CONGRESSIONAL BLACK CAUCUS SENDS OUT AN “SOS”
By Bridget Todd
March 31, 2020
It’s been said that when white America gets a cold, Black America gets pneumonia.
In the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic that has already killed thousands, DC lawmakers passed a stimulus plan last week. But Black Americans already deal with higher unemployment rates while also shouldering the burden of being underinsured, undertreated, and under tested when it comes to healthcare. So any plan that leaves Black America out is not sufficient.
The Congressional Black caucus is using the coronavirus crisis to make sure our voices aren’t overlooked. Here’s what they’ve demanded:
1) Make sure we Black folks get counted
It’s critical that Black communities are counted in the 2020 Census. But with so many of us social distancing, getting an accurate count is in jeopardy. The Congressional Black Caucus called to extend the data collection period for the 2020 Census Count to ensure an accurate count.
The Census provides over $800 billion annually in federal resources to local communities.The Census Bureau is reportedly behind on hiring workers due, in part, to fears of exposure to the virus. With low census staffing, we are now presented with the threat of massive census undercounts. It’s even worse when it comes to students many of whom are being displaced due to the coronavirus threat. We cannot run the risk of a census undercount due to this pandemic because the repercussions will last for a generation or more, long after the threat of coronavirus is over.
2) Ease the burden of debt, including student loans
If you’re worried about how you’ll pay off student loan debt if you’re laid off, not leaving home, or get sick, you aren’t alone. More than 44.7 million Americans have student loan debt. And the ability to stay on top of payments gets a lot harder if you can’t work or leave the house. The Congressional Black Caucus called to require a 90-day moratorium on all consumer and small business credit payments like student loans, credit cards, mortgages, car notes, small business loans, personal loans, to help us weather the economic impact of this crisis.
3) Fund HBCUs
Many historically Black colleges and universities were already struggling economically before the coronavirus pandemic started. We need to make sure HBCUs are getting their fair share in funding. The Congressional Black Caucus called for the government to provide $3 billion in emergency funding to Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Minority Serving Institutions. They’re specifically asking that money be made available to help HBCUs and their students deal with the impact of coronavirus. This means money to help campuses move to online learning environments and supporting students who need help with transportation, housing, food, counseling, and mental health services.
4) Don’t forget about our family behind bars
From sleeping and eating in close quarters to lack of testing and medical care, the Coronavirus pandemic is set to be a nightmare for those who are incarcerated, who we already know are disportionately Black. The Congressional Black Caucus called on the government to protect incarcerated individuals who are at risk of COVID-19 without the ability to take any steps to protect themselves. They want all juveniles who have committed a non-violent crime to be released, to make sure all incarcerated individuals and staff are tested for Coronavirus, including everyone in custody, those going into custody, and those who are scheduled for immediate release and to prioritize releasing incarcerated individuals in prisons, jails, and detention centers through clemency, commutations and compassionate release
Many folks in our prisons are a low-risk threat to the community, but are at high-risk for COVID-19. The Congressional Black caucus wants a temporary release of pregnant people, adults over the age of 55, and those with serious medical conditions. This could also extend to those who are near to completing their sentence, low risk offenders, and those who have not begun their sentence, unless they pose a risk of serious injury to a reasonably identifiable person.