Vice President Joe Biden can address the systemic racism and inequality in our justice system in ways that even President Barack Obama couldn’t. In just a few minutes remarks, the presumptive nominee for president of the Democratic party summed up centuries of injustice and terror, saying, “And it is long past time we made the promise of this nation real for all people. This is no time for incendiary tweets. This is no time to encourage violence. This is a national crisis, and we need real leadership right now.” He spoke after meeting with George Floyd’s family, after nights of peaceful then violent protest and just before the officer who caused his death was arrested for murder.
Once again — the words “I can’t breathe.”
An act of brutality so elemental, it did more than deny one more black man in America his civil rights and his human rights. It denied his very humanity. It denied him of his life.
Depriving George Floyd – as it deprived Eric Garner – of the one thing every human being must be able to do: Breathe.
So simple. So basic. So brutal.
The same thing happened with Ahmaud Arbery. The same with Breonna Taylor. The same thing with George Floyd.
We’ve spoken their names aloud. Cried them out in pain and horror. Chiseled them into long suffering hearts.
They are the latest additions to an endless list of lives stolen–potential wiped out unnecessarily.
It’s a list that dates back more than 400 years: black men, black women, black children.
The original sin of this country still stains our nation today.
Sometimes we manage to overlook it, and just push forward with the thousand other tasks of daily life. But it’s always there.
And weeks like this, we see it plainly.
We are a country with an open wound.
None of us can turn away.
None of us can be silent.
None of us any longer can hear those words — “I can’t breathe” — and do nothing.
We cannot fall victim to what Martin Luther King called the “appalling silence of the good people.”
Every day, African Americans go about their lives with constant anxiety and trauma, wondering — who will be next?
Imagine if every time your husband or son, wife or daughter, left the house, you feared for their safety from bad actors and bad police.
Imagine if you had to have that talk with your child about not asserting their rights — and taking the abuse handed out to them — just so they could make it home.
Imagine having the police called on you – for just sitting in Starbucks or renting an Airbnb or watching birds.
That is the norm for black people in this nation — they don’t have to imagine it.
The anger and the frustration and the exhaustion — it’s undeniable.
But that is not the promise of America.
And it is long past time we made the promise of this nation real for all people.
This is no time for incendiary tweets. This is no time to encourage violence.
This is a national crisis, and we need real leadership right now.
Leadership that will bring everyone to the table so we can take measures to root out systemic racism.
It’s time for us to take a hard look at uncomfortable truths.
It’s time for us to face the deep, open wound we have in this nation.
We need justice for George Floyd.
We need real police reform that holds all cops up to the high standards that so many of them actually meet — that holds bad cops accountable, and that repairs the relationship between law enforcement and the community they are sworn to protect.
And we need to stand up as a nation — with the black community, and with all minority communities — and come together as one America.
That’s the challenge we face.
And it will require those of us who sit in positions of influence to finally deal with the abuse of power.
The pain is too immense for one community to bear alone.
It is the duty of every American to grapple with it — and grapple with it now.
With our complacency, our silence — we are complicit in perpetuating these cycles of violence.
Nothing about this will be easy or comfortable. But if we simply allow this wound to scab over once more, without treating the underlying injury — we will never truly heal.
The very soul of America is at stake.
We must commit, as a nation, to pursue justice with every ounce of our being. We have to pursue it with real urgency. We have to make real the American promise, which we have never fully grasped: That all men and women are not only equal at creation, but throughout their lives.
Nassau County Executive Laura Curran is seizing the reins to revitalize village downtowns so battered by the forced shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.
On just the first day of reopening, after 67 days of the New York On Pause quarantine, she announced new programs aimed at giving a lifeline to small businesses and restaurants: a plan to open main streets for outdoor dining and a program to deliver complete PPE kits to small businesses passed over by the federal program.
“It’s a historic day,” Curran said, standing in front of 317 Main Street, a restaurant on Farmingdale’s Main Street. “We’re beginning to get back to work under Phase 1, representing 17 percent of county’s economy, while mitigating risk and controlling spread.
“The shutdown has come at a high cost for our county’s downtowns, the restaurants and mom and pop shops that previously were the lifeblood of communities.” Cutting off that business activity is why there has been such a uptick in county residents at a food drive in Valley Stream.
But, Curran said pointing to the symbiotic relationship between business and local government, “the success of business in Nassau County is linked to the services county government provides – police, fire, EMT, health, DPW all continuing to provide services; 40% of the county’s budget is generated from sales tax, so the success of business is also tied to the success of the county to provide services.”
Curran announced new programs aimed at spurring the county’s economy:
Open Streets, being piloted in the Village of Farmingdale, creates a fast track for municipalities to get approval from Nassau County to close county roads so that restaurants can provide outdoor dining – still under the guidelines of curbside and take-out – so that restaurants can achieve a level of business to be viable.
The municipally will be responsible for the layout on the street, making sure tables maintain six-foot separation. Restaurants will simply deliver food to the table.
Curran is expediting the permitting process for county roads so a village could, say, close the street one or two nights a week. “No paperwork, snail mail or fees and we are committed to approving the permit within one week,” she said.
It may not work for all communities, but those municipalities who see the benefit can apply at nassaucounty.gov/openstreets.
Farmingdale initially presented the idea to transform its Main Street to outdoor dining. The plan will provide for 424 socially distanced seats (utilizing parking lots as well).
A second business-friendly economic-revitalization initiative is to facilitate acquiring PPE so that local businesses can meet the guidelines for reopening.
“One of the main questions from chambers has been where businesses can get the PPE for their employees,” Curran said. The county is enlisting its Industrial Development Agency (IDA), which in partnership with the federal Housing & Urban Development agency, is investing $500,000 to purchase PPE kits for small businesses.
Each kit consists of contactless infrared thermometer, five face shields, 400 three-ply masks, 100 pairs of gloves, two-gallons of sanitizer and sanitary wipes.
The county is purchasing enough to supply 1,000 businesses on a first-come, first-served basis (apply at boostnassau.net, beginning Monday, June 1). The county is particularly targeting small businesses – minority and women-owned – that were “passed over” by the federal small-business relief program.
If the program is successful, it may be expanded.
New York State passed legislation to allocate Nassau County IDA up to $10,000 in grants, and $25,000 in loans for additional PPE.
“It’s an important tool to expand business receipts while mitigating risk.”
There is urgency, she added, to get back to business in a way that also mitigates the risk of spreading the coronavirus.
“We know PPE works. Any coming back requires PPE. Now we can begin reopening.”
Village of Farmingdale Mayor Ralph Ekstrand commented, “When we talked about a plan to reopen with social distancing, etc., Laura was ecstatic to work with village.”
The village engineer came up with a plan that lays out the six-foot separation. “Instead of having the restaurants do it, the village will do it, because we know what is safe.”
Curran estimated that a couple of dozen villages could take advantage of this program because their main street is a county road, but other villages could use the same “tool kit” on village or town road. “We will share the tool kit.”
This program complies with the restriction on restaurants for curbside and carry-out; in phase 3 of the state’s reopening plan, restaurants will be able to have indoor table service.
“This is an innovation, not a loophole, so community can work their way back,” Curran said.
What if “stupid” people abuse the rules? “Our residents have been doing a smart job,” Curran said. “We can handle our freedom.”
Nassau County is working with Suffolk – “One Long Island” – to hit the benchmarks to reopen under the state’s matrix. Both Nassau and Suffolk have suffered some of the highest rates of COVID-19 in the country, totaling 79,499 confirmed cases. New York City, just over the Nassau County Line so far has recorded 201,051 cases.
The rates of infection, though, have come down dramatically as a result of the lockdown and social distancing measures.
Today, there were 106 new COVID-19 cases in Nassau, for a total of 40,140, and three deaths, for a total of 2114. As of yesterday, there were 389 COVID-related hospitalizations and 121 ICU patients.
In addition to County Health Officials and Mayor Ekstrand, County Executive Laura Curran was joined by Richie Kessel, President of the Nassau County IDA; Eric Alexander, Director of Vision Long Island and Joseph Garcia, Farmingdale Chamber of Commerce President.
New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo, after a meeting with Donald Trump at the White House, chided Washington for politicizing the coronavirus pandemic, and not acting swiftly enough to provide crucial funding to states and localities, especially those – New York, New Jersey, Illinois, Massachusetts, California – where the outbreak of cases and the death toll has been the worst. “This hyper-partisan Washington environment is toxic for this country,” he stated in a press briefing shortly afterward at the National Press Club in Washington. He urged government to “do the right thing.”
Senate Republicans, led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, have called such funding a “blue state bail out,” after having allocated billions to friendly industries and funneling millions to connected business interests. He stressed that New York and California, alone, represent one-third of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product, so you don’t have a reenergized economy without them. New York and California are also are the biggest donor states, sending billions of dollars more to taker-states like Kentucky than they get back in federal spending (New York sends $29 billion a year more than it gets back; Kentucky takes $29 billion more than it sends).If the states do not get federal aid, he stresseded, they will be forced to cut spending for hospitals, schools, police and fire – all the services most essential during a public health crisis – and excess thousands of workers, which won’t do the unemployment rate much good. Or, he said, the federal government can use this time as Franklin Roosevelt did during the Great Depression, to finally build the big, bold infrastructure projects that have been put on back-burners for 30 years.
Cuomo noted that the The House of Representatives has already passed its Heroes bill that includes $500 billion for states and $375 billion for locals; Medicaid funding for the most vulnerable; increased SNAP food assistance; 100 percent FEMA federal assistance; funding for testing; and repeals SALT cap to help states most affected by COVID-19, “the politically motivated first double tax in U.S. history” that was implemented by the federal tax law in 2017.
The Governor also renewed his call for Congress to pass the ‘Americans First Law’ to help prevent corporate bailouts following the COVID-19 pandemic. First proposed by the Governor on May 10th, the legislation states that a corporation cannot be eligible to receive government funding if it doesn’t maintain the same number of employees that the corporation had before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cuomo also urged President Trump to support a real public infrastructure program and to advance infrastructure projects in New York — including the LaGuardia AirTrain, the Cross-Hudson Tunnels, and the Second Avenue Subway expansion — to help supercharge the economy.
He listed a series of projects in New York State that are ready to go – including the LaGuardia AirTrain, the Cross-Hudson Tunnels, and the Second Avenue Subway expansion – that are just awaiting federal approval “to help supercharge the economy.” Significantly, Trump earlier has told agencies to dispense with regulations that are obstacles to speedy development, and during the 2016 campaign, boasted he would be the builder, with a $1 trillion infrastructure spending plan.
Cuomo also renewed his call for ‘Americans First Law’ which would require any company that takes government funding to rehire the same number of employees it had before the COVID-19 pandemic, and not use the pandemic to “right-size” or “downsize” and cut costs to increase profits.
“Washington is now debating their next bill that would aid in the reopening and the recovery. Prior bills have helped businesses, large businesses, small businesses, hotels, airlines, all sorts of business interests,” Cuomo said. “That’s great but you also have states and local governments and state governments do things like fund schools and fund hospitals. Do you really want to cut schools now? Do you really want to cut hospitals now after what we have just gone through when we are talking about a possible second wave, when we are talking about a fall with possible more cases? Do you really think we should starve state governments and cut hospitals? Would that be smart? Do you really want to cut local governments right now? That is cutting police. That is cutting fire. Is now the time to savage essential services and don’t you realize that if do you this, if you cut state and local governments and you cause chaos on the state and local level, how does that help a nation striving to recover economically?
“The Covid states, the states that bore the brunt of the Covid virus are one third of the national GDP. How can you tell one third of the country to go to heck and then think you’re going to see an economic rebound? Also, state governments, state economies, local economies, that is what the national economy is made of. What is the national economy but for a function of the states? There is no nation without the states. They tend to forget that in this town. But it is the obvious fact and we have made this mistake before.
“Again, look at history. If you don’t learn from your mistakes you are going to repeat the mistakes. It is that simple and we have seen in the past what has happened when state and local governments were savaged and how it hurt the national recovery. Wall Street Journal, not exactly a liberal publication, makes the point that on the economy cuts to employment and spending likely to weigh on growth for years. So even if you believe the rhetoric we are about reopening, we are about getting the economy back, great. Then if that is what you believe you would provide funding to the state and local governments.
“The Federal Reserve Chairman Powell, very smart man respected on both sides of the aisle, said we have evidence the global financial crisis in the years afterward where state and local government layoffs and lack of hiring weighed on economic growth. We want to reopen the economy. We want to get this national economy better than ever. Fine. Then act accordingly and act appropriately.
“This hyper-partisan Washington environment is toxic for this country. You have people saying, well don’t want to pass a bill that we continue don’t want to pass a bill that helps Democratic states. It would be a blue state bailout is what some have said. Senator McConnell, stopping blue state bailouts. Senator Scott, we’re supposed to go bail them out? That’s not right. On Fox TV, Laffer, you want us to give our money to Cuomo and New York? Hello, not this week.
“First of all, this is really an ugly, ugly sentiment. It is an un-American response. We’re still the United States of America. Those words meant something. United States of America. First of all, Mr. federal legislator, you’re nothing without the states, and you represent the United States. Not only is it ugly, it is false. It is wholly untrue, what they are saying, 100 percent. And there are facts, if you want to pose the question, which is, I think, divisive at this period of time.
“But if you want to pose the question, what states give money and what states take money? Right? There is a financial equation that is the federal government. And if you want to ask, what states give money to other states and what states take money from other states, that’s a question that Senator McConnell and Senator Scott and Mr. Laffer don’t really want to ask, because the truth, the truth is totally the opposite of what they’re saying. You look at the states that give more money to the federal government than they get back. You know the top, what they call donor state, you know what one state pays in more to the pot than they take out to the federal pot than any other state than the United States? It’s the State of New York. New York pays more every year, $29 billion more, than they take back. You know the second state, New Jersey. Massachusetts, Connecticut, California, every year, they contribute more to the federal pot. You know who takes out more than they put in from that pot? You know whose hand goes in deeper and takes out than they put in? Virginia, Maryland, Kentucky, Alabama, Florida. Those are the facts, those are the numbers.
“The great irony is, the conservatives want to argue against redistribution of wealth. Why should you take money from the rich and give it to the poor? That’s exactly what you are doing. That is exactly what you have done every year. So it’s only redistribution unless you wind up getting more money. Then it’s fine, then it’s not redistribution. Take from the rich, give to the poor, that’s redistribution, yes, unless you’re the poor, Senator McConnell, Senator Scott because you were the ones who have your hand out. You were the ones who are taking more than others. Redistribution, you’re against it, except when the richer states give you more money every year. Then the great hypocrisy, they actually make the redistribution worse when they passed three years ago a provision ending what’s called state and local tax deductibility. That didn’t level the playing field.
“What they did was they took the states that were already paying more money into the federal government, the quote, unquote richer states and they increased the money they were taking from the richer states. They took another $23 billion from California and another $14 billion from New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Illinois, Connecticut. The hypocrisy is so insulting because when you start to talk about numbers, there is still facts. People can still add and people can still subtract and they know what they put in and they know what they take out.
“I know it’s Washington, D.C. but the truth actually still matters. Americans are smart and they find out the truth even in the fog and the blather of Washington, DC. My point to our friends in the Congress: Stop abusing New York. Stop abusing New Jersey. Stop abusing Massachusetts and Illinois and Michigan and Pennsylvania. Stop abusing the states who bore the brunt of the Covid virus through no fault of their own. Why did New York have so many cases. It’s nothing about New York. It’s because the virus came from Europe and no one in this nation told us.”
Cuomo hit back on suggestions that the state was at fault for having so many COVID-19 cases – indeed, more than almost any other nation, at 364,965, including 1129 cases added the day before, from 45 counties. Indeed, though Trump had intelligence briefings in January, he downplayed the threat and even later, only looked to China as a source, so the country’s attention was focused on cases in Washington and California.
“We were told the virus is coming from China. It’s coming from China, look to the West. We were looking to the West it came from the East. The virus left China, went to Europe. Three million Europeans come to New York, land in our airports January, February, March and bring the virus. And nobody knew. It was not New York’s job. We don’t do international, global health. It didn’t come from China. It came from Europe and we bore the brunt of it. Now, you want to hold that against us because we bore the brunt of a national mistake? And because we had more people die? We lost more lives and you want to now double the insult and the injury by saying, ‘Well, why should we help those states? Those states had more Covid deaths.’ That’s why you’re supposed to help those states because they did have more Covid deaths and this is the United States and when one state has a problem, the other states help.
“I was in the federal government for eight years. When Los Angeles had earthquakes, we helped. When the Midwest had the Red River floods, we helped. When Florida had Hurricane Andrew, we helped. When Texas had floods, we helped. When Louisiana had Hurricane Katrina, we helped. We didn’t say “well, that is Louisiana’s fault. They had the hurricane. Well, that is Texas’s fault, they had the floods.” It was nobody’s fault. And we were there to help because that is who we are and that is what we believe. What happened to that American spirit? What happened to that concept of mutuality?
“You know there still a simple premise that you can’t find in a book, and Washington hasn’t written regulations for, called doing the right thing. There is still a right thing in life. The right thing you feel inside you. The right thing is calibration of your principle and your belief and your soul and your heart and your spirit. And we do the right thing in this country, not because a law says do the right thing, but because we believe in doing the right thing. As individuals, as people, we believe in doing right by each other, by living your life by a code where you believe you are living it in an honorable way, acting on principle, and you are doing the right thing.
“Why can’t the government? Why can’t the Congress reflect the right thing principle that Americans live their life by? Pass a piece of legislation that is honorable and decent and does the right thing for all Americans. Why is that so hard? And if you want to talk about reopening the economy, then do it in a productive way. People think this economy is just going to bounce back. I don’t think it is going to bounce back. I think it will bounce back for some, and I think there will be collateral damage of others. We already know that tens of thousands of small businesses closed and probably won’t come back. We already know the large corporations are going to lay off thousands and thousands of workers, and they are going to use this pandemic as an excuse to get lean, to restructure, and they will boost their profits by reducing their payroll.
“We know it. We have been there before. We saw this in the 2008 Mortgage Crisis where the government bailed them out, the big banks that created the problem, and they used the money to pay themselves bonuses and they laid off their workers. They will do is same thing again that. That is why I propose the Americans First legislation that said a corporation can’t get a dime of government bailout unless they rehire the same number of workers they had pre-pandemic as post. Don’t take a gift from the taxpayer and then lay off Americans who are going to file for unemployment insurance paid for by the taxpayers. Don’t do that again.
“And if you want to be smart, we know that there is work to do in this nation. We have known it for years. You can fill a library with the number of books on the infrastructure and the decay of our infrastructure and how many roads and bridges have to be repaired, how this nation is grossly outpaced by nations across the world in terms of infrastructure, airports and development. Now is the time to stimulate the economy by doing that construction and doing that growth. You want to supercharge the reopening? That’s how do you it. This nation was smart enough to do it before. We did it in the midst of the great depression. We created 8 million jobs. We built an infrastructure that we’re still living on today. We’re still living on the infrastructure built by our grandparents, not even our parents. What are we going to leave our children? And now is the time to do it.
“We have major infrastructure projects in New York that are ready to go, that are desperately needed, that were desperately needed 30 years ago. Build them now. Supercharge the reopening. Grow the economy. That’s what we would do if we were smart. You’re not going to have a supercharged economy. You’re not going to see this nation get up and start running again, unless we do it together. That’s states working with other states. That’s a federal government that stands up and puts everything else aside.
“They were elected to provide good government. Nobody elected anyone to engage in partisan politics. There was a time when as a nation we were smart enough to say, “You want to play politics? That’s what a campaign is for.” Run your campaign against your opponent. Say all sorts of crazy things. That’s crazy campaign time. But when government starts, stop the politics, and do what’s right and smart. Don’t play your politics at the expense of the citizens you represent. There is no good government concept anymore. It’s politics 365 days a year. From the moment they’re elected to the moment they run again, it’s all politics. And that is poison. We have to get to a point, if only for a moment, if only for a moment, if only for a moment in response to a national crisis where we say it’s not red and blue. It’s red, white, and blue. It’s the United States and we’re going to act that way.
“In New York we say that by saying New York tough, but it’s America tough. Which is smart, and united, and disciplined, and loving, and loving.”
Cuomo said that the ninth of 10 regions, Long Island, began reopening today, joining Mid-Hudson Valley which opened yesterday, the Capital Region, Western New York, Central New York, North Country, Finger Lakes, Southern Tier and Mohawk Valley Regions, which all have met the seven metrics required for Phase One of a multi-phase process. Each of the regions has to have a monitoring commission in place to make sure reopening does not trigger new outbreaks, and that any upticks are addressed.
New York City still has more metrics to complete before it can begin its formal reopening, though the New York Stock Exchange did reopen yesterday.
Governor Cuomo: “States are responsible for the enforcement of all the procedures around reopening but at the same time the federal government has a role to play and the federal government has to do its part as we work our way through this crisis. There cannot be at national recovery if the state and local governments are not funded.”
Amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the launch of the $100 million New York Forward Loan Fund to provide flexible and affordable loans to help small businesses, focusing on minority and women owned small businesses, that did not receive federal COVID-19 assistance. The state will take a smart, targeted approach for distributing these loans, focusing on businesses with 20 or fewer employees and less than $3 million in gross revenues. Businesses interested in receiving a loan should visit esd.ny.gov/nyforwardloans.
Governor Cuomo also announced the Long Island and Mid-Hudson Valley Regions will be permitted to begin construction staging in anticipation of phase one of reopening. If the number of deaths continues to decrease and the tracing is online, both regions could reopen next week.
The Governor also announced the launch of a new pilot program with 52 independent pharmacies to conduct 7,000 tests per week. New York State now has more than 750 testing sites across the state. The Governor also encouraged eligible New Yorkers to visit coronavirus.health.ny.gov to find a nearby testing site and get tested.
The Governor also announced that the state is making its contact tracing training curriculum available at no cost to all states through the National Governors Association to speed the process of creating contact tracing programs. The state partnered with Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University to develop this comprehensive online curriculum to train potential contact tracers. Contact tracing is currently underway in seven regions of the state – the Capital Region, Central New York, Finger Lakes, the Mohawk Valley, the North Country, the Southern Tier and Western New York.
The Governor pointed to the urgency of continuing practices like social distancing, hand-washing and perhaps most critically, wearing a mask in public when six-feet separation cannot be maintained.
“How do you know the mask works?” he said. “First responders have a lower infection rate than the general population. Nurses, doctors in emergency rooms have a lower infection rate than the general population. How can that possibly be? Because they wear the mask and they do the hand sanitizers. You feel out of control, you can’t protect yourself, you can’t protect family? Yes, you can. That’s what the mask does. You want to be in control of yourself? You want to greatly increase your odds? Wear the mask. By the way, not just asking you. The mask is mandatory in public settings. Public transportation, if you are in a taxi or Uber, private carriers, or anytime you are in public within six feet of another person, the mask is mandatory. It is not just a nice thing to do, a responsible thing to do, for citizen duty, it is mandatory that you wear the mask within six feet of another person in public. You don’t have a right to infect another person. You don’t. Look at the constitution, tell me where it says you have the right to infect another person. You don’t.
“So, how do we reopen smart? It’s up to you. It’s up to us. And that’s both the beauty and the conundrum of this situation. It is wholly dependent on social action. Wholly dependent on social action. You tell me what people do, I will tell you the results, period. Government can say whatever it wants. I can sit up here and say whatever I want. I can’t control it. People can control it.”
Cuomo is so keen on mask-wearing, that he enlisted his daughter Mariah Kennedy Cuomo to create the state’s Wear a Mask New York Ad Contest, which was launched on May 5th. Out of 600 submissions, five finalists have been selected. New Yorkers can vote for the winning ad until Monday May 25th at WearAMask.ny.gov, and 92,000 people have voted to date. The winning ad will be announced on Tuesday, May 26th, and that ad will be used as a public service announcement.
On the state’s decision to launch its own small business loan program, Cuomo said, “Small business is a priority. Federal government passed the Small Business Assistance Program. That has run out of money and small businesses are taking a real beating in this situation. They are 90 percent of New York’s businesses and they’re facing the toughest challenges. The economic projections, vi-a-vie small business are actually frightening. More than 100,000 have shut permanently since the pandemic hit. Many small businesses just don’t have the staying power to continue to pay all the fixed costs, the lease, et cetera, when they have no income whatsoever. Minority owned businesses face a far greater risk and have received less in federal relief.”
The state’s own small business relief program will make $100 million available through private banks.
“We’re going to focus on MWBEs that did not receive federal assistance and focus on really small business. The federal definition of small business is what many could consider large business, but we’re going to focus on true small businesses. Twenty or fewer employees, less than $3 million in gross revenues.”
Finally, the Governor confirmed 1,696 additional cases of novel coronavirus, bringing the statewide total to 358,154 confirmed cases. Of the 358,154 total individuals who tested positive for the virus, the geographic breakdown is as follows:
Nassau County and Suffolk Counties are expected to meet the state’s metrics to reopen by next week, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo said, even as the counties, and New York State move forward with reopening beaches, parks, golf courses, tennis and marinas this Memorial Day weekend, and will honor the fallen on Memorial Day with car parades and a televised wreath laying ceremony.
State beaches, including Jones Beach, are open, while Nassau County beaches will reopen to residents. Beaches are limiting capacity to 50 percent, through limiting parking, and social distancing and rules regarding wearing a mask in public and when 6-feet separation cannot be maintained, are in place.
The Bethpage Memorial Day Air Show that traditionally takes place at Jones Beach State Park will go on “virtually” on the airshow’s web page. Nassau County will conduct an auto parade and a small wreath-laying ceremony at the Veterans Memorial within Eisenhower Park; the Memorial Day events will be televised beginning at 9:30 am.
Meanwhile, Nassau County Executive Laura Curran encouraged residents to take advantage of the county’s expanded biking/walking/recreational trails. Speaking at Eisenhower Park, showcased the newly completed 1.4 mile expansion of the Motor Parkway Trail, a multi-use trail that currently spans from Hofstra University, to Museum Row, to Eisenhower Park. The expansion was completed in time for National Bike Month, which runs through the month of May. The trail serves as a recreational connection of 11 continuous miles through Nassau County for hikers and bicyclists, directly serving the Nassau Hub area. Curran said that ultimately, the county’s Department of Public Works in conjunction with the Trust for Public Land, will extend the trail to connect with Bethpage State Park, where there is a stunning 15-mile long bikeway, and will eventually reach to the Nassau-Suffolk line. The bike paths offer an alternative to using an automobile.
Indeed, the Motor Parkway was built by William Kissam Vanderbilt as the first roadway specifically designed for automobile use only. It hosted the first international automobile race in the United States, 112 years ago. Howard Kroplick, a car collector and historian who owns the 1909 Alco “Black Beast” which twice won the Vanderbilt Cup race.
“It shows government works for the people,” Curran said, adding that the 930acre Eisenhower Park, with its golf courses, mini-golf, tennis, pool, skating rink, actually is larger than New York City’s Central Park.
Nassau County, being contiguous with New York City, has been a hotspot for coronavirus, but the County executive pointed to positive metrics, including the most critical one, the number of deaths falling from peaking at 219 in a single day (April 6) to five; the number of new cases a day went from a peak of 2477 hospitalizations to 564 today; from 592 ICU patients at its peak, April 14, to 178 today.
Residents have “quarantine fatigue” she said, which is why opening outdoor recreation is so important. She said that nonprofit venues, like Old Westbury Gardens, the Planting Fields, the Bailey Arboretum, also can be opened safely, limiting capacity, in order to give people more things to do.
Nassau County’s economy has been decimated by the pandemic and the lockdown. Curran said.
She warned of a collapse of downtowns and the county’s small businesses.
“We see businesses suffering, lay offs,” she said. The county budget, which depends for 40 percent of its revenue on sales taxes, expects a 20 percent decline in those revenues – a loss of $438 million out of a $3.5 billion budget. The county is projecting a $384 million deficit.
She insisted the county has no intention of furloughing workers. “We have the best employees. We have a lean operation. I will stand by (our workers). Think of everything they have done –the DPW, police, health, consumer affairs – all going nonstop, serving residents. We need help from the federal government.”
The county, she said, has so far received $108 million from federal aid, but the county’s payroll is $80 million a month.
Consequently, the state’s new focus on getting funding to small businesses will be a boon to Nassau.
“Small business is a priority,” Governor Cuomo said at his May 22 coronavirus briefing. “The federal government’s small business assistance program has run out of money. Small businesses have taken a beating – they are 90% of New York businesses, and facing the toughest challenges. The economic projections are frightening” – more than 100,000 nationwide are estimated to have shut permanently since the pandemic escalated in March. Minority- and women-owned businesses have been especially disadvantaged by the federal program.
Cuomo announced the state was initiating its own small business relief program which will make available $100 million in New York Forward Loan Fund (NYFLF), with a focus on minority- and women-owned businesses with 20 or fewer employees and less than $3 million in gross revenues, that have not received federal support (https://esd.ny.gov/economic-recovery-covid-19-loans-small-businesses).
The state also is permitting the staging for construction projects in anticipation of the county reopening.
The lag in reopening the county has also hurt real estate sales, Curran said. New Jersey and Connecticut are seeing a boon in New Yorkers looking to escape the city for suburbs. “We don’t want to lose out. We have all price ranges here.”
Meanwhile, Curran announced that the Nickerson Beach cabanas will be open for the summer season on June 21.
“The Cabanas at Nickerson are a beloved tradition of our County’s beach culture and for many it wouldn’t be summer without them. I am glad we are able to return a tiny of bit of normalcy to our residents and allow them to enjoy this amenity along with our beautiful south shore beach. We will have new guidelines in place to ensure that people are able to enjoy the cabanas in a safe way,” said Nassau County Executive Laura Curran.
Nickerson Beach has long offered cabanas for rent during the summer season on the eastern and western ends of the park. Each year, a lottery is held to determine eligibility for available spots. There are 498 cabanas and 147 cabinettes. The County released directives to ensure all renters can utilize the cabanas safely while abiding by social distancing guidelines. The County will be monitoring compliance of these rules.
The County will be implementing a density reduction plan by reducing parking to 50 percent occupancy.
Cabanas may only be used to store food, change clothes and store beach chairs, tables and umbrellas.
Congregation in and around cabanas will not be permitted.
The County will be reaching out to cabana renters to ascertain their interest in voluntarily forgoing their use this season. Those renters who chose to pass on utilization this season will have their renting rights honored with no penalty in the 2021 season. The County will be releasing a fee reduction plan for those who chose to rent this season.
Use of indoor amenities, except for bathrooms, at beach clubs are not permitted at this time. The County is waiting on New York State guidance on opening pools.
Meanwhile, the Governor is looking to allow religious centers to conduct services, limiting participation and requiring social distancing, and is also looking to for a return of professional sports but without fans in arenas.
Cuomo has insisted that testing, tracing and isolation are key to reopening without triggering new spikes in contagion that could force the economy to shut down again. He encouraged anyone to get tested and announced a new pilot program with 52 independent pharmacies to conduct 7000 tests per week.
“New York is doing more testing than any other state, any other nation.” He said that so much testing is available that many of the places are doing thousands fewer tests a day than they can accommodate.
If you have any symptoms or feel you have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, he urged, go to coronavirus.health.ny.gov to find out where to go for a test.
The state has mounted the most aggressive contact tracing program, funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies and developed by Johns Hopkins.
Cuomo said New York would share the software and training program with any state that requests it, through the National Governors Association, at no cost.
Cuomo stressed the importance of wearing a mask as key to preventing a resurgence of coronvirus outbreaks that could once again shut down the economy. As proof, he notes that doctors and nurses in the Emergency Room, first responders and frontline workers have lower rates of the infection than the general population because they wear masks. The state has mounted a video contest for a public service announcement. Five finalists have been selected. To vote (by May 25) go to coronavirus.health.ny.gov/wear-mask. The winner will be unveiled on May 26. In just 2 ½ days, some 92,000 voted.
Bethpage Jones Beach Memorial Day Air Show Virtually
While there won’t be an actual Bethpage Air Show at Jones Beach, you can see photo highlights of past shows here:
Acting on a commitment to coordinate regional policies in response to COVID-19, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont, and Delaware Governor John Carney today announced a multi-state agreement to reopen public and private beaches with certain restrictions in place effective, Friday, May 22. This approach will better align the states’ policies ahead of the summer months.
“With Memorial Day weekend fast approaching and warmer weather on the way, we want to make sure New Yorkers and residents of our neighboring states are able to safely enjoy outdoor recreational activities,” Governor Cuomo said. “We have been coordinating with other states throughout this entire pandemic, and we have worked on an agreement allowing beaches to be open with proper social distancing and other public health protections in place so we can begin establishing a new normal without jeopardizing the progress we’ve already made.”
The agreement provides for New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware will all be opening beaches, including local beaches and lake shores, for the Memorial Day weekend. Pools will remain closed.
Under the rules, the beaches will operate at no more than 50 percent capacity by controlling parking areas, entrance areas, exit areas. There will be no group contact activities like volleyball, football, and social gathering areas will remain closed, such as picnic areas, playgrounds, pavilions, arcades.
“Social distancing will be enforced for employees and for visitors. Masks must be worn by employees and visitors must have masks and wear them when they can’t socially distance. At this point, concessions will not be operating. We don’t want long lines of people waiting for concession stands and we’ll ensure that staff levels are adequate to enforce these measures,” Cuomo stated.
“On the beaches that are controlled by cities, towns, counties, municipal beaches, municipal lakes, the local government can decide to open or stay closed. If they choose to open, they must adopt the state’s requirements at a minimum and the chief executive can decide to do that. If they want to impose additional requirements above and beyond the state requirements, they are free to do that. That will be done by a home rule message and those decisions should be made by the locals by Wednesday, May 20 so we can plan accordingly. If a locality doesn’t open beaches, we need to know that because then we’ll have more demand on state beaches in that area. If they do open beaches, we need to know that also just to understand the flow, the traffic, and where we have to staff up. Again, the state beaches will be open the Friday before Memorial Day.”
“A trip to the beach is a treasured past time for New Jerseyans on Memorial Day weekend just as it is for residents in our neighboring states,” said Governor Murphy. By aligning our social distancing policies for beaches, we can bring some semblance of a ‘new normal’ to our region ahead of the first weekend of the summer season.”
“Our beaches are some of our most beautiful and treasured assets,” said Governor Lamont. “We want to make sure they are enjoyed up and down the East Coast in the safest possible way, especially as the Summer Season begins. Working together as states to make sure they can be enjoyed responsibly makes sense.”
“Summer at the beach is a huge part of life for so many Delawareans. As we ease our way into a new normal, we’re trying to find ways for Delawareans to safely to enjoy the outdoors and the company of their families,” Governor Carney said.
5 Regions Begin To Reopen
Meanwhile, five regions of the state’s 10 regions will begin reopening today. The Central New York, North Country, Finger Lakes, Southern Tier and Mohawk Valley Regions have met all seven metrics required to begin phase one of the state’s regional phased reopening plan. NYS on PAUSE will be extended until May 28 for all regions that do not reopen today – Western New York, the Capital Region, the Mid-Hudson Valley, New York City and Long Island. When a region meets all seven metrics required for reopening, that region may immediately enter phase one of reopening.
“Throughout this entire pandemic New Yorkers have stepped up to the plate and done a great job of working together to bend the curve, and today half the regions in the state will begin to reopen,” Governor Cuomo said.”These regions have met the seven criteria needed for reopening, and as soon as other regions hit those benchmarks they can begin phase one of reopening as well. As we move forward with this process, it is up to all of us to understand our personal responsibility – that’s how this worked from day one and that’s how we will continue to slow the spread of the virus and start our new normal.”
Governor Cuomo outlined additional guidelines and protocols for phase one businesses as they begin to reopen:
All workers must have masks and wear them when within six feet of another worker
Employers must provide masks to all employees
No congregate meetings
Retail Business Owners – Curbside Pickup
Employee and purchaser in vehicle must wear a mask, gloves preferred
Hand sanitizer must be made available
Retail Business Owners – In-Store Pickup
Requires ordering ahead – pre-arranged orders
Social distancing required in store
No more than 50 percent of maximum occupancy
Patrons must wear masks
Store employees must wear masks, gloves preferred
Hand sanitizer must be made available
Finally, the Governor confirmed 2,762 additional cases of novel coronavirus, with new cases in 44 counties, bringing the statewide total to 345,813 confirmed cases. Of the 345,813 total individuals who tested positive for the virus, the geographic breakdown is as follows:
After the April jobs report showed a loss of 20.5 million jobs and an unemployment rate of 14.7% – the worst since the Great Depression –former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee for President, offered these remarks on “Trump’s Disastrous Economy,” saying “it didn’t have to be this way.” Here are the remarks, as prepared for delivery, which provide an alternate to how things could have, should have been handled:
This morning, we received the worst jobs report in history. 20.5 million jobs lost last month, and an unemployment rate now 14.7 percent — the highest it’s been since the Great Depression.
It’s an economic disaster worse than any we have seen in decades — and it’s made all the worse, because it didn’t have to be this way.
Donald Trump utterly failed to prepare for this pandemic and delayed in taking the necessary steps to safeguard our nation against the near-worst-case-economic scenario we are now living.
COVID-19 caused a massive economic challenge. But this crisis hit us harder, and will last longer, because Donald Trump spent the last three years undermining the core pillars of our economic strength.
Many small businesses have closed because of stay-at-home orders. But a lot of them won’t open again because they do not have a cushion due to three years of Trump’s policies that reward the biggest companies.
Yes, many have lost their jobs because of this crisis — but we are seeing so many proud families forced to endure epic lines for food boxes in football stadium parking lots because Donald Trump has spent three years tilting the playing field to the wealthy, and not the middle class.
Trump has loved to crow about the great economy he built. But when the crisis hit, it became clear who that economy has been built to serve. Not workers. Not the middle class. Not families.
Trump’s economic agenda has three unmistakable failings; failings that have been present since day one, but are coming into sharp relief in the current crisis:
First, Donald Trump’s main measure of economic progress is the state of the stock market.
It’s the only metric he values, so it’s the only lens through which he sees our economy.
For the past three years, even as Americans have had to work harder than ever to pay their bills, he’s said the economy was “great” because the stock market was up.
He irresponsibly downplayed and delayed action on the virus to protect the Dow Jones Average, a choice that has so far cost tens of thousands of American lives and millions of American jobs.
Make no mistake: it doesn’t matter how much the market rebounds. As long as there are millions of unemployed people struggling to get by — we won’t be anywhere near bouncing back.
Second, his entire economic strategy is focused on helping the wealthy and big corporations.
Just imagine what we could be doing now with the $2 trillion in tax cuts that Trump delivered for his rich friends as his first priority.
Imagine how much better a position we’d be in right now if — instead of Donald Trump cheering on corporations that spent hundreds of billions buying back their stock — those corporations were using that money to keep workers on their payrolls.
Imagine if, instead of providing incentives to shift jobs overseas – he had ensured we were investing in manufacturing at home.
Imagine how much more resilient our small businesses might be right now if – rather than repeatedly trying to slash the Small Business Administration’s budget – Trump had invested in making them stronger.
Imagine if instead of fighting tooth and nail to take away people’s health insurance, he’d invested in expanding access, so that families didn’t worry that a visit to the hospital would put their finances at risk.
Third, Donald Trump claimed he would fight for the forgotten middle class – and as soon as he got into office, he forgot them.
He’s been President for more than three years, but hasn’t yet followed through on his core economic campaign promises to middle class voters.
He promised to work with Congress to pass a bill to limit offshoring of jobs. He promised to create $1 trillion worth of new infrastructure jobs. He promised to expand child care support.
He said it would all happen before May 2017. It’s now May 2020 and not one of these promises has materialized.
Instead, he’s run the same playbook that has hollowed out our economy time and again over the past four decades.
It always ends up the same way. The rich get richer, the powerful get more power, and everyone else gets told they just need to work harder.
We’ve heard it before — and we’re not buying it.
And if you need proof that Trump’s policies were a failure even before this virus hit, just compare the first 35 months of Trump’s presidency to the last 35 months of the Obama-Biden Administration, hiring was slower and real wages grew more slowly too.
Trump was already well into the process of hollowing out the good economy we left him long before the first case of coronavirus.
The numbers looked good, but underneath the numbers, things were eroding.
But this pandemic has laid bare exactly how much damage Trump has done in just over three years.
Because Donald Trump has gotten the virus response wrong, the jobs and unemployment numbers are just the beginning. His mistakes will also mean it takes more time to recover from this.
We’re already seeing the tell-tale hallmarks of Trump-o-nomics in the way he is implementing the crisis response efforts: no strings, no oversight, no accountability.
I’ve started to think of it as the Corrupt Recovery.
First, Trump made sure we didn’t have an empowered Inspector General to oversee all of this.
And now, we seeing reports that loan money went to Trump’s donors, political allies, and companies with Trump-connected lobbyists.
Here’s how it worked: Trump’s Treasury Department allowed corporations with connections to go right to the front of the line — they got concierge service.
Meanwhile the mom and pop shops that needed help most got shut out.
More than 40 percent of the initial funding designed to support small businesses—didn’t go to real small businesses at all.
The single largest recipient of small-business money was a hotel executive and a major Trump donor.
The Trump Administration let him exploit the loophole to get $59 million in help, and he’s only giving it back now because the press found out.
And, who knows what else we’d find if the Trump Administration would stop hiding the full list of businesses who received help.
This is your money they’re getting.
We’re reading press stories that the Trump Administration is allowing big corporations that take money to lay off their workers, while other big companies are laying off workers then pay-out millions to shareholders.
How hard is it for Trump to say that if you are a major corporation and you are going to receive taxpayer money, you must first use it to take care of your workers?
But it turns out corruption is a feature of the Trump economic agenda, not a bug.
He will pick his wealthy friends, his corporate cronies, over working families every time.
I say it’s time we pick a different way.
In the coming weeks, I’ll be laying out a detailed plan for the right kind of economic recovery. Today, let me outline just a few key principles.
It starts with rebuilding the backbone of this country: a stronger, more inclusive, more resilient middle class – a middle class that can withstand the next public health crisis or whatever else comes our way.
It’s time we make sure everyone gets a fair shot at success, not just the Mar-a-Lago crowd.
Since the very first days of my campaign, I’ve had a simple message:
Wall Street and CEOs didn’t build this country. The middle class built this country. Ordinary women and men who are capable of doing extraordinary things when given half a chance. They built the country.
That’s who I believe in. That’s who I’m in this race to fight for.
Who is out there on the front lines of this crisis? Who are the workers that are literally carrying this nation on their backs?
The doctors and nurses and other health care workers. The EMTs and firefighters and police. The grocery store clerks and the meat packers and the farmers. The delivery drivers and the mass transit workers.
And these heroes are all too often the lowest-paid and the least appreciated members of our society.
But this crisis is showing us what is essential. And, I think it’s time we reward the people who actually make this country work.
I do believe that from this moment, from this crisis, we have the opportunity to not just rebuild our economy—but transform it.
To make our economy more resilient for whatever comes our way in the future.
Making sure everyone has paid sick leave and child care support.
Remaking our system of unemployment insurance into employment insurance, to help keep people in their jobs.
Putting millions and millions of people to work building the new, green economy that will position us to own the 21st century.
Making sure we’re producing here at home the machines and equipment we need to fight the pandemic and ensure public health.
Guaranteeing an education that equips you to succeed,and access to high-quality, affordable health care.
We can restore the basic bargain that used to exist in this country. The bargain was that if you contributed to the success of an enterprise, you shared in the rewards.
And the way we will do that is by empowering our workers. It means encouraging unionization and collective bargaining. It means more protections to ensure fair pay, over-time compensation, worker-safety, and a secure retirement.
We can insist that big corporations – which we’ve bailed out twice in 12 years – set up and take responsibility for their workers and communities. They have to step up to do that.
We can rip out the race-based inequities that infect every part of our society— from the pollution being pumped into the air and water in communities of color to the health care treatment they receive.
I’ll have more to say on all this in the weeks ahead, but here’s what it comes down to: we can choose who our economy, our government, and our country works for.
Just the wealthy — or everyone else as well. All of us together. All of us together.
That’s the choice we must make – all of us together – this November. It could not be more stark what the choice is.
I’d like to end today by saying thank you to all of our front line workers who are working day in and day out to keep our nation afloat during this crisis. And who are risking their personal health and safety in the process.
And to everyone, to everyone who is struggling with this virus who I talk to or grieving a lost loved one or losing sleep worrying about how you are going to make ends meet for another week — I want to offer my heartfelt condolences.
But I know that we will get through this. We’ll get through it together. I know because I know the American spirit, and the American character. We’re seeing it on display every day.
The proof that there’s nothing, nothing we cannot accomplish when we stand together—one nation, united in purpose, taking care of our neighbors, committing to get the job done.
That’s what has seen us through every moment of crisis in our past — it will see us through again today. It will empower us to write the future we want for our country and our children.
There’s no quit in America. None at all. We’re going to get through this.
The vast majority of hospitalized COVID-19 patients in New York State, still with the greatest number of cases in the world, are now coming from people at home, not from work, not from among essential workers, and not people taking public transportation. The majority are over 51 years old, retired, minorities and from downstate.
The finding comes from hospitalization data gathered in a new targeted effort to further reduce the number of new hospitalizations per day by trying to figure out the source of the new cases. The state received 1,269 survey responses from 113 hospitals over three days.
Governor Cuomo noted that the findings underscore the importance of social distancing, hand-washing, and wearing face masks when out in public to cut down transmission. The lockdown and mitigation protocols have helped the state avoid the worst projections: over 100,000 hospitalizations when the state only had capacity for 50,000.
At the same time, Cuomo is preparing the state to reopen, and looking beyond, to make the state’s public health and economy resilient should this pandemic or some other crisis strike again.
“As we begin re-opening parts of the state and re-imagining New York in the new normal, we should take this moment in history to use what we’ve learned and actually build our systems back better,”Governor Cuomo said.”I don’t want to replace what we did – I want to set the bar higher and actually improve our situation so we are prepared for the future. We’re working with some of the nation’s great business leaders to ensure we are thinking outside the box and improving and modernizing our systems for the future.”
Cuomo today announced that Schmidt Futures will help integrate New York State practices and systems with the best advanced technology tools to build back better. Eric Schmidt, former Google CEO and Executive Chairman and founder of Schmidt Futures, will lead the state’s 15-member Blue Ribbon Commission and use what the state has learned during the COVID-19 pandemic, combined with new technologies, to improve telehealth and broadband access.
Among the areas that Cuomo is targeting for greater resiliency in the economy and society against the next pandemic or crisis are public health, public transportation, and public education, using the lessons learned from the current crisis, in which many things have had to be innovated and implemented that had never before been done.
He noted “Hospitals must be organized to operate as one system in a public health emergency.” During the current crisis, the only way to accommodate the influx of patients needing hospitalization – at one point predicted at over 100,000 beds when the entire state only has 50,000 – was to “flex/surge” equipment, personnel and capacity among public/private/nonprofit hospitals, staffs, equipment, downstate and upstate.
“Reimagining” a better healthcare system will require analysis of how to ensure telemedicine is available to all; how to better allocate healthcare resources statewide; how to harden the healthcare system against future challenges; and how to better protect and support healthcare workers.
“This crisis presents a unique opportunity for us to learn and better ourselves: better transportation, social equity; better public safety; better housing; better economy; better education,” Cuomo said.
The day before, Cuomo announced that New York State is collaborating with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to develop a blueprint to reimagine education in the new normal. As New York begins to develop plans to reopen K-12 schools and colleges, the state and the Gates Foundation will consider what education should look like in the future, including:
How can we use technology to provide more opportunities to students no matter where they are;
How can we provide shared education among schools and colleges using technology;
How can technology reduce educational inequality, including English as a new language students;
How can we use technology to meet educational needs of students with disabilities;
How can we provide educators more tools to use technology;
How can technology break down barriers to K-12 and Colleges and Universities to provide greater access to high quality education no matter where the student lives; and
Given ongoing socially distancing rules, how can we deploy classroom technology, like immersive cloud virtual classrooms learning, to recreate larger class or lecture hall environments in different locations?
The state will bring together a group of leaders to answer these questions in collaboration with the Gates Foundation, who will support New York State by helping bring together national and international experts, as well as provide expert advice as needed.
The Governor also announced that, on this, National Nurses Day, JetBlue is donating 100,000 pairs of round-trip flights for medical personnel and nurses to honor their efforts, beginning with 10,000 pairs of tickets for New York medical professionals. Additionally, three painted JetBlue planes honoring New York’s frontline workers will do a flyover above New York City on Thursday, May 7th, at 7:00 p.m.
Governor Cuomo also announced a new contest asking New Yorkers to create and share a video explaining why people should wear a mask in public. The winning video will be used as a Public Service Announcement. Videos should be less than 30 seconds long, should show a mask properly worn over the mouth and nose and must be submitted by May 30th. Interested New Yorkers can learn more at WearAMask.ny.gov.
“The last few months have been an incredibly stressful time full of change, but we have to learn and grow from this situation and make sure we build our systems back better than they were before,” Governor Cuomo said. “One of the areas we can really learn from is education because the old model of our education system where everyone sits in a classroom is not going to work in the new normal. When we do reopen our schools let’s reimagine them for the future, and to do that we are collaborating with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and exploring smart, innovative education alternatives using all the new technology we have at our disposal.”
Meanwhile, the state’s health experts, including Health Commissioner Howard Zucker, said there were still many questions to be answered about this novel coronavirus. The CDC has only recently determined that the virus that came to New York, New Jersey and Illinois came through Europe, not China, and is somewhat different and also appears to be more infections. Dr. Zucker was unable to say whether having antibodies, as determined with new testing, which means the person had been infected, is also immune from the other coronavirus or even immune from new infections, and if immune, for how long.
The Governor detailed the preliminary results of new hospitalization data, in a new targeted effort to further reduce the number of new hospitalizations per day by trying to figure out the source of the new cases. The state received 1,269 survey responses from 113 hospitals over three days and found that the majority of individuals were:
Not working or traveling;
Predominately located downstate;
Predominately minorities and older individuals;
Predominately non-essential employees; and
Predominately at home.
Finally, the Governor confirmed 2,786 additional cases of novel coronavirus, bringing the statewide total to 323,978 confirmed cases in New York State. Of the 323,978 total individuals who tested positive for the virus, the geographic breakdown is as follows:
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.”
Amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced all K-12 schools and college facilities statewide will remain closed for the rest of the academic year and will continue to provide distance learning during that time. The schools will also be required to continue meal programs and child care services for essential workers. The state will make a decision about summer school programming by the end of May.
Also, the Governor today issued an executive order delaying school board elections and budget votes statewide until June 9, 2020. The school board elections and budget votes will all be conducted by mail and all qualified voters will be sent an absentee ballot with return postage paid. The Executive Order also delays local special district and village elections until September 15, 2020.
Governor Cuomo is directing all schools and colleges to create re-opening plans that re-imagine school facilities in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. These plans should consider how schools can monitor the spread of COVID-19; how to reinforce student safety; when and how to resume extracurricular activities; protocols for special student populations; steps to ensure student mental health; alternative academic calendars; among other considerations. All plans will be reviewed and approved by the state.
The Governor announced the state is partnering with the Kate Spade New York Foundation and Crisis Text Line to provide a 24/7 emotional support service for frontline health care workers. Those workers can text NYFRONTLINE to 741-741 to access these emotional support services.
The Governor also announced that the State Department of Financial Services will require New York State-regulated health insurers to waive cost-sharing, including deductibles, copayments and coinsurance, for in-network mental health services for New York’s frontline essential workers during COVID-19. DFS will also issue an emergency regulation to prohibit insurers from imposing cost-sharing for telehealth and in-person mental health services rendered by in-network providers on an outpatient basis to frontline essential workers eligible to be tested at one of the State’s drive through or walk in COVID-19 testing sites.
“This COVID crisis has caused significant disruption and many unintended consequences, and ancillary issues that have developed, and one of them is when you have people who are put in this situation immediately with no notice, it has caused serious mental health issues,” Cuomo said. “You have anxiety, depression, insomnia, loneliness, that feeling of isolation. We’re seeing the use of drugs go up. We’re seeing the use of alcohol consumption go up. This is a chronic problem. If you are feeling these issues, you are not alone. As a matter of fact, half of all Americans have said that their mental health has been negatively impacted. Don’t underestimate the stress of the situation, and it happens on a lot of levels. Three out of four say that their sleep has been affected. You do not know where your next paycheck is coming from. You do not know if your job is going to exist. You are at work one day, the next day they say everything is closed, stay in the house. You are in that house, in a confined situation, or you’re in an apartment and in a confined situation. You can’t get out. It is difficult for emotional support, we have a hotline set up. People shouldn’t be shy in any way or have any second thoughts about calling for help. It is a pervasive problem, and people should make a call and get the help if they need the help.
“We also see, in line with what we’re talking about, a dramatic increase in the incidence of domestic violence. There was a 15 percent increase in March. A 30 percent increase in April. That is – March is when this started, 15 percent. April, 30 percent. That is a frightening rate and level of increase. Again, New Yorkers in need, we have a domestic violence helpline – 844-997-2121. You can call, just discuss the issue. You don’t have to give your identity, or say where you live, but people who need help should reach out. There is no shame in reaching out and saying, ‘I need help.’ This is a national epidemic. It is a statewide epidemic. Ask for help, and we are here to help.
“We are especially concerned about these issues for frontline workers. I mean, just think about what the frontline workers are going through. Think about what the healthcare workers are going through. They’re working extended hours. They’re seeing a large number of people die. They’re working in very frightening situations. They’re worried about their own health. They’re worried they get infected, they then have to go home, worry if they’re infected and bringing that infection home.
“So, this is a terribly, stressful, difficult time, especially for the frontline workers, and we want them to know that we not only appreciate what they are doing, but we are there to support them, right? Saying thank you is nice. Acting in gratitude is even nicer. We have a special emotional support hotline for our essential workers. And we are also going to direct all insurers to waive any cost-sharing, co-pay deductibles for mental health services for essential workers, which means the mental health services will be free for frontline workers. And they will be at no cost. And too many families and people have said to me, ‘You know, I would go for services, but I do not want to pay the cost. I can’t afford it. I don’t want to take that money from my family.’ That’s gone. There is no cost to get mental health services, so just wipe that reason away, and get the help that you need. It’s even in the best interest of your family.”
The Governor also announced new targeted efforts to further reduce the number of new hospitalizations per day, which has remained steady at approximately 1,000 over the last several day. This new effort will gather additional information and data from hospitals about the individuals who are being hospitalized for COVID-19, including if they are essential workers, where they work, how they commute, where they live and other demographics. This specific information and data from the hospitals will be used to come up with a new strategy more tailored to the reduction of new daily hospitalizations.
The Governor also announced five new drive-through testing facilities have opened and are now accepting patients in Monroe, Erie, Broome, Niagara and Oneida Counties. Residents who would like to be tested at these facilities must make an appointment by calling 888-364-3065 or online at covid19screening.health.ny.gov.
The location new facilities are:
Niagara County: Niagara County Community College, 3111 Saunders Settlement Rd, Sanborn, NY 14132
Erie County: Buffalo Sabres Lot, 125 Perry Street, Buffalo, NY 14204
Broome County: Binghamton University – Event Center (Lot F/F3)
Monroe County: Monroe County Community College, 1000 E Henrietta Road, Rochester, NY 14623, Lot G
“It’s critical that we protect our students from this virus, and given the current circumstances we are in we do not think it is possible to put the necessary precautions in place that would allow us to re-open schools this academic year,” Governor Cuomo said.”All schools and colleges will continue to provide distance learning, meal delivery and child care services for the remainder of the school year. And in the meantime, we want schools to start developing a plan to re-open with new protocols that incorporate everything that we are now doing in society and everything that we have learned from this pandemic. This has been a hardship on everyone, but our educators across the state have done a phenomenal job stepping up to make the best of this situation.”
About mounting a mail-in vote for School budgets and board members, Cuomo said, “We’ve made great progress to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus, but we still don’t know when this pandemic will end and we don’t want to undo all the work we’ve already done to flatten the curve. We don’t want to put New Yorkers in a situation where they are possibly putting their health at risk, so we are delaying school board elections and conducting them by mail and delaying all local special district and village elections to help limit any unnecessary exposure to this virus among both voters and poll workers.”
Cuomo credited the social distancing and lockdown with saving 100,000 people from contracting COVID-19 and thousands who would have died.
“What happened is, New Yorkers, Americans, changed reality. Literally changed reality. They literally changed the path of the virus spread and reversed the spread. That’s what the close down procedures did, that’s what the masks have done, that’s what the social distancing has done. New Yorkers and all across this country, you saw that number change from that up trajectory to the downward trajectory.
“That shift in the trajectory reduced, by about 100,000, the number of New Yorkers who would have been hospitalized. One hundred thousand hospitalized. To be hospitalized you have to be seriously ill. A portion of those 100,000 would have passed away. So all this inconvenience, this turmoil, for what? To keep 100,000 people out of hospitals. That’s for what. The 100,000 in the hospitals would have overwhelmed the hospital system, would have been chaotic. That’s where Italy was and a number of those 100,000 would have died. So remember that context. Not just for the retrospective, but for the perspective.
“Our past actions changed the path’s trajectory. Our present actions will determine the future trajectory. It is that clear. It is cause and effect. You tell me what we do today, I will tell you the number of people sick tomorrow. So, everyday we get up, everyday everyone says, “Oh my gosh, I have to do this again.” Yes, but what you do today is going to determine the number of sick tomorrow. New Yorkers have continued to do what they have to do. You see that number of hospitalizations dropping. That is all good news and that is a credit to the community and the social conscience and the responsibility of New Yorkers.”
Indeed, even though the numbers of infected, of hospitalized, of incubated and of dead have declined, still, the number of new hospitalizations per day have hovered around 1,000.
“Let’s drill down on those 1,000 new cases,” Cuomo said. “Where are they coming from? Why is the infection rate continuing? Who’s getting infected? Let’s get more targeted in our response. We’re fighting this statewide, but you have to wage the battle, wage the war on many fronts. It’s a statewide battle. Now that we have it basically stabilized and on the decline, the enemy is on the run. The virus is reducing, let’s get more refined, more targeted. I’m going to be speaking with the hospitals this afternoon and say that we want to get more specific information on those new cases that are coming in the door.”
The Governor confirmed 3,942 additional cases of novel coronavirus, bringing the statewide total to 308,314 confirmed cases in New York, more than any other country. The number of people confirmed to have died of COVID-19, 18,610, exceeds every other nation in the world.
Of the 308,314 total individuals who tested positive for the virus, the geographic breakdown is as follows: