Tag Archives: civil rights

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

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

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

Lift Every Voice: The Biden Plan for Black America

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

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

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

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

Strengthen America’s commitment to justice.

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

Address environmental justice.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SUPPORTING AFRICAN AMERICAN CHURCHES DURING THE COVID-19 CRISIS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Establish and enforce health and safety standards for workplaces.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Permitting the discharge of student loans in bankruptcy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reduce disparities in funding for HBCUs and MSIs.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Creating a public option;

Providing full payment of premiums for COBRA plans;

Increasing Affordable Care Act subsidies;

Reopening Obamacare enrollment so uninsured individuals can get insured;

Increasing federal investments in Medicaid;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Women’s Marches Are Opening Salvo to 2020 Election

Raring to Rise & Roar, Women’s March on New York City, Jan. 18, 2020 (c) Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News-Photos-Features.com

The Women’s Marches that took place across the country – some 250 of them including Washington DC and New York City – are the opening salvo to the 2020 Election. Make no mistake, this was about voting, realizing that all the issues that they care about hinge on the coming election and not on changing the minds of lawmakers who currently control the levers of power: reproductive freedom and a woman’s right to self-determination; access to the ballot and access to health care; climate action and environmental justice; gun safety and domestic violence; gender equity, sexism and misogyny; discrimination and sexual harassment; immigration reform and human rights. They are all on the ballot this November.

And the Supreme Court and all the courts now dominated by radical right-wing judges that seek to roll back women’s rights, civil rights, voting rights, health-care-is-a-human-right. “Ruth Bader Ginsburg, hold on,” Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer declared as the march set off down Columbus Avenue, passed the Trump International Hotel, where the most animated expressions of outrage against Trump and his administration were manifest.

A singular, unifying message emerged: Dump Trump and his henchmen and his enablers.

And a theme for the New York City march organized by Women’s March Alliance (womensmarchalliance.org): Rise & Roar.

(See also: Women’s March 2020: Turnout is Crucial to Rev Up Momentum for 2020 Election)

Here are highlights from the 2020 Women’s March on New York City:

“A Woman’s Place is in the White House.” Women’s March 2020, New York City © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Women’s March 2020, New York City © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
“ERA Now!” Women’s March 2020, New York City © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
“Together We Fight For All”. Women’s March 2020, New York City © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Women’s March 2020, New York City © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Stop the War on Womens Rights; Vote Them Out Women’s March 2020, New York City © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
“These Boobs Are Made for Marching.” Women’s March 2020, New York City © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
“Vote Vote Vote Vote” “When women’s Bodies Are More Regulated Than Guns”. Women’s March 2020, New York City © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
“Made in ‘Gina” Women’s March 2020, New York City © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
“So Many Lies So Little Sign Space” Women’s March 2020, New York City © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
“Not My Dictator.” Women’s March 2020, New York City © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Gays Against Guns. Women’s March 2020, New York City © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Dump Trump. Women’s March 2020, New York City © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Women Build march for Pay Equity. Women’s March 2020, New York City © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
“It’s Time to Ovary Act”. Women’s March 2020, New York City © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Blue Wave. Women’s March 2020, New York City © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Women’s March 2020, New York City © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
“God Save America.” Women’s March 2020, New York City © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
“Don’t Do The Crime If You Can’t Do The Time.” Women’s March 2020, New York City © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
“Pregnant and ProChoice”. Women’s March 2020, New York City © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Women’s March 2020, New York City © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
“Shame.” Women’s March 2020, New York City © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
WasherWomen Vote. Women’s March 2020, New York City © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
“Vote. I’m Tired of Still Marching” during centennial year of Women’s Suffrage. Women’s March 2020, New York City © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Women’s March 2020, New York City © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Women’s March 2020, New York City © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
“2020 Vision.” Women’s March 2020, New York City © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

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

At WorldPride NYC Parade, NYS Governor Cuomo Signs Law Banning Gay, Trans Panic Legal Defense

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo did not come empty-handed to the WorldPride NYC 2019 parade, perhaps the largest LGBTQIA+ Pride event in history: Cuomo used the occasion to sign into law legislation banning the gay and trans panic legal defense © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News& Photo Features

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo did not come empty-handed to the WorldPride NYC 2019 parade, perhaps the largest LGBTQIA+ Pride event in history: Cuomo used the occasion to sign into law legislation banning the gay and trans panic legal defense (S3293/A2707), fulfilling his pledge to ensure nobody uses this abhorrent legal defense strategy in the State of New York. The Governor signed the measure, a key component of his 2019 Justice Agenda, on WorldPride and the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising. The Governor also vowed to double down next legislative session on his campaign to legalize gestational surrogacy, which the Assembly failed to take up this year.

“The gay and trans panic defense is essentially a codification of homophobia and transphobia, and it is repugnant to our values of equality and inclusion,” Governor Cuomo said at a press conference on the street before joining the parade. “This defense strategy isn’t just offensive – it also sends a dangerous message that violence toward LGBTQ people is somehow OK. It’s not, and today we’re sending this noxious legal tool to the dustbin of history where it belongs.”

At a press conference before joining the parade, Governor Cuomo said, “What a great, great day this is. New York is so proud. New York is so, so, so proud to host WorldPride. 

“New Yorkers are just New Yorkers. Look, all New Yorkers should be very proud because New York has always been the home of the LGBTQ equality movement, always. It all started here. It started at Stonewall, it started when we hosted the first Pride Day ever. And we’ve kept that legacy alive. This is the leading State in the United States of America for LGBTQ equality. And we don’t just say it, we do it. We prove it here in New York.

“What was the first state to address AIDS and announce the goal of ending AIDS as an epidemic? New York. What was the first state to end discrimination against transgender people? New York. What was the first big state to pass marriage equality and send a message across the nation? New York. What was the first state to pass GENDA and end discrimination against transgender people? New York. What was the first state to ban conversion therapy? New York.

“And today, we’re going to sign a bill that ends the codification of homophobia. Because we have now as a law in this state, something called the gay and trans panic defense. That a person can argue – they were so emotionally disturbed when they found out a person was gay or trans that that is actually a justification or an excuse for murder. Not in this state. We are going to – not in this state. Not in this state. Not in this state. Not in this state. Not in this state. And we are going to end the gay and transpanic defense and we are going to do it right now. I will sign this now and end this law. It is now over.

“Congratulations, New York. Let’s lead once again.”

The gay and trans panic defenses allow those accused of violent crimes against LGBTQ people to receive a lesser sentence, and in some cases, avoid conviction, by placing the blame on a victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity. The passage of this bill would close a loophole in state law that currently allows individuals to use the gay and trans panic defenses after attacking another person based upon a perception, or discovery of, that victim’s gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation.

Senator Brad Hoylman said,”By banning the so-called gay and trans panic defense, New York is sending a message to prosecutors, defense attorneys, juries and judges that a victim’s LGBTQ identity shouldn’t be weaponized against them. I’m proud to be a member of a legislature that protects the rights of LGBTQ New Yorkers and thank Senate Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins and Assemblymember O’Donnell for their leadership on this critical issue. As we commemorate the 50th anniversary of Stonewall, I am extremely grateful to Governor Cuomo for signing this critical piece of legislation into law and look forward to continuing to work with him to make New York a more inclusive, equitable home for the LGBTQ community.”

NYS Governor Andrew Cuomo was joined at the WorldPride 2019 parade by Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, Chris Quinn, Randi Weingarten, Adriano Espaillat, Jim Gaughran, Jen Metzger, David Weprin, Amy Paulin. Chad Griffin, Alphonso David, Counsel to the Governor, State Senator Brad Hoylman, who’s been a champion, Kristen Browde, Dolores Nettles, Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa, as well as Cuomo’s three daughters Cara, Mariah, Michaela. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Delores Nettles said, “In 2013, my daughter Islan was killed in Harlem for being who she was. Her attacker used the discriminatory ‘trans panic’ defense. I am so grateful that New York is banning this legislation so that no mother has to go through this again. We must keep fighting so that all trans people can live free from violence and discrimination. Thank you to Governor Cuomo for advocating tirelessly for this bill and for signing it into law today.”

“Banning the “gay and trans panic” defense in New York is an important and long overdue step toward treating the LGBTQ community equitably,” Ethan Rice, Senior Attorney, Fair Courts Project at Lambda Legal. “LGBTQ people in New York should never have to experience violence. When it happens, LGBTQ people certainly should not be faced with blame for this violence. These “defenses” have no place in our justice system. Lambda Legal commends the Governor for signing this bill today and for his ongoing advocacy on behalf of the LGBTQ community.”

NYC’s Pride Center celebrating at WorldPride NYC 2019. There was much to celebrate: Governor Cuomo had just signed legislation banning the gay and trans panic legal defense © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Glennda Testone, Executive Director of NYC’s LGBT Community Center said, “New York State government has taken another great step in the right direction, legally halting some enduring elements of homophobia and transphobia ingrained in our society. After establishing marriage equality, passing GENDA and ending conversion therapy in our state, Governor Cuomo showed that he is not done fighting for LGBTQ equality, and neither are we. We thank him for taking the gay and trans panic defense out of New York’s court system and for his commitment to equal rights for all people.”  

“Using an individual’s actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender as a defense for violent behavior is abhorrent and will not stand in the State of New York,” Harlem Pride and The NYC Black and Latino LGBTQ Coalition said. “We applaud Governor Cuomo for his leadership and dedication to protecting the LGBTQ community and closing the legal loophole keeping this archaic practice in place.”

Guillermo Chacon, president of the Latino Commission on AIDS and founder of Hispanic Health Network said,”As we celebrate LGBT Pride and the 50th Anniversary of the Stonewall uprising we recognize that outlawing the gay and trans panic defense is long overdue in New York.  We appreciate that this legislation will be signed to ensure this can never happen again and that people impacted by homophobia and transphobia are no longer taking the blame for this antiquated loophole. We thank Governor Cuomo for advancing this important issue and I look forward to him signing this law to increase protections for the LGBTQ community.”

Rod Townsend, Community Leader said, “A person’s gender identity or sexual orientation is never a justifiable reason for violent attack, and Governor Cuomo closes the loophole in state law that allowed for it in cases of first degree murder today.  We look forward to seeing justice for individuals impacted by these crime and will fight to further limit the use of this appalling “blame the victim” strategy in cases of violence against LGBTQ people everywhere.”

Amanda Babine, Director of Policy & Programs at the New York Transgender Advocacy Group said,”Banning the ‘gay and trans panic’ defense was a huge win for the LGBTQI community, especially for our Transgender, Gender-Non-Conforming, & Non-Binary siblings. This year alone, ten Transgender women of color have been found dead, one right here in New York. The New York Transgender Advocacy Group stands with pride next to Governor Cuomo as he continues to be a champion for the LGBTQI community here in New York State.”

Brooke Malloy, Executive Director, Rockland County Pride Center said, “New Yorkers do not tolerate hate. We are a state of love and inclusion, and hold firm to our belief in equality for every person. The fact that there ever was a legal defense for crimes committed against the LGBTQ community, specifically based on their actual or perceived gender identity or sexual orientation is disgusting. Thank you to Governor Cuomo for his leadership in ending this abhorrent law, and for always speaking up and protecting LGBTQ New Yorkers.”

Kelly Metzgar, Executive Director, Adirondack North Country Gender Alliance said,”New York State prides itself on being an inclusive, progressive state, where every person can feel safe and welcome. With his work to end the gay and trans panic defense, Governor Cuomo continues to ensure that everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, receives equal protection under New York State law. I wish to personally thank Governor Cuomo, on behalf of residents in the Adirondack North Country for his relentless work to defend the rights of all who call this beautiful state our home.”

Christopher Goodwin, Supervisor of The MOCHA Center Rochester said, “We at The MOCHA Center and Trillium Health applaud Governor Cuomo for taking swift, progressive action to protect and uphold the rights of LGBTQ New Yorkers. Thanks to his efforts, a dangerous loophole rooted in hate has been erased from our criminal justice system. The gay and trans panic defense should never have been allowed. LGBTQ New Yorkers are grateful that we can now feel safer knowing that we are one step closer to having our lives equally valued and represented under the law.”

Jeff Rindler, Executive Director, Hudson Valley LGBTQ Community Center said, “This revision to our legal system has been long overdue. The human rights of LGBTQ New Yorkers are non-negotiable, and now this hateful excuse will no longer be a permissible defense for homophobic and transphobic hate crimes, which are on the rise. For transgender women of color who experience higher rates of violence, this law is the next step in solidifying protections for our community. I applaud and thankGovernor Cuomo and all the advocates and legislators who worked tirelessly to pass this legislation.”

Kelsey Louie, CEO, GMHC said, “The beginning of the Stonewall rebellion was in New York City and it was in reaction to hate-fueled actions. Fifty years have passed since the beginning of our LGBT rights movement and New York has been a model for LGBT equality, setting a national standard that the rest of the country must follow. We thank Governor Cuomo for closing a loophole which permitted the murder of gay and trans New Yorkers due to their perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. This ensures that justice will be served for LGBTQ New Yorkers who are the victims of homophobia and transphobia.”

Kristen Prata Browde, Board President, LGBT Bar Association of Greater New York and Co-Chair Board of Directors, National Trans Bar Association said,”This shows the kind of change that good government can and should bring. Banning the trans and gay panic defense is a huge step towards equality for LGBTQ New Yorkers. Governor Cuomo not only recognized the absurdity of giving someone a lesser sentence or even a pass after murdering someone based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, he fought hard for the ban. As the Governor signs the bill he is once again showing that New York truly is a beacon to the world and to every LGBTQ person.”

The Governor also released a new video for social media featuring Delores Nettles, the mother of Islan Nettles, a transgender woman who was brutally murdered in Harlem in 2013 and whose assailant used the gay and trans panic legal defense in court. Watch the video here.

New Yorkers Rally to #StopTheBans and Preserve Reproductive Freedom

New York City Stop the Bans rally to preserve reproductive rights: “I Survived.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News& Photo Features

As women rallied across the country in a national day of action against the rush of abortion bans, New York City said New York State would become a sanctuary and the city would seek to create a fund to help women who cannot afford to obtain abortion services.

Hundreds turned out in downtown Manhattan across from the US Court Building at a rally to #StopTheBans – the epidemic of increasingly draconian anti-abortion legislation designed to force the Supreme Court to render a new decision they believe will overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade which established that women have a constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy up until the time the fetus was viable outside the womb, 24 weeks. Many states not only put significant barriers that have forced clinics to close, chipping away at the “undue burden” provision that has endured subsequent Supreme Court scrutiny, leaving only one or two clinics in a state, but all but 15 states deny  Medicaid funding to cover abortions, while many private insurance companies also do not cover abortion services.

“A right without true access is merely a privilege,” said New York Abortion Access Fund’s Maddy Durante.

At the federal level, Republicans in Congress have tried multiple times to end funding to Planned Parenthood despite the Hyde Amendment’s prohibition of any federal funds to be spent on abortion services, is . Now, the Trump Administration is allowing private insurers to offer policies that do not cover maternity care, dismissing the rising rates of maternal mortality, especially among minorities and lower income women, as Trump reverses the gains in access to care made under Obamacare.

New York City Stop the Bans rally to preserve reproductive rights: “Maternal mortality is increasing.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

But though New York State’s recently adopted Reproductive Health Act not only allows for abortions beyond 24 weeks of gestation in cases where the mother’s life is at risk or the fetus is not viable, and also expands the professionals authorized to conduct abortions to certain physicians assistants, nurses and midwives, if the Supreme Court adopts the concept of fetal personhood, as these new extreme laws propose, that could jeopardize the legality of abortions everywhere.

That is a reason that many of the speakers at the Tuesday Stop the Bans Day of Action rally in New York called for a renewed rise in a nationwide movement to protect reproductive freedom, and insisted, “We are not going back.”

Here are highlights from the rally:

New York City Stop the Bans rally to preserve reproductive rights: “Together We Fight For All” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“From Alabama to Ohio, extremist politicians are trying to ban safe, legal abortions,” declared Leann Risk, associate director, community organizing for Planned Parenthood, NYC.  “Activists in all 50 states are engaged in a massive show of strength. We will not stand for the bans, not now, not ever, no way.”

Laura McQuade, Pres, CEO of Planned Parenthood NY: “We won’t stand for blatant injustice against our reproductive rights. ” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Laura McQuade, President and CEO Of Planned Parenthood NYC, declared,  “We say to delusional politicians, stop the abortion bans. ..We are facing a sick attempt to strip us of fundamental humanity and autonomy. This is a coordinated attempt to drive care underground, to force a showdown in the Supreme Court…

“Fact: 73% of Americans do not want to overturn Roe; nearly one in four women in the United States will have an abortion in her lifetime.

New York City Stop the Bans rally to preserve reproductive rights: “We Will Not Go Back.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“These are not lawmakers, but lawbreakers, trying to dismantle rights we have had for nearly five decades. We won’t stand for blatant injustice against our reproductive rights. Abortion is the law of the land – legal today, will be legal tomorrow, as long as Planned Parenthood (which has existed over 103 years) and ACLU and so many others exist.”

NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer declared, “It’s time for NYC to become the first in the nation to directly fund abortion care – guarantee access to abortion regardless of the ability to pay.” He is advocating a New York City Abortion Access Fund.

Gloria Allred: “We will never allow abortion to be criminalized again.. No elected official has the right to make a choice for us. Resist. Insist. Persist. Elect Pro Choice candidates.”   © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Gloria Allred, the high-profile attorney, revealed her own terrifying experience, nearly bleeding to death when she was in her 20s because of a back alley abortion after being raped at gunpoint.

“As I lay hemorrhaging in a bathtub, [the abortionist] said, ‘It’s your problem now.’ Back then, the only time you would be admitted to a hospital is if you were bleeding to death. I was running 106 degree fever. I was put in a ward with others suffering after an illegal abortion” where the patients were shamed.

“The nurse told me, ‘This should teach you a lesson,’” Allred said. “It taught me a lesson all right: abortion should be safe, legal, affordable and accessible!

“We will never allow abortion to be criminalized again.. No elected official has the right to make a choice for us. Resist. Insist. Persist. Elect Pro Choice candidates.”

New York City’s First Lady Chirlane McCray: “The bans are about control. The people pushing the bans are chipping away at our rights…We cannot be silent.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

New York City’s First Lady, Chirlane McCray, said, “The bans are about control. The people pushing the bans are chipping away at our rights…We cannot be silent. Women are more than half the population. We will tell [these politicians] ‘Women brought you into this world and women can take you out [pause] of office. We will march, organize, donate and vote.”

NYC Mayor Bill DiBlasio with wife Chirlane McCray: “We know women will die because of these laws. We know the American people will support freedom of women. The rights of women matter most.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

She was soon joined by Mayor Bill DiBlasio who said, “New York respects women. We are not going back. This is a fight for our lives. We know women will die because of these laws. We know the American people will support freedom of women. The rights of women matter most.”

Eve Ensler, who wrote The Vagina Monologues: “Get your invasive, violent hands off our bodies. Our vaginas, uterus, minds are out of the bottle and we ain’t going fucking back.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Eve Ensler playwright, performer, feminist, and activist, best known for her play “The Vagina Monologues,” shared her own experience getting an abortion. “That abortion was the smartest thing I have done…. Tell that predator-in-chief and those misogynists, ‘Get your invasive, violent hands off our bodies. Our vaginas, uterus, minds are out of the bottle and we ain’t going fucking back. My body, my choice. Are you up for the fight?”

“We are here because we are outraged,” said Andrea Miller, president and CEO of the National Institute for Reproductive Health (NIRH). “These anti-abortion extremists tell women they can’t be trusted to make our own decisions. They don’t believe we should have the right to control our bodies, our families, our futures. That we are not able to choose our destiny. We say no. The decision whether, when, with whom to have children belongs to us, not politicians.

Andrea Miller, president and CEO of the National Institute for Reproductive Health: The decision whether, when, with whom to have children belongs to us, not politicians. .” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“New York State passed the Reproductive Health Act. We knew what was coming, coming for our rights. We aren’t just seeing things go back. We are partnering with people moving forward. New York is not done if reproductive rights are not accessible, affordable.”

The NIRH is partnering with New York City on the first Abortion Action Campaign Fund – seeking $250,000 in the city’s budget to fund abortion care for those who cannot afford it. Call the City Council to show support.

“We know our health, our lives, our futures depends on stopping the bans. Make sure abortion is safe, legal, accessible, affordable.”

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer: “A frigging tough fight is ahead but we will never back down.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer urged support for the city to pass the funding. “To say we’re livid is an understatement… [The impact of these fetal personhood bills means] that a woman who suffers a miscarriage could be in the middle of a criminal investigation. Before Roe, women died, now abortion is one of the safest medical procedures that can be performed.

“A frigging tough fight is ahead but we will never back down,” she declared, prompting chants of “Won’t go back. Won’t go back.”

Clara Williams, a Planned Parenthood patient, related how difficult, how complicated and how personal the decision to seek an abortion is. At the time of her abortion, she was very young, her partner had left her, she did not feel she could properly care for a child.

Clara Williams, a Planned Parenthood patient, “What kind of life is it if we aren’t the authority, don’t have the right, to control our own destiny.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“That is a decision no one can make for you, least of all a politician,” she said. “The rash of bans sweeping the nation, to force a showdown with the Supreme Court, make abortion inaccessible to communities of color, people of low income. Banning doesn’t end abortion, just marginalizes it.

“Abortion is nobody’s business. Whatever the reason, it is not undertaken flippantly. But what kind of life is it if we aren’t the authority, don’t have the right, to control our own destiny?”

“Abortion is necessary health care, and health care is a human right. Punishing those who provide health care, the doctors, is inhumane and cruel.”

Donna Lieberman of the New York Civil Liberties Union said, “We won’t let them turn the 21st century into Handmaid’s Tale…If they cared about life, they would be expanding health care, not making it a crime.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Donna Lieberman of the New York Civil Liberties Union said, “We won’t let them turn the 21st century into Handmaid’s Tale. It is ironic that those who would ban abortion claim to care about life, but Georgia has the highest maternal mortality rate in the country, Alabama has the highest infant mortality rate. If they cared about life, they would be expanding health care, not making it a crime.

“I am fortunate to live in New York. New York has stepped up to pass the Reproductive Health Act, which codifies Roe, protects New York from criminals led by the philanderer-in-chief and his sanctimonious minions. He may have stacked the court, but we won’t let them turn back the clock.”

The ACLU is mounting legal challenges in Georgia and Alabama.

“We will tell the philanderer in chief, ‘We’ll see you in court.’”

The vast majority – almost three out of four Americans – support a woman’s right to choose and preserving Roe, and they vote.

New York City Stop the Bans rally to preserve reproductive rights: “The Handmaid’s Tale is not an instruction manual.

“We know New York supports women’s right to control their own bodies. We rallied to make New York a sanctuary city against the Trump crusade against immigrants. We must also be a sanctuary for women. Thanks to the effort of the ACLU and others, abortion is legal in all 50 states and we have stopped the bans [from being enacted] so far. New York City, New York State must be a sanctuary..”

But even though New York State was one of the first to legislate reproductive rights, before the 1973 Roe v Wade decision, the laws were still surprisingly repressive, criminalizing abortion after 24 weeks.

Garin Marshall related his experience when he and his wife learned at 30 weeks that the fetus she was carrying, “a baby that was very much wanted”, was not viable. “We were denied care in New York State [because of the 24-week ban].” But they had the means to seek services elsewhere. Nonetheless, their experience helped change the law in New York, passing the Reproductive Health Act.

“Abortion was the right choice for our family. People are deserving of autonomy, dignity, respect,” Marshall said.

Garin Marshall helped pass the Reproductive Health Act in New York. “Men benefit from access to legal, safe, affordable abortion. Men created this problem. The house is on fire, but it is our house.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

But, he argued, this is not just women’s issue. Men have much at stake as well, for the women in their lives they love, and their families.

“Men benefit from access to legal, safe, affordable abortion. Men created this problem, especially white men, who held on to power and used it. Good men who do nothing have allowed this situation…This is our problem, too. The house is on fire, but it is our house.

“Fight for access to abortion throughout pregnancy, with no person left behind.”

NYC Councilmember Helen Rosenthal: “We can’t let these men who have no idea what they’re talking about get away with this crap. I used to walk around with a necklace with a hangar. We won’t go back, but only if we become a movement. Abortion access saves lives.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Councilmember Helen Rosenthal, who has been fighting for abortion rights for 20 years, declared, “We can’t let these men who have no idea what they’re talking about get away with this crap.

#StopTheBans Rally, NYC
New York City Stop the Bans rally to preserve reproductive rights: “Never Again.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“I used to walk around with a necklace with a hangar. We won’t go back, but only if we become a movement. Abortion access saves lives.

Planned Parenthood of NY Chief Medical Officer Ila Dayananda, “This is an attack on all of us. Under these laws, the fact a doctor can receive jail time for providing service is horrific. One in four women will have an abortion in their lifetime. Health care is a fundamental human right.

Planned Parenthood of NY Chief Medical Officer Ila Dayananda: “There is no banning abortion, only banning safe, legal abortion…People deserve to be empowered to make their own decision. We won’t go back. Smash the patriarchy.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“There is no banning abortion, only banning safe, legal abortion. These bans particularly hurt women of color, low income. They should receive nothing less than compassion, expert health care, and to be able to make the decision for themselves. There are many complicated factors in this decision. People deserve to be empowered to make their own decision.

“We won’t go back. Smash the patriarchy.”

[Poster: Keep your filthy laws off my silky drawers]

New York Abortion Access Fund’s Maddy Durante urged financial support for those in New York seeking abortion.

“Abortion access is out of reach for many for a long time – both financial and legal access. If private insurance doesn’t cover an abortion, it is a potentially astronomical cost. Often, people can’t use insurance because of privacy and safety, because they fear partner violence.

Maddy Durante of New York Abortion Access Fund: “Care has been inaccessible for a long time. A right without true access is merely a privilege.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“Our clients are immigrants, people living in affordable housing, undergoing family separation, parents and caregivers, and increasingly, people traveling to New York. They may have Medicaid but many states don’t allow Medicaid coverage for abortions.”

She said her organization has already provided assistance to 590 people through grass roots fundraising.

“Care has been inaccessible for a long time. A right without true access is merely a privilege. Petition the City Council to fund Abortion NYC.”

[Poster: I wish my uterus shot bullets, so the government wouldn’t regulate it.]

Shaavronna Newsome, Director of Operations for Black Lives Matter, NYC: “People imposing bans are hiding behind Christianity, but this is really about declining birthrate, capitalism, patriarchy. I am grateful to be in New York where I can choose.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Director of Operations for Black Lives Matter, NYC, Shaavronna Newsome. “People imposing bans are hiding behind Christianity, but this is really about declining birthrate, capitalism, patriarchy. I am grateful to be in New York where I can choose.”

Celia Petty, a founding member of NYC for Abortion Rights, told how she has had three abortions in her life – the first when she was very young and had just broken up with her boyfriend. “This was the 1970s. I wasn’t capable of raising a child. I was afraid I would regret. But I was relieved that I could wait until ready.”

Celia Petty of New York for Abortion Rights: “We seek full reproductive justice, the right to bear children in a safe, healthy environment. We want a grass roots movement to demand reproductive freedom – the right to control our bodies and our lives.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Her second was when she found she was pregnant with a six month old baby (don’t believe you can’t get pregnant if you are nursing). “I was trying to work full time and still care for a new baby. I couldn’t manage.”

The third time was again, despite using birth control, when she got pregnant with a 10-month old baby in the house. “I had to work to make ends meet. An abortion saved my life,” she says as her young granddaughter, clings to her leg as she speaks at the podium.

“A lot of women have abortions out of more desperate situations.”

An active founding member of New York for Abortion Rights, she said, “We seek full reproductive justice, the right to bear children in a safe, healthy environment. We want a grass roots movement to demand reproductive freedom – the right to control our bodies and our lives.”

That prompts the chant:  “Without this basic right, women can’t be free. Abortion on demand, without apology.”

#StopTheBans Rally, NYC
#StopTheBans Rally, NYC
#StopTheBans Rally, NYC
#StopTheBans Rally, NYC
New York City Stop the Bans rally to preserve reproductive rights: “Trust Women.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The New Yorkers who rallied in front of the US Courthouse in downtown Manhattan, were among tens of thousands of people gathered at more than 500 events in all 50 states, DC, and Puerto Rico on the Stop the Bans Day of Action.

Add your name to ppaction.org

Speak out on social media, #StopTheBans

See also:

Protesters Take to the Streets Against Escalated War on Women

__________

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

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

Trump & the Republicans thought women would just forget and forgive after the Womens March a year ago, but this year’s Womens March, January 20, kicks off the 2018 midterm elections with a massive voter registration drive and thousands of women candidates to challenge the Trump/Republican regime © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

by Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

Abigail Adams, writing to her husband, John Adams, a Congressman at the time, in March 1776, warned, “Remember, all men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation.” That revolution clearly is still going on, despite finally getting the right to vote 144 years later and nearly a century ago.

Even after women staged the biggest protest in history exactly a year ago, swamping Washington DC and coming out by the hundreds of thousands in cities and hamlets across the country, Republicans did not get the message, but spent their first year in total control of all the levers of government systematically dismantling all the elements of a free and equal society, and specifically, waging a war on women’s rights, health and security.

Republicans went full throttle to attack women’s reproductive rights – the House has already passed a 20-week ban on abortion which is set to go to the Senate and is guaranteed of Trump’s signature, while dismantling health clinics.

“The threat for women—and reproductive freedom—is greater than ever,” writes Ilyse Hogue, President, NARAL Pro-Choice America. “The consequences of this bill becoming law would be gut-wrenching. Women seek abortion care after 20 weeks for a variety of reasons, including medical problems, difficulty accessing care, and the fear that comes with rape, incest, and abuse.” The bill makes it a crime for a doctor to perform or attempt an abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy with no exceptions for a woman’s health. The bill would leave a woman—and her healthcare provider—with no safe and legal option.

And hidden in the 429-page Republican Tax Law is a provision that establishes “personhood” by giving legal rights to a fetus for the purposes of college savings accounts. “That might seem innocuous, but once that legal precedent is established, it’s a short step to banning abortion outright.”

Let’s be clear: women’s reproductive rights are not just about the freedom to make choices about one’s body, but one’s future. It is nothing less than the right to self-determination which men claim. It is about Equal Protection under the Constitution. If men have a right to life and liberty, so do women and nothing less. Men don’t require government authorization to get a vasectomy or take Viagra (covered under health insurance). And women should not be made less of a person, less of a citizen than a zygote, with government as its unappointed “Regent”.

“It took us a while to figure out,” Gloria Steinem said in an interview with The Guardian, “but patriarchy – or whatever you want to call it, the systems that say there’s masculine and feminine and other bullshit – is about controlling reproduction. Every economics course ought to start not with production but with reproduction. It is way more important.”

The tax code Trump and the Republicans are so proud of attacks everything that makes the American Dream possible, and everything that women count on for their families. Republicans have yet to reauthorize CHIP, leaving 9 million children and pregnant women without access to health care. And what of that child after the Republicans compel its birth? They are stripping away access to child care, pre-K, health care, special education. Now Republicans will go use the mounting budget deficit – $1 trillion – because of their tax plan, to go after Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid, food stamps and welfare – things that women, who live longer but have lower earnings throughout their working lives, or who are more apt to be single parents – depend on to a greater degree than men. (To see what a pro-Woman agenda would look like, read what Governor Cuomo is proposing.)

Not to mention Trump’s executive actions and his appointments to EPA, Interior, Education, Health & Human Services, Energy and the judiciary who are enacted policies that harm women and families, climate and public health.

In each and every category of concern to women:  health care, immigration, climate change and environmental justice, domestic violence and gun violence prevention, criminal justice. Trump, who through words and actions has shown nothing but contempt for women, and the Republicans have sent a big F-U to women.

Republicans after the 2017 women’s marches, felt they were safe, that women would just forgive and forget, go away, be too consumed with the pressures of earning a living wage to keep their family with food and shelter, than to be politically active.

Indeed, the furor of last year’s Women’s March was quickly dissipated over addressing the Outrage Du Jour: Travel Ban, withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accord, unleashing ICE to round up undocumented immigrants, gun massacres of historic scale, horror over the government’s failure to address the climate catastrophe Puerto Rico, efforts to repeal Obamacare, then the tax code.

But then there was the #MeToo movement. I can only imagine that the furor has some quaking at the new-found power of Womanhood (but also fear that overuse, amounting to a Salem Witchhunt, will result in a backlash).

This year’s protests are different because 2018 will be the first significant opportunity for voters to take consequential action at the polls. That’s why these protests are so much more important than a year ago.

[Last year] we marched for even bigger, more systemic issues. We marched because 1 in 4 women is sexually assaulted in her lifetime (as well as 1 in 6 men). Women make up half of the country but only 19% of Congress. Women earn 79 cents to a man’s dollar, and that percentage drops to 63 cents for Black women and 54 cents for Latina women. And there are more anti-abortion laws on the books now than at any time since Roe v. Wade,” writes Caitlin Alesio Maloney, Director of Campaign Operations & Technology.

“None of the issues went away in 2017, but we are seeing progress. #MeToo was a breakout movement that is bringing about real change. Emily’s List had 920 women interested in running for office in 2016, but 16,000 women reached out to them to run in 2017. And with the Women’s March Power to the Polls project launching the day after the anniversary marches, we know this movement can make the difference and get them elected in 2018,” she stated.

“We need to show up for #MeToo. For Time’s Up. For women’s reproductive rights. For equal pay. And we need to show up to remind Donald Trump, on the anniversary of his inauguration, that We. Will. Always. Resist.”

These are the issues but here is the action: March Into Action will be registering voters at the march to support a national effort to register 1 million women to vote by the 2018 elections.

There are some 280 women’s marches taking place across the country on Saturday, January 20, with the largest in New York City, organized by Women’s March Alliance, Corp., 11:00 AM – 3:00 PM, Columbus Circle  with a rally at about 11:30 (line up up Central Park West), followed by a march down to Sixth Avenue & 45th Street. (https://womensmarchalliance.org/2018-womens-march-on-nyc/2018wm-faq/

This time, instead of cutesy pink pussyhats, we should wear black and come with pitchforks (or broomsticks).

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

Tens of Thousands to Join Women’s March to Action in NYC Jan 20, Kicking Off 2018 Midterm Voter Campaign

A year after the largest protest in history, women will gather again in New York City and across the country to demand equal rights and opportunity © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

(New York, NY) –  Nearly one year after 750,000 people marched through Manhattan in support of women’s rights and civil equality, Women’s March Alliance is gearing up for a second Women’s March on January 20, 2018 in New York City. Dubbed a “March to Action,” and organized by Women’s March Alliance, the demonstration will join a coalition of sister marches from coast to coast in support of the shared vision that all humans are equal and deserve equal treatment.

The “March to Action” kicks off a year-long partnership between Women’s March Alliance, Vote.org, Rock the Vote, HeadCount, League of Women Voters, VotoLatino, and various local groups like Activists Against Apathy seeking to bring women’s voices to the ballot box by registering one million women to vote by the 2018 National Voter Registration Day. (Information regarding the voting initiative can be found here.)

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

“The goal of January’s march is to defend and maintain the basic rights of women, immigrants, LGBTQ+, the religious and nonreligious, people of color, and the environment,” said Katherine Siemionko, founder and President of Women’s March Alliance. “Over the last year, we’ve heard an overwhelming call for a second demonstration. With each successive degradation of basic human rights, the outpouring of support for this form of social activism grows exponentially.”

The 2017 New York City march was one of hundreds held domestically and internationally, each organized and produced by local teams of activists who had never met nor spoken to one another. These individual, local efforts resulted in the public assembly of millions of people across the world.

“The 750,000 who marched in Manhattan last year, the 250,000 who walked in the ‘Women’s March on Chicago,’ and the millions around the world who participated at the local level, proved that our voices would not be muted or silenced,” Siemionko continued. “We’re proud to be part of a sustained global movement that defends human rights in the face of adversity.”

The march is slated to begin near Columbus Circle and continue south and west through midtown, culminating in an activism fair whose aim is to connect people with the causes they care most about. These logistical plans are currently under review by the NYPD.

MARCH AND RALLY LOCATION

Rally: 11:30-1:00 EST on 61st Street and Central Park West (speakers and musical performances occur in this 90-minute block; the stage is on 61st facing north)

Speakers include: MILCK (musical performance), Aryn Quinn, Aparna Nancherla, Cecilia Eljuri (musical performance), Angy Rivera, Sulma Arzu-Brown, Antoinetta Etienne, Nadina LaSpina, Ashley Bennett, Debbie Almonster

March: 1:00-3:00pm

Entry point for marchers: Main entrance on 71st & Columbus, overflow entrances on 64th/Broadway, 68th/Columbus and  75th/Columbus.

Entrance for disabilities and ASL: 61st and Broadway.

End Point: Exits on 6th Avenue and 45th, 44th, and 43rd Street (there are post-march events planned)

Route: The March will begin on Central Park West and 61st and move south; marchers will turn east on 59th Street and then South onto Sixth Avenue; exit long 6th avenue at 45th, 44th or 43rd Streets.

Rising out of the local Women’s March on NYC, Women’s March Alliance is a nonprofit whose focus is on building strategic alliances with grassroots organizations in order to provide our community with a wide range of opportunities that empower them to demand and defend their rights. WMA aims to unify the voices and resources of grassroots organizations to collectively foster an informed and engaged community that both understands the current state of human rights across the globe and has the tools necessary to defend and advance those rights. Our mission is to amplify the collective voice and resources of human rights organizations to foster an informed and engaged community.

WMA, which stands in solidarity with the mission of sister marches across the country, has no official affiliation with the Women’s March National Team or its team of organizers.

Women’s March Alliance website: https://womensmarchalliance.org/2018wm/

Women’s March registration: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/2018-womens-march-on-nyc-tickets-39150171216

Women’s March Alliance Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/events/1934554616864486

 

Trump Should Follow NYS Governor Cuomo’s Cue on Aggressive Stand Against Anti-Semitism

Congressman Tom Suozzi (D-NY3) holds a standing-room only town hall in the Jewish Community Center of Plainview, Long Island, where just a few days later, it was one of several JCCs in New York State and the nation victimized by a bomb threat. Governor Cuomo immediately took action © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

A Jewish Community Center in Plainview where only last week Congressman Tom Suozzi had held a SRO town hall, was among several in New York State terrorized by a new wave of bomb threats on Feb. 27 sweeping the country.

Bomb threats were also phoned into JCCs in Tarrytown, Staten Island and New Rochelle. In all, there were 29 bomb threats made across 18 states – 89 in 30 states and Canada since January.

That same day, the Mount Carmel Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia was vandalized, with 100 tombstones damaged. It was the second such incident in a week, following a desecration of more than 100 tombstones in a 123-year old Jewish cemetery in St. Louis.

Last week, an anonymous bomb threat was phoned in to the headquarters of the Anti-Defamation League – its CEO and national director, Jonathan Greenblatt, had only days before addressed a Long Island synagogue on the rise of anti-Semitism and the fact Donald Trump had taken no action, nor even come out with a statement denouncing such acts.

But Governor Andrew Cuomo, who responded swiftly last week with a hotline (888-392-3644) to the State division of Human Rights, and instructed the New York State Police to coordinate with federal and local law enforcement to fully investigate and hold perpetrators accountable. He also introduced a $25 million grant program to boost safety and security at New York’s schools and day care centers “at risk of hate crimes or attacks because of their ideology, beliefs or mission.”

“Make no mistake: these reprehensible and cowardly attacks are not limited to the Jewish community. They are assaults on all New Yorkers and I vow that we will do everything in our power to catch those responsible for this wave of hate crimes,” Governor Cuomo stated.

“I share the pain and the outrage of so many New Yorkers who are affected directly and those who are sickened by watching these attacks unfold. We will not allow anyone to intimidate or strike fear in the state of New York. The full force of government will be brought to bear in these efforts and these perpetrators will be punished.”

After the attack on the ADL headquarters in Manhattan, Cuomo called it “unacceptable, un-American and – disturbingly –  increasingly common. This despicable act of anti-Semitism completely contradicts the values we hold dear as New Yorkers.  This is now a national crisis as a troubling pattern of recent anti-Semitic threats have been directed at Jewish Community Centers on a regular basis, including Buffalo, New York City, Albany, and Syracuse.

“We are treating these incidents for what they are – as crimes – and we will not allow them to go unpunished. Today I have directed the New York State Police to coordinate with federal and local law enforcement to launch a full investigation into this latest incident. Make no mistake, we will find these perpetrators and hold them fully accountable for their actions….

“We as New Yorkers stand with the Anti-Defamation League, an organization for over a century whose mission has been to stand up for the Jewish people and fight back the ugly divisive forces of bigotry and defamation.  We stand with all Jewish people here in New York and across the country to say loud and clear – enough is enough.”

Meanwhile, there has been nothing of any consequence from Donald Trump, who otherwise doesn’t hesitate expressing his outrage in 140 characters at any perceived personal slight. Instead, he shut down questions about the rise of anti-Semitic incidents from an Israeli reporter at his press conference with Israel PM Benjamin Netanyahu, and the next day, told an Orthodox man who was careful to say he was not accusing Trump of being anti-Semitic, in fact, calling him Zaide, the term for a Jewish grandfather, to just shut up and sit down, proclaiming himself the least anti-Semitic person anyone would meet.

But he has not called for Attorney General Jeff Sessions (who also has been extraordinarily silent) to have his Department of Justice investigate and prosecute hate crimes, or done anything of any consequence.

Trump, who has already completely undone America’s value system to combat terrorism from abroad, doesn’t see or care about domestic terrorism. Indeed, he no longer classifies domestic terrorism as terrorism.

This emboldens acts against Jews, minorities of every stripe, immigrants, foreigners. It gives permission to regard “others” as nonpersons, not deserving of civil or indeed human rights, the same strategy employed in Nazi Germany, laying the foundation for the Holocaust.

Indeed, Trump made no statement after a Kansas man shot two Indian engineers who worked for Garmin and another man who tried to come to their aid, killing the 32 year old Indian man. “Get out of my country,” the man reportedly shouted just before opening fire.

My country.

Immediately after the St. Louis Jewish cemetery was vandalized, Hillary Clinton tweeted, “JCC threats, cemetery desecration & online attacks are so troubling & they need to be stopped,” she wrote on Twitter. “Everyone must speak out, starting w/ @POTUS.”

Finally, ambushed during his photo-op at the National Museum of African-American History and Culture in Washington DC on Presidents Day, he meekly replied. “Anti-Semitism is horrible. And it’s gonna stop and it has to stop…I think it’s terrible. I think it’s horrible. Whether it’s anti-Semitism or racism or any — anything you wanna think about having to do with the divide. Anti-Semitism is, likewise, it’s just terrible.”

Jonathan Greenblatt, national director of the Anti-Defamation League: “The issue of anti-Semitism is not partisan. It is potentially lethal..that demands moral leadership – with the president’s leadership it can get better and with neglect or instigation it will get worse.” © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“The issue of anti-Semitism is not partisan,” Greenblatt told Temple Beth-El just a few days before the ADL received a bomb threat. “It is potentially lethal. Nor is it an arcane policy matter that demands debate. This is a simple social problem that demands moral leadership – with the president’s leadership it can get better and with neglect or instigation it will get worse. The president’s repeated failure to address it is empowering, emboldening bigots.”

Trump should take a cue from Governor Cuomo.

“Anti-Semitism of this nature should not and must not be allowed to endure in our communities,” David Posner, the director of strategic performance at the JCC Association of America, said in a statement reported in the Jerusalem Post. “The Justice Department, Homeland Security, the FBI, and the White House, alongside Congress and local officials, must speak out – and speak out forcefully – against this scourge of anti-Semitism impacting communities across the country. Actions speak louder than words.”

The silence is deafening.

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© 2017 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at  www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

White House Announces New Commitments to Fair Chance Business Pledge and Actions to Improve Criminal Justice System

Protesting for justice in front of Federal Courthouse in downtown Manhattan, NY  © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Protesting for justice in front of Federal Courthouse in downtown Manhattan, NY © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

In the waning days of his administration, and in face of what is shaping up to be the most regressive administration intent on reversing the gains hard-fought over a century toward social, political, environmental justice, President Barack Obama is working feverishly to continue to make advances in criminal justice system. Donald Trump has pledged to repeal each and every one of Obama’s executive actions.

The White House issued this Fact Sheet on November 30, 2016: 

FACT SHEET: White House Announces New Commitments to the Fair Chance Business Pledge and Actions to Improve the Criminal Justice System

Since the President took office, this Administration has been committed to reforming America’s criminal justice system and highlighting the importance of reducing barriers facing justice-involved individuals trying to put their lives back on track.Over 2.2 million men and women are incarcerated in American prisons, and over 11 million spend time in our jails, and the vast majority of them will return to their communities. Improving education and job opportunities for these individuals has a recognized effect of reducing crime, and will make our communities safer.

Today, the White House is hosting a convening on criminal justice reform to discuss the progress and advancements that have been made over the past eight years and the opportunities that remain to tackle persistent problems. This event is part of the Administration’s continued efforts to bring together Americans who are working to improve the criminal justice system, from activists engaging in communities around the nation to law enforcement and elected officials working to lower the crime and incarceration rates, to formerly incarcerated people who are earning their second chance.

In conjunction with this event, the White House is announcing a round of new signatories to the Fair Chance Business Pledge and a series of Administration actions to enhance the fairness and effectiveness of the criminal justice system including:

  • Final Office of Personnel Management “Ban the Box” Rule
  • Federal Bureau of Prison Reforms
  • White House Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable Report

These announcements build on the Administration’s longstanding commitment to reforming the criminal justice system, improving reentry outcomes, and removing unnecessary obstacles facing formerly incarcerated individuals.

Fair Chance Business Pledge

In April, the White House launched the Fair Chance Business Pledge encouraging companies to take action to ensure that all Americans have the opportunity to succeed, including individuals who have had contact with the criminal justice system. The pledge represents a call-to-action for all members of the private sector to improve their communities and expand their talent pools by eliminating unnecessary hiring barriers facing those with a criminal record.

Today’s signatories to the Fair Chance Business Pledge bring the total number of pledged employers to over 300. The companies and organizations that have signed the pledge collectively employ over 5 million Americans. The new commitments come from a diverse range of employers including: Ben & Jerry’s, Clif Bar, CVS Health, Gap, Intel, Kroger, LinkedIn, Monsanto, Perdue Farms, Shinola, Target, Tyson Foods, Union Square Hospitality Group, and WeWork.

Additionally, Glassdoor created a Fair Chance Pledge badge that companies can add to their profile on the website to proudly demonstrate their commitment to maintaining hiring and training programs for individuals with criminal records.

The Department of Justice recently funded the Council of State Governments Justice Center (CSGJC) to assist Second Chance grantees and the field at-large through the National Reentry Resource Center. The award includes funding to provide employer-focused outreach and education to promote fair chance hiring practices. A coalition of Fair Chance Business Pledge Signatories has committed to working together with CSGJC and other external partners to share their successes in adopting fair chance hiring practices and encourage other businesses to follow suit.

Today’s announcement is further evidence of the private sector’s support for a more fair justice system, and the Pledge is one of many initiatives where the White House has successfully partnered with the private sector to increase opportunity for all Americans. 

By signing the Fair Chance Business Pledge, these companies are:

  • Voicing strong support for economic opportunity for all, including the approximately 70 million Americans who have some form of a criminal record.
  • Demonstrating an ongoing commitment to take action to reduce barriers to a fair shot at a second chance, including practices like “banning the box” by delaying criminal history questions until later in the hiring process; ensuring that information regarding an applicant’s criminal record is considered in proper context; and engaging in hiring practices that do not unnecessarily place jobs out of reach for those with criminal records.

THE FAIR CHANCE BUSINESS PLEDGE

We applaud the growing number of public and private sector organizations nationwide who are taking action to ensure that all Americans have the opportunity to succeed, including individuals who have had contact with the criminal justice system. When around 70 million Americans – nearly one in three adults – have a criminal record, it is important to remove unnecessary barriers that may prevent these individuals from gaining access to employment, training, education and other basic tools required for success in life. We are committed to providing individuals with criminal records, including formerly incarcerated individuals, a fair chance to participate in the American economy.

Companies and organizations interested in joining the Fair Chance Business Pledge can do so by signing up HERE. 

Today’s signatories include:

  • Al Abbas Cookies
  • Alley Taco
  • American Eagle Sealcoating and Asphalt LLC
  • Amity Foundation
  • Andrews Funeral Home
  • Avalon Breads
  • Berry Much Yogurt
  • Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce
  • Brooks Lumber
  • Butterball Farms, Inc.
  • Byblos
  • C.W. Morris – J.W. Henry Funeral Home
  • Capital Area ReEntry Coalition
  • Capitol City Contracting, Inc.
  • Carpenter’s Shelter
  • Cava Grill
  • Center for Living and Learning
  • Clif Bar
  • Colorado Mountain College
  • Court Programs, Inc.
  • CPG Partnership Strategies LLC
  • CSI Saddlepads LLC
  • CVS Health
  • D.C. Central Kitchen
  • Dillard & Associates
  • DRP Systems
  • Ecolibrium3
  • Edwins Leadership & Restaurant Institute
  • Executives’ Alliance for Boys and Men of Color
  • Fair Chance Workforce Interface LLC
  • FoodCorps, Inc.
  • Friends Outside
  • Gap
  • GeoFi
  • Get Ready Driving Academy
  • Glassdoor
  • Golden State Foods Corp.
  • Grandy’s Coney Island
  • Green Dot Stables
  • HopCat Detroit
  • InService Enterprise, LLC
  • Intel Corporation
  • Isidore Electronics Recycling
  • IT Total Care, Inc.
  • JAX Chamber
  • Jeff’s 40 Minute Cleaners
  • JSJ Staffing, LLC
  • Kansas City Community Source, Inc.
  • Konsultera
  • The Kroger Company
  • Lawson Screen & Digital Products, Inc.
  • Life Restoration CEDA
  • Linden Resources
  • LinkedIn
  • Los Angeles Black Worker Center
  • Los Angeles Conservation Corps
  • Lou’s Deli
  • Makin’ Movez LLC
  • Maria’s Italian Kitchen
  • Mark O’s Bar & Grill
  • MI United
  • MOD Pizza
  • Moe Appliance
  • Monsanto
  • National Dry Goods Company
  • Newton Brown Urban Design
  • Nexus Services, Inc.
  • NXIS Enterprises, LLC
  • Olive Branch Village Project
  • O’Neill Construction Group
  • Oscar’s Coney Island
  • Pass Job Connection
  • Perdue Farms, Inc.
  • Pet Supplies Plus
  • Phyllis Wheatley Community Center
  • Portland Bottling Company
  • Q Stride Inc.
  • RECAP, Inc.
  • Restoration Law Center
  • Roman Labor Services Corp.
  • Root & Rebound
  • Saucy By Nature
  • Shinola Detroit, LLC
  • Skill Source Group
  • St. Louis Wing Company LLC
  • Stratford University
  • SunHarvest Solar
  • Super Tek Group
  • TakeAction Minnesota
  • Taqueria El Nacimiento
  • Target
  • TBS Facility Services Group
  • The CPAI Group, Inc.
  • The Grey Door Boutique
  • The Lancaster Food Company
  • The Last Mile
  • The National Incarceration Association
  • The Pate House
  • The Phax Group, LLC
  • The Water Station
  • Transmedia Capital
  • TransNation Holdings, LLC
  • Trinosophes
  • Tyson Foods
  • Union Square Hospitality Group
  • Vaughan’s Public House
  • Virginia Employment Commission
  • WeWork
  • Work in Progress
  • Year Up
  • Yuca’s
  • Zaraxo

 Federal “Ban the Box” Rule

Today the Office of Personnel Management is finalizing a rule to ensure that applicants with a criminal history have a fair shot to compete for Federal jobs. The rule effectively “bans the box” for a significant number of positions in the Federal Government by delaying the point in the hiring process when agencies can inquire about an applicant’s criminal history until a conditional offer is made. This change prevents candidates from being eliminated before they have a chance to demonstrate their qualifications.

As the nation’s largest employer, the Federal Government should lead the way and serve as a model for all employers – both public and private. Banning the box for Federal hiring is an important step. It sends a clear signal to applicants, agencies, and employers across the country that the Federal Government is committed to making it easier for those who have paid their debts to society to successfully return to their communities, while staying true to the merit system principles that govern our civil service by promoting fair competition between applicants from all segments of society.

Federal Bureau of Prison Reforms

As part of the Justice Department’s deep commitment to a fair, effective criminal justice system, the Department announced today a series of reforms at the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) designed to reduce recidivism and increase the likelihood of inmates’ safe and successful return to the community.  Today the department released a memo from Deputy Attorney General Sally Q. Yates on reforms to residential reentry centers including covering the cost of obtaining state-issued IDs for inmates prior to their release from custody. Additionally, BOP is creating a semi-autonomous school district within the federal prison system and providing additional services for female inmates when the BOP facility in Danbury, Connecticut, resumes housing female inmates later this month. The Danbury facility will also house BOP’s first-ever integrated treatment facility for female inmates.

Last year, with the Department’s support, BOP retained outside consultants to review the agency’s operations and recommend changes designed to reduce the likelihood of inmates re-offending after their release from prison. As part of today’s announcement, BOP is launching a new website, justice.gov/prison-reform, that compiles current and ongoing reforms at BOP, and includes the final reports from the outside consultants.

White House Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable Report

Today the White House Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable (WH-LAIR) is issuing its first annual report to President Obama, “Expanding Access to Justice, Strengthening Federal Programs.” This report documents the significant steps that the 22 federal agency members of WH-LAIR have taken to integrate civil legal aid into programs designed to serve low-income and vulnerable people where doing so can both improve their effectiveness and increase access to justice.

Co-chaired by Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Director of the Domestic Policy Council Cecilia Muñoz, and staffed by the DOJ Office for Access to Justice, WH-LAIR was established to help provide legal assistance to Americans in need to further our shared goals of breaking the cycle of domestic violence and elder abuse epidemic, ending homelessness among veterans, and helping to remove obstacles to employment for jobseekers. Recognizing the power of legal aid to both increase the availability of meaningful access to justice and improve outcomes in many federal programs, WH-LAIR agencies have been working together since 2012 to integrate legal aid into their programs, policies and initiatives.

The report addresses key federal priorities where civil legal aid improves program outcomes, and also describes agencies’ efforts to partner with legal aid organizations to meet the needs of special populations, including veterans and servicemembers, tribes and tribal members, people with disabilities, people with criminal records, crime victims and disaster survivors.