As the world deals with the coronavirus pandemic, and citizens in several states have been ordered to stay home to stem the spread of COVID-19, U.S. legislators are debating a stimulus package that will be put before the president. Last week, the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) submitted a proposal of legislative priorities to House and Senate Democratic leadership for incorporation into the third coronavirus response stimulus package.
The legislative priorities outlined by the CBC aims to “revitalize the Black community,” responding to the most pressing needs of Black America during this pandemic.
On [March 23rd], the CBC participated in a call with the Black Press and members shared their position on voting on a stimulus package and talked about critical components they felt were not addressed in the previous proposals. The latest 11-page proposal includes requests to extend the data collection period of the Census, safeguarding safety net programs such as SNAP, provision for rural broadband funding, grants for small businesses, a 90-day moratorium on payments, relief for Black farmers, emergency funding for HBCUs, protection for incarcerated individuals, increase health care for all, and much more.
Members stressed that the reason for not supporting previous packages had to deal with “several safety net items would not be included.” Previous packages, heralded by Republicans, were taking care of major corporations while the most vulnerable were overlooked. “As Black people, we have faced so many challenges,” said CBC Chair Karen Bass (D-CA), adding that Democrats were fighting to ensure that the Black communities, poor, homeless and other disenfranchised segments of society were included.
“We have overcome. We have to continue to thrive. We have to stay united.” Pointing out the importance of unifying in the face of “the great divider in the White House,” Congresswoman Bass cited several issues including the Census 2020 and upcoming elections as she encouraged participation in both. During the call, Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) stressed the importance of research from scientists to deal with coronavirus, instead of the costly process currently underway.
What we are doing is expensive, she noted. With the president dismantling the team of researchers, the necessary work was not being done. Effective research is important, she said, “if we are going to see an end to this pandemic, we have got to stop the virus.”
There are so many components that need to be addressed, she continued as she discussed the implications of access to Wi-Fi, especially for the millions of students who are having to be taught online. There’s also an issue of water purity, supplies and connecting children with ridership, the chair House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology noted.
Echoing her sentiments, Congresswoman Adams discussed HBCUs and Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs), where the need to strengthen online capabilities was definitely a priority. Several other Congress members talked about everything from the massive testing of all inmates, releasing non-violent and juvenile offenders, the foster care system, homelessness and aid to small businesses.
Congresswoman Bass said she hopes a stimulus package will be voted on by next week. When asked if she thought the November election would be postponed, the congresswoman said, “I do not believe elections will be stalled.” She also cautioned against paying attention to a fake document, which she called a “distraction,” that has been circulating, saying that President Donald Trump would be enacting Marshall Law, which would suspend elections until the pandemic is over.
The American people could not endure “The nightmare we have experienced over the past 3 1/2 years,” she concluded.
To read the full 11-page proposal, click here.