COVID-19

Infrastructure, Historic Appointments & Diversity Among Biden Chiefs & Senate Committee Top Staff: July 23 Joint Center Roundup

Biden Administration

Eviction protection: While the federal eviction moratorium is set to expire at the end of July, Forbes reports the Biden Administration is “under fire” as state and local officials only distributed $3 billion of the over $46 billion in rental aid allocated by Congress amid the coronavirus pandemic. On July 21, The White House held its second eviction prevention convening and shared Treasury Department data showing that “more than $1.5 billion in assistance was delivered to eligible households in the month of June—more than what was provided in the previous three reporting periods combined.”

John LewisIn memory of John Lewis: One year since the passing of Congressman John Lewis, President Biden called on Congress to pass the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. Vice President Kamala Harris, who met with Black women leaders last week to discuss voting rights, told CBS News that she’s speaking to Republican elected officials and leaders about voting rights legislation. Both President Biden and Vice President Harris have stated that they are against filibuster reform. In a CNN town hall, President Biden said recent attempts to disenfranchise voters is “Jim Crow on steroids,” and that engaging in a debate on filibuster reform could “throw the entire Congress into chaos” at a critical moment.

Commerce Department investing in equity: The Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) will “implement a series of programs, collectively called Investing in America’s Communities, to equitably invest the $3 billion it received from President Biden’s American Rescue Plan Act to help communities across the country build back better.” For example, EDA “will allocate $500 million to invest in building and strengthening regional workforce training systems and sector-based partnerships, with a focus on programs targeted at women, people of color, and historically underserved communities.”

Biden administration meets with Cuban American leaders: White House Office of Public Engagement Director Cedric Richmond and Senior Director for the Western Hemisphere for the National Security Council Juan Gonzalez met with Cuban American leaders to “listen to their policy recommendations and concerns in light of the recent, unprecedented demonstrations unfolding across Cuba.” In the meeting, officials reiterated Cuba as a “top priority for the Administration.” Any policy enforcements (or lack thereof) that the Biden administration make, play a critical role in his 2021 reelection bid in battleground states like Florida with large populations of Cuban and Haitian Americans who can sway elections.

Investment toward Puerto Rico’s recovery: The White House Working Group on Puerto Rico held its inaugural meeting in congruence with President Biden’s commitment to provide Puerto Rico with the “resources and technical assistance it needs to recover and prosper” from Hurricanes Maria and Irma, 2020 earthquakes, and COVID-19. This commitment includes investments in economic, education, and workforce development for the island that foster long-term resilience and ensure “communities and infrastructure can withstand future disasters.” 11.7 percent of Puerto Ricans are of African descent.


The Hill

Debate on infrastructure blocked: The Hill reports Senate Republicans “blocked the Senate from debating a bipartisan infrastructure proposal” with a 49-51 vote. In order to begin to bring the debate to the Senate floor, 60 votes are needed. Bipartisan groups are still negotiating the details of the bill. The bill will reportedly include legislation in line with Joint Center research on broadband, workforce development, and several other expenditures that could help Black communities.

CBC continues the fight against voter suppression: Members of the Congressional Black Caucus held a press conference with Black women Leaders & Allies (full recording here) “to demand votes on the For the People Act, H.R. 1, and the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act, H.R. 4.” This eventfollows last week’s arrest of Congressional Black Caucus Chair Joyce Beatty (D-OH) after she marched with members of Black Women Leaders & Allies to call attention to Republican Senators who refused to “engage meaningfully in drafting federal legislation to ensure that every American has equal access and opportunity to vote.” CBC Chair Beatty describes voter suppression as “simply unacceptable” and makes clear“we are not accepting it anymore, we know what we have to lose.”

Building a Jan. 6 Select Committee of ‘integrity”: In an effort to create a Jan. 6 select committee that respects the “integrity” of the Capitol insurrection investigation,Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) rejects two Republican picks, Congressman Jim Jordan (R-OH) and Congressman Jim Banks (R-IN), who are former President Trump allies who voted against certifying President Biden’s election victory. Congressional Black Caucus Member Congressman Bennie Thompson (D-MS), who wasappointed as Chair of the House select committee, contends how imperative finding the truth is to ensure that “such an assault on our Capitol and Democracy cannot happen again.”

Critical race theory gains political attention: GOP lawmakers in both the Senate and House are pushing legislation toblock critical race theory in public schools, EdWeek reports, seeing critical race theory as a“sticking point in congressional House races.” Black congressional members express disappointment as progression on issues of racial justice continue to face pushback. The dialogue surrounding critical race theory has been compared to “defund the police” discourse, which became a “key flash point last November.”

Gloria Richardson

Remembering Gloria Richardson: Congresswoman Nikema Williams (D-GA) called Gloria Richardson’s life a “lesson in justice.” Richardson, who passed away last week at the age of 99, was a civil rights pioneer known for the famous photo (above) where she pushed away a National Guardsman’s bayonet. In 1962, she led the Cambridge Movement on Maryland’s Eastern Shore to desegregate all schools, recreational areas, and hospitals in Maryland. Senators Ben Cardin (D-MA) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MA) also shared statements on her passing. The Joint Center mourns the passing of Gloria Richardson, and champions her legacy.

CBCF searches for new president: Current President and CEO of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Tonya Veasey will step down from her role in September. The CBCF Board of Directors Chair appreciates Tonya’s notable contributions during her tenure” and looks forward to “finding our next leader who will build on and augment the organization’s solid foundation.”


Appointments

Black Americans account for 22 percent of Biden's 2020 Voters and 13 percent of Chiefs of Staff to Biden Cabinet Secretaries.

Analyzing Black chiefs of staff to cabinet secretaries in the Biden administration: The Joint Center released Report Card on Black Chiefs of Staff to Cabinet Secretaries in the Biden Administration. While Black Americans accounted for approximately 22 percent of President Biden’s votes during the 2020 general election, they account for just 13 percent of chiefs of staff. Chiefs of staff can play critical roles in determining the extent of Black appointments within an agency. Chiefs often serve as principal advisors to department secretaries on political appointments, act as gatekeepers to determine which candidates are considered by the secretary, and can help create an inclusive culture throughout the agency that actively works to recruit, retain, develop, and promote racially diverse appointees. Karra McCray, a Ph.D. candidate at Brown University, authored the report card.

Biden on track to appoint more Black women to U.S. Appeals Court than any other president: President Biden is now tied with former President Bill Clinton in appointing three Black women to the U.S. Court of Appeals after the Senate confirmed Biden’s judicial nominee Tiffany Cunningham to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Court (see below). If President Biden’s judicial nominee Eunice C. Lee is confirmed, he will have appointed more Black women than any other president. HuffPost reports “President Barack Obama appointed two Black women to federal appeals court seats, George W. Bush appointed two, and Jimmy Carter appointed one. Donald Trump appointed zero.” As HuffPost notes, of the 838 people who served as federal appeals court judges, only 11 Black women “have ever been confirmed as federal appeals court judges since the U.S. courts began in 1789.”

In February, the Joint Center urged President Biden to prioritize Black appointments to the U.S. Court of Appeals, as none of President Trump’s 54 appellate court nominations were Black, and 10 of the 18 active Black U.S. Appellate Court judges were eligible to retire. The Joint Center commends President Biden, and hopes to see more Black Americans nominated and confirmed to the U.S. Court of Appeals.

Tiffany Cunningham

Tiffany Cunningham confirmed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. Ms. Cunningham is the first Black judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. The Senate confirmed the patent litigator by a 63-33 vote. Ms. Cunningham has served as an intellectual property litigator for almost two decades. She first began her legal career in the U.S. Federal Circuit in 2009 as a clerk to then-judge Timothy Dyk.

Kenneth Polite

Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. confirmed as the Assistant Attorney General of the Criminal Division at the Department of Justice. The Senate confirmed the former U.S. Attorney with a 56-44 vote. Mr. Polite is returning to the Department of Justice from Morgan Lewis, where his practice focused on internal investigations and corporate compliance. Prior to Morgan Lewis, he worked as the vice president and chief compliance officer at Entergy, a Fortune 500 electric power company.


Economic Studies

Righting the tax code: The Senate’s $3.5 trillion budget legislation could end tax breaks favoring the rich, neutralizing “some of the most durable and robust components of structural racism in the United States,” writes New School Professor Julie Ott in the Washington Post. Black families’ wealth is less than 15 percent that of White families.

Raise taxes on wealthy: Policymakers should increase taxes on the nation’s wealthiest households, urges the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Black and Latino households make up fewer than 1 percent of the wealthiest households.

Recovery stalls for many: In his semiannual testimony to Congress, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell acknowledged that the hardest hit groups from the pandemic still have the most ground to gain, and indicated that the Fed is focusing on an employment mandate across racial and income groups.

Capital for microbusinesses: Grants for Black microbusinesses are a good source of much-needed capital. Microbusinesses account for nearly 80 percent of all U.S. small businesses.


Tech Policy

African American person on laptop

Tech support: Public Knowledge calls on Congress to provide $500 vouchers tohelp low-income Americans purchase computers, tablets, and other devices to gain access to the internet. African American households are more than twice as likely as White households to lack a home computer.

Injecting competition in broadband: President Biden signed anexecutive order promoting competition, which includes policies to reduce the cost of internet, adding new urgency to efforts to accurately measure the price of internet services. In a bid for price transparency, the order encourages the FCC to require internet providers to regularly report broadband rates. Affordability is a reason that Black families in the Black Rural South lack broadband.

Do more to curb AI bias: The ACLU challenges the Biden administration to address bias in artificial intelligence that perpetuates racial and economic inequities. Examples include housing discrimination and hiring biases.

Rashad driving change: The Hill profiles Rashad Robinson, president of Color of Change, calling him a driver of change well before he led calls for Facebook to conduct a racial equity audit.


Future of Work & Learning

Speed study: Three-week micro-internships are a promising route to paid internships and jobs in tech for Black students.

Carpenter Using Plane In Woodworking Woodshop

Training pipelines help Black students: Stackable credentials in health care, manufacturing and engineering technology, and information technology are helping Black students in Ohio see similar or larger earnings gains than White students, a RAND study finds. However, White students recorded larger gains from additional credentials and had larger overall earnings gains than Black students.

Pell Grants in prison: Advocates are urging the Department of Education to bring Pell Grants back for incarcerated people earlier than the current July 1, 2023 decision deadline, Politico reports.


COVID-19

Racial inequities worsen: The pandemic exacerbated America’s racial issues, the National Urban League’s 2021 “State of Black America” report finds. The report outlines stark inequities in economic justice, policing, and health care systems for Black communities.

Mortality ratio declines: The Black-White mortality ratio declined between June 2020 and January 2021, the Lancet reports. Cumulative mortality rose by 61 percent for Black Americans and 90 percent for White, reducing the mortality ratio by 0.4 (25.8 percent).

Postal workers at risk: The U.S. Postal Service and OSHA failed to protect postal workers during the pandemic, ProPublica reports.

Black New Yorkers remain vulnerable: DailyCOVID-19 case counts are rising in New York City due to the more contagious Delta variant. Although 64 percent of New Yorkers have been vaccinated, lagging vaccination rates in Black neighborhoods put many Black residents at risk.


Political Studies

New Joint Center report finds people of color are significantly underrepresented in U.S. Senate committee top-level positions: The report, Racial Diversity Among Senate Committee Top Staff, found that while people of color account for 40 percent of the U.S. population, they make up only 7.9 percent of Senate staff directors and 15.7 percent of non-staff director top staff roles (e.g., deputy staff director, chief counsel, general counsel, and policy director). While African Americans account for 12.4 percent of the U.S. population, they make up only 2.6 percent of Senate staff directors and 2.4 percent of non-staff director top staff.

LGBTQ discrimination on the rise: One-third of Black LGBTQ individuals experienced increased discrimination, a 2020 survey by the Center for American Progress finds. Nearly one-third say they shy away from public spaces to avoid discrimination. Two in five have moved away from family to avoid discriminatory experiences, and one in five avoids travel.

Watershed moment in NYC: Black candidates are on track to occupy several of New York City’s top elected offices, including the mayor’s office, two of the five district attorney offices, and public advocate. Eric Adams is expected to become the city’s second Black mayor.


Movement Building

African American Policy Forum announces their Critical Race Theory Summer School: “Forbidden Knowledge” Fights Back: Unleashing the Transformative Power of Critical Race Theory, that welcomes teachers, journalists, labor unions, parent groups, students, researchers, DEI practitioners, faith-based organizers, and others in exploring Critical Race Theory and why it has become the center of political debate.

Consumer Reports releases a project focused on fair and affordable internet servicing that tests broadband users’ internet speeds to “compare quality and speeds across the country” and analyzes consumers’ bills to “understand what consumers actually pay for broadband.”

The Education Trust releases new research that outlines three key strategies to solve “unfinished learning” and includes a state-by-state breakdown of how much K-12 education relief funding each state will receive.


Events

Expanding Broadband in the Black Rural South event flyer

Upcoming events include Expanding Broadband in the Black Rural South (Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, July 28); “STATEHOUSE FUTURES: A Progressive Policy and Strategy Summit for a New Generation of Leaders” (Run for Something Action Fund and Democracy Policy Network, July 28); “How wage suppression was caused by policy decisions made on behalf of the rich and corporations” (Economic Policy Institute, July 29); “Black Women’s Equal Pay: Waiting Another Century is Not an Option” (Institute for Women’s Policy Research, July 29).

Last week, events were held by National Urban LeagueSubcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland SecurityThe Hill, and the Urban Institute.


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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