Newswire: A blueprint for the nation’s infrastructure urges inclusion in housing, small business, and student debt

Rolled House Blueprints and Construction Plans.


By Charlene Crowell

( – As the country continues to increase COVID-19 vaccinations, businesses and consumers alike still struggle with evolving versions of daily life. At the same time, there is little disagreement that sustained effort is needed for a return to stability – not only in public health, but in personal finance and the larger economy as well.


By the end of July, the moratoriums on housing evictions and foreclosures will expire. Without a timely and broad-ranging federal response, the nation’s homeless population could explode to unprecedented levels.


President Biden and majorities in Congress are pushing for enactment of an infrastructure plan to serve as a financial antidote for a nation wracked with myriad social and economic challenges. A recently negotiated and bipartisan multi-year plan has the support of the Biden Administration, 22 U.S. Senators, and a diverse coalition of business, labor, policy and professional organizations. In the first five years of the plan, $579 billion in new revenues would be directed to transportation investments.


According to the White House web, “The historic Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework will make life better for millions of Americans, create a generation of good-paying union jobs and economic growth, and position the United States to win the 21st century, including on many of the key technologies needed to combat the climate crisis.”


President Biden expanded his view of the plan in a June 28 Yahoo guest column.


“The Infrastructure Deal is part of my economic strategy that, taken as a whole, will help create millions of jobs for years to come and add trillions of dollars in economic growth. According to one study of my Jobs Plan, nearly 90 percent of the jobs it will create won’t require a college degree, and 75 percent won’t require an associate’s degree. It’s a blue-collar blueprint to rebuild America.”


“This deal will also make it easier for all Americans to get to work each day, including communities of color who in some cities are twice as likely to take public transit but often have fewer good transit options,” continued President Biden. “In fact, it contains the largest federal investment in public transit in American history — making the public transportation that millions of working people rely on safer, quicker, cleaner, more frequent and more reliable.”


For much of Black America, Biden’s remarks reflect the wish list of our working poor: livable wages, and reliable public transportation. No one wants or needs for their work commute to be a job in itself. Yet that is indeed a daily reality where public transit is limited and predictably unreliable.


A diverse coalition declared its support of the revised plan, bringing additional pressure to bear on lawmakers expected to vote on the measure in the coming days.


Supporters such as the AFL-CIO, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Laborers International Union of North America, National Association of Manufacturers, National Retail Federation and others overcame historic labor and business rivalries to make a united call on July 8 for Congress to act with dispatch.

“Now is the time to turn these promises into projects,” stated the coalition. “We urge Congress to turn this framework into legislation that will be signed into law, and our organizations are committed to helping see this cross the finish line. Enacting significant infrastructure legislation, including investments in our roads, bridges, ports, airports, transit, rail, water and energy infrastructure, access to broadband, and more, is critical to our nation and will create middle-class family sustaining jobs,” the coalition urged.

“Don’t let partisan differences get in the way of action — pass significant, meaningful infrastructure legislation now,” warned the coalition.

Other major provisions in the plan propose closing tax gaps, redirect unspent emergency relief funds and targeted corporate user fees to finance economic benefit projects such as:


  • Improvements to combat the multiple impacts of climate change, cyber-attacks, and extreme weather events; 


  • Long-term, billion-dollar investments in clean energy and transportation via a first-of-its kind Infrastructure Financing Authority; 


  • Creation of good-paying jobs to mitigate and support environmental justice; and 


  • Construction of thousands of miles of new, resilient power transmission lines to facilitate the expansion of renewable energy, including through a new Grid Authority. 


Even though this plan proposes a major economic boost, many in Congress are debating exactly what ‘infrastructure’ means. Which meaning prevails will determine which investments will be made and for whom.


For some, infrastructure is only about systems of roads and bridges, electrical grids, or water delivery and disposal – and as reflected in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework. Others endorse a much broader view of the term that includes the underpinnings of a functioning society: affordable housing, day care, and education – to name a few.


Even a review of the Merriam Webster dictionary’s definition of ‘infrastructure’ offers two meanings. The first reads, “the system of public works of a country, state, or region also; the resources (such as personnel, buildings, or equipment) required for an activity”. The second expands the term as follows: “the underlying foundation or basic framework (as of a system or organization)”.

For consumer advocates like Mike Calhoun, President of the Center for Responsible Lending, what qualifies as infrastructure is clear. “Equitable housing investment and policy, student debt relief and reform, and grants for struggling small businesses, particularly those owned by people of color, must be a part of the infrastructure and recovery plan to come,” noted Calhoun. “We are hopeful for the nation’s future and look forward to working with the President and with Congress on enacting a plan for these communities to achieve financial security, build wealth, and thrive, all while stimulating the overall economy.”


Similarly, California Congresswoman Maxine Waters, Chair of the House Financial Services Committee is equally lucid on infrastructure and what it includes. “As Chairwoman of the Financial Services Committee and a longtime advocate for ending homelessness and promoting fair, affordable, and accessible housing, my number one priority has been to ensure that President Biden’s infrastructure plan recognizes that Housing Is Infrastructure through robust funding,” stated Waters.


“To say that the pandemic destabilized an already unstable housing market is an understatement,” continued Waters. “Our nation’s chronic shortage of affordable housing has left millions of people at all income levels struggling to pay their housing costs, and in the worst cases, has locked people out of homeownership, led to people being evicted or foreclosed on, and exacerbated our homelessness crisis… I look forward to continuing to work with the President, his administration, my colleagues in the House and Senate, and America’s housing advocates on enacting once-in-a-generation investments in our nation’s housing programs.”


Newswire: Rep. Sewell praises House passage of the Voting Rights Advancement Act

Washington, D.C. – On Friday, December 6, 2019 , U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell (AL-07) praised the House passage of H.R. 4, her Voting Rights Advancement Act. The bill will restore the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by outlining a process to determine which states and localities with a recent history of voting rights violations must pre-clear election changes with the Department of Justice.
“Voting is personal to me, not only because I represent America’s Civil Rights District—but because it was on the streets of my hometown, Selma, Alabama, that foot soldiers shed their blood on the Edmund Pettus Bridge so that all Americans—regardless of race—could vote!” Sewell said. “I am so proud that, today, the House took critical steps in addressing the Supreme Court’s Shelby decision and passed H.R. 4, the Voting Rights Advancement Act, to restore the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to its full strength.”
The Supreme Courts’ 2013 Shelby County v. Holder ruling struck down Section 4(b) of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which outlined the qualifications needed to determine which states are required by the Justice Department to pre-clear elections changes in states with a history of voter discrimination.
Since the Shelby decision, nearly two-dozen states have implemented restrictive voter ID laws and previously-covered states have closed or consolidated polling places, shortened early voting and imposed other measures that restrict voting.
The Voting Rights Advancement Act (VRAA) seeks to restore the VRA by developing a process to determine which states must pre-clear election changes with the Department of Justice. It will also require a nationwide, practice-based pre-clearance of known discriminatory practices, including the creation of at-large districts, inadequate multilingual voting materials, cuts to polling places, changes that reduce the days or hours of in person voting on Sundays during the early voting period and changes to the maintenance of voter registration lists that adds a basis or institutes a new process for removal from the lists, where the jurisdiction includes racial or language minority populations above a certain percent threshold.
Under H.R. 4, there are three ways to become a covered jurisdiction that is required to pre-clear election changes:
States with a history of 15 or more violations at any level in the previous 25 years; or
States with a history of 10 or more violations, if one violation occurs at the state level in the previous 25 years; or
Political subdivisions or localities with 3 or more violations in that subdivision in the previous 25 years.
The Voting Rights Advancement Act now heads to the Senate for consideration, where it was introduced by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT).
Many are now calling on the Senate to take up the measure. Rev. Dr. William Barber, the president and senior lecturer of Repairers of the Breach and the architect of the Moral Mondays Movement in North Carolina, counts among those calling out Senate leaders.
“The U.S. House passed legislation to restore the Voting Rights Act,” Barber stated. “If [GOP Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell refuses to take it up in the Senate, he’s confessing that he believes the GOP can’t win without voter suppression.”
Gerrymandering, unfair voter I.D. laws, and intimidation at the polls are among the tactics being used to prevent voters of color from casting votes, stated Marcela Howell, the founder, and president of In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda.
“Passage of the Voting Rights Advancement Act by the House is a first step toward restoring our democracy. We applaud the House of Representatives for passing the Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2019,” Howell stated.
“The wholesale disenfranchisement of voters threatens our democracy. Conservative lawmakers across the country are pulling out all the stops to prevent people of color – especially Black people – from exercising our right to vote,” she stated.
Howell continued: “We didn’t march and die fighting for our right to vote only to have that right denied us in this new Jim Crow era –fueled by the racist policies of conservative state legislators and the terrible decision in Shelby v. Holder by the Supreme Court that reinforced these oppressive laws.
“We call on Sen. Mitch McConnell to follow the leadership of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to stop the assault on voting rights by scheduling a Senate vote on the Voting Rights Advancement Act as soon as possible.
“We encourage voters across the country to unite in resistance by holding their elected representatives accountable and, most of all, by exercising their right to vote in local, state, and federal elections.”
The bill is supported by more than 60 national organizations, including the NAACP, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, NALEO Educational Fund, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, Native American Rights Fund, League of Women Voters of the United States, AAUW, ACLU, AFL-CIO, AFSCME, American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association, Communications Workers of America, SEIU, UAW, Democracy 21, Democracy Initiative, End Citizens United Action Fund, Sierra Club, and League of Conservation Voters Education Fund.