct funding, making them a top vehicle for funding from the Small Business Opportunity Fund, and expanding their capacity to offer both micro-loans to small start-ups and larger loans to existing small businesses who have the capacity to grow. Biden will use the Small Business Opportunity Fund to strengthen CDFI stability and lend through targeted policies, such as those proposed in the Jobs and Neighborhood Investment Act. He will also ensure these investments direct increased resources to the Native American CDFI Assistance Program (NACA Program), which has proven a successful way to increase capital access across Indian Country.
  • Ensure all small business relief efforts are specifically designed to aid businesses owned by Black and Brown people. Trump’s team designed the PPP to allow the largest banks to give their most well-off clients “concierge” service at the front of the line while closing the door on Black-, Latino-, AAPI-, and Native American-owned businesses that did not have deep relationships with big banks. Biden will ensure from the start that any emergency small business relief plan that will still be needed in January 2021 will have clear provisions to ensure that true small businesses — especially those owned by Black and Brown people and those serving underserved rural, tribal, and urban areas — get the relief they need. He will reserve half of new small business relief — whether the PPP or future efforts — for small businesses with 50 employees or fewer, including microbusinesses and sole proprietorships, so the bigger and more well-connected aren’t able to win in a first-come, first-served race. Biden’s technical assistance programs — described below — will also involve “navigator” assistance for small — often minority-owned — businesses to ensure fair access to these programs.
  • Strengthen and expand the Community Reinvestment Act to ensure that our nation’s bank and non-bank financial services institutions are serving all communities. The Community Reinvestment Act currently regulates banks, but does little to ensure that “fintechs” and non-bank lenders are providing responsible access to all members of the community. On top of that gap, the Trump Administration is proposing to weaken the law by allowing lenders to receive a passing rating even if the lenders are excluding many neighborhoods and borrowers. Biden will expand the Community Reinvestment Act to apply to mortgage and insurance companies, add a requirement for financial services institutions to provide a statement outlining their commitment to the public interest, and, importantly, reverse new rules that allow these institutions to avoid lending and investing in all of the communities they serve.

Expanding Access to Additional Resources and Technical Assistance for Black and Brown Entrepreneurs: There are no limits or barriers to the talent and entrepreneurial spirit across our nation. Yet, for many, there are major limits to accessing the networks and professional services needed to succeed. For small businesses in underserved communities, this type of assistance is often unavailable or unaffordable, creating an additional barrier to opportunity. As President, Biden will launch an Expanding Entrepreneurship Initiative that provides all Americans, regardless of their background, with the resources and technical assistance they need to start and grow their own business. This initiative will:

  • Create a national network of federally funded small business incubators and innovation hubs. Many new businesses stand to benefit from the proliferation of for- and non-profit business incubators and innovation hubs. However, these organizations do not exist in every community and are rarely free. As President, Biden will increase federal funding for non-profit incubators and innovation hubs around the country, especially those serving Black, Latino, AAPI, and Native American entrepreneurs to ensure that all Americans, regardless of race or wealth, have a fair shot at starting and growing their own business. Biden will co-locate new hubs on the grounds of Small Business Development Centers, public libraries, community colleges, Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs), and Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs). These non-profit organizations will offer shared office and manufacturing space; business coaching; opportunities to partner with national laboratories and commercialize federally funded research; and legal, human resources, accounting, regulatory compliance, and information technology services to aspiring entrepreneurs free of charge for a period of up to two years. While some incubators and innovation hubs may specialize in specific industries depending on the regional economy, they will welcome and support all start-ups.
  • Establish an intensive, semester-long business development program at every public community college in the United States, as well as two-year HBCUs, TCUs, and MSIs. Many Americans with a business idea don’t know where to get started. While business classes exist, many of them are prohibitively expensive, especially for an aspiring entrepreneur who is already worried about how they are going to come up with enough money to open their first business. As President, Biden will create a new federal grant program to establish free business development programs at the more than 1,000 public community colleges around the country. Business experts and, where possible, experienced entrepreneurs will lead course instruction and provide hands-on assistance to program participants. Classes will take place during the evenings and on weekends to provide greater flexibility to students and instructors. Upon completion of the free program, participants will be eligible for ongoing technical assistance for up to two years.
  • Increase the funding and stature of the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA). Latino and Black Americans are roughly 30% of the U.S. population; yet they currently own just 7.5% of small businesses with employees. For almost four years, the only federal agency charged with addressing racial disparities in small business ownership has been on the Trump administration’s chopping block. MBDA provides business consulting services and connects minority-owned businesses with capital and contracting opportunities. These services are critical. Instead of trying to reduce or eliminate funding for MBDA, Biden will protect the agency and call on Congress to increase its funding dramatically. Biden will elevate the Director of the MBDA to the Assistant Secretary level and instruct the MBDA to coordinate all federal offices charged with reducing barriers to procurement for underrepresented groups. With additional resources and authority, MBDA will also be able to create new business development grants and other programs that will address the economic challenges facing Black and Brown communities, expand small business ownership, and shrink the racial wealth gap. In addition, Biden will provide MBDA with $5 billion in annual lending and investment authority to ensure capital flows directly to minority-owned businesses and investments in critical infrastructure in Black, Latino, AAPI, and Native American communities.
  • Unleash the full potential of businesses owned by Black and Brown people and other disadvantaged businesses to participate in the global marketplace. Biden believes American small businesses can compete and win in global markets – and small businesses owned by Black and Brown people have unique strengths to help win in these markets.  Biden will help Black and Brown Americans grow their exports by: 1) requiring U.S. corporations with over $1 billion in revenues that receive federal financing or incentives for their global business to publicize data on their use of firms owned by Black and Brown Americans in their supply chains; 2) requiring the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation and other U.S.-based international development organizations to increase global contracting opportunities for firms owned by Black and Brown Americans; 3) requiring U.S. construction companies and others that build projects abroad for the United States government to develop strategies to increase partnerships with American small businesses owned by Black and Brown people; and 4) requiring the Export-Import Bank to increase its small business financing and develop targets for the percent of authorized value of its transactions going to businesses owned by Black and Brown Americans.
  • Employ the resources of the federal government to protect Native artisans. Arts and crafts are a big economic driver for Indian Country, but too many businesses devalue the livelihood of Native American artists by selling fake Native American art. Biden will call on the U.S. Department of Justice to bring more prosecutions under the Indian Arts and Crafts Act, a federal truth-in-advertising law that prohibits the marketing and sale of products that are inaccurately marketed as an Indian product or Native-produced.

REFORM OPPORTUNITY ZONES TO ENSURE THEY SERVE BLACK AND BROWN COMMUNITIES, SMALL BUSINESSES, AND HOMEOWNERS
 
Like many Americans, Biden initially hoped that Opportunity Zones would be structured and administered by the Trump Administration in a way that advanced racial equity, small business creation, and homeownership in low-income urban, rural, and tribal communities. It is now clear that the Trump Administration has failed to deliver on that promise in too many places around America. As the Urban Institute has found, the program as a whole is “not living up to its economic and community development goals.” While there have been positive examples, in too many instances investors favor high-return projects like luxury apartments over affordable housing and local entrepreneurs.
 
We cannot close the racial wealth gap if we allow billionaires to exploit Opportunity Zones tax breaks to pad their wealth, rather than investing in projects that benefit distressed low-income communities and Americans that are struggling to make ends meet. As President, Joe Biden will task his team to develop a plan for reforming Opportunity Zones, including steps like:

  • Incentivizing Opportunity Funds to partner with non-profit or community-oriented organizations, and jointly produce a community-benefit plan for each investment, with a focus on creating jobs for low-income residents and otherwise providing a direct financial impact to households within the Opportunity Zones.
  • Directing that Opportunity Zone benefits be reviewed by the Department of Treasury to ensure these tax benefits are only being allowed where there are clear economic, social, and environmental benefits to a community, and not just high returns — like those from luxury apartments or luxury hotels — to investors.
  • Introducing transparency by requiring recipients of the Opportunity Zone tax break to provide detailed reporting and public disclosure on their Opportunity Zone investments and the impact on local residents, including poverty status, housing affordability, and job creation.

MAKE A HISTORIC COMMITMENT TO EQUALIZING FEDERAL PROCUREMENT AS PART OF HIS BOLD PROCUREMENT PLAN
 
Biden’s Build Back Better plan includes a historic procurement effort designed to support small businesses and tackle long standing inequities in the federal contracting system. During his first term, Biden will tighten Buy American requirements for existing procurement and invest $400 billion in additional federal purchases of products made by American workers. And, he will make transparent, targeted investments that unleash new demand for domestic goods and services and create American jobs in communities across the country. As part of this effort, his multi-pronged small business contracting strategy will include formula-based awards; widespread outreach and counseling to small business owners, especially Black and Brown business owners; and transparent, frequent monitoring of contract awards. This will make certain that the largest mobilization of public investments in procurement, infrastructure, and R&D since WWII is equitably distributed across communities and businesses. Biden will also take concrete steps to streamline the federal procurement process as a whole and ensure it finally mirrors the demographics of this country. Specifically, Biden will:

  • Require prime contractors to develop and execute plans to increase subcontracting opportunities for small disadvantaged businesses (SDBs). As President, Biden will fully enforce existing laws that require prime contractors who bid for federal procurement opportunities to develop ambitious plans for subcontracting with small disadvantaged businesses. Biden will ensure prime contractors honor their commitments to SDBs by requiring detailed status updates and increasing SBA’s capacity to provide robust oversight and hold all bad actors accountable. Prime contractors will also have to regularly publish their business diversity data. The MBDA will publish an annual report that outlines the current state of minority business contracting (including racially disaggregated data on contract awards), updates the public on the administration’s progress towards meeting contracting goals, and identifies areas for improvement.
  • Expand long-term technical assistance and federal contracting preferences for small disadvantaged businesses. The SBA 8(a) program is currently one of the most effective tools for connecting small disadvantaged businesses to federal contracting opportunities. In Fiscal Year 2019 alone, 8(a) firms won $30 billion in federal contracts. As President, Biden will triple the federal goal for contracting with all small disadvantaged businesses from 5 percent to a minimum of 15 percent of all federal procurement dollars by 2025. He will increase the program’s administrative capacity, bolster marketing of the program in Black and Brown communities and tribal lands, streamline the application process, and create a national standard for service delivery. Biden will also extend the maximum length of time that a firm may participate in the 8(a) program and create a more supportive off-ramp to help graduates transition out. Biden will require public disclosure of program participant demographics to ensure participation is equitable.
  • Incentivize state and local governments and private sector partners to contract with small disadvantaged businesses. As Biden works to improve the federal procurement system, he will ask state and local governments and private sector partners to publicly share their small disadvantaged business contracting goals and strategies. Biden will work with them to develop new goals for SDB contracting and timebound strategies for achieving these goals. The administration will facilitate partnerships between these entities and require every institution that applies for federal grants, contracts, and other opportunities to demonstrate in writing how they are taking affirmative steps to extend contracting opportunities to underrepresented groups. And, he will publish a nationwide scorecard of each state’s efforts to contract with small disadvantaged businesses.
  • Protect small disadvantaged businesses from federal and state contract bundling which often prevents smaller firms owned by Black and Brown people from effectively bidding on procurement contracts. Biden will build on the anti-bundling provisions of the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010, by having the Office of Management and Budget, SBA, and MBDA conduct a government-wide review of existing contract bundling to determine whether agencies are following existing rules and whether agencies have the ability to further ensure small business participation in federal and state procurement opportunities.
  • Strengthen implementation of the Buy Indian Act within the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Indian Health Service to increase procurement opportunities for Native owned businesses.

Throughout, Biden will ensure federal dollars support American workers and their families. As called for in his plan to strengthen worker organizing, collective bargaining, and unions, Biden will require that all companies receiving procurement contracts are using taxpayer dollars to support good American jobs, including a commitment to pay at least $15 per hour, provide paid leave, maintain fair overtime and scheduling practices, and guarantee a choice to join a union and bargain collectively.

ENSURE HIS HOUSING PLAN MAKES BOLD INVESTMENTS IN HOMEOWNERSHIP AND ACCESS TO AFFORDABLE HOUSING FOR BLACK, LATINO, NATIVE, AND AAPI FAMILIES
 
Biden believes the middle class isn’t a number, but a value set that includes the ability to own your own home and live in a safe community. Housing should be a right, not a privilege.
 
Today, however, far too many Americans lack access to affordable and quality housing. Racial inequality permeates U.S. housing markets, with homeownership rates for Black, Latino, AAPI, and Native American households far below those of their white counterparts. Because home ownership is how many families save and build wealth, these racial disparities in home ownership contribute to the racial wealth gap. It is far past time to put an end to systemic housing discrimination and other contributors to this disparity.
 
At the same time, many families around the country face immediate risk of eviction in the midst of the Trump-created economic crisis. In June, more than one-third of renters—including 49% of Hispanic families and 43% of Black families— were not sure that they could pay their next month’s rent. To prevent a catastrophic rise in evictions and homelessness, Congress and President Trump must act now by creating a broad emergency housing support program modeled on the steps the government takes to address natural disasters, in order to get help out quickly and at scale. 
 
To help families build wealth, secure a safe place to live in a vibrant and prosperous community, and ensure equal access to all aspects of the housing market, Biden will:

  • Help families buy their first homes and build wealth by creating a new refundable, advanceable tax credit of up to $15,000. Biden’s new First Down Payment Tax Credit will help low- and middle-income families offset the costs of home buying and help millions of families lay down roots for the first time. Building off of a temporary tax credit expanded as part of the Recovery Act, this tax credit will be permanent and advanceable, meaning that homebuyers receive the tax credit when they make the purchase instead of waiting to receive the assistance when they file taxes the following year.
  • Scale up support for investing in homeownership in revitalization areas. Several programs are designed to provide much needed support for families to invest in homeownership in distressed or marginalized neighborhoods including: HUD’s Good Neighbor Next Door program, which offers financial support for teachers, firefighters, and other critical workers to buy homes in distressed communities, and HUD’s Home Investment Partnership Program, which offers block grants for states to address the affordable housing challenges faced by low- and moderate-income families. And the proposed Neighborhood Homes Investment Act will provide tax credits for families to renovate distressed properties in distressed communities. A Biden Administration will scale these programs to help revitalize distressed neighborhoods across the nation and put more families into position to build wealth through homeownership.  
  • Spur the construction of 1.5 million homes and public housing units to address the affordable housing crisis, increase energy efficiency, and reduce the racial wealth gap. Biden will make a bold federal investment in new affordable, accessible housing construction. He will ensure these homes are energy efficient from the start – saving the families who live there up to $500 per year. Biden will also drive additional capital into low-income communities and on tribal lands to spur the development of affordable housing and small business creation. He’ll incentivize smart regional planning that connects housing, transit, and jobs, improving quality of life by cutting commute times, reducing the distance between living and leisure areas, and mitigating climate change. For all of these new housing investments, those receiving assistance will be required to abide by high labor standards and source materials in the U.S. so that jobs created with these investments support family sustaining wages and benefits.
  • Call for more accurate, non-discriminatory, inclusive credit scoring and create a public credit reporting agency. Being able to obtain an accurate credit report and score  is a critical step for homeownership. But today credit scoring and reports, which are issued by just three large private companies, are rife with problems: they often contain errors, they leave many “credit invisible” due to the sources used to generate a credit score, and they contribute to racial disparities. Biden will create a new public credit reporting and scoring division within the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to provide consumers with a government option that seeks to minimize racial disparities, for example by ensuring the algorithms used for credit scoring don’t have a discriminatory impact, and by accepting non-traditional sources of data like rental history and utility bills to establish credit. As a first step to more broad-based support for these scores, Biden will call on federal housing programs to accept these scores in their financial assessments and underwriting requirements
  • Protect homeowners and renters from abusive lenders and landlords through a new Homeowner and Renter Bill of Rights. Modeled on the California Homeowner Bill of Rights, Biden will enact legislation to end many shortcomings in the mortgage and rental markets.
  • Bolster programs that improve housing affordability for renters. Biden will provide Section 8 housing vouchers to every eligible family so that no one has to pay more than 30% of their income for rental housing and work with Congress to enact a new renter’s tax credit, designed to reduce rent and utilities to 30% of income for low-income individuals and families who may make too much money to qualify for a Section 8 voucher but still struggle to pay their rent.
  • Protect tenants from eviction. In addition to supporting immediate relief for tenants facing eviction during this crisis, Biden will work to enact Majority Whip James E. Clyburn and Senator Michael Bennet’s Legal Assistance to Prevent Evictions Act of 2020, which will help tenants facing eviction access legal assistance. He also will encourage localities to create eviction diversion programs, including mediation, payment plans, and financial literacy education programs.
  • Eliminate local and state housing regulations that perpetuate discrimination. Exclusionary zoning has for decades been strategically used to keep Black and Brown people and low-income families out of certain communities. Among other steps, Biden will enact legislation requiring any state receiving federal dollars through the Community Development Block Grants or Surface Transportation Block Grants to develop a strategy for inclusionary zoning, as proposed in the HOME Act of 2019 by Majority Whip Jim Clyburn and Senator Cory Booker.
  • Hold financial institutions accountable for discriminatory practices in the housing market. The Obama-Biden Administration held major national financial institutions accountable for discriminatory lending practices, securing hundreds of millions of dollars in settlements to help borrowers who had been harmed by their practices. And in 2013, the Obama-Biden Administration codified a long-standing, court-supported view that lending practices that have a discriminatory impact can be challenged even if discrimination was not explicit. But now the Trump Administration is seeking to gut this disparate impact standard by significantly increasing the burden of proof for those claiming discrimination. In the Biden Administration, this change will be reversed to ensure financial institutions are held accountable for serving all customers and not practicing policies that have the effect of deepening the impacts of systemic housing discrimination.
  • Roll back Trump Administration policies gutting fair lending and fair housing protections for homeowners. Biden will implement the Obama-Biden Administration’s Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Rule requiring communities receiving certain federal funding to proactively examine housing patterns and identify and address policies that have a discriminatory effect. The Trump Administration suspended this rule in 2018. Biden will ensure effective and rigorous enforcement of the Fair Housing Act and the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act. And, he will reinstate the federal risk-sharing program which has helped secure financing for thousands of affordable rental housing units in partnership with housing finance agencies.   

See Joe Biden’s full housing plan at https://joebiden.com/housing/
 
ACHIEVE EQUITY IN MANAGEMENT, TRAINING, AND HIGHER EDUCATION OPPORTUNITIES CONNECTED TO JOBS OF THE FUTURE
 
Stark racial disparities exist at every stage of our education system. These disparities compound and contribute to inequity in economic, health, housing, and criminal justice outcomes. As President, Biden will make significant investments into educational institutions and programs that are designed to elevate Black and Brown students.  He will:

  • Provide relief from student debt. Student debt burdens are unequal across races, disproportionately depriving young Black and Latino graduates from beginning their working lives free of crushing student loan debt. The typical bachelor’s degree graduate has about $16,000 in debt compared to $23,400 for Black students. According to a recent Brookings Institution study, Black graduates with a four year degree are five times more likely to default on their student loans than white graduates and a 2019 study found that Latino students are more likely than white students to default on their loans. The inequitable burden of student loan debt contributes to the stark racial wealth gap that exists in society. Biden has introduced a sweeping plan to provide relief from student loan debt. He will:
    • Include in the COVID-19 response an immediate cancellation of a minimum of $10,000 of federal student loan debt.
    • Double the maximum value of Pell grants and significantly increase the number of middle-class Americans who can participate in the program.
    • More than halve payments on undergraduate federal student loans by simplifying and increasing the generosity of today’s income-based repayment program.
    • Fix the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program and forgiving $10,000 of undergraduate or graduate student debt for every year of national or community service, up to five years.
    • Crack down on private lenders profiteering off students by empowering the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to take action against private lenders who are misleading students about their options and do not provide an affordable payment plan when individuals are experiencing acute periods of financial hardship.
    • Forgive all undergraduate tuition-related federal student debt from two- and four-year public colleges and universities and private HBCUs and MSIs for debt-holders earning up to $125,000.
  • Make public colleges and universities, as well as private HBCUs and MSIs,  tuition-free for all families with incomes below $125,000. Biden will make public colleges and universities and private HBCUs and MSIs tuition-free for all students whose family incomes are below $125,000. This proposal will help roughly 91 percent of Black households and 88 percent of Latino households, and 91 percent of Native American households.
  • Support colleges and universities that play unique and vital roles in their communities. In his higher education plan, Biden laid out a wide-ranging plan to improve resources available to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Tribal Colleges And Universities (TCUs), Hispanic-serving Institutions (HSIs), Asian American And Native American Pacific Islander-serving Institutions (AANAPISIs), Alaska Native-serving Institutions and Native Hawaiian-serving Institutions (ANNHs), Predominantly Black Institutions (PBIs), and Native American-serving Nontribal Institutions (NASNTIs) that serve a disproportionate number of Black and Brown students, yet are severely under-resourced, especially when compared to other colleges and universities. Biden will:
  • Make HBCUs, TCUs, and MSIs more affordable for their students. Biden will provide tuition-free access to four-year public HBCUs and MSIs for students from families earning below $125,000. And, he will invest in grants to under-resourced, private-nonprofit HBCUs and MSIs so they can lower the cost of attendance for low- and middle-income students, including DREAMers. Schools receiving funds must invest in lowering costs, improving retention and graduation rates, and closing equity gaps year-over-year for Black and Brown students.
  • Invest in the diverse talent at HBCUs, TCUs and MSIs to solve the country’s most pressing problems. The Biden Administration will invest $10 billion to create at least 200 new centers of excellence that serve as research incubators and connect students underrepresented in fields critical to our nation’s future – including fields tackling climate change, globalization, inequality, health disparities, and cancer – to learning and career opportunities. These funds will provide additional work study opportunities and incentivize state, private, and philanthropic dollars for these centers. Biden will also boost funding for agricultural research at land-grant universities, many of which are HBCUs and TCUs, as outlined in his Plan for Rural America. As President, Biden will also dedicate additional and increased priority funding streams at federal agencies for grants and contracts for HBCUs and MSIs. And, he will require any federal research grants to universities with an endowment of over $1 billion to form a meaningful partnership and enter into a 10% minimum subcontract with an HBCU, TCU, or MSI.
  • Build the high tech labs and facilities and digital infrastructure needed for learning, research, and innovation at HBCUs, TCUs, and MSIs. Biden will invest $20 billion in infrastructure for HBCUs, TCUs, and MSIs to build the physical research facilities and labs urgently needed to deliver on the country’s research and development, to update and modernize deteriorating facilities, including by strengthening the Historic Preservation program, and to create new space for increasing enrollments, especially at HSIs. While schools will be able to use these funds to upgrade the digital infrastructure, Biden will also support TCUs and other institutions in rural areas by investing $20 billion in rural broadband infrastructure and tripling funding to expand broadband access in rural areas. Additionally, as President, Biden will ensure all HBCUs, TCUs, and MSIs have access to low-cost federal capital financing programs and will work with states to ensure they can take advantage of these programs. And, he will work to incentivize further public, private, and philanthropic investments in school infrastructure.
  • Provide support to continuously improve the value of HBCUs, TCUs, and MSIs by investing $10 billion in programs that increase enrollment, retention, completion, and employment rates. These programs may include partnerships with both high schools, other universities, and employers; evidence-based remedial courses; academic and career advising services; and investing in wages, benefits, and professional development and benefits to recruit and retain faculty, including teacher residencies. Additionally, Biden will incentivize states, private, and philanthropic dollars to invest in these programs, while ensuring schools that do not receive matches increase their competitiveness.
  • Expand career pathways for graduates of HBCUs, TCUs, and MSIs in areas that meet national priorities, including building a diverse pipeline of public school teachers. Biden will invest $5 billion in graduate programs in teaching, health care, and STEM and will develop robust internship and career pipelines at major research agencies, including Department of Energy National Laboratories, National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, and the Department of Defense.
  • Triple and make permanent the capacity-building and student support for HBCUs, TCUs, and MSIs in Title III and Title V of the Higher Education Act. These funds serve as a lifeline to under-resourced HBCUs, TCUs, and MSIs year over year, ensuring that the most vulnerable students have the support they need to succeed. The Biden Administration will increase Title III and Title V funding to provide a dedicated revenue stream of $7.5 billion over the first ten years.
  • Reduce disparities in funding for HBCUs, TCUs, and MSIs. Biden will require federal agencies and states to publish reports of their allocation of federal funding to colleges and universities. When inequities exist between HBCUs, TCUs, and MSIs and similar non-HBCU, TCU, MSI colleges, federal agencies and states will be required to publish robust rationale and show improvements in eliminating disparities year-over-year. To ensure funding is more equitably distributed among HBCUs, TCUs, and MSIs, the Biden Administration will require that competitive grant programs make similar universities compete against each other, for example, ensuring that HBCUs only compete against HBCUs. And, President Biden will require higher education accreditors to provide increased transparency in their processes.
  • Provide two years of community college or other high-quality training program without debt for any person looking to learn and improve their skills, especially to connect  these individuals with the millions of job opportunities created by the historic investments in Biden’s Build Back Better Plan. As President, Biden will enact legislation to ensure that every person can go to community college for up to two years without having to pay tuition. Individuals will also be able to use these funds to pursue training programs that have a track record of participants completing their programs and securing good jobs. This initiative will be available for recent high school graduates and adults who never had the chance to pursue additional education beyond high school or who need to learn new skills.
  • Tackle the barriers that prevent students from completing their community college degree or training credential. There are too many Americans who don’t complete their education or training programs not because of a lack of will, but because of other responsibilities they are juggling, such as a job to pay their bills or caring for children. The Biden Administration’s community college initiative will be a first-dollar program, meaning that students will be able to use their Pell grants, state aid, and other aid to help them cover expenses beyond tuition and fees. In addition, Biden will give states financial incentives to foster collaboration between community colleges and community-based organizations to provide wraparound support services for students. Wraparound support services can range from public benefits and additional financial aid to cover textbook and transportation costs that often keep students from staying enrolled, to child care and mental health services, faculty mentoring, tutoring, and peer support groups.
  • Make a $50 billion investment in workforce training, including community-college business partnerships and apprenticeships. These funds will create and support partnerships between community colleges, businesses, unions, state, local, and tribal governments, universities, and high schools to identify in-demand knowledge and skills in a community and develop or modernize training programs – which could be as short as a few months or as long as two years – that lead to a relevant, high-demand industry-recognized credential. These funds will also exponentially increase the number of apprenticeships in this country through strengthening the Registered Apprenticeship Program and partnering with unions who oversee some of the best apprenticeship programs throughout our nation, not watering down the quality of the apprenticeship system like President Trump is doing. Biden will also make investments in pre-apprenticeship programs so that people of color have additional pathways into high-paying, union jobs in everything from designing to building infrastructure to manufacturing to technology to health. And he will closely monitor programs that receive funding and track participants’ completion rates and employment outcomes to ensure that all Americans, regardless of background, share the benefits of this historic investment.
  • Help develop pathways for diverse workers to access training and career opportunities. A study of Labor Department-funded individual career services — which included assistance looking for a job, help developing career plans, and one-on-one career coaching — found that earnings for workers who were provided these services increased 7 to 20%. Biden will ensure these services are universally available to all workers and people entering the workforce who need them. And, he will increase funding for community-based and proven organizations that help women and people of color access high-quality training and job opportunities.
  • Require publicly traded companies to disclose data on the racial and gender composition of their corporate boards. Corporate boards suffer from a widespread dearth of diversity, with just 21 percent of S&P 500 board seats going to people of color and only 27 percent going to women. As President, Biden will require that public companies disclose in their annual reports the racial and gender composition of the boards to better aid shareholders and advocates in their call for a diverse and inclusive management structure. 

BOOST RETIREMENT SECURITY AND FINANCIAL WEALTH

Black and Brown families – and especially Black and Brown women — face disadvantages at every turn, from access to workplace retirement accounts to access to generational wealth. These disadvantages have resulted in large and persistent gaps in financial wealth. To help Black and Brown people have more opportunities to build up a nest egg, Biden will:

  • Equalize the tax benefits of defined contribution plans: The current tax benefits for retirement savings are based on the concept of deferral, whereby savers get to exclude their retirement contributions from tax, see their savings grow tax free, and then pay taxes when they withdraw money from their account. This system provides upper-income families with a much stronger tax break for saving and a limited benefit for middle-class and other workers with lower earnings. Biden will equalize benefits across the income scale, so that low- and middle-income workers will also get a tax break when they put money away for retirement. 
  • Give small businesses a tax break for starting a retirement plan and giving workers the chance to save at work. As proposed by the Obama-Biden Administration, the Biden plan will call for widespread adoption of workplace savings plans and offer tax credits to small businesses to offset much of the costs. Under Biden’s plan, almost all workers without a pension or 401(k)-type plan will have access to an “automatic 401(k),” which provides the opportunity to easily save for retirement at work – putting millions of middle-class families on the path to a secure retirement.
  • Open the door for Asset Managers owned by Black and Brown people. Reviews of the performance of asset management firms owned by Black and Brown people are consistently equal to or better than “blue chip” asset management firms, yet government-led investment pools consistently fail to utilize them. As President, Biden will ensure that federal government-led investment pools, including pension funds and endowments, allocate their assets in a manner that reflects the diversity of the country, including to asset management firms owned by Black and Brown people. And Biden will require sales of any government assets to include participation of firms owned by Black and Brown people. 

ENSURE WORKERS OF COLOR ARE COMPENSATED FAIRLY AND TREATED WITH DIGNITY
 
Workers of color still earn a fraction of white workers and are less likely to have essential benefits like health coverage and paid leave. In fact, the black-white wage gap persists across every level of education and is widening. And wage gaps are exacerbated for women of color with Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander women earning 68 centsBlack women earning 62 cents, Native women earning 57 cents, and Latinas earning 54 cents for every dollar a white man earns, adds up, on average, to roughly $1 million over a lifetime career, especially detrimental for the nearly 70% of Black mothers who are the sole or primary breadwinners for their family. Biden’s plan to build back better requires rooting out discrimination in the workplace so people can earn what they deserve, support their families, and build wealth.

  • Ensure workers of color are paid fairly.
    • End pay discrimination. Biden will continue to prioritize closing wage gaps and ending paycheck discrimination. He strongly supports Senator Patty Murray and Congresswoman DeLauro’s Paycheck Fairness Act, which codifies and expands critical Obama-Biden protections for workers’ paychecks. He will also take action to strengthen the ability of employees to challenge discriminatory pay practices and hold employers accountable.
    • Increase the federal minimum wage to $15 across the country and eliminate the minimum tipped wage, disproportionately benefitting people of color who make up the majority of workers earning under $15 an hour. He will also support small businesses like restaurants during this economic crisis, helping them get back on their feet so they can keep their doors open and pay their workers.
    • Stop employers from denying workers overtime pay they’ve earned. The Obama-Biden Administration fought to extend overtime pay to over 4 million workers and protect nearly 9 million from losing it. The Trump Administration reversed this progress, implementing a new rule that leaves millions of workers behind — including 3 million workers of color. Since Trump walked away from protecting these workers who are fighting for a place in the middle class, they have lost over $3.2 billion in foregone overtime wages. As President, Biden will ensure workers are paid fairly for the long hours they work and get the overtime pay they deserve. And, he will ensure that domestic workers and farm workers receive overtime protections.
  • Address discrimination and harassment in the workplace. Tens of millions of workers, most of whom are women of color, report being sexually harassed at work. This harassment often leads to devastating consequences, including mental health problems and fewer opportunities for career advancement. While harassment is illegal, there are too many barriers for people to seek justice. For example, 60 million workers – including over half of African American and Latino workers – have been forced to sign contracts waiving their rights to sue their employer and over one-third of the workforce is bound by nondisclosure agreements that stop workers from speaking out about harassment and discrimination. As President, Biden will make systemic changes to address sexual harassment and other discrimination so workplaces are safe and fair for all. He will advocate for and sign into law the Bringing an End to Harassment by Enhancing Accountability and Rejecting Discrimination in the Workplace (BE HEARD) Act.
  • Guarantee up to 12 weeks paid family and medical leave for all workers and up to seven days of paid sick, family, and safe leave and require employers to permanently provide. Workers of color disproportionately lack access to paid leave of any kind, including nearly half of Latino workers and more than one third of Black workers. Biden will create a national paid family and medical leave program to give all workers up to 12 weeks of paid leave, based on the FAMILY Act. He will also make paid sick leave permanent with the type of sick leave called for in Senator Murray and Congresswoman DeLauro’s Healthy Families Act. Biden will also make sure small businesses get the support they need to survive the crisis, keep their workers employed, and come out the other side stronger
  • Make it easier for workers of all color and all workers to organize unions and bargain collectively. Unions are an essential path to the middle class, and especially for workers of color. The wealth of union workers of color is nearly 5 times greater than their non union counterparts. Unions help close income and benefit disparities. For example, Black union members earn over 16% more than their non-union counterparts and are more likely to have employer-provided benefits like health care and retirement. As we build back better, Biden will make it easier for workers to organize unions and collectively bargain. He will include in the economic recovery legislation he sends to Congress a series of policies to build worker power to raise wages and secure stronger benefits. This legislation will make it easier for workers to organize a union and bargain collectively with their employers by including the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, card check, union and bargaining rights for public service workers, and a broad definition of “employee” and tough enforcement to end the misclassification of workers as independent contractors. It will also go further than the PRO Act by holding company executives personally liable when they interfere with organizing efforts. And, he’ll restore the ability of federal workers to unionize and collectively bargain. Read Biden’s full plan to encourage unionization and collective bargaining at joebiden.com/empowerworkers. 

INVEST IN INFRASTRUCTURE IN BLACK AND BROWN COMMUNITIES
 
Crumbling infrastructure is a barrier to growth and prosperity. If roads are falling apart; if lights and landscaping of public areas are not tended to; if sidewalks are dilapidated or schools are outdated; if there are no parks for kids to play in after school; if there is no fresh food for miles; if there are abandoned houses that need to be demolished or empty strip malls and not enough infrastructure to prevent fires; if there is nowhere to go when you are in a mental health crisis — how can a community thrive?
 
We are the world’s richest nation, but for far too long Black, Latino, AAPI, and Native American  communities have been left behind. By making real and sustained investments into Black and Brown communities, we will create an environment where businesses and investments will multiply in size and strength. In Black and Brown communities the federal government will provide state, tribal, and local governments with resources to:

Biden’s Build Back Better plan includes a national effort to create the jobs we need to build a modern, sustainable, accessible, infrastructure now and deliver an equitable clean energy future. He will make a $2 trillion accelerated investment, with a plan to deploy those resources over his first term, toward that end.
 
A major focus of this investment will be to upgrade the infrastructure and job opportunities in Black and Brown communities. Specifically, Biden will:

  • Set a goal that disadvantaged communities receive 40% of overall benefits of spending in the areas of clean energy and energy efficiency deployment; clean, accessible transit and transportation; affordable and sustainable housing; training and workforce development; remediation and reduction of legacy pollution; and development of critical clean water infrastructure. In addition, Biden will directly fund historic investments across federal agencies aimed at eliminating legacy pollution — especially in Black and Brown communities, rural and urban low-income communities, and tribal communities — and addressing common challenges faced by disadvantaged communities, such as funds for replacing and remediating lead service lines and lead paint in households, child care centers, and schools in order to ensure all communities have access to safe drinking water and wastewater infrastructure. These investments will create good-paying jobs in frontline and fenceline communities.
  • Ensure the jobs building roads and bridges and schools and overhauling water systems and electricity grids are filled by diverse, local, well-trained workers – including Black and Brown people – by requiring federally funded projects to meet high labor standards, including paying prevailing wage, prioritizing Project Labor and Community Workforce Agreements, and employing workers trained in registered apprenticeship programs. Biden will make investments in pre-apprenticeship programs and in community-based and proven organizations that help Black and Brown people access high-quality training and job opportunities. Biden’s proposal will make sure national infrastructure and clean energy investments create millions of middle-class jobs that develop a diverse and local workforce with a choice to join a union, strengthening communities as we rebuild our physical infrastructure.
  • Revolutionize municipal transit networks. Biden will aim to provide all Americans in municipalities of more than 100,000 people with quality, accessible public transportation by 2030. He will allocate flexible federal investments with strong labor protections to help cities and towns install light rail networks and improve existing transit and bus lines.
  • Ensure clean, safe drinking water and water infrastructure is a right in all communities – rural to urban to tribal lands, rich and poor. From lead contamination in places like Flint, Michigan to the lack of potable water which contributes to the spread COVID-19 on the Navajo Reservation, too many communities face public health crises because of lack of basic water infrastructure. Biden will invest in the repair of water pipelines and sewer systems, replacement of lead service pipes, upgrade of treatment plants, and integration of efficiency and water quality monitoring technologies. This includes protecting our watersheds and clean water infrastructure from man-made and natural disasters by conserving and restoring wetlands and developing green infrastructure and natural solutions. And, he will work to ensure adequate, resilient water infrastructure in Black and Brown communities everywhere, especially Indian Country. African American and Latino households are nearly twice as likely as white households to lack sufficient plumbing, and Native American households are 19 times more likely. In Indian Country, this also means ensuring tribes have water rights needed to develop the infrastructure necessary to serve homes, businesses, and agricultural needs. The Obama-Biden Administration settled twelve important water rights settlements, more than any other Administration in history. These settlements supported $3 billion of investment in Indian Country, for building important infrastructure for clean drinking water and agricultural needs, protecting tribal fisheries and culturally important areas, and furthering economic development initiatives. Biden will restore strong federal support for Indian water rights settlements and coordinate the actions of all relevant federal agencies to use their programs, authorities, and resources to support Tribal water needs and economic development activities.
  • Expand broadband, or wireless broadband via 5G, to every American – recognizing that millions of households without access to broadband are locked out of an economy that is increasingly reliant on virtual collaboration. Communities without access cannot leverage the next generation of “smart” infrastructure. As the COVID-19 crisis has made clear, Americans everywhere need universal, reliable, affordable, and high-speed internet to do their jobs, participate equally in remote school learning and stay connected. This digital divide needs to be closed everywhere, from lower-income urban schools to rural America, to many older Americans as well as those living on tribal lands. Just like rural electrification several generations ago, universal broadband is long overdue and critical to broadly shared economic success.
  • Launch a major national effort to modernize our nation’s schools and early learning facilities. Each year the U.S. underfunds school infrastructure by $46 billion, resulting in schools that are outdated, unsafe, unfit, and – in some cases – making kids and educators sick. And over half of Americans, and especially Black and Brown people, live in child care deserts, with limited to no access to licensed child care. In line with the Rebuild America’s Schools Act, backed by the House Education Committee, Biden will invest $100 billion in improving public school buildings and ensure its top funding priority is modernizing schools in the most economically underserved communities in our nation — all too often in Black and Brown communities. He will also ensure parents no longer search in vain for a suitable child care option by creating a new child care construction tax credit to encourage businesses to build child care facilities at places of work and making direct investments in building new child care facilities and upgrading existing facilities around the country.
  • Clean up and redeveloping abandoned and underused Brownfield properties, old power plants and industrial facilities, landfills, abandoned mines, and other idle community assets that will be transformed into new economic hubs for communities all across America.
  • Revitalize communities in every corner of the country so that no one is left behind or cut off from economic opportunities. Biden’s plan will ensure that our infrastructure investments work to address disparities – often along lines of race and class – in access to clean air, clean water, reliable and sustainable, accessible transportation, connectivity to high-speed internet, and access to jobs and educational opportunities. This includes ensuring tribes receive the resources and support they need to invest in roads, clean water, wastewater, broadband, and other essential infrastructure needs. It also means funding investments in local and regional strategies to prevent a lack of accessible transportation options in urban, rural, and high-poverty areas from cutting off after-school opportunities for young people and job opportunities for workers seeking better jobs and more economic security for their families.
  • Take land into trust for Indian tribes. One of the most important roles the federal government plays in rebuilding the nation-to-nation relationship is taking land into trust on behalf of tribes. It is critical for tribal sovereignty and self-determination, allows for economic development, and helps support the well-being of tribal citizens, while also preserving tribal histories and culture for future generations. It helps to right the wrongs of past policy, including the dispossession by the U.S. government of 90 million acres of tribal land, nearly two-thirds of all tribal land. The Obama-Biden Administration recognized this vital responsibility and took more than half a million acres of land into trust for tribes — including land that the Trump Administration tried to take away from the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe. As President, Biden will uphold trust and treaty responsibilities and continue to take land into trust for Indian tribes, helping tribes spur economic development.

See more details about the Biden infrastructure plans at https://joebiden.com/infrastructure/ and joebiden.com/clean-energy
 
SECOND CHANCES FOR ECONOMIC SUCCESS
 
Biden believes in redemption. For people who are convicted of a crime, after they serve their sentence, they should have the opportunity to fully reintegrate into society, earn a good living, and participate in our democracy. It will not only benefit them, it will benefit all of society. It is also our best strategy to reduce recidivism.
 
The collateral consequences for a criminal record are vast. The National Institute of Justice found that there are more than 44,000 collateral consequences nationwide, including employment restrictions, loss of voting rights, denial of housing or even renting an apartment and educational loan restrictions to name a few.
 
Smart Data Infrastructure to Support Second Chances
 
Most states already have a process for people who want to shield their criminal record from public view — expungement and sealing. But getting a person’s record expunged or sealed is complicated and requires paperwork, time, and sometimes the support of legal counsel.
 
As President, Biden will advance a pathway for redemption and re-entry – and make real the possibility of second chances for all Americans – by helping states modernize their criminal justice data infrastructure and adopt automated record sealing for selected categories of non-violent offenses, to modernize their criminal justice data infrastructure. This data infrastructure will facilitate sealing of records in a manner that is precise, complete and efficient – so those records are not used to deny people jobs, housing, voting rights, school loans and other opportunities to rebuild their lives.
 
The grants Biden is proposing will support state efforts to research, plan for, and ultimately implement the criminal record data infrastructure improvements that will make automated record relief possible. Beyond that, the infrastructure improvements will yield a general improvement in the operation and efficiency of state records.
 
In addition, to invest in second chances and smart criminal justice reforms that will improve public safety, Biden will:

  • Set a national goal of ensuring 100% of formerly incarcerated individuals have housing upon reentry – at the federal and state level. He’ll start by directing the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to only contract with entities that are open to housing individuals looking for a second chance. And, he’ll expand funding for transitional housing, which has been drastically cut under the Trump Administration.
  • Expand access to mental health and substance use disorder treatment, as well as educational opportunities and job training for individuals during and after incarceration. The Biden Administration will expand the use of drug courts and other diversion programs. The Biden Administration will also expand funding for all of these programs and services, during and after incarceration.
  • Eliminate existing barriers preventing formerly incarcerated individuals from fully participating in society. For example, Biden will eliminate barriers keeping formerly incarcerated individuals from accessing public assistance such as SNAP, Pell grants, and housing support. He will streamline the process for giving individuals on probation or parole for non-violent offenses access to the Job Corps. The Biden Administration will incentivize states to automatically restore voting rights for individuals convicted of felonies once they have served their sentences. And, the Biden Administration will expand on the Obama-Biden Administration’s “ban the box” policy by encouraging further adoption of these policies at the state and local level. This effort will not include any automatic restoration of firearms rights.
  • Eliminate cash bail. Cash bail is the modern-day debtors’ prison. The cash bail system incarcerates people based on their inability to pay–sometimes small amounts. And, it disproportionately harms Black and Brown people. Biden will lead a national effort to end cash bail and reform our pretrial system by putting in place a system that is fair and does not inject further discrimination or bias into the process. As President, Biden will establish a technical assistance program to help state and local jurisdictions transition to a fair, equitable and effective pretrial system that does not rely on cash bail. This project will be modeled after the Obama-Biden smart suite of programs, which used technical assistance and funding to drive targeted improvements in corrections, probation, and policing. The project will similarly allow state and local Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) recipients to access Bureau of Justice Assitance’s (BJA) bank of subject-matter experts if they agree to dedicate a portion of their existing JAG funds to work on BJA-approved initiatives that transition pre-trial systems away from a reliance on cash-bail and to evidence-informed systems that use risk of flight and/or danger to determine whether defendants should be held in  pre-trial detention.

STRENGTHEN THE FEDERAL RESERVE’S FOCUS ON RACIAL ECONOMIC GAPS
 
The Federal Reserve (the Fed) plays a highly influential role in determining the overall unemployment rate, as well as that of Black and Brown people. Within its existing mandate of promoting maximum employment and stable prices, the Fed should aggressively enhance its surveillance and targeting of persistent racial gaps in jobs, wages, and wealth. Biden will work with Congress to amend the Federal Reserve Act to require the Fed to regularly report on current data and trends in racial economic gaps — and what actions the Fed is taking through its monetary and regulatory policies to close these gaps. Access to affordable financial services is another first-order barrier to wealth building for many American families. Biden supports the Fed committing to a “real-time” payment system, a change the central bank has the authority to implement. With this system in place, instead of waiting days for checks to clear, low-income people will have instant access to money they are owed, ending an existing, costly burden to cash-constrained families.
 
The Fed should also revise its hiring and employment practices to achieve greater diversity at all levels of the institution — including at the leadership of the Board of Governors and the regional Federal Reserve Banks.
 
PRIORITIZE RACIAL EQUITY ACROSS THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT

  • Apply the principles of Congressman Jim Clyburn’s 10-20-30 plan to ensure that federal dollars go to high-poverty areas that have long suffered disinvestment. To tackle persistent poverty in all communities, in both urban and rural America, Biden supports applying Congressman Clyburn’s 10-20-30 formula to all federal programs, targeting funds to census tracts with persistent poverty.
  • Promote diverse leadership for all federal agencies. The leaders of federal agencies make decisions that have a direct impact on the nature of our entire economic system. At present the leadership of those agencies do not reflect the diversity of our country. As President, Biden will promote diverse leadership in the financial regulatory agencies including the FTC, CFTC, SEC, OCC, and FDIC; work with all branches of government including the Senate and Supreme Court, to create best practices and standards for ensuring racial diversity among clerks, staffers and interns; and create a new post within the White House’s Council of Economic Advisers to focus on racial equity including the income and wealth gaps. And, recognizing the special importance of appointing Native Americans to play critical roles in upholding the government-to-government relationship, he will build on the Obama-Biden Administration to ensure tribal nations have a strong voice and role in the federal government.
  • Eliminate language barriers for Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities. Language barriers to vital services and resources can prevent AAPI’s with limited English proficiency from realizing their potential and the American Dream. Biden will build on the work of the Obama-Biden Administration, which ensured that members of the AAPI community who were limited English proficient had access to health care and other government services. For example, the administration produced outreach videos in Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, Burmese, Hmong, Khmer, and Lao to ensure that members of those communities were able to take advantage of the Affordable Care Act’s benefits and coverage. Biden will direct his agencies to identify ways to increase access to federal programs for AAPI individuals and families, including those who have limited English proficiency. He will also create neighborhood resource centers or welcome centers to help all residents find jobs; access services and English-language learning opportunities; and navigate the school system, health care system, and other important facets of daily life. And, he will ensure that all public schools have sufficient English-language learning support to help all children reach their potential.
  • Disaggregate data about the Asian American and Pacific Islander community to achieve equal representation. The Asian American and Pacific Islander community is one which includes people of East Asia, South Asia, Southeast Asia, the Philippines, and the Pacific Islands. Typically, when data is aggregated about this community it combines this wide swath of people into a single category – perpetuating the “model minority” myth by unwittingly masking specific challenges that segments of the AAPI population face. Data disaggregation is a strategy to collect information about the subgroups that make up a larger group, to surface issues when trying to understand the challenges that these communities face and identify solutions that are focused on closing disparity gaps. The Obama-Biden Administration released best practices for the disaggregation of federal data on AAPIs. Biden will build on this work and ensure that his administration recognizes and serves the myriad of challenges facing diverse AAPI communities.
  • Empower the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to fulfill its mission and address workplace discrimination. A 2017 survey found that 1 in 3 Latinos, 1 in 4 Asian Americans, 1 in 3 Native Americans, and more than half of African Americans had experienced racial discrimination in the workplace. Under a Biden Administration, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) will be fully empowered to address discrimination in the workplace and help close the harmful and unjust gaps in wages and employment opportunities. To strengthen the EEOC, Biden will double funding for the agency, empower the EEOC to initiate investigations for all areas of discrimination under its purview, and continue the the Obama Administration effort–halted by President Trump–to expand the agency’s information collection efforts to include data on earnings gaps by race and gender.  

INVEST IN A 21ST CENTURY CARE INFRASTRUCTURE
 
Biden believes that if we truly want to reward work in this country, we have to ease the financial burden of care that families are carrying, and we have to elevate the compensation, benefits, training and education opportunities for certification, and dignity of caregiving workers and educators.
 
He will make substantial investments in the infrastructure of care in our country — to make child care more affordable and accessible for working families, and to make it easier for aging relatives and loved ones with disabilities to have quality, affordable home- or community-based care. And, he is proposing to give caregiving workers and early childhood educators a raise and stronger benefits, treating them as the professionals they are. Caregivers and early childhood educators — disproportionately Black and Brown women — have been underpaid, unseen, and undervalued for far too long. Biden will:

  • Expand access to a broad array of long-term services and supports in local settings, including through closing the gaps in Medicaid for home- and community-based services and establishing a state innovation fund for creative, cost effective direct care services.
  • Ensure access to high-quality, affordable child care and offer universal preschool to three-and four-year olds through greater investment, expanded tax credits, and sliding-scale subsidies.
  • Build safe, energy-efficient, developmentally appropriate child care facilities, including in workplaces, so that parents and guardians never again have to search in vain for a suitable child care option.
  • Treat caregivers and early childhood educators with respect and dignity, and give them the pay and benefits they deserve, training and career ladders to higher-paying jobs, the choice to join a union and bargain collectively, and other fundamental work-related rights and protections.

ADDRESS LONGSTANDING INEQUITIES IN AGRICULTURE
 
Black, Brown and Native farmers have long faced barriers to growing their agricultural businesses, including unfair prices, unequal access to government support, retaliation for civil rights complaints, and outright injustice.  For more than 100 years the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) did little to alleviate the burdens of systemic inequality for Black, Brown and Native farmers and was often the site of injustice. Over two decades ago, class action litigation was filed alleging longstanding discrimination against Black, Latino, Native, and women farmers. The cases dragged on for many years without relief for the complaints and impacted farmers struggled to regain the footing they lost before and during the litigation.
 
A profound shift occurred for Black, Brown and Native farmers under the Obama-Biden administration during which the USDA oversaw the conclusion of what became the largest civil rights settlement in US history, bringing a painful chapter to a close. The settlements in these cases marked the beginning of a renewed commitment to supporting diversity, equity, and an internal reckoning for the USDA. Under Obama-Biden, the USDA sought to address both the structural and cultural causes of systemic inequality that had in prior generations been reproduced by the policies and practices of the agency.
 
Despite the groundbreaking steps to address inequality that were taken under Obama-Biden, the practices and values of the USDA slid backwards under the authority of the Trump administration — which ceased many agency-wide efforts to level the playing field.
 
As President, Biden will build upon the historic progress made during the Obama-Biden administration, taking additional steps to support the rights of Black, Brown and Native farmers by: 

  • Establish an Equity Commission. This equity commission will focus on the unique jurisdictional and regulatory barriers that Black, Brown, and Native farmers, ranchers, and fishers must negotiate and make sure that processes are streamlined and simplified to promote new and beginning farming and ranching operations by Black and Brown farmers. As President, Biden will direct his Department of Agriculture to review the Department’s programs – including in conservation, value-added agriculture support, finding new markets, data analysis, fisheries support, climate smart production, risk management, research and delivery of knowledge — and design a plan to ensure they are geared to farmers, ranchers, and fishers who are as different and varied as the landscape of the country.
  • Farm Land Purchase Assistance Program. As President, Biden will advance a comprehensive effort to assist in both the purchase of farmland and the ability of Black, Brown, and Native farmers to keep that land. This includes credit and technical support in the form of expedited credit, low-interest loans, and technical assistance. In addition, Biden recognizes the disadvantage that Black, Brown, and Native farmers face when they are forced to compete with other farmers who have decades of privileged access to federal assistance. As President, he will explore the use of land trusts, cooperative farm operations, and farm credit systems geared towards Black, Brown and, Native farmers as a means to support this population and diversify our agricultural sector.        
  • Protect Heirs Property. For over a century, Black, Brown, and Native farmers faced exploitation in policy and practice in a matter that limited their ability to retain a rightful claim to inherited property and to access federal programs. Building on recent Congressional bills and model legislation at the state level, Biden will implement guidelines and regulations that preserve heirs’ ownership of family farms and ensure that these landowners have equal access to federal credit and agricultural programs.
  • Establish a Farmland Trust. This trust will support new farmers from underrepresented low-income communities to find, purchase, and succeed on farmland.  The Trust will also help connect these farms to marginalized communities locally and in urban or rural areas in an effort to develop and maintain a more diverse supply chain that provides entry points for aspiring entrepreneurs in the food production industry.
  • Advance Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). As President, Biden will support and advance local production for farmers’ markets. He will work to maximize the use of unused land and to connect potential farmers with those landowners. Together farmers and landowners will pool acres into manageable units. 
  • Advance fairness, accountability, and transparency at the United States Department of Agriculture As President, Biden will appoint officials at every level of the USDA who have a demonstrated commitment to supporting Black, Brown and Native farmers. Biden will also eliminate the USDA’s backlog of civil rights complaints, streamline and expedite the complaints process, permit appeals, and reinstate a foreclosure moratorium for those whose complaints remain unsettled. Biden will direct the USDA to fully enforce whistleblower protections and investigate reports of retaliation and interference from the Office of General Counsel. In addition, Biden will demand transparency and oversight in all aspects of USDA’s operations. Further, Biden will call on the agency’s Economic Research Service to include farmworkers and farmers of color more prominently in their research.
  • Expanding protections for farm workers. Farm workers – who are disproportionately Latino and immigrant workers – have always been essential to working our farms and feeding our country. As President, Biden will ensure farm workers are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve, regardless of immigration status. He will work with Congress to provide legal status based on prior agricultural work history, ensure they can earn paid sick time, and require that labor and safety rules, including overtime, humane living conditions, and protection from pesticide and heat exposure, are strictly enforced.

Black Lives Matter Protest for Equal Justice Comes to Suburbia

Black Lives Matter protest comes to suburban communities. This one in Great Neck, Long Island, was organized by high school students and drew well over 500 people who took a knee for 8 minutes 46 seconds, the amount of time a police officer had his knee on George Floyd’s neck, snuffing out his life. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News-Photos-Features.com

The murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officer has galvanized the nation and the world. His murder was only one of a long, long list of murders and lynchings over decades. But this was a perfect storm that made its heinousness obvious to all: this was not the instant firing of a gun in a moment of fear, but a tortuously long, drawn out 8 minutes, 46 seconds, during which three other police stood around, onlookers pleaded for mercy, and the whole thing captured on video shared over social media. So while there were other unprovoked killings – Breonna Taylor, shot in her own apartment in the dead of night after police invaded with a no-knock warrant – this one was undeniable in demonstrating the ingrained culture that dehumanizes in order for such violence to occur, and the smug security of police, given unparalleled power of a gun and a badge, that they would not be held accountable.

Enough is enough, protesters by the tens of thousands in hundreds of cities throughout the country and the world, chant, even putting their own lives at risk, not just from the baton-wielding, tear-gas throwing, flashbang grenade hurling, rubber-bullet firing police dressed as an invading army, but from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Black Lives Matter protest comes to suburban communities. This one in Great Neck, Long Island, was organized by high school students and drew well over 500 people. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The protests have come to suburbia and our home town as well – most affectingly, one this weekend organized by Great Neck high school students which drew well over 500 people to Firefighters Park in Great Neck Plaza. (They withstood accusations on Facebook they were terrorists who had collected stones to throw at police. Meanwhile, county police closed off the main street to traffic so they could march a mile to the Village Green, and walked along side.)

They decried the structural racism at the heart of a police culture that has its origins in catching slaves, then, morphed into an enforcement mechanism for White Supremacy, along with so many other structural inequities that, by design, have kept African Americans, Hispanics and other minorities unequal in society.

While the elements of police brutality and criminal injustice are well known, they are kept in force year after year, decade after decade, generation after generation by supremely politically powerful police unions.

Black Lives Matter protest comes to suburban communities. This one in Great Neck, Long Island, was organized by high school students and drew well over 500 people. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Indeed, the most dramatic “reform” is to completely rebuild police departments – there are 16,000 of them. Some police departments have actually done this – Camden, NJ, for example – and it may be the only way to really root out the structural inequities, bias. Now Minneapolis’ city council has voted to disband its $193 million police department. What that actually means is that, like Camden, it intends to rebuild it, in order to make it functional and appropriate in a country that supposedly is based on principles of “equal justice for all.”

They will likely scrutinize how police officers are recruited, hired, know if there is a record of police brutality (like Timothy Loehmann who murdered 12-year old Tamir Rice). How are officers trained and what they understand their “mission” to be? One trendy training program (as John Oliver disclosed on “Last Week Tonight”) is in the “art” of “Killology” where officers are instructed that if they are not predators prepared to kill, they have no business being police.  

Black Lives Matter protest comes to suburban communities. This one in Great Neck, Long Island, was organized by high school students and drew well over 500 people. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Not only are the problems well known, but the solutions have been methodically investigated, analyzed, quantified and put in the form of recommendations – by the Obama Administration after the Ferguson, Missouri, riots that followed Michael Brown’s unprovoked murder by police. The task force developed a template for 21st Century Policing, including ending militarizing police. His Department of Justice under Eric Holder obtained consent decrees from the most vile police forces. But, like the template to address a global pandemic handed  to the Trump Administration, it was immediately discarded, and the consent decrees withdrawn.

Black Lives Matter protest comes to suburban communities. This one in Great Neck, Long Island, was organized by high school students and drew well over 500 people. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

But George Floyd has created the rarest opportunity for reform. With breathtaking speed for New York or any state government, major measures for a “Say Their Name” police reform agenda have already passed the Legislature:  Allow for transparency of prior disciplinary records by reforming 50-a; ban chokeholds; prosecute for making a false race-based 911 report; and designating the Attorney General as an independent prosecutor in cases involving death of unarmed civilian by law enforcement.

Cuomo wants to go further to “seize the momentum,” correctly seeing this time as transformational to “reinvent” policing..

“This is a long time coming,” Cuomo said. “It is time to reimagine and reinvent policing for 2020…Police are public servants for that community – if the community doesn’t trust, doesn’t respect police, police can’t do their job.”

Black Lives Matter protest comes to suburban communities. This one in Great Neck, Long Island, was organized by high school students and drew well over 500 people. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Democrats in Congress have also seized on this transformational moment as well, introducing “Justice in Policing Act” which at the federal level would ban chokeholds; challenge “qualified immunity”; prohibit no-knock warrants; counter the trend toward militarization of police; require body and dashboard cameras; require independent prosecutors in cases of police brutality; establish a national database to track police misconduct; and (finally) make lynching a federal  hate crime.

Calls to Defund the Police. Black Lives Matter protest comes to suburban communities. This one in Great Neck, Long Island, was organized by high school students and drew well over 500 people. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Others want more. There are calls to “defund police” – which like “They’re coming for your guns” and “Open Borders!” is a catchy slogan that fits on a sign that has been deliberately distorted by Trump and the Republicans  and used to incite fear among (white suburban) voters who are being told their neighborhoods will be overrun by criminals, gangs and rapists.

What “defund police” means is reassessing what functions the police do. Do we want protectors or warriors? Are police the best ones to address situations involving mental health, drug overdoses, domestic violence or school discipline? More accurately, people are calling for “divest-reinvest”:  take that money and invest in social workers, mental health professionals, and guidance counselors that police, themselves, have said they are not equipped to deal with.

Divest Police-Reinvest in Communities. Black Lives Matter protest comes to suburban communities. This one in Great Neck, Long Island, was organized by high school students and drew well over 500 people. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

And it means investing in community programs that in themselves reduce crime. That’s what Cuomo is proposing in a Justice Agenda to root out the causes of criminal injustice, all on view in conjunction with the coronavirus epidemic and its disproportionate impact on communities of color: it goes to addressing the disparities in education, housing, health care, poverty.

“This is not just a moment for political protest,” Governor Cuomo said. “It’s not just a moment to express outrage. It’s a moment to do something about it, and to make real reform and real change. That’s the goal of the moment. I understand the emotion. I want people to know how upset I am. Good. Second step, what do we do about it? And let’s get it done here in the State of New York.

Black Lives Matter protest comes to suburban communities. This one in Great Neck, Long Island, was organized by high school students and drew well over 500 people. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“When we talk about a Justice Agenda, we want to fight the systemic racism, inequality and injustice in our society. That is what the protesters are saying and I stand with the protesters in saying that because it’s very true. But in this moment of change, let’s make it real change and let’s get to the root of the issue. You want to talk about injustice and inequality in America. Well then it has to start with our education system. We do not educate all children the same. ‘Opportunity for all.’ No, opportunity for some, opportunity for people who grow up in a rich school district and a rich family with high property taxes and they go to great schools, but not for the children who grow up in poorer communities, who go to inferior schools. That is the reality today. That is the truth. I’m saying that as Governor of New York not as a protester on a street corner. It is a fact. Even in this state, we spent $36,000 per year, per student, in a wealthy school district, $13,000 per year in a poorer school district. How do you rationalize that? You can’t and say this is a system that provides equal opportunity for all.

Black Lives Matter protest comes to suburban communities. This one in Great Neck, Long Island, was organized by high school students and drew well over 500 people. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“How do you still have children living in poverty? With all this wealth, with all this abundance, how do you tolerate a situation where some children to no fault of their own, you can’t blame them, they were born into one circumstance and they are living in poverty? You can’t justify it. The number of homeless, lack of affordable housing, you have a federal government that just went out of the housing business. I was the former housing secretary, worked in housing all my life. Housing was a federal responsibility, not state, not local. 1949 Housing Act, “for this nation, safe, clean, decent housing for all Americans.” 1949, it’s 2020, what are we doing? There’s no section eight, no section eight project base, no more public housing, and then we wonder why there is an affordable housing shortage.

Black Lives Matter protest comes to suburban communities. This one in Great Neck, Long Island, was organized by high school students and drew well over 500 people. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“And yes, criminal justice reform, why do we lock up more people than any industrialized nation on the globe? That is a sign of success? …Why do we have racial disparity in the criminal justice system? How do you rationalize it? Unless it goes back to the other systemic injustices and inequality, if a person grows up in poverty, if a person doesn’t have education, if a person doesn’t have access to opportunity, then you see the result in the criminal justice system. This is how you get at injustice and inequality, and you can’t do it piecemeal, either attack it fully or you will never defeat it. That is the justice agenda. And this has to be done on the federal level and it should be done on the federal level because this is not a New York or California or Florida issue. It is an American issue. And you are in the middle of election season, stand up and say, ‘Here is my election reform agenda. You want my support and my vote? Here is my agenda. You are running for Congress, you’re running for Senate, or whatever you’re running for, you want my support? Here is my agenda.’ That is my opinion,” Cuomo said.

But none of this will happen as long as Trump and the Republicans are in power.

Marching up main street. Black Lives Matter protest comes to suburban communities. This one in Great Neck, Long Island, was organized by high school students and drew well over 500 people. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Marching up main street. Black Lives Matter protest comes to suburban communities. This one in Great Neck, Long Island, was organized by high school students and drew well over 500 people. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Marching up main street. Black Lives Matter protest comes to suburban communities. This one in Great Neck, Long Island, was organized by high school students and drew well over 500 people. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Marching up main street. Black Lives Matter protest comes to suburban communities. This one in Great Neck, Long Island, was organized by high school students and drew well over 500 people. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

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© 2020 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures. ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

Cuomo Proposes Reform Agenda to End Police Brutality, Systemic Racism, Tells Protesters ‘Use Moment Constructively’

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed a national agenda to end systemic racism in law enforcement, end police brutality. “Use this moment. Let’s talk about investigation of police abuse. No chokeholds, nation-wide standard for undue force. Let’s talk about funding of education and equal funding in education. Let’s talk about affordable housing. Let’s talk about a child poverty agenda. Let’s use the moment constructively.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News-Photos-Features.com

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo proposed a positive reform agenda to address systemic racism and police brutality amidst the ongoing protests across the state and nation in response to the killing of George Floyd. The reform agenda includes a national ban on excessive force and chokeholds by law enforcement officers; independent investigations of police brutality conducted by independent, outside agencies – not by local prosecutors; and disclosure of disciplinary records of police officers being investigated.

While standing firmly in support of the protests against police brutality, the Governor said that protest for its own sake would only work against the cause, but that there needs to be a clearly defined list of actions that need to be articulated.

“You want to make that moment work,” he declared. “Yes, you express the outrage. But then you say, ‘Here’s my agenda. Here’s what I want.’ That’s what we have to be doing in this moment. And the protesters are making a point. And most of them are making a smart, sensible point. But you have to add the positive reform agenda that every voice calls for so the government, the politicians know what to do. And there is a positive reform agenda here. There should be a national ban on excessive force by police officers. There should be a national ban on chokeholds. Period. There should be independent investigations of police abuse.”

And Cuomo also differentiated between the those who are exercising their Constitutional First Amendment right to protest against those who are taking advantage to loot and vandalize, giving Trump the opportunity to deflect and discount, and shift focus to himself as the “law-and-order” strongman. Indeed, there are reports that White Nationalist group is posing as Antifa on Twitter, calling for violence. Trump is proposing to designate Antifa a terrorist group, and is using them to justify calling out military against protesters – which would be a violation of the Posse Comitatus Act.

“There’s no doubt that what the President’s trying to do here is turn the attention to the looters rather than the point of the protest, which is genuine outrage,” Cuomo said in an interview with Nicolle Wallace on MSNBC. “”You look at what happened with Mr. Floyd, you have to be outraged. It’s not just Mr. Floyd in an isolated situation, it’s been years and years of the same situation. You can go back to Rodney King, Amadou Diallo and Eric Garner – it’s a long list.

They want to make this about looting and criminals rather than the killing. That’s what they’re trying to do. In New York, we did have large protests and we do have people who are, I think, exploiting the protest. There’s no doubt that there’s some people who came out and did looting and criminal activity. You have some disrupting organizations that are seizing upon the moment. We want to make sure that order is maintained and we’re putting in place a curfew.”

“Use this moment. You look in history, Nicolle, when did change come? Change came when the people insisted on change. Let’s talk about investigation of police abuse. No chokeholds, nation-wide standard for undue force. Let’s talk about funding of education and equal funding in education. Let’s talk about affordable housing. Let’s talk about a child poverty agenda. Let’s use the moment constructively.”

Cuomo ordered a curfew of 11 pm in New York City, and doubled the number of police, from 4,000 to 8,000. However, that was not enough to stop a spate of acts of looting and vandalism.

The protests come just as New York City was hitting the milestones in the fight against COVID-19, which has taken more lives – and more disproportionately in communities of color – in the city and state than anywhere in the country or world. The  Governor said that if there was any “silver” lining in the timing, the protests are happening when the infection rate has been cut from 20 percent to 2 percent but still raised concerns of reigniting the spread of the pandemic.

Here is a transcript of Governor Cuomo’s remarks:

We’re talking about reopening in one week in New York City. Now we’re seeing these mass gatherings over the past several nights that could, in fact, exacerbate the COVID-19 spread. We spent all this time closed down, locked down, masked, socially distanced and then you turn on the TV and you see there’s mass gatherings that could potentially be infecting hundreds and hundreds of people. After everything that we have done. We have to talk a minute and ask ourselves what are we doing here? What are we trying to accomplish?

We have protests across the state that continued last night, they continued across the nation. Upstate we worked with the cities very closely. The State Police did a great job. We had, basically, a few scattered arrests, upstate New York. But the local governments did a great job, the people did a great job, law enforcement did a great job. The protestors were responsible. It wasn’t great, but it wasn’t bad, either, upstate.

I said from day one, I share the outrage and I stand with the protestors. You look at that video of the killing of an unarmed man, Mr. Floyd, it is horrendous. Horrendous. It’s frightening. It perverts everything you believe about this country. It does and there’s no excuse for it. No right minded American would make an excuse for it. So, protest yes. Be frustrated, yes. Outraged, yes of course. Is there a larger problem? Of course. It’s not just Mr. Floyd, it goes back – there are 50 cases that are just like Mr. Floyd. We’ve them here in New York City. What’s the difference between Mr. Floyd and Amadou Diallo? Or Abner Louima? Or Eric Garner? What is the difference? What have we learned? Nothing?

So, yes, we should be outraged. And yes, there’s a bigger point to make. It is abuse by police. But it’s something worse. It is racism. It is discrimination. It is fundamental inequality and injustice. My father spoke about it in 1984. The speech called “The Tale of Two Cities.” People still talk about it. The point of the tale of two cities is there’s two Americas. Two sets of rules. Two sets of outcomes. Two sets of expectations. It’s true. It was true then, it’s true now. Look at our prisons and tell me there’s not inherit injustice in society. Look at public housing, tell me there’s not inherent injustice.

Look at what happened with this COVID infection rate nationwide. More African Americans infected, more African Americans dead proportionally than white Americans. Of course, there’s chronic institutionalized discrimination. There is no doubt. There is no doubt. And there’s no doubt that it’s been going on for a long time and people are frustrated, and it has to be corrected and it has to be corrected now. And there’s no doubt, that this nation as great as it is has had the continuing sin of discrimination. From before the nation was formed and it started with slavery. And it has had different faces over the decades, but it’s still the same sin. That is true. That is true. So let’s use this moment as a moment of change? Yes.

When does change come? When the stars align and society focuses and the people focus, and they focus to such an extent that the politicians follow the people. That’s when change comes. “Well, the leaders lead!” Baloney. The people lead. And then the politicians see the people moving, and the politicians run to catch up with the people. How did we pass marriage equality in this State, giving a new civil right to the LGBTQ community? Because the people said, “enough is enough. How can you say only heterosexual people can marry, but the LGBTQ people— they can’t marry? How is that constitutional? How is that legal?” You have your own preference— God bless you. But how in the law, do you discriminate between two classes of people. We passed marriage equality.

After the Sandy Hook massacre, after all those years we tried to pass common sense gun safety. Do you really need an assault weapon to kill a deer? But then the Sandy Hook massacre happened, and the people said, “enough. You’re killing children? Young children in schools with an assault weapon? In the Sandy Hook massacre. Enough.”

And in that moment, we passed common sense gun safety in the State of New York. Record income inequality? People said, “enough” and passed a real minimum wage in this State that went all across the nation. There’s a moment for change, and is there a moment here? Yes. If we’re constructive and if we’re smart, and if we know what were asking for! It’s not enough to come out and say, “I’m angry, I’m frustrated.” OK. And what? “Well, I don’t know, but I’m angry and frustrated.”

And you want what done? You need the answer. “Well, I want common sense gun reform.” OK, what does it look like? Here it is— three points. “Well I want to address income inequality.” Well, what do you want? “Here’s what I want. Minimum wage at $15. Free college tuition.” What do you want?

You want to make that moment work. Yes, you express the outrage! But then you say, “here’s my agenda. Here’s what I want.” That’s what we have to be doing in this moment. And the protestors are making a point. And most of them are making a smart, sensible point. But you have to add the positive reform agenda that every voice calls for so the government, the politicians know what to do. And there is a positive reform agenda here. There should be a national ban on excessive force by police officers. There should be a national ban on chokeholds. Period. There should be independent investigations of police abuse. When you have the local District Attorney doing the investigations— I don’t care how good they are— there is the suggestion of a conflict of interest. Why? Because that DA works with that police department every day and now that prosecutor is going to do the investigation of that police department that they work with every day? Conflict of interests can be real or perceived. How can people believe that the local prosecutor who works with that police department is going to be fair in the investigation? It shouldn’t be state by state. Minnesota Governor Walz put the attorney general in charge. Good. In this state, I put attorney general in charge of investigations where police kill an unarmed person. Good. But it shouldn’t be the exception. It should be the rule. There is no self-policing. There’s an allegation, independent investigation. Give people comfort that the investigation is real.

If a police officer is being investigated, how is there disciplinary records not relevant? Once a police officer is being investigated, if they have disciplinary records that show this was a repeat pattern, how is that not relevant? By the way, the disciplinary records can also be used to exonerate. If they have disciplinary records that say he never, she never did anything like this before, fine. That’s relevant too.

We still have two education systems in this country. Everybody knows it. Your education is decided by your zip code. Poorer schools in poorer communities have a different level of funding than richer schools in this state. $36,000 per year we spend in a rich district. $13,000 in a poor district. How do you justify that? If anything, the children in a poorer community need more services in a school, not less. How do you justify that? You can’t. Do something about it. You still have children living in poverty in this nation? Well, when we had to, we found a trillion dollars to handle the COVID virus, but you can’t find funding to help children who live in poverty? No, you can find it, United States. You just don’t want to. It’s political will. When you need to find the money, you can find it. Let’s be honest, the federal government has a printing press in their basement. When they have the political will, they find the money.

The federal government went out of the housing business and never re-entered it. We have a national affordable housing crisis. Of course you do. You don’t fund affordable housing. I’m the former HUD secretary. I know better than anyone what the federal government used to do in terms of affordable housing with Section 8 and building new public housing. And we just stopped, and we left it to the market. Now you have an affordable housing plan. That’s what we should be addressing in this moment. And we should be saying to our federal officials, “There’s an election this year, a few months away. Here’s my agenda. Where do you stand?” Say to the congress, the House and Senate, “Where’s your bill on this?”

I heard some congressional people talking saying well maybe they’ll do a resolution. Yeah, resolutions are nice. Resolutions say in theory I support this. Pass a law, that’s what we want. A law that actually changes the reality, where something actually happens. That’s government’s job is to actually make change. Make change. You’re in a position to make change. Make change. Use this moment to galvanize public support. Use that outrage to actually make the change. And have the intelligence to say what changes you actually want. Otherwise, it’s just screaming into the wind if you don’t know exactly what changes we need to make.

And we have to be smart in this moment. The violence in these protests obscures the righteousness of the message. The people who are exploiting the situation, the looting, that’s not protesting. That’s not righteous indignation. That’s criminality and it plays into the hands of the people and the forces that don’t want to make the changes in the first place because then they get to dismiss the entire effort. I will tell you what they’re going to say. They’re going to say the first thing the President said when this happened. They’re going to say “These are looters.” Remember when the President put out that incendiary tweet? “We start shooting when they start looting or they start looting, we start shooting?” That’s an old ’60s call. The violence, the looting, the criminality plays right into those people who don’t want progressive change. And you mark my words, they’re going to say today, “Oh you see, they’re criminals. They’re looters. Did you see what they did breaking the store windows and going in and stealing?” And they’re going to try to paint this whole protest movement that they’re all criminals, they’re all looters. That’s what they’re going to do. Why? They don’t want to talk about Mr. Floyd’s death. They don’t want people seeing that video. They want people seeing the video of the looting. And when people see the video of the looting they say “Oh yeah, that’s scary. They’re criminals.” No, look at the video of the police officer killing Mr. Floyd. That’s the video we want people watching.

Now, I don’t even believe it’s the protesters. I believe there are people who are using this moment and using the protest for their own purpose. There are people who want to sow the seeds of anarchy, who want to disrupt. By the way, there are people who want to steal. And here’s a moment that you can use this moment to steal. You can use this moment to spread chaos. I hear the same thing from all the local officials. They have people in their communities who are there to quote unquote protest. They’re not from their community. They don’t know where they’re from, extremist groups, some people are going to blame the left, some people will blame the right. It will become politicized. But there is no doubt there are outside groups that come in to disrupt. There is no doubt that there are people who just use this moment to steal. What, it’s a coincidence they broke into a Rolex watch company? That was a coincidence? High end stores, Chanel. That was a coincidence? That was random? That was not random. So, can you have a legitimate protest movement hijacked? Yes, you can. Yes, you can. And there are people and forces who will exploit that moment and I believe that’s happening.

But we still have to be smart. And at the same time, we have a fundamental issue which is we just spent 93 days limiting behavior, closing down, no school, no business, thousands of small businesses destroyed. People will have lost their jobs. People wiped out their savings. And now mass gatherings with thousands of people in close proximity one week before we’re going to reopen New York City? What sense does this make? Control the spread, control the spread, control the spread. We don’t even know the consequence for the COVID virus of those mass gatherings. We don’t even know. We won’t know possibly for weeks. It’s the nature of the virus. How many super-spreaders were in that crowd? “Well, they were mostly young people.” How many young people went home and kissed their mother hello or shook hands with their father or hugged their father or their grandfather or their brother or their mother or their sister and spread a virus?

New York City opens next week. Took us 93 days to get here. Is this smart? New York tough. We went from the worst situation to reopening. From the worst situation to 54 deaths in 50 days. We went from the worst situation to reopening in 93 days. We did that because we were New York tough. New York tough was smart. We were smart. We were smart for 93 days. We were united, we were respectful of each other. We were disciplined. Wearing the mask is just discipline, it’s just discipline. Remember to put it on, remember to pick it up, remembering to put it on when see someone, it’s just discipline.

It was also about love. We did it because we love one another. That’s what a community is. We love one another. And yes, you can be loving even in New York. Even with the New York toughness, even with a New York accent, even with a New York swagger. We’re loving. That’s what we’ve done for 93 days in a way we’ve never done it before. Never in my lifetime. Never in my lifetime has this city and this state come together in the way we have. I don’t think it ever will again, in my lifetime. Now you can say maybe it takes a global pandemic for it to happen. I don’t know if that’s true and I don’t know that the power of what it was like when it came together might not be so beautiful that people want to do it again.

Remember when we all acted together during coronavirus and we rallied and we knocked coronavirus on its rear end. Remember when we all wore masks and we had to have hand sanitizer? Remember what we did? Wow. When we come together, we can do anything and it’s true. It’s true for the state, it’s true for a nation. When you come together and you have one agenda you can do anything. You want to change society, you want to end the tale of two cities, you want to make it one America? You can do that, just the way you knocked coronavirus on its rear end.

People united can do anything. We showed that, we just showed that the past 93 days. We can end the injustice and the discrimination and the intolerance and the police abuse. We have to be smart. We have to be smart right now. Right now in this state. We have to be smart tonight in this city because this is not advancing a reform agenda. This is not persuading government officials to change. This is not helping end coronavirus. We have to be smart.

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© 2020 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures. ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

‘Lift Every Voice’: The Biden Plan for Black America

Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, offers his plan for Black America (c) Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

In the 2016 campaign, Donald Trump had trouble whipping up even a few African Americans to attend a campaign event, and at one, famously said, “What have you got to lose?”. Now, after the coronavirus pandemic has revealed the extraordinary level of inequality – in health care access, income, environment – in communities of color, resulting in disproportionate numbers of cases and deaths, and his actions to prop up companies and the wealthiest while literally forcing people of color and immigrants on the frontlines to sacrifice their own lives and families for less than a living wage, we now can see “what it is you have to lose.” Trump likes to fantasize about the “lowest unemployment levels” among African Americans, but he had little to do with it. On the other hand, he has done everything possible to remove any of the levers to upward mobility, including making it harder to access food stamps, Medicaid, ending enforcement of work rules, civil rights, voting rights. His actions that will quite literally bankrupt state and local governments mean public workers – those so-called “essential workers” – will lose jobs by the hundreds of thousands. Now former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, offers his own plan for Black America. Here is a fact sheet from the Biden campaign – Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com.

Lift Every Voice: The Biden Plan for Black America

Joe Biden knows that African Americans can never have a fair shot at the American Dream so long as entrenched disparities are allowed to quietly chip away at opportunity. He is running for President to rebuild our economy in a way that finally brings everyone along—and that starts by rooting out systemic racism from our laws, our policies, our institutions, and our hearts.
 
This mission is more important now than ever before, as the health and economic impacts of COVID-19 have shined a light on—and cruelly exacerbated—the disparities long faced by African Americans. In April 2020, Biden called on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to collect more data regarding how COVID-19 is affecting communities, including breaking down its impacts by race. The data we’ve seen so far suggests that African Americans are dying from COVID-19 at a higher rate than whites. Long-standing systemic inequalities are  contributing to this disparity—including the fact that African Americans are more likely to be uninsured and to live in communities where they are exposed to high levels of air pollution. African Americans also represent an especially high percentage of the front-line workers putting themselves at greater risk to sustain the economy and keep the rest of the country safe and fed—and are less likely to have a job they can do from home, forcing them to make the difficult choice between their health and a paycheck. While there’s a lot we don’t yet know about COVID-19, we do know that equitable distribution of resources, like testing and medical equipment, can make a difference in fighting the virus. Biden believes this should be a priority and action must be taken now.
 
COVID-19 is also having a disproportionate economic impact on African American families. African American small businesses have been hit hard, and over 90% of African American-owned businesses are estimated to be shut out of the initial relief program due to preexisting, systemic disparities in lending. This is especially dire given that African American families have less of a financial cushion to fall back on in hard times. Biden has been calling for the nation’s relief and recovery efforts to be equitable and just, including by designing relief programs in ways that avoid methods we know lead to disparate outcomes—so that funds can actually reach African American families, communities, and small businesses. President Trump has not heeded his warnings. If Biden were President today, he would make it a top priority to ensure that African American workers, families, and small businesses got the relief they need and deserve.
 
Tackling systemic racism and fighting for civil rights has been a driving force throughout Biden’s career in public service. He has a record of fighting for and delivering for the African American community. As a U.S. Senator he co-sponsored the Civil Rights Act of 1990 to protect against employment discrimination and led multiple reauthorizations of the Voting Rights Act, protecting African Americans’ right to vote. Biden also led efforts to reauthorize and extend the Fair Housing Act, and as Delaware’s Senator, was a vocal advocate and supporter of Delaware State University, the state’s Historically Black University.
 
Today, we need a comprehensive agenda for African Americans with ambition that matches the scale of the challenge and with recognition that race-neutral policies are not a sufficient response to race-based disparities.
 
The Biden Plan for Black America will:

Advance the economic mobility of African Americans and close the racial wealth and income gaps.

Expand access to high-quality education and tackle racial inequity in our education system.

Make far-reaching investments in ending health disparities by race.

Strengthen America’s commitment to justice.

Make the right to vote and the right to equal protection real for African Americans.

Address environmental justice.

ADVANCE THE ECONOMIC MOBILITY OF AFRICAN AMERICANS AND CLOSE THE RACIAL WEALTH AND INCOME GAPS
 
Invest in African American Businesses and Entrepreneurs
 
Approximately 4% of small business owners are African American, even though African Americans make up approximately 13% of the population. To build wealth in African American communities, we must invest in the success of African American businesses and entrepreneurs.  
 
Ensuring equal access to credit and capital. African American businesses often lack the capital they need to succeed. African American businesses are rejected at a rate nearly 20% higher than the white-owned firms. Even worse, African American businesses that do get funding receive only 40% of the funds requested as compared to 70% for white businesses. To increase investment and access to capital, Biden will:

Double funding for the State Small Business Credit Initiative. The Obama-Biden Administration created the State Small Business Credit Initiative (SSBCI) to support small businesses, driving $10 billion in new lending for each $1 billion in SSBCI funds. Biden will extend the program through 2025 and double its federal funding to $3 billion, driving close to $30 billion of private sector investments to small businesses all told, especially those owned by women and people of color.

Expand the New Markets Tax Credit, make the program permanent, and double Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) funding. The New Markets Tax Credit has helped draw tens of billions of dollars in new capital to low-income communities, providing tax credits to investors in community development organizations that support everything from supermarkets to real estate projects to manufacturing plants.  As part of his plan to reinvest in communities across the country, including in rural areas, Biden will also double funding for the Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Fund, which supports local, mission-driven financial institutions in low-income areas around the U.S. This builds on Biden’s proposal to support entrepreneurs in small towns and rural areas by expanding both the Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program and the number of Rural Business Investment Companies, to help rural businesses attract capital.

Improve and expand the Small Business Administration programs that most effectively support African American-owned businesses. The Small Business Administration’s (SBA) programs have been and remain one of the most effective ways of accessing capital for African American-owned businesses. Biden will strengthen these existing programs by:

Ensuring the SBA has the funding it needs to support African American-owned business and others in the current crisis and beyond. Trump has once again proposed a massive cut of 25% in the SBA budget for FY2021, including a 35% cut in funding to Small Business Development Centers, a 20% cut to the SBA Microloan Program, and significantly increased fees for the 7(a) loan program, which is SBA’s main loan program for small businesses.

Making permanent the successful Community Advantage loan program, originally created during the Obama-Biden Administration. The program, which provides capital for startups and growing small businesses located in particularly underserved communities through CDFIs and other mission-driven lenders, has been run as a pilot program since 2011. Biden will make this program permanent and reverse rules enacted by the Trump Administration that are making it more difficult for lenders to participate in the program and lend to African American-owned businesses and other businesses located in underserved communities.

Increase opportunities for African American-owned businesses to obtain or participate in federal contracts. In the aftermath of the 2008-2009 financial crisis, well over $100 billion of federal prime contracting dollars were awarded to minority-owned small businesses. And, between 2013 and 2016, the Obama-Biden Administration increased federal prime contract dollars going to Small Disadvantaged Businesses by nearly 30%, from $30.6 billion to $39.1 billion. The Obama-Biden Administration also created an Interagency Task Force on Federal Contracting Opportunities for Small Businesses, which included a focus on contracting opportunities for minority-owned businesses. The Obama-Biden Administration implemented its vision of more equitable access to federal contracts through a variety of channels, including by launching the Federal Procurement Center (FPC) as part of the Commerce Department’s Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA). The FPC, a first-of-its-kind program, helps minority-owned firms apply for and win federal government contracts. As President, Biden will build on these efforts to support the expansion of opportunities for minority-owned small businesses. 
 
Increase funding for the Minority Business Development Agency budget. MBDA plays a critical role in supporting the development and growth of minority-owned businesses around the country, as well as providing needed assistance to federal and state agencies so that they award minority-owned businesses procurement contracts. The Trump Administration has pushed for a 75% cut in MBDA’s budget. Biden would protect and call for increased funding for it.
 
Protect small and disadvantaged businesses from federal and state contract bundling which often locks out African American-owned smaller firms from effectively bidding on procurement contracts. Biden will build on the anti-bundling provisions of the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010, by having the Office of Management and Budget, SBA, and MBDA conduct a government-wide review of existing contract bundling to determine whether agencies are following existing rules and whether agencies have the ability to further ensure small business participation in federal and state procurement opportunities.
 
Make sure economic relief because of COVID-19 reaches the African American businesses that need it most. The first installment of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) largely left out minority-owned businesses. The Center for Responsible Lending estimates that more than 90% of small businesses owned by people of color will not receive loans. The program is not taking into account the specific challenges that African American businesses face in accessing funding and complying with the program’s requirements. The financial institutions best positioned to help African American small businesses don’t have the systems to quickly deploy the funding in a first-come first-served approach. The second phase set aside $60 billion for community banks and CDFIs, as well as mid-sized banks, which can better serve smaller businesses and minority-owned firms. This is a good start, but more needs to be done:

Provide AfricanAmerican entrepreneurs and other small business owners technical assistance to help them apply for funding, as well as legal and accounting support to ensure their documentation (such as their financial records, tax filings, and other legal documents) is all in correct order. The Trump Administration and Congress should provide an additional infusion of operating capital to these CDFIs and community-focused lenders to ensure all African American entrepreneurs have access to the technical assistance and support they need.

Reserve half of all the new PPP funds for small businesses with 50 employees or less, so the bigger and more well-connected aren’t able to win in a first-come, first-served race. While this will help the vast majority of small businesses, it should also help target more funding to minority-owned businesses, given 98% of all minority-and women-owned businesses have fewer than 50 employees. 

Produce a weekly dashboard to show which small businesses are accessing loans. Such a dashboard would help drive better data collection on the beneficiaries of small business support related to the COVID-19 epidemic, including in particular collecting data by gender and race, in order to ensure that the program isn’t leaving out communities, minority- and women-owned businesses, or the smallest businesses.

SUPPORTING AFRICAN AMERICAN CHURCHES DURING THE COVID-19 CRISIS

Shelter-in-place orders, while critical to protecting the health of parishioners, have hit churches hard as collection revenue has virtually stopped. African American churches are especially at-risk during the downturn. One survey put the typical African American membership at just 75 congregants, while others have noted that annual revenue is down since much of it is typically collected during Easter season. At a time when many Americans will seek spiritual assistance and social support, we must ensure the preservation of religious institutions. The decision by Congress to include non-profits, including religious institutions, in the Paycheck Protection Program and Emergency Injury Disaster Loan programs was a critical first step. But the support has not flowed to these institutions the way it should. Well-connected companies were first in line for the support funding.
 
Biden’s True Small Business Fund would also apply to non-profit groups like African American churches.

 
Expand African American Homeownership and Access to Affordable, Safe Housing 
 
The gap between African American and white homeownership is larger today than when the Fair Housing Act was passed in 1968. This has contributed to a jaw-dropping racial wealth gap—nearly 1,000%—between median white and African American households. Because home ownership is how most families save and build wealth, the disparity in home ownership is a central driver of the racial wealth gap. As President, Biden will invest $640 billion over 10 years so every American has access to housing that is affordable, stable, safe and healthy, accessible, energy efficient and resilient, and located near good schools and with a reasonable commute to their jobs. Biden will:
 
Help families buy their first homes and build wealth by creating a new refundable, advanceable tax credit of up to $15,000. Building off of a temporary tax credit expanded as part of the Recovery Act, this tax credit will be permanent and advanceable, meaning that homebuyers receive the tax credit when they make the purchase instead of waiting to receive the assistance when they file taxes the following year.

Tackle racial bias that leads to homes in communities of color being assessed by appraisers below their fair value. Housing in communities primarily comprised of people of color is valued at tens of thousands of dollars below majority-white communities even when all other factors are the same, contributing to the racial wealth gap. To counteract this racial bias, Biden will establish a national standard for housing appraisals that ensures appraisers have adequate training and a full appreciation for neighborhoods and do not hold implicit biases because of a lack of community understanding. 
 
Roll back Trump Administration policies gutting fair lending and fair housing protections, strongly enforce fair credit reporting laws, and create a new Public Credit Reporting Agency. Being able to obtain a credit report is a critical step for homeownership. Biden has long been an advocate for eliminating discrimination in the provision of credit, including his legislation amending the Equal Credit Opportunity Act which prohibited creditors from discriminating against consumer applicants for credit. Today’s credit reports, which are issued by just three large private companies, are rife with problems: they often contain errors, they leave many credit invisible due to the sources used to generate a credit score, and they contribute to racial disparitieswidening the African American homeownership gap, Biden will create a new public credit reporting agency within the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to provide consumers with a government option that seeks to minimize racial disparities, for example by ensuring the algorithms used for credit scoring don’t have a discriminatory impact, and by accepting non-traditional sources of data like rental history and utility bills to establish credit.
 
Protect homeowners and renters from abusive lenders and landlords through a new Homeowner and Renter Bill of Rights. This new Bill of Rights will prevent mortgage brokers from leading borrowers into loans that cost more than appropriate, prevent mortgage servicers from advancing a foreclosure when the homeowner is in the process of receiving a loan modification, give homeowners a private right of action to seek financial redress from mortgage lenders and servicers that violate these protections, and give borrowers the right to a timely notification on the status of their loan modifications and to be able to appeal modification denials.
 
Roll back Trump Administration policies gutting fair lending and fair housing protections for homeowners. 

Give local elected officials the tools and resources they need to combat gentrification. Biden will implement the Obama-Biden Administration’s Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Rule requiring communities receiving certain federal funding to proactively examine housing patterns and identify and address policies that have a discriminatory effect. The Trump Administration suspended this rule in 2018. Biden will ensure effective and rigorous enforcement of the Fair Housing Act and the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act. And, he will reinstate the federal risk-sharing program which has helped secure financing for thousands of affordable rental housing units in partnership with housing finance agencies.   

Hold financial institutions accountable for discriminatory practices in the housing market. In 2013, the Obama-Biden Administration codified a long-standing, court-supported view that lending practices that have a discriminatory effect can be challenged even if discrimination was not explicit. But now the Trump Administration is seeking to gut this disparate impact standard by significantly increasing the burden of proof for those claiming discrimination. In the Biden Administration, this change will be reversed to ensure financial institutions are held accountable for serving all customers.

Restore the federal government’s power to enforce settlements against discriminatory lenders. The Trump Administration has stripped the Office of Fair Lending and Equal Opportunity, a division of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, of its power to enforce settlements against lenders found to have discriminated against borrowers – for example by charging significantly higher interest rates for people of color than white individuals. Biden will return power to the division so it can protect consumers from discrimination.

Strengthen and expand the Community Reinvestment Act to ensure that our nation’s bank and non-bank financial services institutions are serving all communities. The Community Reinvestment Act currently regulates banks, but does little to ensure that “fintechs” and non-bank lenders are providing responsible access to all members of the community. On top of that gap, the Trump Administration is proposing to weaken the law by allowing lenders to receive a passing rating even if the lenders are excluding many neighborhoods and borrowers. Biden will expand the Community Reinvestment Act to apply to mortgage and insurance companies, to add a requirement for financial services institutions to provide a statement outlining their commitment to the public interest, and, importantly, to close loopholes that would allow these institutions to avoid lending and investing in all of the communities they serve. 
 
Eliminate local and state housing regulations that perpetuate discrimination. Exclusionary zoning has for decades been strategically used to keep people of color and low-income families out of certain communities. As President, Biden will enact legislation requiring any state receiving federal dollars through the Community Development Block Grants or Surface Transportation Block Grants to develop a strategy for inclusionary zoning, as proposed in the HOME Act of 2019 by Majority Whip Clyburn and Senator Cory Booker. Biden will also invest $300 million in Local Housing Policy Grants to give states and localities the technical assistance and planning support they need to eliminate exclusionary zoning policies and other local regulations that contribute to sprawl. 
 
Increase access to affordable housing. Biden will invest in expanding the supply of affordable housing by:

Establishing a $100 billion Affordable Housing Fund to construct and upgrade affordable housing. He will ensure funding supports community development efforts, expanding the HOME program and the Capital Magnet Fund, which spurs private investment in affordable housing and economic development in distressed communities.

Providing tax incentives for the construction of more affordable housing in communities that need it most. As President, Biden will expand the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit – a tax provision designed to incentivize the construction or rehabilitation of affordable housing for low-income tenants that has created nearly 3 million affordable housing units since the mid-1980s – with a $10 billion investment. Biden will also invest in the development and rehabilitation of single family homes across distressed urban, suburban, and rural neighborhoods through the Neighborhood Homes Investment Act

Protect homeowners during the COVID-19 crisis. Biden has previously called for a rent freeze for qualifying individuals for the duration of the crisis, and a halt to foreclosures and evictions as people get back on their feet. Some banks are raising mortgage borrowing standards and requiring significantly higher down payments. Biden would also restrict the big banks’ ability to abandon the African American community by withdrawing from housing markets for all but the best-off buyers.
 
Read Joe Biden’s full housing plan at joebiden.com/housing.
 
Promote More Equitable Wealth Building and a More Secure Retirement
 
The typical white family holds approximately ten times the wealth as the typical African Americans family—a disparity that dramatically increased over the past half century. Today, the typical wealth of a white family is $171,000, compared to just $17,600 for the typical African American family. This inequity means that many African American families have insufficient wealth to enjoy a secure retirement. In fact, in 2016, the average African American family had just $25,000 saved for retirement—due in part to a retirement saving system that affords limited incentives for middle-class African American families to save for retirement. To make the U.S. retirement system more secure and equitable, Biden will:
 
Equalize the tax benefits of defined contribution plans. The current tax benefits for retirement savings are based on the concept of deferral, whereby savers get to exclude their retirement contributions from tax, see their savings grow tax free, and then pay taxes when they withdraw money from their account. This system provides upper-income families with a much stronger tax break for saving and a limited benefit for middle-class and other workers with lower earnings.
The Biden Plan will equalize benefits across the income scale, so that low- and middle-income workers will also get a tax break when they put money away for retirement. 
 
Remove penalties for caregivers who want to save for retirement. African Americans are more likely to be caregivers than whites. They also bear disproportionate caregiving responsibilities relative to white caregivers. Biden will support informal caregivers by allowing them to make “catch-up” contributions to retirement accounts, even if they’re not earning income in the formal labor market, as has been proposed in bipartisan legislation by Representatives Jackie Walorski and Harley Rouda.
 
Give small businesses a tax break for starting a retirement plan and giving workers the chance to save at work. Half of African American workers lack access to a retirement saving plan at work. Biden calls for widespread adoption of workplace savings plans and offers tax credits to small businesses to offset much of the costs. Under Biden’s plan, almost all workers without a pension or 401(k)-type plan will have access to an “automatic 401(k),” which provides the opportunity to easily save for retirement at work—putting millions of middle-class families in the path to a secure retirement.
 
Make Social Security benefits more generous and equitable. Older African Americans disproportionately depend on Social Security benefits for retirement income. To bolster retirement security for older African Americans who have spent a lifetime working, the Biden Social Security reform plan will raise benefits for vulnerable beneficiaries—including widows and widowers, low-wage workers, and long duration beneficiaries who may have exhausted all other assets. In addition, Biden proposes to boost average benefits across the board while putting Social Security on a long-term path to solvency by raising payroll taxes for workers with more than $400,000 in earnings.
 
Invest in Communities that Need it Most

Fully implement Congressman Clyburn’s 10-20-30 Plan to help all individuals living in persistently impoverished communities. To tackle persistent poverty in all communities, in both urban and rural America, Vice President Biden supports applying Congressman James Clyburn’s 10-20-30 formula to all federal programs, targeting funds to census tracts with persistent poverty.
 
Create a White House “StrikeForce” to partner with rural communities to help them access federal funds. The Biden Administration will create a White House StrikeForce consisting of agency leaders who will partner with community-building organizations in persistent poverty rural communities and help them unlock federal resources. This approach is modeled on the StrikeForce Secretary Tom Vilsack successfully established in the U.S. Department of Agriculture during the Obama-Biden Administration.
 
Drive additional capital into low-income communities to spur the development of low-income housing. The New Markets Tax Credit draws in $8 of private investment for every $1 of federal investment in low-income communities by providing tax credits to investors in community development organizations that support everything from supermarkets to real estate projects to manufacturing plants. Biden will expand the program to provide $5 billion in support every year, and will make the program permanent so communities can take the credit into account in their long-term planning.
 
Build and modernize infrastructure in communities that need it most. Biden has offered a transformational $1.3 trillion plan to create millions of good-paying, union jobs—roads, ports, waterways, schools, broadband, schools, and more. His plan includes specific measures to close the resource gap in communities of color. Biden will:

Invest in historically marginalized communities and bring everyone to the table for transportation planning. Biden will create a new Community Restoration Fund, specifically for neighborhoods where historic transportation investments cut people off from jobs, schools, and businesses. And, he will work to make sure towns and cities directly receive a portion of existing federal transportation investments.

Bring broadband to every American household. As President, Biden will close the digital divide. First, he will invest $20 billion in rural broadband infrastructure. He will triple funding to expand broadband access in rural areas, and ensure that the work of installing broadband provides high-paying jobs with benefits. He will encourage competition among providers, to increase speeds and decrease prices in urban, suburban, and rural areas. Biden will also work with the FCC to reform its Lifeline program, increasing the number of participating broadband providers, reducing fraud and abuse, and ultimately offering more low-income Americans the subsidies needed to access high-speed internet. Finally, Biden will work with Congress to pass the Digital Equity Act, to help communities tackle the digital divide. 

Read Joe Biden’s full plan to invest in infrastructure and our communities at joebiden.com/infrastructure, and his full plan for older Americans at joebiden.com/older-Americans.
 
Support African American Workers
 
Biden is proposing a plan to grow a stronger, more inclusive middle class—the backbone of the American economy—by strengthening public and private sector unions and helping all workers bargain successfully for what they deserve. Biden knows that African Americans face unique challenges as workers. Biden will support these workers by:
 
Fight for equal pay. African American women earned 61 cents for every dollar earned by white men in 2017. This totals $23,653 less in earnings in a year and $946,120 less in a lifetime. The Obama-Biden Administration protected more workers against retaliation for discussing wages and required employers to collect and report wage gaps to the federal government. As President, Biden will codify this into law, and he’ll make it easier for workers to join together in class action lawsuits, shift the burden to employers to prove pay gaps exist for job-related reasons, and increase penalties against companies that discriminate, as called for in the Paycheck Fairness Act. And, he’ll hold companies accountable by increasing funding for investigators and enforcement actions.
 
Ensure federally funded projects protect workers. Biden will propose infrastructure legislation that incorporates labor provisions contained in Senator Merkley’s Good Jobs for 21st Century Energy Act, adopting all basic labor protections, ensuring that all investments meet Davis-Bacon wage guidelines, and banning anti-worker provisions like forced arbitration and the overuse of temporary staffing agencies. He will require federally funded projects to employ workers trained in registered apprenticeship programs, and to prioritize Project Labor and Community Workforce Agreements in federal procurement procedures. His proposal will make sure that national infrastructure investments create millions of middle-class jobs, benefiting union and non-union workers across industries. Read Joe Biden’s full plan to encourage unions and collective bargaining at joebiden.com/empowerworkers.
 
Encourage diverse hiring and promotion practices. To push companies to look hard at their hiring practices and root out discrimination, Biden will require companies to make public their overall workforce diversity and senior-level diversity. He will support employers in increasing diverse hiring and promotion by providing federal grants to states, cities, and organizations to develop and implement evidence-based practices and innovative solutions, such as ban the box legislation, to push employers to hire and retain diverse employees and end discriminatory hiring policies. And, he will hold companies accountable by increasing funding for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the U.S. Labor Department’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP), and the U.S. Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division to increase the number of investigators.
 
Restore the federal government’s role in setting the bar for other employers to advance opportunities for all workers. Biden will restore and build on the Obama-Biden Administration’s Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces executive order, which Trump revoked, requiring employers’ compliance with labor and employment laws be taken into account in determining whether they are sufficiently responsible to be entrusted with federal contracts. And, he will mandate that contractors publicly disclose plans to recruit and advance people of color, women, people with disabilities, and covered veterans and will increase enforcement efforts, including pursuing debarment where contractors refuse to end discriminatory practices.
 
Protect essential workers in the COVID-19 crisis. A report published in April found that “Black Americans are overrepresented in nine of the ten lowest-paid, high-contact essential services, which elevates their risk of contracting the virus.” Joe Biden has released a plan to protect these essential workers, and give them the respect, dignity, and pay they deserve.  If he were President, he would:

Ensure all frontline workers, like grocery store employees, qualify for priority access to personnel protective equipment (PPE) and COVID-19 testing based upon their risk of exposure to the virus, as well as child care assistance, and other forms of emergency COVID-19 support.

Expand access to effective personal protective equipment, including through use of the Defense Production Act. 

Establish and enforce health and safety standards for workplaces.

Enact premium pay for frontline workers putting themselves at risk. There is no substitute for ensuring worker safety, but all frontline workers putting their lives on the line should receive premium pay for their work. This premium pay should be in addition to paid sick leave and care-giving leave for every worker, which Biden called for in his plan, and $15 minimum wage for all workers. 

Turn unemployment insurance into employment insurance. African American workers are more likely to work in jobs subject to reduced hours, furloughs, and layoffs during the pandemic. Biden would transform unemployment insurance into employment insurance for millions of workers by getting states to adopt and dramatically scale up short-time compensation programs. Under short-time compensation—also known as work sharing—firms in distress keep workers employed but at reduced hours and the federal government helps make up the difference in wages. The Obama-Biden administration championed this approach in the U.S., and so far more than half of states have established short-time compensation programs. For the current crisis, the administration should move rapidly to scale up short-time compensation in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands to save or restore millions of jobs.
 
EXPAND ACCESS TO HIGH-QUALITY EDUCATION AND TACKLE RACIAL INEQUITY IN OUR EDUCATION SYSTEM
 
As President, Biden will ensure that no child’s future is determined by their zip code, parents’ income, race, or disability. Biden will build an education system that starts with investing in our children at birth and helps every student get some education beyond a high school diploma, whether a certification, associate’s degree, or bachelor’s degree. Biden will:
 
Provide high-quality, universal pre-kindergarten for all three- and four-year-olds. For families with young children, finding highly quality pre-K is a major financial, logistical, and emotional burden, with potentially lifelong consequences for their children. As President, Biden will work with states to offer pre-K for all three- and four-year-olds.
 
Eliminate the funding gap between white and non-white districts, and rich and poor districts in order to give teachers a raise and expand STEM curriculum in underserved school districts. There’s an estimated $23 billion annual funding gap between white and non-white school districts today. Biden will work to close this gap by nearly tripling Title I funding, the federal program funding schools with a high percentage of students from low-income families. This new funding will first be used to ensure teachers at Title I schools are paid competitively, three- and four-year olds have access to pre-school, and districts provide access to rigorous coursework—including computer science and other STEM subjects—across all their schools, not just a few.
 
Improve teacher diversity. For African American students, having just one African American teacher in elementary school reduces the probability of dropping out. Biden will support more innovative approaches to recruiting teachers of color, including supporting high school students in accessing dual-enrollment classes that give them an edge in teacher preparation programs, helping paraprofessionals work towards their teaching certificate, and working with Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Minority-Serving Institutions to recruit and prepare teachers.
 
Reinstate the Obama-Biden Administration’s actions to diversify our schoolsAs President, Biden will reinstate the Department of Education guidance that supported schools in legally pursuing desegregation strategies and recognized institutions of higher education’s interests in creating diverse student bodies. And, he will provide grants to school districts to create plans and implement strategies to diversify their schools.
 
Ensure that African American students are not inappropriately identified as having disabilities, while also ensuring that African American students with disabilities have the support to succeed. African American students are 40% more likely to be identified as having any disability, and twice as likely to be identified as having certain disabilities, such as emotional disturbance and intellectual disabilities. The Obama-Biden Administration issued regulations to address racial disparities in special education programs, including disproportionate identification. The Trump Administration attempted to illegally delay the Obama-Biden Administration’s regulation. Biden will fully implement this regulation and provide educators the resources that they need to provide students with disabilities a high-quality education by fully funding the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). 
 
Address the African American student debt crisis. The student debt burden has a disproportionate impact on African Americans. The typical bachelor’s degree graduate has about $16,000 in debt compared to $23,400 for African Americans students. According to a recent Brookings Institution study, African Americans graduating with a four year degree are 5 times more likely to default on their student loans than white graduates. African American students are three times more likely to default on their student loans than white student borrowers. The inequitable burden of student loan debt contributes to the stark racial wealth gap that exists in society. Biden’s plans to address student loan debt will alleviate student debt burdens by:

Including in the COVID-19 response an immediate cancellation of a minimum of $10,000 of federal student loan debt.

Forgiving all undergraduate tuition-related federal student debt from two- and four-year public colleges for debt-holders earning up to $125,000. This will also apply to individuals holding federal student loans for tuition from private HBCUs and MSIs.

Forgiving loan payments for individuals making $25,000 or less per year and capping loan payments at 5% of discretionary income for those making more.

Fixing the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program and forgiving $10,000 of undergraduate or graduate student debt for every year of national or community service, up to five years.

Cracking down on private lenders profiteering off of students by empowering the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to take action against private lenders who are misleading students about their options and do not provide an affordable payment plan when individuals are experiencing acute periods of financial hardship.

Permitting the discharge of student loans in bankruptcy.

Increase college completion by making college affordable for African American students. Our postsecondary education system has not done enough to help African American students access, afford, and succeed in high-quality postsecondary education. 64% of white students graduate from four year institutions, compared to only 40% of African Americans. To help African American students access and complete college, Biden will:

Make public colleges and universities tuition-free for all students whose family incomes are below $125,000, including students at public HBCUs. 

Providing two years of community college or other high-quality training programs without debt for any hard-working individual looking to learn and improve their skills to keep up with the changing nature of work. This commitment includes two-year public HBCUs. Individuals will also be able to use these funds to pursue training programs that have a track record of participants completing their programs and securing good jobs, including adults who never had the chance to pursue additional education beyond high school or who need to learn new skills.

Targeting additional financial support to low-income and middle-class individuals by doubling the maximum value of Pell grants, significantly increasing the number of middle-class Americans who can participate in the program. According to the Department of Education, almost 60% of African American undergraduates received a Pell grant during the 2015-2016 academic year. Biden also will restore formerly incarcerated individuals’ eligibility for Pell.

Invest over $70 billion in the Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Minority-Serving Institutions that will train our next generation of African American professionals. Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) are key to educating our next generations of African American leaders. They enroll about 10% of African American students, while accounting for more than 20% of African American bachelor’s degrees awarded. 40% of African American engineers and 80% of African American judges are HBCU graduates. But these institutions do not receive the investment that reflects their importance. The Thurgood Marshall College Fund estimates that the typical HBCU endowment is one-eighth the average size of historically white colleges. As President, Biden will take steps to rectify the funding disparities faced by HBCUs so that the United States can benefit from their unique strengths. Biden will:

Make HBCUs more affordable for their students. Biden will invest $18 billion in grants to four-year HBCUs and Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs), equivalent to up to two years of tuition per low-income and middle class student. He will invest additional funds in private, non-profit HBCUs and under-resourced MSIs so they are not undermined by the Biden proposal to make four-year public colleges and universities tuition-free for students. Schools must invest in lowering costs, improving retention and graduation rates, and closing equity gaps year over year for students of color.

Reduce disparities in funding for HBCUs and MSIs.

Invest $10 billion to create at least 200 new centers of excellence that serve as research incubators and connect students underrepresented in fields critical to our nation’s future – including fields tackling climate change, globalization, inequality, health disparities, and cancer – to learning and career opportunities.

Build the high tech labs and facilities and digital infrastructure needed for learning, research, and innovation at HBCUs and MSIs.

Invest $5 billion in graduate programs in teaching, health care, and STEM and will develop robust internship and career pipelines at major research agencies.

Create a “Title I for postsecondary education” to help students at under-resourced four-year schools complete their degrees. The Biden Administration will establish a new grant program to support under-resourced four-year schools that serve large numbers of Pell-eligible students. The funds will be used to foster collaboration between colleges and community-based organizations to provide wraparound support services for students, including additional financial aid to cover textbook and transportation costs that often keep students from staying enrolled, to child care and mental health services, faculty mentoring, tutoring, and peer support groups.

Make a $50 billion investment in workforce training, including community-college business partnerships and apprenticeships. These funds will create and support partnerships between community colleges, businesses, unions, state, local, and tribal governments, universities, and high schools to identify in-demand knowledge and skills in a community and develop or modernize training programs – which could be as short as a few months or as long as two years – that lead to a relevant, high-demand industry-recognized credential.
 
Read Joe Biden’s full education plans at joebiden.com/education and joebiden.com/beyondHS.

MAKE FAR-REACHING INVESTMENTS IN ENDING HEALTH DISPARITIES BY RACE
 
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the long-standing, pervasive disparities that exist across our health care system due to unequal access to treatment. An early analysis indicates that counties with majority-African American populations have coronavirus infection rates three times higher than counties with majority white residents, with death rates nearly six times higher. Although COVID-19 can hit anyone anywhere, it does not affect every community the same. African Americans are more likely to be uninsured and report higher rates of chronic health problems, and these factors increase their chances of becoming seriously ill and dying from this disease. This is unconscionable. Biden calls on Congress to immediately enact Senator Kamala Harris’ bill to create a task force to address the racial disparities that have been laid bare by this pandemic. As President, he will do everything in his power to eliminate health care disparities.
 
Ensuring access to health care during this crisis. In the short-term, Biden’s COVID-19 response plan calls on the Trump Administration to drop its support of a lawsuit to overturn Obamacare. Millions of Americans may lose their health insurance because they lose their job, and millions more may find health care increasingly difficult to afford. During this crisis, Biden would expand access to quality, affordable health care for all through:

Creating a public option;

Providing full payment of premiums for COBRA plans;

Increasing Affordable Care Act subsidies;

Reopening Obamacare enrollment so uninsured individuals can get insured;

Increasing federal investments in Medicaid;

Ensuring that every person, whether insured or uninsured, will not have to pay a dollar out-of-pocket for visits related to COVID-19 testing, treatment, preventative services, and any eventual vaccine. No co-payments, no deductibles, and no surprise medical billing.

Ensure access to affordable, high-quality health care beyond the crisis. Because of Obamacare, over 100 million people no longer have to worry that an insurance company will deny coverage or charge higher premiums just because they have a pre-existing condition – whether cancer or diabetes or heart disease or a mental health challenge. Insurance companies can no longer set annual or lifetime limits on coverage. Roughly 20 million additional Americans obtained the peace of mind that comes with health insurance. Young people who are in transition from school to a job have the option to stay covered by their parents’ plan until age 26. As President, Joe Biden will build on Obamacare. He will help address racial disparities in the health care system in the following ways:

Reducing the uninsured rate for African Americans by creating a public option health planNationally, 11% of nonelderly African Americans are uninsured, compared to 8% of white people. This disparity is far greater in states with Republican governors who have not expanded Medicaid. Biden will give all Americans a new choice, a public health insurance option like Medicare. And he will ensure the individuals who would be eligible for Medicaid but for their state’s inaction are automatically enrolled on to the public option, at no cost to the individual.

Improving care for patients with chronic conditions, by coordinating among all of a patient’s doctors. This is particularly important for patients with chronic conditions, such as diabetes and hypertension, which disproportionately impact African Americans.

Lowering costs for African Americans enrolled in Obamacare plans by increasing the value of tax credits to lower premium and lowering deductibles by making other changes to how the tax credits are calculated.

Lowering drug prices, by allowing Medicare to negotiate with drug prices and stopping drug companies from price gouging on new drugs.

Reducing our unacceptably high African American maternal mortality rate. African American women are 2.5 times more likely to die from pregnancy complications than non-Hispanic white women. California came up with a strategy that halved the state’s maternal death rate. The Biden plan takes the California strategy nationwide.

Expanding access to reproductive health care, including contraception and protecting the constitutional right to choose. Biden supports repealing the Hyde Amendment. He will also restore funding for Planned Parenthood, which provides services necessary to address health disparities, including breast cancer screenings and HIV/AIDS counseling, screening, and treatment. The breast cancer death rate is over 40% higher for African Americans than white women, and in 2016, African American women comprised 60% of new HIV cases.

Doubling the nation’s investment in community health centers. Community health centers provide primary, prenatal, and other important care, and their patients are disproportionately members of racial and ethnic minority groups, including African Americans.

Expanding access to mental health care. African Americans are far less likely to receive mental health services or compared to white adults.  Biden will ensure mental health parity and eliminating the stigma around mental health are critical to closing this gap.

Tackling social determinants of health. Because racial health disparities are the result of years of systemic inequality not only in our health care system, but across our economy, other parts of Joe Biden’s agenda are also necessary to improve the overall well-being of African Americans. For example, African Americans are more likely to face exposure to air pollutants that cause respiratory illnesses that make them particularly vulnerable to COVID-19.

Invest in the diverse talent at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) to solve the country’s most pressing problems, including health disparities. As part of Biden’s more than $70 billion investment in HBCUs and MSIs, he will invest $10 billion to create at least 200 new centers of excellence that serve as research incubators and connect students underrepresented in fields critical to our nation’s future to learning and career opportunities. He will develop robust internship and career pipelines at major research agencies, including National Institutes of Health. He will also dedicate additional and increased priority funding streams at federal agencies for grants and contracts for HBCUs and MSIs. And, he will require any federal research grants to universities with an endowment of over $1 billion to form a meaningful partnership and enter into a 10% minimum subcontract with an HBCU, TCU, or MSI.
 
Build a diverse pipeline of health care professionals by investing in health care graduate programs at HBCUs and MSIs. As part of Biden’s more than $70 billion investment in HBCUs and MSis, he will invest $5 billion in graduate programs in health care, along with teaching and STEM, at HBCUs and MSIs.
 
Read Joe Biden’s full health care plan at joebiden.com/healthcare.
 
STRENGTHEN AMERICA’S COMMITMENT TO JUSTICE
 
Today, too many people are incarcerated in the United States – and too many of them are African American. To build safe and healthy communities, we need to rethink who we’re sending to prison, how we treat those in prison, and how we help them get the health care, education, jobs, and housing they need to successfully rejoin society after they serve their time. As President, Biden will strengthen America’s commitment to justice and reform our criminal justice system.
 
The Biden Plan for Strengthening America’s Commitment to Justice is based on several core principles:

We can and must reduce the number of people incarcerated in this country while also reducing crime. Reducing the number of incarcerated individuals will reduce federal spending on incarceration. These savings should be reinvested in the communities impacted by mass incarceration.

Our criminal justice system cannot be just unless we root out the racial, gender, and income-based disparities in the system. African American mothers and fathers should feel confident that their children are safe walking the streets of America. And, when a police officer pins on that shield and walks out the door, the officer’s family should know they’ll come home at the end of the day. Additionally, women and children are uniquely impacted by the criminal justice system, and the system needs to address their unique needs.

Our criminal justice system must be focused on redemption and rehabilitation. Making sure formerly incarcerated individuals have the opportunity to be productive members of our society is not only the right thing to do, it will also grow our economy.

No one should be profiteering off of our criminal justice system.

Biden will call for the immediate passage of Congressman Bobby Scott’s SAFE Justice Act, an evidence-based, comprehensive bill to reform our criminal justice system “from front-end sentencing reform to back-end release policies.” The Biden Plan will also go further. Biden will take bold action to reduce our prison population, create a more just society, and make our communities safer. He will:
 
Expand and use the power of the U.S. Justice Department to address systemic misconduct in police departments and prosecutors’ offices. Using authority in legislation spearheaded by Biden as senator, the Obama-Biden Justice Department used pattern-or-practice investigations and consent decrees to address circumstances of “systemic police misconduct” and to “restore trust between police and communities” in cities such as Ferguson. Yet, the Trump Administration’s Justice Department has limited the use of this tool. Under the Biden Administration, the Justice Department will again use its authority to root out unconstitutional or unlawful policing. In addition, Biden will push for legislation to clarify that this pattern-or-practice investigation authority can also be used to address systemic misconduct by prosecutors’ offices.
 
Establish an independent Task Force on Prosecutorial Discretion. The Biden Administration will create a new task force, placed outside of the U.S. Department of Justice, to make recommendations for tackling discrimination and other problems in our justice system that results from arrest and charging decisions.
 
Reinvigorate community-oriented policing. Policing works best when officers are out of their cruisers and walking the streets, engaging with and getting to know members of their communities. But in order to do that, police departments need resources to hire a sufficient number of officers. Biden spearheaded the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program, which authorized funding both for the hiring of additional police officers and for training on how to undertake a community policing approach. However, the program has never been funded to fulfill the original vision for community policing. Biden will reinvigorate the COPS program with a $300 million investment. As a condition of the grant, hiring of police officers must mirror the racial diversity of the community they serve. Additionally, as President, Biden will establish a panel to scrutinize what equipment is used by law enforcement in our communities.
 
Invest in public defenders’ offices to ensure defendants’ access to quality counsel. Defenders’ resources and support are too decentralized and too hard to access. Biden will expand the Obama-Biden effort to expand resources for public defenders’ offices.
 
Create a $20 billion grant program to support criminal justice reform at the state and local level. Funds can be used by cities and states on measures proven to reduce crime and incarceration, and require states to eliminate mandatory minimums for non-violent crimes in order to receive funding.
 
Reform sentencing. Biden will work with Congress to reform federal sentencing and provide incentives to state and local systems to do the same. He will end, once and for all, the federal crack and powder cocaine disparity, decriminalize the use of cannabis and automatically expunge all prior cannabis use convictions, and end all incarceration for drug use alone and instead divert individuals to drug courts and treatment. He will work to eliminate mandatory minimums and the death penalty.
 
End the criminalization of poverty. Cash bail is the modern-day debtors’ prison. Biden will lead a national effort to end cash bail and reform our pretrial system by putting in place, instead, a system that is fair and does not inject further discrimination or bias into the process. And, he will work to end the practice of jailing people for being too poor to pay fines and fees.
 
Stop corporations from profiteering off of incarceration. Biden will end the federal government’s use of private prisons, building off an Obama-Biden Administration’s policy rescinded by the Trump Administration. And, he will make clear that the federal government should not use private facilities for any detention, including detention of undocumented immigrants.
 
Eliminate existing barriers preventing formerly incarcerated individuals from fully participating in society. For example, Biden will eliminate barriers keeping formerly incarcerated individuals from accessing public assistance such as SNAP, Pell grants, and housing support. The Biden Administration will incentivize states to automatically restore voting rights for individuals convicted of felonies once they have served their sentences. He will also expand access to mental health and substance use disorder treatment, as well as educational opportunities and job training for individuals during and after incarceration. 
 
Reform the juvenile justice system. Biden will invest $1 billion per year in juvenile justice reform. He will expand funding for after-school programs, community centers, and summer jobs to keep young people active, busy, learning, and having fun. Biden will double the number of mental health professionals in our schools so behavioral and emotional challenges can be addressed by appropriately skilled psychologists, counselors, and social workers, not our criminal justice system. And, he will restore the Obama-Biden Administration guidance to help schools address the high number of suspensions and expulsions that affect students of color at a higher rate than white students.
 
Make our communities safer. Biden will pursue evidence-based measures to root out persistent violent crime. Violent offenders need to be held accountable, and survivors need to have access to support to deal with the physical, psychological, and financial consequences of violence. Biden will tackle the rise in hate crimes through moral leadership that makes clear such vitriol has no place in the United States. And, in the Biden Administration, the Justice Department will prioritize prosecuting hate crimes. Additionally, Biden will address the daily acts of gun violence in our communities that may not make national headlines, but are just as devastating to survivors and victims’ families as gun violence that does make the front page. These daily acts of gun violence disproportionately impact communities of color. Biden will create a $900 million, eight-year initiative to fund evidence-based interventions in 40 cities across the country – the 20 cities with the highest number of homicides, and 20 cities with the highest number of homicides per capita. This proposal is estimated to save more than 12,000 lives over the eight-year program.
 
Read Joe Biden’s full criminal justice plan at joebiden.com/justice and his plan to reduce gun violence at joebiden.com/gunsafety.
 
MAKE THE RIGHT TO VOTE AND THE RIGHT TO EQUAL PROTECTION REAL FOR AFRICAN AMERICANS
 
President Trump has rolled back civil rights enforcement across the government and cut staff for the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice.  In the first two years of the Trump Administration, the Division started 60% fewer investigations than during the Obama-Biden Administration. As President, Biden will reverse the damage done by Trump and increase funding for civil rights enforcement. He will ensure that the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, the EEOC, and agency civil rights enforcement offices have the resources they need to root out and stop discrimination. He will also:
 
Ensure that political appointees, including the President’s Cabinet, look like the country they serve, and ensure that our federal workforce is representative of the demographics in our country. The Obama-Biden Administration made great progress in building a diverse federal workforce, but Biden knows work remains for the country to fully realize the benefits of the talents, abilities, and perspectives of a workforce that looks like the country. As President, Biden will nominate and appoint people who look like the country they serve and share Biden’s commitment to rigorous enforcement of civil rights protections. He will reissue and mandate strict compliance with the Obama-Biden executive order to promote diversity and inclusion. He will rebuild the pipeline of workers into the federal government and incentivize more qualified workers to choose public service by forgiving $10,000 a year in student debt for up to five years of public service. He’ll tap into the best and brightest talent from every source by developing career pipelines from Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Minority Serving Institutions into federal agencies. Biden will also provide more training and mentoring opportunities to improve retention, and collect better data about who is applying for federal service positions as well as being promoted.
 
Appoint U.S. Supreme Court justices and federal judges who look like America, are committed to the rule of law, understand the importance of individual civil rights and civil liberties in a democratic society, and respect foundational precedents like Brown vs. Board of Education and Roe v. Wade. Biden has also pledged to appoint the first African American woman to the U.S. Supreme Court, a move which is long overdue. We can’t have four more years of Trump appointees filling lifetime judiciary seats. Trump has already appointed 193 federal judges – including two Supreme Court justices. Only eight are African American. Three Trump appointees were rated “not qualified” by the American Bar Association.
 
Ensure every vote counts. Since the Supreme Court decision in Shelby County v. Holder, an increasing number of states have passed laws with no apparent purpose besides making it more difficult to vote, especially for people of color. It’s just as un-American now as it was during Jim Crow. As President, Biden will strengthen our democracy by guaranteeing that every American’s vote is protected. He will start by passing the Voting Rights Advancement Act to update section 4 of the Voting Rights Act and develop a new process for pre-clearing election changes. He also will ensure that the Justice Department challenges state laws suppressing the right to vote. Biden supports automatic voter registration, same-day voter registration, and many more steps to make exercising one’s right to vote easier. Biden will ensure that the Justice Department has the resources and authority to enforce laws that protect our voting rights. Biden believes we need to end gerrymandering and we must protect our voting booths and voter rolls from foreign powers that seek to undermine our democracy and interfere in our elections. And, the Biden Administration will incentivize states to automatically restore voting rights for individuals convicted of felonies once they have served their sentences. 

Combat the epidemic of violence against transgender women of color. As a direct response to the high rates of homicide of transgender people—particularly transgender women of color—the Biden Administration will make prosecuting their murderers a priority. And, during his first 100 days in office, Biden will direct federal resources to help prevent violence against transgender women, particularly transgender women of color. Recognizing that employment and housing discrimination lead to increased risk of homelessness and violence, Biden will also work to pass the Equality Act to reduce economic barriers and social stigma and the LGBTQ Essential Data Act to help collect a wide variety of critical data about anti-trans violence and the factors that drive it.

Tackle systemic racism and support a study of the continuing impacts of slavery. We must acknowledge that there can be no realization of the American dream without grappling with the original sin of slavery, and the centuries-long campaign of violence, fear, and trauma wrought upon African American people in this country. As Biden has said in this campaign, a Biden Administration will support a study of reparations. Biden will begin on day one of his Administration to address the systemic racism that persists across our institutions today. That’s why he developed educationclimate change, and health care policies, among others, that will root out this systemic racism and ensure that all Americans have a fair shot at living the American dream.
 
ADDRESS ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE
 
Biden knows we cannot turn a blind eye to the way in which environmental burdens and benefits have been and will continue to be distributed unevenly along racial and socioeconomic lines – not just with respect to climate change, but also pollution of our air, water, and land. The evidence of these disproportionate harms is clear. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America and the National Pharmaceutical Council, African Americans are almost three times more likely to die from asthma related causes than their white counterparts. People of color are more likely to live in areas most vulnerable to flooding and other climate change-related weather events. They are also less likely to have the funds to prepare for and recover from extreme weather. In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, African American and Hispanic residents were twice as likely as non-Hispanic white individuals to report experiencing an income shock and lack of recovery support.
 
As President, Biden will stand up to the abuse of power by polluters who disproportionately harm communities of color and low-income communities. He has asked his campaign to commence a process to more deeply engage with environmental justice leaders and develop additional policies related to environmental justice. The policies, to be announced in the weeks ahead, will build on the proposals he has put forward to date:
 
Reinstate federal protections, rolled back by the Trump Administration, that were designed to protect communities. Biden will make it a priority for all agencies to engage in community-driven approaches to develop solutions for environmental injustices affecting communities of color, low-income, and indigenous communities.
 
Hold polluters accountable. African American children living in poverty are more likely than wealthier white children to live in a community that borders toxic chemical facilities. Extreme weather can increase the health risks of being co-located with these toxic structures. Under the Trump Administration, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has referred the fewest number of criminal anti-pollution cases to the Justice Department in 30 years. Allowing corporations to continue to pollute – affecting the health and safety of both their workers and surrounding communities – without consequences perpetuates an egregious abuse of power. Failure to reduce emissions disproportionately hurts African American and Hispanic residents who experience 37% higher exposure to nitrogen dioxide (a toxic pollutant) compared to non-Hispanic whites. This leads to an increased rate of premature death due to heart disease. As President, Biden will direct EPA and the Justice Department to pursue these cases to the fullest extent permitted by law and, when needed, seek additional legislation as needed to hold corporate executives personally accountable – including jail time where merited.
 
Ensure access to safe drinking water for all communities. Biden will make water infrastructure a top priority, for example, by establishing systems to monitor lead and other contaminants in our water supply and take necessary action to eliminate health risks, including holding polluters accountable and support communities in upgrading their systems. In addition, Biden will double federal investments in clean drinking water and water infrastructure, and focus new funding on low-income rural, suburban, and urban areas that are struggling to replace pipes and treatment facilities – and especially on communities at high risk of lead or other kinds of contamination. In addition, Biden will reduce the matching funds required of local governments that don’t have the tax base to be able to afford borrowing to repair their water systems.
 
Monitor for lead and other contaminants and hold polluters accountable. As President, Biden will also require state and local governments to monitor their water systems for lead and other contaminants, and he will provide them with the resources to do so. Biden will also work with the EPA and the Justice Department to hold companies that pollute our waterways accountable, aggressively enforcing existing regulations and prosecuting any violations. Corporations and their executives cannot break the law and expect to get away with it.
 
Prioritize communities harmed by climate change and pollution. Low-income communities and communities of color don’t equally share in the benefits of well-paying job opportunities that result from our clean energy economy. As President, Biden will make sure these communities receive preference in competitive grant programs in the Clean Economy Revolution. In addition, Biden will pursue new partnerships with community colleges, unions, and the private sector to develop programs to train all of America’s workforce to tap into the growing clean energy economy; incorporate skills training into infrastructure investment planning by engaging state and local communities; and reinvigorate and repurpose AmeriCorps for sustainability, so that every American can participate in the clean energy economy. We also know that resiliency investments can raise property values and push lower-income families out of their neighborhoods. Climate change mitigation efforts must consciously protect low-income communities from “green gentrification.”

Womens March on NYC Led by Womens March Alliance Draws Tens of Thousands

By Karen Rubin, News& Photo Features

Women’s March on NYC organized by Womens March Alliance, Jan. 19, 2019

Tens of thousands took to the streets of New York City on Saturday, January 19, 2019 for the third annual Women’s March organized by the Women’s March Alliance, calling for action on a Woman’s Agenda that encompasses everything from pay parity, paid parental leave and reproductive freedom, to immigration reform, gun violence prevention, climate action, criminal justice reform – in other words, the gamut of social, political, environmental and economic justice. (See also With Cry of ‘Your Voice Your Power,’ Alliance Mounts 3rd Annual Women’s March on NYC Jan. 19)

The marchers got particularly animated outside of Trump Tower Hotel on Central Park West, chanting “Shame, Shame, Shame,” extending a finger, and waving placards calling for “Indict, Impeach, Imprison.”

The protesters use their bodies as message boards. Here are highlights:

Women’s March on NYC organized by Womens March Alliance, Jan. 19, 2019
New York City High School members of “NYC Great Girls” (Girls Reaching Every Apex Together), a leadership initiative of the NYC Department of Education, gather for the 2019 Women’s March NYC © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Women’s March on NYC organized by Womens March Alliance, Jan. 19, 2019
Alexandria OcasioCortez at 2019 NYC Women’s March © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Alexandria OcasioCortez at 2019 NYC Women’s March © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Women’s March on NYC organized by Womens March Alliance, Jan. 19, 2019
Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney with Manhattan Borough President Gail Brewer at 2019 NYC Women’s March © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Women’s March on NYC organized by Womens March Alliance, Jan. 19, 2019
Women’s March on NYC organized by Womens March Alliance, Jan. 19, 2019
Women’s March on NYC organized by Womens March Alliance, Jan. 19, 2019
Women’s March on NYC organized by Womens March Alliance, Jan. 19, 2019
Women’s March on NYC organized by Womens March Alliance, Jan. 19, 2019
Women’s March on NYC organized by Womens March Alliance, Jan. 19, 2019
Women’s March on NYC organized by Womens March Alliance, Jan. 19, 2019
Women’s March on NYC organized by Womens March Alliance, Jan. 19, 2019
Women’s March on NYC organized by Womens March Alliance, Jan. 19, 2019
Women’s March on NYC organized by Womens March Alliance, Jan. 19, 2019
Women’s March on NYC organized by Womens March Alliance, Jan. 19, 2019
Women’s March on NYC organized by Womens March Alliance, Jan. 19, 2019
Women’s March on NYC organized by Womens March Alliance, Jan. 19, 2019
Women’s March on NYC organized by Womens March Alliance, Jan. 19, 2019
Women’s March on NYC organized by Womens March Alliance, Jan. 19, 2019
Women’s March on NYC organized by Womens March Alliance, Jan. 19, 2019
Women’s March on NYC organized by Womens March Alliance, Jan. 19, 2019
Women’s March on NYC organized by Womens March Alliance, Jan. 19, 2019
Women’s March on NYC organized by Womens March Alliance, Jan. 19, 2019
Women’s March on NYC organized by Womens March Alliance, Jan. 19, 2019

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© 2019 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

NYS Governor Cuomo Uses State of State Message to Define Justice Agenda

New York State Governor Andrew M. Cuomo used his 2019 State of the State Address to delineate a Justice Agenda that works toward the ideal of full, true justice for all. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

This is what a progressive state looks like.

New York State Governor Andrew M. Cuomo used his 2019 State of the State Address to delineate a Justice Agenda that works toward the ideal of full, true justice for all. 

In stark contrast to the federal government’s dysfunction and the self-destructive tactic of using the shutdown to extort a political prop, the Governor is laying out a blueprint to move forward, while shielding New Yorkers from Washington’s devastating federal attacks. It is aimed at strengthening the middle class, safeguards the environment, improves the health of communities and invests in building an infrastructure for the 21st century. For the ninth consecutive year, the Budget is balanced and holds spending growth below two percent.

“In December, in the face of the nation’s biggest social crisis, and with the federal government seeking to undo generations of progress, Governor Cuomo laid out his legislative agenda to enable the Legislature to commence action on these top priorities immediately upon convening.” In this State of the State Address, the Governor called on the Legislature to swiftly and immediately act on these priorities in the first 100 days of session.
 
“In the face of unprecedented challenges on a national level and a federal government at a complete standstill, New York will deliver on the most productive agenda in our history and build on our record of accomplishments,” Governor Cuomo said. “This is a true Justice Agenda that ensures our neediest schools receive an equitable share of funds, advances historic criminal justice reform, safeguards our health care, protects the rights of women in our state from the federal government, and leads the nation in fight against climate change and contaminants in our environment and our water. While extreme conservatives in Washington govern by division and fuel dysfunction, New York State will raise the beacon of progress and take action to make a real difference in people’s lives.”

Here is a summary of the initiatives (it is long, but New Yorkers should see the detail of the agenda):

  • The FY 2020 Executive Budget is $175.2 billion on an All Funds basis.
  • State Operating Funds is $102.0 billion, growth of 1.9%
  • Health and Education spending grows at 3.6%, Executive Agencies at 0.8%.

ECONOMIC JUSTICE
  
Continue the Phase-In of Middle Class Tax Cuts: The Budget supports the phase-in of the middle class tax cuts. Under these reforms, rates will continue to drop to 5.5 percent and 6 percent when the cuts are fully phased in – an up to 20 percent cut in income tax rates for the middle class – and produce a projected $4.2 billion in annual savings for six million filers by 2025. As the new rates phase in, they will be the State’s lowest middle-class tax rates in more than 70 years.
 
Extend the Millionaire’s Tax: To protect the progress that has been made in enhancing progressivity and ensuring tax fairness for New York’s middle-class, Governor Cuomo is proposing a five-year extension of the current tax rate on millionaires. This will preserve an estimated $4.4 billion annually otherwise unavailable to make vital investments in education and infrastructure to secure New York’s future economic prosperity.
 
Make Permanent the Property Tax Cap: Governor Cuomo made a first-ever property tax cap a hallmark of his first campaign for Governor and a priority of his administration’s first year. Since the implementation of the tax cap in 2012, growth has averaged approximately 2 percent and the tax cap has produced approximately $25 billion in taxpayers’ savings. The Governor proposes that New York preserve and make permanent the property tax cap, as he has advocated in the past.
 
Close the Carried Interest Loophole: Because of an egregious loophole in federal law, some of the wealthiest people in the country, including hedge fund managers and private equity investors, are paying lower tax rates on their income than many middle class families. This “carried interest” loophole results in a substantial cost to middle-class New Yorkers, with the State losing about $100 million every year. To ensure that the wealthiest Americans are paying their fair share, Governor Cuomo will take a landmark step to close the carried interest loophole under New York State law and effectively eliminate the benefits of this loophole under the federal tax code.
 
Fight for the Full Deductibility of State and Local Taxes: Governor Cuomo fought the federal tax bill every step of the way while it was under consideration in Congress. After its passage, New York joined together with three other states to sue the federal government over this illegal and targeted assault. The Governor will continue to fight against this law and the threat that it poses to New York State, and he urges the new Democratic House of Representations stand together and demand that the SALT deduction is fully restored.
 
Continue Lawsuit Against Federal Government Challenging Unconstitutional Tax Law That Targets New York: Governor Cuomo and Attorney General Barbara D. Underwood filed a lawsuit to protect New York and its taxpayers from Washington’s drastic curtailment of the SALT deduction. The lawsuit argues that the new SALT cap was enacted to target New York and similarly situated states, that it interferes with states’ rights to make their own fiscal decisions, and that it will disproportionately harm taxpayers in these states. The Governor and Attorney General Letitia James will continue in their fight to overturn the law’s unprecedented and unconstitutional limitations on SALT deductibility.
 
Building 21st Century Infrastructure
 
Invest an Additional $150 Billion in the Nation’s Largest Infrastructure Program: Governor Cuomo has made an unprecedented commitment to invest $150 billion in infrastructure projects over the next five years. Beginning in FY 2020, these capital projects will rebuild transportation and mass transit systems, drive economic and community development, create new environmental and park facilities, and support our sustainable energy future.
 
Reduce Traffic Congestion in NYC and Fund the MTA: This year, the Governor will implement congestion pricing to establish a reliable funding stream to transform the transit system and reduce congestion in Manhattan. By charging fees for vehicles to move within the most congested area of New York City and then reinvesting those funds into transit improvements, this plan will combat gridlock and deliver to New York City’s residents and visitors the world-class transit system they deserve. 
 
Establish Accountability for the MTA: The MTA is a bureaucracy that lacks any accountability. The board of 17 members gives no single person a clear majority of nominees and there are 32 unions representing MTA employees that exert significant political power over the elected officials who appoint the board members. To overhaul this bureaucracy and fix the system, the Governor will work with the Legislature to establish clear authority over the MTA, while continuing to solve the need for dedicated funding and splitting capital funding shortfalls between New York City and New York State. Only with clearly designated authority and adequate funding can the MTA can be overhauled into the efficient and effective transit system that New Yorkers deserve.
   
Expand Design-Build and Enact Other Efficiencies to Expedite Construction Projects: Governor Cuomo’s $100 billion infrastructure program is arguably the nation’s largest and boldest. Key to the program’s success is the Governor’s decision to deploy the design-build method on complex projects, saving taxpayers time and money by making a single contractor responsible for both a project’s design and its actual construction. To ensure efficiency across State projects, the Executive Budget includes legislation authorizing the use of state-of-the-art methods such as construction manager at-risk and construction manager-build, while expanding design-build to additional agencies.
 
Continuing New York’s Bottom-Up Economic Development Strategy
  
Invest $750 million for Round Nine of the Regional Economic Development Councils: In 2011, Governor Cuomo established 10 Regional Economic Development Councils (REDCs) to develop long-term regional strategic economic development plans. Since then, the REDCs have awarded $6.1 billion to more than 7,300 projects. This strategy has resulted in 230,000 new or retained jobs in New York. The Executive Budget includes core capital and tax-credit funding that will be combined with a wide range of existing agency programs for a ninth round of REDC awards totaling $750 million.
 
Invest in Communities Across the State Through the Fourth Downtown Revitalization Initiative: The Downtown Revitalization Initiative is transforming downtown neighborhoods into vibrant communities where the next generation of New Yorkers will want to live, work and raise families. Participating communities are nominated by the State’s ten REDCs based on the downtown’s potential for transformation. Through three rounds of awards, each winning community was awarded $10 million to develop a downtown strategic investment plan and implement key catalytic projects that advance the community’s vision for revitalization. The Executive Budget provides $100 million for the Downtown Revitalization Program Round IV.
 
Ensuring A Quality Education for All
 
Require Districts to Distribute State Aid in a More Equitable Manner to Their Neediest Schools: Although the state distributes 70 percent of its funding to the neediest districts, the districts do not always distribute funding to their schools in an equitable manner. In fact, some school districts have schools with significantly higher needs receiving less than the average school in the district. Governor Cuomo proposes to require that these school districts devote a portion of their 2019-20 school aid to increase the per-pupil allocation in those high-need schools. This increase in allocation will help ensure that funding intended to help improve educational outcomes for the neediest students reaches those students.
 
$1 Billion Education Aid Increase: State support for school districts will have increased by $8.1 billion (42 percent) since FY 2012. Over 70 percent of this year’s increase goes to high-need school districts. Foundation Aid is increased by $338 million.
 
Expand Universal Pre-Kindergarten: The Budget includes an additional $15 million investment in pre-kindergarten to expand high-quality half-day and full-day prekindergarten instruction for three- and four-year-old children in high-need school districts.
 
Recruit 250 New Teachers in Shortage Areas through the We Teach NY Program: With the goals of diversifying and strengthening the teacher workforce pipeline, Governor Cuomo proposes to invest $3 million in the We Teach NY program, which will strategically recruit 250 new teachers to fill identified needed positions in New York classrooms in 2024.
 
Expand Master Teacher to High Poverty Schools to Increase Access to Advanced Courses: In 2013, Governor Cuomo launched the New York State Master Teacher Program to strengthen our nation’s STEM education, giving selected educators an annual $15,000 stipend for four years, professional development opportunities and a platform to foster a supportive environment for the next generation of STEM teachers. In order to recruit and retain outstanding educators in the highest poverty schools, the Executive Budget will provide $1.5 million to support 100 new Master Teachers who teach in high-poverty schools with high rates of teacher turnover or high rates of relatively inexperienced teachers.
  
Protect Student Loan Borrowers: There are approximately 2.8 million student loan borrowers in New York that have tens of billions of dollars in outstanding student loan debt, which is serviced by about 30 student loan servicers. The Governor will advance sweeping protections for student loan borrowers by requiring that companies servicing student loans held by New Yorkers obtain a state license and meet standards consistent with the laws and regulations governing other significant lending products such as mortgages; banning upfront fees; requiring fair contracts and clear and conspicuous disclosures to borrowers; and providing penalties for failing to comply with the law.
 
Creating Economic Opportunity for Every New Yorker
 

Launch the $175 Million Workforce Initiative: Governor Cuomo will launch a new Consolidated Funding Application for workforce investments that will support strategic regional efforts that meet businesses’ short-term workforce needs, improve regional talent pipelines, expand apprenticeships, and address the long-term needs of growing industries — with a particular focus on emerging fields with growing demand for jobs like clean energy, health technology, and computer science. These funds will also support efforts to improve the economic security of women, youth, and other populations that face significant barriers to career advancement.  

Expand Employer-Driven Training Opportunities by Enhancing the Employee Training Incentive Program: Governor Cuomo proposes to expand the Employee Training Incentive Program to provide more training options to more industries by enabling employers with dedicated training shops to draw on in-house expertise in delivering approved training, and by extending ETIP tax credits to internship opportunities in additional high-tech industries.
 
Protect Workers from Union-Busting Activity by Codifying EO 183 into Law and Expanding its Protections to Local Governments: New York State has a long and distinguished history of standing by union workers. This year, Governor Cuomo will continue to advance his support for unions by introducing legislation that not only codifies EO 183 into law, but expands its protections to local governments to ensure that more union workers are protected.
 
Increase Criminal Penalties for Wage Theft: Governor Cuomo will advance legislation to increase criminal penalties for employers who knowingly or intentionally commit wage theft violations to more closely align with other forms of theft.
   
Ensuring Access to Affordable Housing
 
Enact Historic Legislation to Strengthen Rent Regulation: This year, the Governor proposes aggressive rent regulation reforms, including ending vacancy decontrol, repealing preferential rent, and limiting building and apartment improvement charges. These changes will preserve the rent regulated housing stock, strengthen tenants’ rights to affordable housing, and ensure New Yorkers safe, quality affordable housing.
 
Limit Security Deposits to Reduce Housing Barriers: Governor Cuomo will propose legislation to limit security deposits to a maximum of one month’s rent across New York State, making New York’s security deposit limits among the strongest in the nation This law will serve to ensure that burdensome security deposits will no longer serve as a barrier to entry for anyone trying to find a new place to live.  

Help Families Build Credit and Holistically Evaluate Credit Scores: In New York State, most landlords conduct background credit checks on potential tenants, which often leads to rejecting applicants with low credit scores or an insufficient credit history. To ensure all New Yorkers have a fair shot of accessing affordable, quality housing, Governor Cuomo will issue regulations prohibiting state-funded housing operators from automatically turning away applicants with poor credit or histories of bankruptcy. Instead, the State will require that all potential tenants and homeowners be holistically evaluated to determine the circumstances behind their credit history and their ability to pay rent on a forward-looking basis.  

Enact Source of Income Protections to Support Fair Housing for All: In certain parts of New York State, landlords can reject applicants based on their lawful source of income, disproportionately impacting households that rely on non-wage income or income assistance and those who use vouchers to obtain housing for their families. The Governor will work with the legislature to amend the New York State Human Rights Law to prohibit discrimination based on lawful source of income statewide to ensure that such lawful income is not a blanket barrier to housing, reducing financial instability for New York’s most economically vulnerable individuals.
 
Combating Poverty
  
Support ESPRI Communities and Establish ESPRI Representation on REDC Workforce Development Committees:  In 2016, Governor Cuomo created the Empire State Poverty Reduction Initiative (ESPRI) to combat poverty and reduce inequality. ESPRI is an important component of the Governor’s anti-poverty agenda, and this year Governor Cuomo proposes to build on the success of these State and local partnerships to address poverty, supporting more community-based efforts through continued funding of ESPRI. Governor Cuomo will also continue to support efforts by the REDCs and the economic development community to broaden and deepen their commitments to local anti-poverty efforts and he will ensure an ESPRI representative is included on each region’s Workforce Development Committee and involved in the review process for the Governor’s new Workforce Development Initiative.
  
Reduce Hunger and Food Insecurity: Building on historic investments to combat food insecurity, Governor Cuomo will establish a goal to reduce household food insecurity in New York State by 10 percent by 2024. In order to achieve this goal, Governor Cuomo is directing the following actions: create a food and anti-hunger policy coordinator; simplify access to SNAP for older and disabled adults; enhanced resources and referrals in clinical settings; participate in SNAP online purchasing pilot; and expand food access in Central Brooklyn.
 
Supporting the Rural and Agricultural Economy
  
Continue the Revitalization of the Great New York State Fairgrounds: The State Fair drives $100 million a year in economic activity in Central New York and thousands of jobs. Under Governor Cuomo’s leadership, New York State has invested more than $120 million dollars in two phases over the last three years to remake the New York State Fairgrounds. To continue the transformation of the State Fairgrounds, the State will make additional renovations and upgrades to enhance user experience. The Governor’s commitment continues to make the fairgrounds a year-round destination.
 
Fund Key Programs to Support New York’s Farmers: The agricultural industry is full of variability and uncertainty. As a reflection of the Governor’s resolve to support New York’s farmers, this year’s Executive Budget will continue funding the specialized technical assistance, industry promotion, and research investments statewide to reduce farms’ exposure to economic and climate inconsistency.
 
SOCIAL JUSTICE
 
Advancing Criminal Justice for All
 
Bail and Pretrial Detention Reform: Governor Cuomo is advancing legislation that will end cash bail once and for all, significantly reduce the number of people held in jail pretrial, and ensure due process for anyone awaiting trial behind bars. This series of reforms will include a mandate that police issue appearance tickets instead of making arrests in low-level cases, eliminate money as a means of determining freedom, and institute a new procedure whereby a district attorney can move for a hearing to determine whether eligible defendants may be held in jail pretrial, for which the judge must find reasonable cause to believe the individual is a danger to themselves or others.
 
Improve Transparency in the Discovery Process: As only one of ten states where prosecutors can withhold basic evidence until the day a trial begins, Governor Cuomo’s plan will bring New York’s discovery process into the 21st century by requiring both prosecutors and defendants to share all information in their possession well in advance of trial.  Defendants will also be allowed the opportunity to review whatever evidence is in the prosecution’s possession prior to pleading guilty to a crime.
 
Ensure the Right to a Speedy Trial: Governor Cuomo will introduce legislation that ensures criminal cases no longer drag on without accountability. With this proposal, Governor Cuomo will guarantee that all necessary discovery procedures are completed quickly, and that no New Yorker is unduly held in custody as they await their day in court.
 
Abolish the Death Penalty: Although the New York Court of Appeals ruled the death penalty unconstitutional in 2004, capital punishment was never fully repealed in statute.  To address this disparity, Governor Cuomo will introduce legislation to permanently strike capital punishment from the law to guarantee that this draconian punishment is never again practiced in the State of New York.
 
Transform the Use of Solitary Confinement in State Prisons:  New York has dramatically reformed and reduced the use of solitary confinement for people who engage in misconduct within state prisons. The Governor is directing DOCCS to accelerate the momentum of solitary confinement reform by limiting the length of time spent in separation, building dedicated housing units for rehabilitation and integration following a disciplinary sanction, and expanding therapeutic programming to reinforce positive and social behavior.
 
Establish Compassionate Release: The Governor will establish a process of compassionate release for incarcerated individuals over the age of 55 who have incapacitating medical conditions exacerbated by their age.
 
Enact a Comprehensive Re-entry Package to Improve Outcomes for Formerly Incarcerated Individuals: Governor Cuomo will enact a four-point plan to ease the burdens placed on individuals who have paid their debt to society and provide them with the opportunities they need to succeed.
 
Legalizing Adult Use Cannabis
 
In January 2018, Governor Cuomo directed the Department of Health to launch a multi-agency study to review the potential impact of regulated cannabis in New York. The study, issued last July, concluded that the positive impact of a regulated cannabis program in New York State outweighs the potential negative aspects. Building on extensive outreach and research, Governor Cuomo is proposing the establishment of a regulated cannabis program for adults 21 and over in the FY 2020 budget that protects public health, provides consumer protection, ensures public safety, addresses social justice concerns, and invests tax revenue.  Specifically, the program will: 

  • Reduce impacts of criminalization affecting communities of color.
  • Automatically seal certain cannabis-related criminal records.
  • Implement quality control and consumer protections to safeguard public health.
  • Counties and large cities can opt out.
  • Restrict access to anyone under 21.
  • Generate approximately $300 million in tax revenue and create jobs.

Advancing Reproductive Justice and Women’s Equality
  
Pass the Reproductive Health Act and Comprehensive Contraceptive Coverage Act and Enshrine Roe v. Wade into the New York State Constitution: Governor Cuomo will work with the legislature to pass the Reproductive Health Act within the first 30 days of the 2019 Legislative Session, codifying the principles of Roe v. Wade into State law. This law will ensure the right of people to make personal health care decisions to protect their health, in addition to their life, and ensure that health care professionals can provide these crucial services without fear of criminal penalty. Upon passage of the RHA, the Governor will advance a concurrent resolution to enshrine the principles of Roe v Wade into the New York State Constitution. Additionally, Governor Cuomo will advance legislation to codify affordable access to contraception, including emergency contraception, into New York State law, by passing the Comprehensive Contraceptive Coverage Act.
 
Improve Access to In-Vitro Fertilization and Fertility Preservation Coverage: This year, Governor Cuomo will advance legislation to expand access to coverage for IVF, as well as medically-necessary fertility preservation services. This legislation will specifically mandate that large group insurance providers cover IVF and will also require large, small, and individual group insurance providers to cover egg-freezing services for women with certain health conditions, including those undergoing cancer treatment.
 
Reduce Maternal Mortality and Morbidity and Racial Disparities: Based on recommendations from the Maternal Mortality Taskforce established by Governor Cuomo in 2018, the Governor will advance a series of policies to reduce maternal mortality and racial disparities in New York State, including creating an education and training program to reduce implicit racial bias in health care institutions statewide, expand Community Health Worker programs, enacting legislation to create a statewide Maternal Mortality Review Board, creating a data warehouse to provide near real-time information on maternal mortality and morbidity and to inform targeted quality initiatives, and convening an Expert Workgroup on Postpartum Care to develop recommendations targeting the critical time immediately after birth.
 
Pass the Equal Rights Amendment: Governor Cuomo will push to pass the Equal Rights Amendment to add sex as a protected class to Section 11 of Article 1 of the New York State Constitution. With this change, Section 11 of Article 1 of the New York State Constitution will read: No person shall be denied the equal protection of the laws of this State or any subdivision thereof. No person shall, because of race, color, sex, creed or religion, be subjected to any discrimination in his or her civil rights by any other person or by any firm, corporation or institution, or by the State or any agency or subdivision of the state.
 
Pass the Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act: Governor Cuomo will advance the Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act, which will build on Jenna’s Law to include more meaningful sentence reductions and encompass crimes committed not only against, but also at the behest of, abusers. The Act will also permit a small population of currently incarcerated survivors to apply for re-sentencing and earlier release due to their prior victimization.
 
Eliminate the Statute of Limitations for Rape: While New York removed the statute of limitations for Rape in the First Degree, a five-year statute of limitations remains for Rape in the Second Degree and Rape in the Third Degree. Therefore, in 2019 Governor Cuomo will advance legislation to remove the statute of limitations for Rape in the Second Degree and Third Degree.
 
Increase Protections Against Harassment in the Workplace: Building on the nation’s most comprehensive sexual harassment package signed into law by Governor Cuomo in 2018, Governor Cuomo will advance legislation to lower the high bar set for employees to hold employers accountable under the New York Human Rights Law for sexual harassment, protect employees’ rights to pursue complaints, and ensure workers know their rights, by requiring all employers to conspicuously post a sexual harassment educational poster in their workplace.
 
Modernize New York’s Pay Equity Law: Since taking office, Governor Cuomo has fought aggressively to close the gender pay gap in New York. This year, Governor Cuomo will build upon that effort by championing the passage of a salary history ban. In addition, the Governor will advance legislation to expand the definition of “equal pay for equal work” to require equal pay on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, and other protected characteristics, and expand the requirement that equal pay be provided for all substantially similar work, adding flexibility in recognition of the complexity of the issue.
 
If You Can See It, You Can Be It 2019—Girls in Government: Governor Cuomo will create an opportunity for girls to learn about the impact they can have through politics through the new Girls in Government initiative, a non-partisan program to encourage girls in grades 8 through 12 to get involved in government and public policy. The program will introduce girls to the machinery of advocacy and public policy and teach young girls about public affairs and issues that matter to them personally and in their community. They will witness first-hand the inner workings of state government and meet with elected officials and senior staff.
 
Creating a Safer New York
 
Establish Extreme Risk Protection Orders to Save Lives: Governor Cuomo will continue to champion the Red Flag Bill, also known as the Extreme Risk Protection Order Bill, which would prevent individuals determined by a court to have the potential to cause themselves or others serious harm from purchasing, possessing, or attempting to purchase or possess any type of firearm, including handguns, rifles, or shotguns. This legislation builds on New York’s strongest-in-the-nation gun laws, and, if passed, would make New York the first state to empower its teachers and school administrators to prevent school shootings by pursuing court intervention.
 
Extend the Background Check Waiting Period: Governor Cuomo continues to support legislation to establish a 10-day waiting period for individuals who are not immediately approved to purchase a firearm through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).
 
Ban Bump Stocks: Governor Cuomo will advance legislation to close existing statutory loopholes to prohibit ownership or sale of a bump stock. As evidenced by the 2017 Las Vegas shooting, bump stocks can be equipped to semi-automatic weapons to simulate machine gun fire with deadly consequences. Bump stocks serve no legitimate purposes for hunters or sportsmen and only cause unpredictable and accelerated gun fire, and there is no reason to allow for their continued sale in New York State.  

Pass the Child Victims Act: Having advanced the Child Victims Act, Governor Cuomo is fighting to enact the bill and provide survivors with a long-overdue path to justice. This legislation will increase the length of time during which a child sex abuser may be held criminally accountable, allow abuse victims to commence a civil lawsuit at any time until they reach age 50, and ensure that each and every survivor has an opportunity to seek justice by creating a one-year window for victims whose claims have previously been time-barred to bring suit.  

Enact Comprehensive Safety Reforms for Large Passenger Vehicles: The horrific tragedies involving modified stretched limousines in Schoharie County in 2018 and Suffolk County in 2015 filled every New Yorker with a deep sense of empathy and sorrow for the victims and their loved ones. Governor Cuomo proposes a number of statutory reforms to both protect passengers and hold those accountable who seek to flout the law, including an outright ban on the registration of remanufactured limousines, prohibiting their operation in New York State.
 
Authorize Speed Cameras: In order to reinstate the bill signed into law by Governor Cuomo in 2013 authorizing the City of New York to develop a system to advance school zone highway safety utilizing camera technology to record and enforce speeding violations, the Governor will put forward a proposal to reinstate and expand the speed camera program in New York City.
 
Enacting the Democracy Agenda
 
Allow Universal Absentee Voting: Governor Cuomo will push to amend the constitution to make absentee ballots available to any eligible voter, no matter their reason for wanting one. 
 
Enact Statewide Early Voting: This proposal would combine early voting with electronic poll books, making make it easier for poll workers to keep track of voting records and verify voter identity and registration status. 
 
Permit Same-Day Registration: Governor Cuomo is proposing amending the constitution to eliminate this outdated but formidable barrier to the ballot box. 
 
Automatic Registration: Today New Yorkers are given the opportunity to register to vote when interacting with State agencies and they must affirmatively ask to be registered. The budget will include a proposal to reverse that process and register eligible New Yorkers to vote unless they affirmatively ask not to be registered. Automatic voter registration will not only boost voter registration and turnout in this state, it will also strengthen our democratic process. 
 
Make It Easier to Register to Vote: In order to ensure voter registration is as simple as possible, the Governor is proposing that all automatic voter registration opportunities be available online, and that New Yorkers are able to apply to register to vote on the State Board of Elections website if they choose to do so. 
 
Make Election Day a Holiday: An inability to take off of work should never be a barrier to voting. For this reason, Governor Cuomo will advance legislation to ensure that every worker in New York State receives, as of right, paid time off to vote on Election Day.
 
Eliminate Restrictions on Voting Before Noon in Upstate Primaries: Governor Cuomo will fix unequal ballot access across the state by ensuring that voting hours are extended for primary elections upstate to match those voting hours across the rest of the state. 
 
Fight to Ensure that All New Yorkers Are Counted in the 2020 Census: In 2019, Governor Cuomo will launch a comprehensive campaign to protect the integrity of the 2020 Census and to ensure that every New Yorker is counted.
 
Enacting Ethics Reform
 
Adopt Campaign Finance Reform: Governor Cuomo will advance a comprehensive package of campaign finance reform legislation to combat the unprecedented influence of big money in politics and empower the voices of all New Yorkers.

  • Public Financing of Elections: There is no incentive in today’s campaign finance system for candidates to focus on ordinary donors. Large donors provide large donations which drown out the voices of ordinary people. Public campaign financing is the remedy to this problem. By enacting a 6:1 public financing matching ratio for small donations, candidates will be incentivized to focus on small donors.
  • Lowering Campaign Contribution Limits: Governor Cuomo is proposing lowering contribution limits for all candidates. By implementing these reforms, and creating a strong public financing system, New York will dramatically reduce the influence of money in politics and return to a government by the people and for the people.
  • Ban Corporate Contributions and Fully Close the LLC Loophole: Ever since the Citizens United decision in 2010, corporate money has overtaken our elections system. It is time for New York State to finally say enough is enough. Governor Cuomo will fix this problem once and for all by banning all corporate and LLC contributions. It is time to restore the power to the people, and take it out of the hands of dark money and special interest donors.
  • Strengthen Disclosure Laws that Expose Dark Money in Politics : In June 2016, Governor Cuomo advanced ethics reform legislation to address the impact of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, 558 U.S. 310 (2010). The Governor cautioned about the increase of dark money in politics and promised to “strengthen disclosure requirements and mandate that groups report the identity of anyone exerting control over them.” In August 2016, the Governor signed into law New York Executive Law § 172, which requires disclosures of political relationships and behaviors widely recognized to be influential but which operate in the shadows. Now, with the lessons of the 2018 election in hand, the Governor proposes strengthening this law in a variety of ways to assure all New Yorkers have critical information about who is actually speaking to them. Further, the Governor is seeking to streamline the reporting process for 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4) organizations, including by providing a mechanism for organizations to apply for a statutory exemption before the start of a reporting period.

Require Financial Disclosures by Local Elected Officials: This proposal will require these local elected officials to submit basic financial disclosure information to JCOPE, just like their state counterparts, so that the people of New York State can have the information they need about the people they choose to represent them at all levels of government.
 
Build a Dynamic, User-Friendly Database of Economic Development Projects: In an effort to increase transparency and modernize the information available on State economic development efforts, the Governor is directing Empire State Development (ESD) to build and host a searchable online database that will give the public more current and relevant information on projects that receive ESD assistance. When deployed, the new database will provide the public with more recent information on projects and combine the data from many static, program-specific reports into one dynamic, user-friendly website.
 
Ensuring Immigrant Rights
 
Pass the Jose Peralta DREAM Act: Governor Cuomo will pass the Senator Jose R. Peralta DREAM Act to finally open the doors of higher education to thousands of New Yorkers. The Senator Jose R. Peralta DREAM Act will give undocumented New York students, who are deserving of the same advantages given to their citizen peers, access to the Tuition Assistance Program, as well as state administered scholarships. 
 
Codify Executive Order Prohibiting State Agencies from Inquiring About Immigration Status: In 2017, Governor Cuomo issued Executive Order 170, prohibiting State agencies and officers from inquiring about or disclosing an individual’s immigration status unless required by law or necessary to determine eligibility for a benefit or service. Building upon further amendments to the Executive Order, Governor Cuomo proposes codifying the protection of the amended EO 170 into law.
 
Protecting LGBTQ Rights
  
Pass the Gender Identity and Expression Non-Discrimination Act:Governor Cuomo supports the passage of the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA), solidifying protections against discrimination, harassment, and hate crimes against people on the basis of gender identity.
 
Banning Conversion Therapy: Governor Cuomo supports legislation to expand the definition of professional misconduct for professions licensed under the education law to include engaging in, advertising for, or allowing someone under one’s direction or oversight to engage in conversion therapy with a patient under the age of eighteen years. 
 
Ban the “Gay Panic” Defense: Governor Cuomo will again push to close the loophole in New York State by passing legislation to ban gay and trans panic defenses.
 
Make Surrogacy Legal in New York State: New York State law presently bans the practice of gestational surrogacy, and creates destabilizing uncertainty about who the legal parents are when a child is conceived via other reproductive technology like artificial insemination or egg donation. The Governor is proposing legislation to lift the ban on surrogacy contracts to permit gestational carrier agreements.
 
Serving Our Veterans
 
Support for Transgender Troops: New York will stand with all veterans regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. This year, all New York State Division of Veterans’ Affairs staff will receive LGBTQ cultural competency training to help understand how to best serve LGBTQ veterans. DVA will also work with LGBTQ-focused organizations to make sure that each and every LGBTQ veteran receives individualized assistance in a safe and supportive environment, including by helping LGBTQ veterans upgrade their service discharges so that these brave veterans will be able to access healthcare, education, financial compensation, and other benefits they have earned.
 
JUSTICE FOR ALL NEW YORKERS
  
Protecting Quality, Affordable Health Care
 
Codify Health Care Protections and Coverage Guarantees for New Yorkers: In light of the continued federal attacks on the ACA, Governor Cuomo believes it is essential that New York codify key ACA provisions, including the state’s health insurance marketplace, as well as enhanced State regulatory protections into State law. This is critical to stabilizing the health insurance market and inoculating New York from any further federal attacks on the health care system.
 
Take Action to Achieve Universal Access to Health Care: Governor Cuomo is establishing a Commission on universal health care to be supported by Department of Health and Department of Financial Services, and comprised of health policy and insurance experts to develop options for achieving universal access to high-quality, affordable health care in New York. This review process will consider all options for expanding access to care, including strengthening New York’s commercial insurance market, expanding programs to include populations that are currently ineligible or cannot afford coverage, as well as innovative reimbursement models to improve efficiency and generate savings to support expanded coverage.
 
Fighting to End the Opioid Epidemic
 
Protect New Yorkers from Predatory Practices: Governor Cuomo will advance legislation to 1) require that out-of-state facilities be licensed in their home state and accredited by a nationally recognized organization, and 2) prevent predatory out-of-state providers from targeting justice involved individuals by working with courts to immediately connect individuals to in-state treatment programs and by advancing legislation to protect in-state court ordered treatment. He will also direct OASAS to implement regulations that require out-of-state marketers comply with OASAS requirements when marketing in New York State. With these actions, New York will implement the strongest practices in the nation to protect its residents, forcing predatory treatment programs to look elsewhere to fill their facility quotas.
 
Expand Access to Buprenorphine: Buprenorphine is an important advance in Medication Assisted Treatment, which, like methadone and injectable naltrexone, is used in combination with counseling as appropriate to help people reach and sustain recovery from Opioid Use Disorder. To expand use of buprenorphine, Governor Cuomo will direct the Department of Health to require all hospitals statewide to develop protocols for their Emergency Departments to address Opioid Use Disorder based on the standard of care for treatment or referral for treatment.
 
Expand Access to Medication Assisted Treatment in Criminal Justice Settings: To expand access to treatment in prisons and jails, Governor Cuomo has directed OASAS to distribute over $4 million to support addiction treatment services in over 50 facilities. Additionally, Governor Cuomo will expand access to Medication Assisted Treatment by providing $1.2 million to support the establishment of up to three new MAT programs in State prisons.
 
Increase Access to Naloxone: Governor Cuomo will direct DOH to advance legislation that expands Good Samaritan laws to apply to workers in restaurants, bars, and other retail establishments. In addition, Governor Cuomo will increase access to naloxone at SUNY and CUNY by ensuring that naloxone is provided as part of every dorm first aid kit, or available for the Resident Assistant on duty every night in every SUNY and CUNY dorm.
 
Launch a Comprehensive Substance Use Prevention Blueprint for Schools: At Governor Cuomo’s direction, New York State will launch a statewide collaborative to streamline all prevention resources and develop best practices, standards, and metrics for substance use prevention into a focused “Prevention Blueprint” that will assist schools to follow a comprehensive, evidence-based and data-driven approach to prevention. OASAS shall work in collaboration with the State Education Department, Department of Health and the Office of Mental Health to develop the Prevention Blueprint for use in the 2020-21 school year.
 
Creating Healthy Communities
  
Protect New Yorkers from Unknown Exposure to Toxic Chemicals: Governor Cuomo will introduce new legislation authorizing the Department of Environmental Conservation, the Department of Health and the Department of State to develop regulations establishing an on-package labeling requirement for designated products, indicating the presence of potentially hazardous chemicals, developing a list of the more than 1,000 carcinogens and other chemicals that will trigger labeling, and identifying the types of consumer products that will be subject to the new regime. DEC and DOH will be further empowered to require manufacturers to disclose the chemical contents of consumer products in sold or distributed in New York State and explore possible additional measures to protect consumers.
 
Control Health Threats from Tobacco: Governor Cuomo is proposing comprehensive legislation to combat the rising use of tobacco products. This legislation includes:

  • Raising the Minimum Sales Age for Tobacco and Electronic Cigarette Products from 18 to 21: Most underage youth obtain tobacco and vapor products from friends who are over 18 and can legally purchase products. Raising the minimum age will remove sources of tobacco from high schools.
  • Ending the Sale of Tobacco and Electronic Cigarette Products in Pharmacies: Health care related entities should not be in the business of selling tobacco, the leading cause of preventable death in New York State. Ending the sale of tobacco and electronic cigarette products in pharmacies will reduce the availability, visibility, and social acceptability of tobacco use, especially to youth.
  • Clarify the Department of Health’s Authority to Ban the Sale of Certain Flavored E-Cigarette Liquids: Flavored combustible cigarettes, except menthol, were banned by the FDA in 2009 to reduce youth smoking as they were frequently used as a starter product.  Most e-cigarette users said their first e-cigarette was flavored. Flavors, such as sweet tart, toffee, and bubble gum, make e-cigarettes more attractive and make e-cigarettes more attractive to youth. Legislation is being introduced to provide the Department of Health the authority to ban the sale of flavored liquids that target youth use of e-cigarettes.
  • Restricting Available Discounts Provided by Tobacco and Electronic Cigarette Manufacturers and Retailers: New York has the highest cigarette tax in the nation, but manufacturers and retailers have developed tactics to reduce prices, such as “buy one, get one free” discounts. These tactics directly target price-sensitive consumers, including youth. Restricting discounts on tobacco and vapor products will strengthen the impact of New York’s tax on tobacco and disincentivize tobacco use.
  • Introduce a Tax on E-Cigarettes: Tobacco use is reduced or prevented when the price of tobacco products is high. Youth are particularly sensitive to price increases on tobacco products. New York State has one of the highest taxes on combustible cigarettes and one of the lowest youth smoking rates in the country. The same rationale is expected to apply to taxation and youth use of electronic cigarettes and e-liquids.
  • Require E-Cigarettes to Be Sold Only Through Licensed Retailers: Currently the sale of e-cigarettes is almost entirely unregulated. Restricting the sale to licensed retailers will allow the current enforcement infrastructure to ensure that minors do not purchase tobacco products.

Invest in Community-Based Supports for Aging New Yorkers: Governor Cuomo proposes investing $15 million in community-based supports for aging New Yorkers. This needed targeted investment in NYSOFA’s programs and services will help serve more older adults and will help them maintain their autonomy, support family and friends in their caregiving roles, and delay future Medicaid costs. Working with the Department of Health, NYSOFA will develop specific metrics to evaluate the success of this investment.
 
Create the Family First Transition Fund: The state will leverage the investment of private foundation funding to create a Family First Transition fund that will provide resources to local departments of social services and foster care agencies to have the resources needed to prepare for the implementation of the Family First federal legislation. This investment will allow New York State to adequately prepare for the implementation of Family First and will position New York to continue to prioritize the needs of its most vulnerable children and families and ensure the local departments of social services are fully equipped to meet those needs while maintaining compliance with important federal benchmarks.
 
Continuing New York’s Environmental Leadership
 
Launching the Green New Deal:  Amidst the Trump Administration’s assault on the environment and in order to continue New York’s progress in the fight against climate change, Governor Cuomo is announcing New York’s Green New Deal, a nation-leading clean energy and jobs agenda that will put the state on a path to carbon neutrality across all sectors of New York’s economy. At the Governor’s direction, New York will move boldly to achieve this goal with specific near-term actions and long-term strategies to spur unparalleled innovation and transform the state’s electric, transportation, and building infrastructure while prioritizing the needs of low- and moderate-income New Yorkers. This landmark initiative will further drive the growth of New York’s clean energy economy, create tens of thousands of high-quality 21st century jobs, provide all New Yorkers with cleaner air and water by reducing harmful emissions, and set an example of climate leadership for the rest of the nation and world to follow.  
 
Establish $10 Billion Green Future Fund: This year, Governor Cuomo will advance a $10 billion Green Future Fund to support clean water infrastructure, renewable energy and clean transportation, and open space and resiliency. This fund includes $5 billion in total for drinking water and wastewater infrastructure—building upon the $2.5 billion Clean Water Infrastructure Act and effectively doubling the state’s investment in clean water over the next five years.
 
Continue Historic $300 Million Environmental Protection Fund: Governor Cuomo proposes maintaining the State’s historic $300 million EPF. This investment will prioritize programs to protect New York’s water bodies, promote stewardship projects in parks and on other state lands, revitalize municipal waterfronts, and build community resilience to climate change—all while creating jobs and stimulating local economies.
 
Expanding the Bottle Bill to Include Most Nonalcoholic Drinks: In order to reduce litter and provide relief to overburdened municipal recycling entities who are struggling amidst changes to the global recycling markets, Governor Cuomo will expand the Bottle Bill to make most non-alcoholic beverage containers eligible for 5 cent redemption, including those for sports drinks, energy drinks, fruit and vegetable beverages and ready-to-drink teas and coffee. 
 
Prohibiting the Use of Plastic Bags: To address the environmental impacts of single-use plastic bags, Governor Cuomo proposes a statewide plastic bag prohibition with certain exceptions.

2019 State of the State Book Available Here

HBO Film ‘Number on Great-Grandpa’s Arm’ is Teaching Tool to Holocaust for New Generation

Irving Roth discusses his own experience as a Holocaust survivor, which so eerily mirrors that of Jack in the film documentary, “The Number on Great-Grandpa’s Arm” screened as part of the Gold Coast Arts Center’s Cinema Series, Great Neck, Long Island © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

What is most remarkable about the HBO short film, “The Number on Great-Grandpa’s Arm,” is how effectively and clearly it presents the Holocaust to young people – 8 and 9 year olds, the fourth generation, and how urgent it is to have such a teaching tool with the last of the survivors, now in their 80s and 90s, passing away into eternal silence.

The short film, created with live action, photos and videos and most remarkably, watercolor paintings that animate the still photos, strikes just the right tone.

You are privy to the astute questions and storytelling by 10-year old Elliott and his 90-year old great-grandfather, Jack, about the number tattooed on his arm, and fall into his memories – of a happy childhood in Poland, not quite carefree but with no existential fear, until everything changed.

The HBO film, which aired on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, January 27, was presented for its Long Island premiere at the Gold Coast Arts Center, in a free program (a second showing had to be organized to accommodate the number of people who wanted to attend), in commemoration of Yom Hashoahin Partnership with the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center of Nassau County and Great Neck Sh’ai, and featured a conversation with Irving Roth, a Holocaust survivor with a similar story to Jack’s, the great-grandfather in the film. Indeed, Roth came with his own granddaughter and great-grandchild, a touching display of the miracle of survival.

“The Number on Great-Grandpa’s Arm” was aired on HBO in January and is streaming for free at hbo.com. It was screened at Gold Coast Arts Center as part of the Gold Coast Cinema series, goldcoastfilmfestival.org.

“The Number on Great-Grandpa’s Arm,”  executive produced by Sheila Nevins and directed and produced by Amy Schatz, with the evocative animation art of Jeff Scher, was inspired by David A. Adler’s 1987 book; Adler is well known to children for his popular Cam Jansen series.

In this moving film, 10-year-old Elliott asks his 90-year-old great-grandfather, Jack, about the number tattooed on his arm, sparking an intimate conversation about Jack’s life that spans happy memories of childhood in Poland, the loss of his family, surviving Auschwitz, and finding a new life in America. Their tender exchange is woven with historical footage and hand-painted animation to tell a heartbreaking story of Jewish life in Eastern Europe before and during the Holocaust.

You are first introduced to Jack who mentions how much he loves hats, and can’t resist buying them. A little later, you learn that his father was a hat maker and had a shop in Poland. The last time he saw his parents was when he was 14, taken away by Nazis and sent to a labor camp where inmates were worked to death. “We were slaves, forced to dig holes just to make work.” He receives a cap his father has managed to send and finds some money hidden in it, which he uses to bribe the guard for extra food. “That extra food was how I survived.”

“I always hoped to see my parents again. Always think about them.” But Jack never saw his parents again.

Jack was sent to Auschwitz, and then, when the Germans realized they were losing the war, put on a death march to Buchenwald, forced to march without food or shoes. “Thousands and thousands died,” Elliott relates. “If they stopped, they were shot and thrown into a hole.”

His great-grandfather was finally liberated in August 1945 by the Russians, and then by the Americans. He went back to his hometown, but no one he knew was left. He married and ultimately took a boat to start a new life in America, where he opened a fish market.

His worker says, “This is the only place a man can get food for no money.”

Elliott says, ”We need to know the story to stop it from happening. In a year or two, no survivors will be left. We want to get the stories before they pass away.”

Irving Roth, Holocaust survivor, feels duty-bound to relate the history: “We tell a story of horrific proportion…People need to understand, as you look at the world today, every day, I see the signposts along the road.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

At the Great Neck screening, Irving Roth, a survivor of Auschwitz and the Death March to Buchenwald, related his experience which so eerily mirrored that of Jack.

Irving Roth was born in Czechoslovakia in 1929. He grew up going to school and playing soccer. But by 1938, as the Nazis took power, his life, step by step, became more constricted, bleaker. Jews were not allowed to attend school, play soccer, or go to the park. His family lost their lumber business and they forced into hiding in Hungary.

In 1944, at the age of 14, he was loaded into a cattle car and transported to Auschwitz, a three-day journey with many dying along the route Once there, he was immediately separated from his grandfather, grandmother, aunt, and 10-year-old cousin. He never seen them again – they were sent to the gas chambers.

Of the 4000 on the train, only 300 survived, he said.

Roth and his brother survived Auschwitz but in January 1945, with the Germans realizing they were losing the war, the concentration camp victims were forced on the infamous death march to Buchenwald. Roth was separated from his brother who was sent to Bergen Belsen where he later died. Buchenwald was liberated on April 11, 1945. Roth returned home to find his parents, the only other surviving family members.

But when he arrived back in his town, the reaction was hardly welcoming.  “The comment was ‘So many Jews survived, more came back than left.’ It made it easy to leave,” he said.

Roth is the director of Temple Judea of Manhasset Holocaust Resource Center’s Adopt A Survivor Program which brings together children in the greater New York Region with Holocaust Survivors, where he feels a duty to relate the horror of the Holocaust.

Irving Roth, a Holocaust survivor with a similar story to Jack’s, the great-grandfather in the film, “The Number on Great-Grandpa’s Arm,” with his own granddaughter and great-grandchild, a touching display of the miracle of survival. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“We tell a story of horrific proportion. It’s an important job. 6 million Jews were exterminated because of the lie that Jews were responsible for all the problems of the world. The world needs to know what happened – Shoah did not happen all at once. It began with a simple statement: I hate you.

“I call that the first signpost along the road. A few steps beyond, ‘I don’t like you because of what you are.’ And then, ‘You are not human.’ The next step, ‘I don’t want you to live in my town, my country, I don’t want you to live at all.’ Those are the signposts along the road.

“People need to understand, as you look at the world today, every day, I see the signposts along the road.”

“When I see a missile being paraded in Tehran with words, ‘To be delivered to Tel Aviv’, those are identical ideas perpetrated and spoken of in the 1920s, 1930s – resulting in total devastation.

“I see in my mind that weapon lifting off the ground and murdering tens of thousands  – that’s why it’s important to understand, to watch the signposts along the road. I ask you to understand the Shoah – study the Shoah – see the step by step process so you recognize the words, the signposts – to insure that anything of that nature never happens again.

“There are always evil people in the world – it is the choice that God gave you. I am glad have a video of this nature to show to young people so can begin to understand evil an good.”

830,000 were murdered in Treblinka, alone.”It’s hard to imagine that many murdered. I ask you to take one, let them be part of you – if we don’t remember them, it is as if they never existed.”

Just a week ago, Roth made a trip to Poland, where the leadership has made discussing the Holocaust a crime, where they have replaced the signs at Auschwitz to shield the Polish people from any culpability, and where they have shut down Schindler’s factory which had been kept as a museum.

One of the places we visited last week was the Warsaw Zoo in Warsaw, where Antonina and her husband, Jan Żabiński, the zoo director, saved the lives of 300 Jews who had been imprisoned in the Warsaw.

“There were 3.5 million Jews before the war; now if you look hard, you might find 35,000. Poland would like to say that 6 million Poles were murdered – 3 million Jews and 3 million Catholics. Poland wants to be recognized as a Western country, wants to bury its history of persecution of Jews as soon as possible so the world will not know. In Auschwitz last week, going through the exhibits, they are selling propaganda, that no Pole was responsible…. Now, if you say ‘Auschwitz was a Polish death camp,’ you go to jail.”

“Two extremes of humanity existed in Shoah –there were too few Chasidim (righteous), too many on the other side. Our job is to make sure our neighbors, our friends in our country, in every country understand the sacred nature of every human being – through understanding Shoah, we can understand how evil comes to be. We must not let evil triumph again.”

Roth raises concern about a rise of anti-Semitism.

“Anti-Semitism has been replaced in an acceptable form to many people – that’s why we need to understand. It is no longer ‘anti-Semitism’ it is called ‘anti-Israel’. This is a new form of anti-Semitism, repackaged so brilliantly, Goebbels would be proud. All of a sudden, Jews are aggressors.”

He noted that a United Nations conference held to review treatment of rights declared only one country an oppressor of women – not Saudi Arabia or Sudan, but Israel.

Roth has spoken at hundreds of schools. “On college campuses around the country, Israel is cast as an oppressor of Palestinians, even committing genocide.

“Our children and grandchildren must know because they have to stand up to the lies on college campuses. What is on campus today will be policy tomorrow. Make sure your children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren understand, the lies, the history. Unless we really know it, we can’t argue. 99% of evil people have no idea what history is – one student at university said the reason problem exists in Mideast is because of Jews, that it is because when Israel was formed in May 1948., Israel  attacked 5 Arab countries. Do you think a country just born, with no army navy, air force would attack five countries. Is that possible? ‘Oh,’ he said.

“We need to be prepared to fight this evil, every day of the week.”

On the other hand, unabashed Holocaust deniers have gained prominence. Arthur Jones, 70, of Lyons, Illinois, a former head of the American Nazi Party and self-described white racialist and Holocaust denier, is the Republican candidate for Congress in Illinois’ 3rd district which includes parts of Chicago.

Rebecca Sassouni of Sh’ai; Regina Gil, director of the Gold Coast Arts Center; Irving Roth, Holocaust survivor; Michael Glickman, president of Gold Coast Arts Center and Museum of Jewish Heritage at the Gold Coast Cinema Series screening of “The Number on Great-Grandpa’s Arm” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Glickman noted the importance of bringing Holocaust study into communities, particularly communities where there are not a lot of Jews or Holocaust survivors and why a curriculum is being developed by the museum, supported by the City and State’s Department of Education for middle school and high school children for ELA and social studies- some 400,000 students, the vast majority of which are not Jewish.

It is for this reason of making the Holocaust relevant to non-Jews that it has become a common practice among Holocaust museums (such as in St. Petersburg, Dallas, Houston), to keep a running clock of the numbers killed in genocides since the Holocaust, such as Rwanda.

But Roth expressed concern “that the Holocaust is being de-Judeized. There is nothing wrong in discussing Rwanda genocide, but you have to understand the difference  between Holocaust and mass murders that have taken place. The death of 5 million Ukrainians during Stalin – but the objective was not the destruction of Ukrainians, the objective was collectivization of Russia; the objective of Rwanda was control. The Holocaust objective was destruction of the Jews. That’s not the same. Death is death you might say, but the cause of it.” He argues against lumping individual genocides together. “We need to understand the differences and similarities. This is what I do every time I speak. In churches, I have spoken to 500,000 Christians all over the United States. I talk about Shoah and what is happening today, how the propaganda of today is a replica of the 1930s. They understand. That’s what we need to do.”

The film is part of a new curriculum in conjunction with Scholastic being rolled out to some 1,500 schools, and organizations can make arrangements for a screening, Michael Glickman, who is president and CEO of the Museum of Jewish Heritage as well as president of the Gold Coast Arts Center, said.

“The Number on Great-Grandpa’s Arm” was aired on HBO in January and is streaming for free at hbo.com. It was screened at Gold Coast Arts Center as part of the Gold Coast Cinema series, goldcoastfilmfestival.org.

An accompanying installation on view at the Museum of Jewish Heritage features the art of acclaimed artist Jeff Scher, whose rotoscope animation brings the film’s archival footage and photos to life. Visitors of all ages are invited to explore this incredible work, view the film, and experience the transformative power of survivors’ stories. (For more info on the exhibit visit www.mjhnyc.org).

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© 2018 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

 

Who Will Pay the Price for Government Shutdown and Will it Lead to DACA Reauthorization?

Women’s March NYC: Rise and Resist © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

by Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

Judging by the Women’s Marches – 280 of them around the country that drew 2 million activists on behalf of women’s reproductive freedom, health care, workers rights, DACA, climate, gun control – the Democrats were headed for a rout in 2018.

Now, pundits are questioning whether the government shutdown – and then the capitulation by Democrats – will jeopardize the Democrats’ chances of taking back the Senate and even the House.

And sure enough, the Republicans have proved yet again they are so much better at message manipulation – the signature talent of every autocracy.

It is a curious thing because the 2013 government shutdown, forced by Republicans who held Obamacare hostage and the many instances of Republicans coming to the brink of endangering the full faith and credit of the United States by threatening the debt ceiling, nonetheless won victories in the 2014 midterms, even taking over the Senate.

But it is different for Republicans who want to tear down government, and Democrats, who actually believe that government can be and should be a force for good.

But what did the Republicans actually win besides the message game? A few days reprieve? When instead the government shutdown over a failure to follow through on the deal to reauthorize DACA so clearly demonstrated the dysfunction, dishonesty, bad faith and sheer cruelty of Republican domination?

And is it wise for Trump to crow that Schumer “caved,” for Pence to go to the Middle East and lambast the Democrats as enemies of our soldiers, for the OMB Director Mike Mulvaney to mimic the phrase being hyped by Russian bots, #SchumerShutdown, and the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee to show glee that Schumer is “feeling the heat from the left, with #SchumerSellout trending on social media and Democrats who supported reopening the government are being branded as traitors”?

And how cynical is it for Trump to issue a reelection campaign ad blaming Democrats in advance if anyone is murdered by an illegal immigrant, yet taking no responsibility at all for 33,000 gun deaths a year (a woman is shot and killed by a current or former partner every 16 hours. 10 kids and teens are killed each month in unintentional shootings) and the ease with which terrorists can buy guns because of Republicans’ refusal to adopt reasonable gun control measures?

After all, this is yet another temporary spending measure, which Democrats and some Republicans have decried as no way to run a $4 trillion government since the military, municipalities and agencies can’t do long-range planning or contracts, and we will be right back here on Feb. 8. Fool me once….

Schumer and the Democrats really had no choice but to withhold the votes needed for cloture (the filibuster) which triggered the shutdown, and no choice in coming to this temporary arrangement to reopen government.

Let’s be reminded though: it’s not Democrats who caused the shutdown – five Republicans voted against the CR while five Democrats voted with the Republicans (by modern standards, that’s called “bipartisan”).

Indeed, Trump was rooting for a government shutdown.  “The country needs a good shutdown” he said months ago, and referred to this shutdown as  “a nice present” –because he believed Democrats would be blamed and weakened and (cherry on the cake) hoped it would get Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to trigger the “nuclear option” and end the 60-vote threshold for cloture (the filibuster) so that Republicans could rule without any Democratic input whatsoever.

But for the entire first year of the Trump nightmare when Republicans were in full control of all the levers of government, they chose to rule as if a monarchy, shutting out Democrats entirely, and manipulating votes so that they only needed 50 instead of 60 – on several occasions, needing the Vice President’s vote to get to 51 to pass legislation opposed by large majorities of Americans. The only mechanism for Democrats to have any say whatsoever, and get CHIP and DACA reauthorized was to withhold their votes on the short-term spending bill.

For decades, now (when Democrats are in the White House), “populists” have been decrying the dysfunction in Washington, looking to demagogic characters from outside Washington (they are only “outside” until they are “inside”) to break the logjam and get things done. That’s what many Trump voters said they liked about Trump.  They fell for his con: he isn’t disruptive, he’s destructively dysfunctional.

But look to the source of the dysfunction: it goes back to Newt Gingrich and the “Contract for America” ( “Contract on America” is more apt) – 1994 was the first time the Republicans used a shutdown as extortion. And it goes back to the Hastert Rule, named for the pedophile who was the longest-serving Speaker of the House,  that bars the Republicans from passing any legislation that is not supported by the majority of Republicans, rather than the majority of the House or the American people, a tough thing to do with the Tea Party fringe and now the Trumpers.

It is because of the Hastert Rule that we do not have affordable health care, sensible gun violence prevention, immigration reform, campaign finance reform, environmental protection – all supported by huge majorities of Americans – and a tax code and federal budget that help uplift people rather than steer this country to unsustainable income inequality that is so dangerous for a democracy.

Add to that the end of earmarks – championed by none other than Senator John McCain who felt they were the source of corruption in Congress – and you have no bargaining chips whatsoever to forge a compromise. (Trump wants to bring back earmarks, so he can turn a $1 trillion infrastructure plan into a political slush fund.)

But Democrats – or rather the extreme left wing championed by Bernie Sanders – seem determined to shoot themselves in the foot, and instead of cheering Schumer for getting 12 Republican Senators to pledge to take up legislation to protect DACA recipients before Feb. 8, they blasted him for capitulating.

Really, what was Schumer supposed to do? Republicans were weaponizing the government shutdown, rather than being embarrassed that Trump, The Greatest Dealmaker in the History of the World, was shown to be an emperor with no clothes (he fidgeted while the capital burned) with no actual grasp of policy or long-term impacts so that he could be swayed and steered by the most virulent, anti-immigrant advisers (Steven Miller and John Kelly), and the Republicans being shown as being incapable of governing on behalf of the people instead of just their donors (the 1%).

Now it is likely that no matter how the Senate is reminded they are supposed to be an institution based on compromise and rational deliberation – and that Congress should realize it doesn’t have to wait for Trump at all, but pass reasonable legislation on its own – my prediction is that Speaker Paul Ryan in the House will kill any DACA legislation or any immigration legislation as he did in 2013, tabling Comprehensive Immigration Reform that passed the Senate by a significant majority.

Or that Steve King, Tom Cotton, Steve Miller and John Kelly will come up with something so draconian – legalizing the Gestapo-like roundup and deportations of 11 million undocumented immigrants, throwing out green card holders, shutting borders to refugees and severely curtailing legal immigration for anyone but white people with money to invest in Trump properties – that Democrats won’t be able to vote for it. Ha ha, the irony.

But my money is on the Women’s Movement – no longer a march, but ongoing activism that will result in a major voter registration drive, record number of women running for elected office (390 for House, 49 for Senate, as many as 16,000 for state and local offices), and to get out the vote in the 2018 midterms. #PowertothePolls.

See also: 

Womens March NYC 2018 Draws 200,000 – Here are Photo Highlights

MILCK, Yoko Ono, Halsey, Whoopi Goldberg, Rosie Perez Among Celebs at #PowertothePolls Womens March NYC Rally – See Photos, Videos

Women’s March Redux Jan. 20 Kicks Off Get-Out-The-Vote Campaign to ReMake Government

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© 2018 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

Womens March NYC 2018 Draws 200,000 – Here are Highlights

The line-up for the Womens March NYC extended along Central Park West to 86th Street for an official total of 200,000 © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

by Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

On the first anniversary of Donald Trump’s inauguration and the first Women’s March that was the largest single day of protest in history, women came out in force again in New York City and more than 250 locations around the country.

They marched for womens rights, reproductive freedom, for health care; for #MeToo and #TimesUp to take a stand against sexual assault, harassment, rape and extortion. They marched for gun control and against domestic violence. They marched for families, for immigrants, for Dreamers, for the LGBTQ+ community. They marched for Mother Earth and the environment, for science and facts. They marched for voting rights, for a free press and for truth. They marched to assert basic American values- its better angels – of tolerance, diversity, and for economic, environmental, political and social justice.

MILCK with Yoko Ono on stage at the rally launching the march © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

200,000 was the official count in New York City – marchers were lined up from 63rd Street to 86th Street, but all along the side streets as well, where it took as much as 2 hours just to get onto the Central Park West march route.

MILCK on the March in NYC © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Voting is my Super Power © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

And unlike last year’s march which brought out millions, reflecting the despair of the aftermath of the 2016 election and was supposed to send a message to Trump and the Republicans who controlled Congress and the Courts (they didn’t get it), this day of marches – some 250 around the country bringing out some 2 million – was about action: it kicked off a voter registration drive to add 1 million to the rolls, the candidacies of a record number of women running for office (16,000 women have reached out to Emily’s List for support in 2017), and a Get out the Vote drive for the 2018 midterms.

“My vote is my Super Power,” several announced in their signs. “My Button is Bigger than Yours,” echoed another.

Marching for a Blue Wave © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The vulgarity, misogyny, bigotry and racism that Donald Trump brought to the Oval Office came down to the streets, with bursts of profanity in words (“shithole” was a popular one that Trump just introduced to the vernacular only a week ago) and gestures, with marchers giving the finger as they passed Trump International Hotel, the closest incarnation they would ever have. The tone was decidedly more angry, more outraged than a year ago.

Our Button is Bigger than Yours 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“Over the past year, basic rights for women, immigrants, LGBTQ+, the religious and nonreligious, people of color and even Mother Earth have struggled to survive under the weight of the current administration. America’s First Amendment has been challenged and healthcare for millions has been threatened. We must stand together to demand and defend our rights. We will not be silent. We must remind everyone that red, white, and blue are the colors of tolerance,” stated Womens March Alliance.

And they marched with a purpose: to get people to register to vote, to run for office, and to cast their ballot.

“My vote is my Super Power,” several announced in their signs. “My Button is Bigger than Yours,” echoed others.

Welcome to the Resistance © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Hillary Clinton tweeted, “In 2017, the Women’s March was a beacon of hope and defiance. In 2018, it is a testament to the power and resilience of women everywhere. Let’s show that same power in the voting booth this year. #PowerToThePolls 

Here are highlights from the Womens March NYC:

Girl Power: A Woman’s Place is in the Resistance © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Let Our Dreamers Dream; My Vote is My Super Power © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Not My Shithole President © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The Revolution is Coming © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Pride Not Prejudice © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Never too young to respect women © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Ladies Liberty © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Pussy Hats 2018 with attitude © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Trump salute © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Follow the Money © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Dope. Grope. Nope. Hope. © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

 

Our Rights are Not Up for Grabs © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Rise and Resist © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Dream Act Now © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Human Wall © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

No Glass Ceilings. Future President © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

See also:

Women’s March Redux Jan. 20 Kicks Off Get-Out-The-Vote Campaign to ReMake Government

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© 2018 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin