COVID-19

Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal Makes Headway, Pushing for More African American Appointments & More: July 30 Joint Center Roundup

Biden Administration

Senate votes to move forward with bipartisan infrastructure deal: In a 62-32 vote, the Senate voted to continue with the bipartisan $1 trillion infrastructure deal. The deal includes provisions that are consistent with recommendations by Joint Center Tech Policy Director Dr. Dominique Harrison in her issue brief on expanding broadband in the Black Rural South, including a $65 billion investment in broadband infrastructure, provisions to end digital redlining, and creating a “permanent program to help more low-income households access the internet.” As the New York Times notes, the deal “still faces several obstacles to becoming law, including being turned into formal legislative text and clearing final votes in the closely divided Senate and House.”

Creating an equitable government: The White House shared an update on the Equitable Data Working Group since President Biden signed the executive order to establish it on Inauguration Day. The Working Group is “tasked with identifying inadequacies in our existing Federal data collection infrastructure and laying out a strategy for improving equitable data practices in the Federal government.” In the update, the White House shares that the Group will focus their initial efforts on three questions: 1) If we had data about the race, ethnicity, and gender of those using or not using unemployment benefits, could we better understand the impact of labor market cycles on underserved subpopulations?; 2) Can we better understand the distribution of programs and services in underserved communities, particularly in response to climate-related crises?; and 3) What disaggregated data is needed to measure whether the CARES Act benefits and American Rescue Plan benefits were equitably distributed? An initial report is scheduled to be delivered to Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy Ambassador Susan Rice by Fall 2021.

Similarly, PolicyLink released a report ​​For Love of Country: A Path for the Federal Government to Advance Racial Equity to provide “resources, tools, and a plan for federal agency leaders to implement President Biden’s historic executive order on advancing racial equity.”

A tribute for civil rights activist Bob Moses: President Biden commemorates the life of Bob Moses for his “uncommon grace, calm, and humility” as he unrelentingly “showed up and never, ever gave in” on the fight for civil rights and Black freedom. While most famously known for his help organizing the 1964 Freedom Summer, Bob Moses also courageously sought to overthrow Jim Crow, helped people understand their civil rights, encouraged Black people to vote, and “believed that every human mattered as much as he did.” His legacy reminds us that everyone, “even the most downtrodden, undereducated, and poor among us,” deserve equality.

Whip Clyburn reflects on President Biden’s first six months: U.S. Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC) writes a piece,An Update on President Joe Biden’s Promise to “Have our Backs,” outlining President Biden’s progress in fulfilling his to promise to “Build Back Better” in the first six months of his presidency. Congressman Clyburn affirms that “the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, the For the People Act, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, and H.R.40 (Reparations Study)” will remain priorities of the Congressional Black Caucus.

Equity for the Freedmen: New York Times reports Members of Congress are “threatening to withhold tens of millions of dollars in federal funding from four tribes—Choctaw, Muscogee (Creek), Seminole, and Chickasaw nations—for not granting equal tribal citizenship for the Freedmen, the descendants of African Americans who were enslaved by their tribes.

Black officers faced racial abuse from Jan. 6 rioters: U.S. Capitol Police officers share “powerful and often emotional testimony” on Tuesday recounting scenes of “chaos, violence and destruction” during the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection. Harry Dunn, a police officer, details how traumatic that day was for him and other Black officers who experienced a “torrent” of racial abuse and are still hurting “both physically and emotionally.” Metropolitan Police Department Officer Daniel Hodges encouraged the committee to “specifically target those in power who may have aided those who stormed the Capitol and who are beyond the reach of police.”

Congressional Gold Medal for Black NHL player passes the Senate: Legislation introduced by Senators Tim Scott (R-SC) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) to award the Congressional Gold Medal to Willie O’Ree, the first Black player to compete in NHL, passed unanimously in the Senate on Tuesday. O’Ree entered the league in 1958 for the Boston Bruins and was considered the “Jackie Robinson of Hockey.” The bill now heads to the House for consideration.


Appointments

A call for more Black men in top positions: Acknowledging the underrepresentation of both Black women and men, Joint Center board member Paul Thornell co-wrote an op-ed in Barron’s on the “nearly complete absence of Black men in top policymaking roles in both the administration and the top staff of the U.S. Senate.”

Biden nominates Secretary Erik A. Hooks for Deputy Administrator for the Federal Emergency Management Agency: In 2017, Secretary Hooks was appointed by the Governor of North Carolina as the Secretary of Public Safety and the State’s Homeland Security Advisor. He also serves on the Executive Committee of the National Governors Homeland Security Advisors Council and is a member of the International Association of Chiefs of Police. If confirmed, he will lead as the No. 2 in the agency.

Biden nominates Dr. Chavonda Jacobs-Young for Under Secretary for Research, Education, and Economics and Chief Scientist at the Department of Agriculture: Dr. Jacobs is the Administrator of the USDA Agricultural Research Service. She is currently serving as the Acting Under Secretary for Research, Education, and Economics and as the Acting USDA Chief Scientist. As the founding director of the Office of the Chief Scientist at USDA, she became the first woman and person of color to lead the department’s research agencies.

Biden nominates Julissa Reynoso Pantaleon for Ambassador Extraordinary Plenipotentiary to the Kingdom of Spain and to the Principality of Andorra: Ms. Reynoso currently serves as an Assistant to the President and Chief of Staff to Dr. Jill Biden, and the Co-Chair of the Gender Policy Council at the White House. She has previously served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs and as the U.S. Ambassador to Uruguay. She has published academic journals on a wide variety of issues in both English and Spanish.

Biden nominates Erek L. Barron or U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland: Mr. Barron is a partner at the law firm of Whiteford Taylor & Preston LLP. Since 2015, he has been serving as a member of the Maryland legislature. He has previously served as a Counsel and Policy Advisor to then-Senator Biden on the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Crime and Drugs. He also served as a federal prosecutor in the Criminal Division at the Department of Justice.

Biden nominates Nicholas W. Brown for U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington: Mr. Brown is a partner at Pacifica Law Group. He has previously served as the General Counsel to the Governor of Washington, and as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington. If confirmed, he will be the first African American to serve as U.S. Attorney in the Western District.

Biden nominates Clifford D. Johnson for U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Indiana: For over 30 years, Mr. Johnson has served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Indiana. Before joining the U.S. Attorney’s office, he was a Trial Attorney in the Employment Litigation Section of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division in Washington D.C. If confirmed, he will be the first Black U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Indiana.

Biden nominates Zachary A. Myers for U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana: Mr. Myers has been serving as the Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland since 2014. Additionally, he has also served as a Cybercrime Counsel in the District of Maryland’s National Security and Cybercrime Section since 2018. If confirmed, he will be the first Black U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana.

Biden nominates Rachael S. Rollins for U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts: Ms. Rollins was elected in 2018 as the first woman of color to serve as the District Attorney for Suffolk County in Massachusetts. She has previously served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts from 2007 to 2011. If confirmed, she will be the first Black woman to serve as U.S. attorney for Massachusetts.

Biden nominates Trini E. Ross for U.S. Attorney for the Western District of New York: Since 2018, Ms. Ross has served as the Director of Investigations, Legal Division, with the National Science Foundation’s Office of Inspector General. She has previously served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Western District of New York from 1995 to 2018. If confirmed, she will be the first Black woman to serve as U.S. Attorney for the Western District of New York.

Richardson joins OSTP: Rashida Richardson will join the Office of Science and Technology Policy as senior advisor for data and democracy. Richardson is also an Assistant Professor of Law and Political Science at Northeastern University School of Law, and a legal expert on technology policy, civil rights, and algorithmic bias.

National security position goes to a Black womanBonnie Jenkins, founder and former executive director of Women of Color Advancing Peace and Security, has been confirmed as Undersecretary for Arms Control and International Security Affairs. She joins Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield among African Americans confirmed to national security positions in the Biden Administration.


Economic Studies

Debt and taxes: To collect delinquent debts, states that levy a personal income tax continue to deduct money from tax refunds, stimulus checks, and lottery winnings. The deductions appear to disproportionately affect low-income earners and people of color, and the practice is greater in ZIP codes with higher Black populations.

CRA will get an overhaul: Regulators have agreed to pursue an overhaul of the Community Reinvestment Act governing how banks lend hundreds of billions annually to low-income communities, the Wall Street Journal reports. The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency also said it will reverse a Trump-era overhaul of the rules and work with FDIC and the Federal Reserve to draft a new rule, which Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), chairwoman of the House Committee on Financial Services, applauds.

Don’t normalize Black unemployment: The Federal Reserve and Congress must reject persistent employment disparities as an acceptable economic status quo, the chief economist for the AFL-CIO argues.

Building a more equitable NYC: Next100, Century Foundation, and Robin Hood outline how New York City’s new mayor can advance equity for low-income New Yorkers in the wake of the pandemic.

Put Black women at the center: Making Black women a policy priority can help reduce the racial wealth gap and positively impact the financial prosperity of families in Mississippi, an op-ed in the Dispatch argues.


Tech Policy

Lobbying drives digital divide: A new report by Common Cause looks at how lobbyists for internet service providers have shaped the digital divide. Yosef Getachew, co-author of the report and former Joint Center staff, states that “[n]ow more than ever, policymakers must pass reforms that not only close the digital divide but also hold ISPs accountable for providing high-speed, reliable, and affordable broadband.” The report provides recommendations to help close the digital divide and reduce the undue influence of big special interest money in politics.

Make broadband subsidies permanent: The House Democratic Caucus is urging President Biden to close the digital divide by creating a permanent, federally funded broadband benefit for low-income households. The push is led by Reps. G.K. Butterfield (D-NC), Tony Cardenas (D-CA), Scott Peters (D-CA), and Kathleen Rice (D-NY). Representative Butterfield stated that some people do not have access to the internet at home because they lack broadband infrastructure in their communities or because they cannot afford services. In the Black Rural South, affordability and availability of broadband services drives lack of broadband in the region.

Broadband subsidy gaps: Eligible Americans are not enrolling in the federal emergency broadband benefit (EBB) program, an analysis of FCC data reveals. Currently, 4 million households are taking part in the $3.2 billion program. Up to 36 million are estimated to be eligible. “Puerto Rico and cities including New Orleans, Detroit, Milwaukee, Baltimore, Cleveland, and Philadelphia are seeing higher rates of adoption” of the emergency broadband benefit program.

One word competition: Former FCC Commissioner and Chair Mignon Clyburn shares her take on the legacy of the Telecommunications Act of 1996- a comprehensive reform of the regulatory framework of telecommunications law. Clyburn sums up the “….significance of the Telecom Act in one word: “competition.” It made competition the law.”

Privacy in the era of IoT: A new book by University of California law professor Stacy-Ann Elvy examines privacy and security as the Internet of Things gains ground. Her research focuses on “the commercial law of privacy” and its relationship to emerging technology, and human rights law.


Future of Work

The life of a service sector worker: Shift Project explores early-career service sector workers (aged 18 to 24), including their priorities, working conditions, and experiences with economic stability. Young Black workers in the service sector reported greater week-to-week fluctuation in hours and were least likely to have access to health care, paid parental leave, and retirement benefits compared to White and Hispanic workers.

How to diversify teaching: To diversify the teacher workforce, recruit and train people with experience working in out-of-school programs, Education Trust argues.

DOL wants to hear from you: The Department of Labor is seeking input from all interested parties as it updates its strategic plan for 2022-26. The update reflects the priorities of the Biden-Harris administration, including “building opportunity and equity for all.”

An anti-racist institution: In the wake of George Floyd’s murder, Minneapolis College announced its commitment to become an “anti-racist institution” and to provide tuition and support for local young Black men.

Black educators need support: As teachers and students move back to the classroom, social and emotional support resources for educators are becoming a priority, according to the Center for American Progress. Black teachers have almost twice the turnover rate as other teachers and cite dissatisfaction with their salaries, lack of resources, and worries about job security and accountability as reasons for leaving the profession.


COVID-19

Biggest life expectancy declines since WWII: The COVID-19 pandemic cut U.S. life expectancy from 78.8 to 77.3 years in 2020. The virus was responsible for 59 percent of the decline among non-Hispanic Black people, who lost nearly 2.9 years, the Washington Post reports.

More evidence COVID-19 hit Black people harder: Even adjusting for prior disparities, Black households were harmed more by COVID-19 than White households, including higher rates of mental and economic hardship, the Census Bureau finds.

Delta spreads in states with lax policies: States that rolled back mask requirements and other policies to limit the spread of the coronavirus are experiencing surges in hospitalizations and deaths due to the more contagious Delta variant, Politico reports.

Life insurance demand surgesBlack Americans are buying more life insurance during the COVID-19 pandemic. Findings from LIMRA’s 2021 Barometer study show fifty-six percent of Black people, up three percentage points from 2020, purchased life insurance in the past year, NBC News reports.

Funding for Black communities: Pennsylvania State Rep. Jake Wheatley is calling on his state’s GOP-controlled legislature to release funds to support the economic recovery of Black communities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.


Political Studies

Joint Center Senior Fellow of Diversity and Inclusion Dr. LaShonda Brenson published an op-ed for The Hill calling for Senate Committee Chairs and Ranking Members to hire a more diverse committee top staff: Dr. Brenson writes “[t]o solve this problem, more committee offices should formalize their diversity and inclusion plans, and consistently measure progress and adjust recruiting and retention strategies. Senators should ensure several staff of color are in mid-level positions that feed into top positions. The U.S. Senate should also follow the lead of the U.S. House of Representatives by establishing a bipartisan Office of Diversity and Inclusion to help all Senate offices track progress and improve staff diversity.”

Fix the filibuster: More than 30 former chiefs of staff to Democratic senators are calling for the reform or elimination of filibuster rules, New York Times reports.

Environmentalists need Black voters: New state laws that restrict voting rights are raising concerns that Black people will have less of an electoral voice on environmental issues. Black communities are more likely to support pollution controls, renewable energy, and other climate policies than White communities, Politico reports.

Ending systemic racism? More than a year after the murder of George Floyd, the jury is still out on whether lasting progress has been made in ending systemic racism and achieving tangible change for Black communities, TIME reports. According to a recent survey, although 80 percent of American workers believe that their employers should take steps to confront racial equity, less than half of workers even know if their company issued a racial equity statement, much less followed through with additional action.

Biden’s progress with Black Americans: The Center for Workforce Inclusion gives the Biden administration credit for its progress in helping Black Americans and dealing with race, including establishing the most diverse Cabinet in American history.


Movement Building

Alabama Arise has raised an additional $50,000 towards their Cover Alabama campaign that strives to expand the Medicaid health insurance program and Boost Alabama’s economy.

The Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) launches its Policies Advancing Transformation and Healing (PATH) Learning Community, a year-long initiative that will create a network of stakeholders to “advance policy and systems change implementation that reimagines youth and young adult mental health systems.”


Events

Upcoming events include “NCNW Health Equity Committee/COVID-19 Subcommittee Town Hall” (NCNW, July 31); “Social Emotional Health of Students in the Upcoming School Year” (The Hunt Institute, August 10); “Campus Technology Leadership Summit: Data Practices that Drive Student Success” (Campus Technology, August 11); “Connecting Minority Communities Pilot Program Webinar” (Department of Commerce, August 19).

Last week, events were held by the Center for American ProgressInstitute for Women’s Policy Research, and New America.


Podcast

Ep. 54: Dealing With Students’ Learning Loss (Inside HigherEd)


The Joint Center thanks the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Boulé Foundation, the Democracy Fund, Toyota Motor North America, Inc., UPS, and the Walmart Foundation for additional support that has allowed us to do some of our COVID-19 and Black Communities work.

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