Written By Royce Dunmore
Rep. Karen Bass, Chair on the Congressional Black Caucus
The Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) has submitted a sweeping list of proposals that it says elected officials must implement to specifically protect Black people in America and their best interests as the country grapples with the coronavirus crisis.
The group of influential officials from Congress and the Senate sent a letter to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer with suggestions centered on healthcare, protecting Black-owned businesses and voting rights to be considered as part of the estimated $1 trillion stimulus package to help with the economy during the coronavirus outbreak.
Many of the asks from the list of suggestions were already being discussed in Congress and among local governments, including giving all workers access to paid sick days and paid family and medical leave so that people can seek treatment without fear of losing their jobs or paychecks. The CBC also proposed a nationwide suspension on utility shut-offs as well as a ban of all evictions, foreclosures and repossessions, which has already happened in some parts of the country but not all.
The proposal also got more specific when it comes to Black-owned businesses. For example, it called for a 90-day moratorium on all consumer and small business credit payments (student loans, credit cards, mortgages, car notes, small business loans, personal loans). The CBC also called for $50 billion in new grants for the Small Business Administration to help negatively impacted small businesses, including those that are “minority- and women-owned.” In addition, the CBC proposed government-backed interest-free loans to entrepreneurs, businesses, nonprofits and independent contractors to cover operating expenses and payroll needs in order to keep workers fully employed.
On the voting front, CBC asked for a change of procedure for casting ballots in the midst of the coronavirus crisis. That includes establishing a National Vote-By-Mail system for all remaining primaries and the general election. The group is also seeking an end to voter suppression by restoring Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
For prisoners’ safety, the CBC suggested releasing all juveniles who’ve committed non-violent crimes, ensuring all inmates and staff get coronavirus testing and “releasing incarcerated individuals in prisons, jails, and detention centers through clemency, commutations and compassionate release.”
The CBC also said it wanted additional funding for the expansion of broadband access to ensure all students, including those in rural and urban communities, have access to tele-learning resources since many schools have canceled in-person education. The CBC also reiterated its demands made before the coronavirus hit, such as canceling student debt and providing funding for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), especially in this time of the coronavirus.
As of Sunday evening, a massive $1 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill failed to pass the Senate, according to NBC News. Republicans, who needed 60 votes to move forward on the bill, weren’t able to win over Democrats who felt dissatisfied with worker protections in the bill, which was drafted by Republicans. Democrats also felt the rules on corporate bailouts were too lax.
Negotiations on the now proposed $2 trillion stimulus bill are continuing between Senate and House Democrats and Treasury Secretary Manuchin representing the Trump Administration.