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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
“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.
“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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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 disparities, widening 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.
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.
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.
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 schools. As 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.
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.
Reducing the uninsured rate for African Americans by creating a public option health plan. Nationally, 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.
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 policyrescinded 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.
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 education, climate 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.”
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:
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%.
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
Automatically seal certain cannabis-related criminal
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
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.
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
Permit Same-Day Registration: Governor Cuomo is proposing amending the
constitution to eliminate this outdated but formidable barrier to the ballot
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
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 inPolitics : 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.
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
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
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.
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,” 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.”
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.
“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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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”
It’s already begun. The unraveling of eight years of progress under Obama. Contrast their first actions: Obama signed the Lily Ledbetter Act so women can have a legal remedy for pay equity. Trump signed an executive orders to dismantle Obamacare and to withhold funding from any NGO anywhere that funds abortions.
Donald Trump doesn’t care that more than twice as many people came out to protest his illegitimately gained presidency, his morals and his agenda than came out to support his inauguration (I was at both. I saw despite the lies that Trump is spewing.) His warped ego will probably take it as a matter of pride that more than 500,000 people descended on Washington from all over the country while millions more filled out gargantuan protests in NYC (400,000), Los Angeles (750,000), Chicago, Atlanta, St. Louis – indeed, all across the US – plus cities in 50 countries including Paris, London, Sydney.
They came out to declare: Women’s Rights are Human Rights, women are not chattel, a mere vessel (vassal) to harbor an embryo. And so women and their men and children were standing up for reproductive rights, access to health care, gun safety, climate action, immigration reform, criminal justice, pay equity, public education, voting rights, campaign finance – all those things that together constitute “women’s issues”. Economic justice, climate justice, criminal justice, social justice, political justice, national security and peace in the world are all “women’s issues.”
“From the shores of Sydney, Australia to the tundra of Kodiak, Alaska we marched. Signs held high, our voices carried across Little Rock, Arkansas and Nashville, Tennessee, Phoenix, Arizona and Lansing, Michigan. Pink knit hats stretched as far as the eye could see in London, England, New York City, Los Angeles, California and Washington DC,” writes Heidi L. Sieck, Co-Founder/CEO, #VOTEPROCHOICE.
In fact, this was the single largest political demonstration day of protest in US history and most certainly the largest outpouring of opposition at the opening of a new administration. Trump, who lost the popular vote by 2.6 million and carried only 42% of The Women’s Vote, comes into the White House with the lowest favorability rating probably since Lincoln, and 20 points lower than the outgoing president, Barack Obama.
And if Trump would actually have listened to his own nonsensical, dystopian, bizarre inaugural speech, he would realize that the women, men and children who protested rightfully have the political power that Trump said no longer resided in Washington.
“January 20th 2017, will be remembered as the day the people became the rulers of this nation again,” Trump intoned. “The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer. Everyone is listening to you now…. At the center of this movement is a crucial conviction: that a nation exists to serve its citizens.”
And yet, Trump managed to turn a deaf ear to the roars from the Women’s March that literally shook buildings with its force (yet he had to see them because his motorcade drove through twice on his way to the CIA).
In his first 100 days, what Trump vows to do would undo the progress of 100 years, violating the will of the vast majority of Americans.
But here it is: Trump managed to resurrect a militant feminism that, frankly, was dormant during the election campaign when Hillary Clinton could have, should have (in fact did, were it not for the Electoral College), break that ultimate glass ceiling to run the White House. Women of all ages, all races and creeds, and men and children, marching together in solidarity. A man carried a sign saying “I can’t believe we’re still fighting for this”.
Now what will those who marched do? What will happen? Will that energy and activism be sustained against the forces of disillusionment, frustration, paralyzing despair and self-preserving apathy? Or will they return home feeling vindicated and affirmed that their fears and concerns are real and they are not to be silenced? I think they will return empowered, invigorated with a mission, with a voice, a language to articulate grievances and a clarity of purpose. Indeed, the Women’s March organizers are posting 10 action items for the first 100 Days at womensmarch.com.
Also, there are ways and avenues and organizations to channel that rage and turn it into strategic, well articulated constructive action, in order to fight against the despair that will come when we aren’t able to immediately stop the steamroll of anti-democratic, regressive initiatives that come from the Trump/Republican camarilla.
Donald Trump may not care about the protests, feeling somehow above and immune in his bubble of sycophants. In a creepy way, he probably drew orgasmic delight that 4 million people around the world focused their attention on him, no matter that he was the target of their contempt, disdain and hatred.
But Congressmen know. Senators know. State legislators know. And they should be quaking in the reverberation of the marchers. And that’s where the focus has to be. This is Day 1 of the 2017 campaign to take back state offices. This is Day One to take back the House and/or the Senate in 2018. Because taking just one house would cut Trump’s Presidency to 2 years instead of an excruciating 4.
That is, if he isn’t impeached first for his corrupt business practices and likely collusion with Russia (not likely with a Republican Congress that clearly doesn’t care about actual illegalities like blatant violations of emoluments clause of Constitution and conflicts of interest that go against the national interest). He is more likely to be removed by a military coup when he orders bombing civilians, repopulating Guantanamo with prisoners snatched up with bounties, reopening black sites in order to torture, or, as he told the CIA, getting a second chance at taking Iraq’s oil because, you know, he learned as a boy “to the victor belong the spoils.”
Individually, we feel powerless, but collectively we have power. And it starts with pressing our village and city mayors, town and county supervisors, state representatives, governors and Congressmen need to be bold – like the San Francisco and New York mayors vowing to repulse Trump’s attack on sanctuary cities, governors like Cuomo in New York State standing up for a climate action agenda and protecting women’s reproductive rights; generals vowing to reject an order to bomb civilians or torture terror suspects. It’s newspapers being willing to lose privileged “access” and risking lawsuits to publish investigations. It’s government workers with the courage to be whistleblowers.
By these measures, the simple act of voting would seem an easy way to counter Trumpism, yet a disgraceful number don’t even do this; people need to start early to get registered to vote and vote in every election, especially local and state elections and not just the presidential.
But all of this requires us to stay active. We have to resist being immobilized by despair (that’s their strategy) and take action. If it seems too overwhelming with everything being thrown at us, just pick one or two issues to stay on top.
How to counter Trump?
Conflicts of Interest: Support Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s legislation that would require Trump to disclose his business holdings and require him to disclose his tax forms. Investigate – after all, what is Government Oversight Committee for, beyond investigating Benghazi and Clinton’s emails? Sue for violations of the emoluments clause, for Trump Hotel in Washington violating the law that prevents an elected official from leasing property from the federal government. Impeach Trump and any of his lackeys for their self-serving, self-dealing conflicts of interest. Boycott Trump’s business holdings and the corporations that enable him, including Trump Hotels and golf courses, “Celebrity Apprentice,” and Fox News.
Cabinet appointments: Democrats will be unable to stop Trump’s appointments, thanks to the hypocritical Republican lapdogs. But Senate Democrats have a duty to expose their self-interest conflicts, their ineptitude, their extraordinary lack of qualifications so that they will be put on notice that their actions will be scrutinized.
“Through cutting-edge reports, social media, newspapers, radio and TV, and much more, we’re going to highlight this rogues’ gallery’s history of law-breaking, how their corporate ties will corrupt policymaking, and how their reactionary views will harm everyday Americans.” says Robert Weissman, President of Public Citizen (citizen.org).
What should Senate, House Democrats do? Oppose with every tool and tactic they can the anti-Democratic principles, including using the Republican tactics against them like the filibuster, holds on nominations, lawsuits, articles of impeachment (though McConnell and Ryan will likely take away the very tools they used to unprecedented degree). That isn’t the same thing as opposing for opposing sake, to make the president fail, as Republicans did even as Obama was trying to keep the country from economic collapse. But Democrats are obligated to fight back where the agenda destroys progress. What Democrats should not do? Try to appeal to the pseudo-populism and the mythical “poor” “underserved” “voiceless” white working class, as if they are the only “real Americans” who matter. And yes, they should sue the Trump Administration just as the Republicans sued Obama over DACA and Obamacare. If Republicans don’t offer any means to compromise or impact policy, Democrats should go nuclear.
Support the Fourth Estate – the journalists who fulfill their function of investigating and being a watchdog on government and powerful interests. Be vigilant in calling out falsehoods, fake news and propaganda. That means that when the economy goes down, unemployment goes up, tens of thousands die without access to health care and Trump and the Republicans blame Obama and the Democrats, that The Media hold them to account. Write letters to the editor, comments online. Alert news media to issues. Defend journalists who are doing their job. Cultivate social media networks to counter the right-wing propaganda machine. The success of the Women’s March to rally support solely through social media shows these networks have taken root.
Fight the rabidly regressive agenda that Trump/Republicans will steamroll through in the first 100 days. The more that Republicans refuse to accept compromise or allow Democrats to participate in forming policy, the more militant the opposition has to become. Boycott, strike, protest, rally. Use your body, your voice, your pen.
Sue. Sue. Sue. “Presidents do not rule by fiat,” declared Mitch Bernard, Chief Operating Officer, for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). “Donald Trump may not simply undo international agreements, overrule enacted laws, or violate environmental regulations on his own say so. If — when — he ignores environmental laws, NRDC will meet him in court. And we’re gearing up to give him the fight of his life.”
The Trump/Republican strategy (copied from Karl Rove and the Bush/Cheney debacle) is to have so many outrages coming so fast, deflecting attention and paralyzing any action, and more significantly to normalize the destructive actions simply by being equivalent or (imagine) not as bad as the previous outrage.
“In the face of Trump’s parade of horribles,” says Robert Reich of MoveOn.org, “it would be easy (and understandable) for people to get numb, hunker down, and pray that they’ll make it through the next four years. But human history teaches us of the perils of complacency and fear in response to political extremism and violence.”
If it is too paralyzing because of all the issues that are infuriating to your core, pick one, two or a few to focus on – keep active and aware of what Trump and his collaborators in the Congress and the Cabinet are doing. Write, call, visit, rally at representatives’ offices. Speak up to family, friends and neighbors. Go to town halls and civic meetings. You cannot be a Silent Majority.
Support key organizations – give what you can – because they will need money to lobby, sue, organize protests and petition campaigns, can offer language for legislation and expose facts about the impacts of overturning regulations allowing corporations to pollute the air and water; repealing the Affordable Care Act, (losing 3 million jobs, adding billions to the budget deficit, depriving 18 million newly insured people of access to health care, instead of saving 87,000 lives, seeing 36,000 die needlessly for lack of health care); of the public health, environmental, economic, international repercussions of rolling back climate action. (Caveat: Organizations can’t just seize on the latest outrage to fundraise without actually doing something.)
“Together, we must resist the Trump Dynasty with everything we’ve got — starting with marches all over the country today,” declared Robert Weissman of Public Citizen. “It won’t be easy. We can be honest about that. The fights that matter most rarely are. But with all of our vigilance, all of our acumen, all of our strength, we can — we will — prevail over greed and hatred and corruption.”
“A woman deserves equal pay for equal work. She deserves to have a baby without sacrificing her job. A mother deserves a day off to care for a sick child or sick parent without running into hardship – and you know what, a father does, too.”— President Barack Obama, 2014 State of the Union Address
Today the White House is highlighting two new actions to further support working Americans. First, the Department of Labor is finalizing a rule to require employees of businesses doing work on federal contracts to earn up to seven paid sick days a year. Second, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is publishing its final and approved collection of summary pay data by gender, race, and ethnicity from businesses with 100 or more employees to improve enforcement of our nation’s equal pay laws.
In a White House conference call with reporters, Governor Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania applauded the Administration’s actions, noting that he has been in public office for less than two years, but prior, “I was a business owner, employed up to 600-700 employees. We did all these things – paid sick leave, personal time off, holidays, long vacation time. These were not a cost to the business, they made business sense with lower turnover, better morale, healthier employees, better productivity.
“One of the things we must acknowledge: it’s not just a fair thing, a matter of public health, public good, but something that is good for business. “
More than one million workers will not have to depend on the kindness of employers because of these new rules. “Workers shouldn’t have to win the boss lottery or geographic lottery to win access to paid sick leave,” commented Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Chair Jenny Yang.
Contrary to the “sky is falling” reaction of many private employers, Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez noted, in places where earned sick leave has been implemented – including San Francisco, Tacoma Washington, New York City and Connecticut – employers are by a wide margin satisfied. “When the law into effect [in these places] they had trepidation, but what they saw was that were able to adjust and in fact thrive.” Indeed, customers may be miffed if a waiter sneezes on their plate; other employees can be taken ill because of a worker with a flu could not afford to stay home.
“The beauty of incubators of innovation like Philadelphia, Connecticut, San Francisco, and Tacoma is that we have track record to build on and tremendous confidence that building on this part of the social contract is both good for workers, public health, families and not an undue burden on business.
“Bringing fairness and balance to workplace is really not something that should be seen as expense.”
FACT SHEET: Helping Working Americans Get Ahead by Expanding Paid Sick Leave and Fighting for Equal Pay
Since taking office, President Obama has promoted policies to grow and strengthen the middle class by supporting working families. Despite tremendous changes that have transformed America and its families over the past 50 years, our workplaces have not kept pace. In most families today, both parents work and share in the responsibilities of caring for children or other family members. Recently released data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that these efforts have resulted in strong progress for America’s working families. Today, a record share of private sector workers now have access to paid sick leave, increasing from 61 to 64 percent over the past year. Furthermore, this increase was driven almost entirely by increased access in low-wage jobs: in just one year, the share of workers in the lowest-paid quarter of occupations that had access to paid sick leave jumped from 31 to 39 percent. Since the President took office, the number of private sector workers with paid sick leave has grown by 10.6 million.
Despite this progress, millions of Americans still do not have access to even a single day of paid sick leave, so when workers get sick they may have to choose between caring for themselves or paying their bills. Too many parents must make the painful choice between staying home to take care of a sick child—and losing out on a day’s pay—or sending their child to school sick. For that reason, President Obama has repeatedly called on Congress to pass the Healthy Families Act—which would guarantee most Americans the chance to earn up to seven days of paid sick leave each year—and urging states, cities, and businesses to act where Congress has not.
Similarly, despite a woman’s pay being just as critical for a family to make ends meet, women make less than their male peers. The President has fought to close that gap, and the first legislation he signed into law was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, an important step in ensuring that Americans can effectively challenge unequal pay in the courts. Since then, he has taken numerous other steps to advance equal pay, including issuing a 2014 Executive Order prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating against employees who discuss their pay, and announcing a White House Equal Pay Pledge that has now been signed by more than 50 of America’s leading businesses.
Similar to the expansion of paid sick leave, progress has been made on the gender pay gap. In 2008, a typical woman working full-time earned only 77 cents for every dollar earned by a typical man; today, that has risen to 80 cents. That means that for a woman working full-time, the pay gap has shrunk by more than 10 percent, or about $1200, since the President took office.
Yet much work remains. Too many women and workers of color are still not paid equally for equal work, with African-American women earning 63 cents and Latina women earning 54 cents for every dollar earned by a white non-Hispanic man. And 41 million private sector workers do not have access to even a single day of paid sick leave. Today’s actions mark critical progress to support the needs of working Americans and their families.
EXPANDING SICK LEAVE
Last September, President Obama signed an Executive Order requiring federal contractors (and subcontractors) to allow their employees working on federal contracts to earn up to seven paid sick days each year. Today, the Department of Labor is finalizing its rule implementing the order. It takes into account extensive public comments from employers, business associations, small businesses, workers, unions, and worker advocates. The final rule, which goes into effect for new solicitations issued on or after January 1, 2017, will:
Give additional paid sick leave to 1.15 million people working on federal contracts, including nearly 600,000 employees who do not currently have even a single day of paid sick leave. Workers will earn one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked on (or in connection with) a covered federal contract, up to 56 hours in a year or at any point in time.
Allow workers to use paid sick leave for their own illnesses, preventive care, or other health care needs; to care for a family member or loved one who is ill, seeking preventive care, or otherwise in need of care; and for absences resulting from domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking. Employers may not retaliate against employees for using paid sick leave or require them to find replacements in order to take it.
Improve the health and performance of employees of federal contractors and bring benefits packages offered by federal contractors in line with leading firms, ensuring they remain competitive in the search for dedicated and talented employees.
Protect public health by reducing the transmission of illnesses in the workplace from sick employees to coworkers or their customers.
Respond to employers’ concerns by ensuring coordination with existing “paid time off” policies that give workers a flexible bank of leave; existing collective bargaining agreements; and multi-employer plans.
This action reflects leading practices by major employers, states, and localities throughout the country. Since the President’s call to action in 2014, four states and more than 25 cities and counties have taken action to expand paid sick leave in their community, and many businesses small and large have adopted similar policies. For example:
Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota passed ordinances in May and September, respectively, requiring businesses to offer their workers an hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked. Both ordinances go into effect on July 1, 2017 with phased implementation periods. The Twin Cities have a joint population of nearly 700,000 residents, though the ordinances cover anyone who does work within the respective city limits.
Vermont Energy Investment Corporation (VEIC), a nonprofit clean energy consulting company and federal contractor in Vermont, testified in support of Vermont’s new paid sick leave law, passed earlier this year. VEIC’s founder pointed to the monetary, physical, and cultural value of paid sick leave to employers.
Cava Grill, a fast-casual national restaurant brand headquartered in Washington, DC, announced in July that it began offering paid sick and parental leave to its hourly workers, for whom it also raised its starting wage to $13 an hour. Employees will now receive up to six days a year of paid sick leave, up to four days of paid parental leave, and one day for community service.
Microsoft, a federal contractor, took a similar step last year by announcing it would require suppliers with at least 50 employees doing business with the company to provide employees who handle its work with 15 days of paid leave annually (including 5 paid sick days). In announcing this change, Microsoft pointed to research showing that paid leave contributes to the health and well-being of workers and their families, strengthens family ties, increases productivity, improves retention, lowers health-care costs, and contributes to the health of colleagues.
ADVANCING EQUAL PAY
Today, the EEOC, in cooperation with the Department of Labor, is publishing its finalized revisions to its EEO-1 form, which for the first time will collect summary pay data, broken down by gender, race, and ethnicity, from all businesses with 100 or more employees. This data collection, which stems from a recommendation by the President’s Equal Pay Task Force and a Presidential Memorandum issued in 2014, is expected to cover roughly 63 million employees and 60,000 employers.
Today’s action will promote improved voluntary compliance by employers with existing equal pay laws. It will also help EEOC and the Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) better focus investigations on employers who are illegally shortchanging workers’ pay based on their gender, race, or ethnicity.
The data will be a tool not only for the federal government, but for employers as well. It will help employers evaluate their own pay practices to prevent pay discrimination in their workplaces. The EEOC will also compile and publish aggregate data that will help employers in assessing their pay practices relative to others in the same industry and geographic area.
Businesses have long used the EEO-1 form to report demographic information on their workforces. With the revised EEO-1, businesses also will report summary data on the range of compensation paid to employees of each demographic group. Businesses will not be required to disclose individual employees’ salaries.
Employers will first be required to submit pay data for 2017 by March 31, 2018, giving them 18 months to prepare for the change. This revision does not impact the 2016 EEO-1 report, which is due on September 30, 2016 and is unchanged. EEOC will be offering webinars and technical assistance to employers, payroll and human resource information system providers, and other stakeholders in preparation for the new submission requirements.
Today’s publication of the revised form comes after the EEOC approved this action by a vote of the Commission, and follows final approval by the Office of Management and Budget pursuant to the Paperwork Reduction Act. The EEOC is an independent government agency that enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, and genetic information.
BUILDING ON A RECORD OF SUPPORTING WORKING FAMILIES
Since taking office, President Obama and his Administration have taken a number of actions to support working families and combat the pay gap, including:
Publishing a final regulation by the Department of Health and Human Services to implement the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 2014. The program provides subsidies to working families and last year provided services for roughly 1.4 million children aged 0-13, most of whom are younger than 5. The rule, which has not been comprehensively revised since 1998, will provide a roadmap to states on how to implement the new law and clarify ambiguities around provisions that deal with eligibility for services; health and safety requirements; and how best to support the needs of parents and providers as they transition to the new law. It also clarifies that worker organizations can provide professional development to child care workers and contribute to discussions around the rates states set for subsidies.
Signing his first piece of legislation as President, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pair Act, in January 2009 making it easier for employees to challenge unfair pay practices.
Creating the National Equal Pay Task Force in January 2010 to implement his pledge to crack down on violations of equal pay laws, which included representatives from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Department of Justice, the Department of Labor, and the Office of Personnel Management. The Task Force has issued reports on its progress, including Fighting for Equal Pay in the Workforce, Keeping America’s Women Moving Forward, and Fifty Years After the Equal Pay Act. In addition, since the creation of the Equal Pay Task Force in 2010, the EEOC has received over 18,000 charges of sex-based pay discrimination, and through its independent enforcement efforts, the EEOC has obtained over $140 million in monetary relief for victims of pay discrimination on the basis of sex.
Calling on Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, commonsense legislation that would strengthen the Equal Pay Act of 1963 by closing loopholes in the defenses for equal pay violations, providing stronger remedies, and expanding protections against discrimination for employees who share or inquire about information about their compensation at work.
Signing a Presidential Memorandum in May 2013 directing the Office of Personnel Management to develop a government-wide strategy to address the gender pay gap in the federal workforce, leading to a report in April 2014 and new guidance in July 2015—which cautioned against reliance on a candidate’s existing salary to set pay, as it can potentially adversely affect women who may have taken time off from their careers or propagate gaps due to discriminatory pay practices by previous employers.
Issuing an Executive Order in April 2014 and publishing a Department of Labor rule in September 2015 prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating against employees who discuss or inquire about their compensation.
Announcing a White House Equal Pay Pledge, with more than 50 leading businesses signing on to take action to advance equal pay. By signing the pledge, these companies are committing to conduct an annual company-wide gender pay analysis, review hiring and promotion processes, embed equal pay efforts in broader equity initiatives, and identify and promote best practices that will close the wage gap.
Hosting a White House Summit on Working Families in June 2014, highlighting the issues that women and families face, setting the agenda for a 21st century workplace, and announcing of a number of steps to help working families thrive.
Hosting the United State of Women Summit in June 2016, highlighting the progress that has been made over the course of this Administration and discussing public and private sector solutions to the challenges that still lie ahead.
Signing a Presidential Memorandum in January 2015 directing federal agencies to advance six weeks of paid sick leave to federal employees with new children, calling on Congress to grant another six weeks of paid leave for federal employees, and calling on Congress to pass legislation that gives all American families access to paid family and medical leave.
Publishing a final Department of Labor rule in May updating outdated overtime regulations, expanding overtime pay protections to 4.2 million additional Americans, boosting wages for workers by $12 billion over the next 10 years, and allowing workers to better balance their work and family obligations.
Issuing an Executive Order in February 2014 requiring federal contractors to raise their minimum wage initially to $10.10 an hour, indexing it, and lifting the tipped minimum wage (which disproportionately impacts women)—and urging Congress, states, cities, and businesses to do the same.
Directing the Office of Personnel Management and federal agencies to enhance workplace flexibility for federal employees to the maximum extent practicable, including enshrining a right to request flexible work arrangements.
Signing into law the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010, which requires agencies to support and establish policies for telework by eligible employees.
Calling on Congress to pass the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which would require employers to make reasonable accommodations to workers who have limitations from pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions (unless it would impose an undue hardship on the employer). The legislation would also prohibit employers from forcing pregnant employees to take paid or unpaid leave if a reasonable accommodation would allow them to work.
Finalizing a Department of Labor rule updating its sex discrimination guidelines for federal contractors for the first time since 1978, to align with current law and address barriers to equal opportunity and pay, such as pay discrimination, sexual harassment, hostile work environments, a lack of workplace accommodations for pregnant women, and gender identity and family caregiving discrimination.
Announcing the Department of Labor’s award of $54 million in “Strengthening Working Families” grants to help low- to middle-skilled parents access the affordable, quality child care they need to earn an education, participate in training programs, and compete for better-paying jobs in emergency industries.
Expanding access for women to higher-paying jobs through a proposed rule updating equal employment opportunity requirements in registered apprenticeships and through a Mega-Construction Projects (MCP) Initiative at the Department of Labor.