Joint Center Briefing on COVID-19 Stimulus, Black Workers & Black Students with House Ed & Labor Chair Bobby Scott

On Wednesday, April 22, the Joint Center hosted an online briefing with Chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Education and Labor Bobby Scott (D-VA) on education and workforce priorities for Black communities in future stimulus legislation. The conference explored the exacerbated disparities faced by Black communities and the need for a stimulus package that advances equity for Black workers, businesses, and student success.

The expert respondents included:

  • The Education Trust President and CEO & Former Secretary of Education John King
  • National Urban League Senior Vice President for Policy & Advocacy and Executive Director of the Washington Bureau Clint Odom
  • National Education Association Vice President Becky Pringle
  • National Black Worker Center Project Executive Director Tanya Wallace-Gobern
  • Joint Center Vice President Jessica Fulton (moderator)

We discussed: 1) past stimulus successes 2) priorities for young people and essential workers 3) funding allotment for education and black businesses in future stimulus packages.

Respondents highlighted several priorities and policy ideas, including:

Education

  • Educational disparities are only worsening because of COVID-19. There are schools without the technological capacity to facilitate online learning; some teachers are able to shift to an online learning module, while others need training;
  • Providing every student in a household with their own device that will enable them to learn in a distant learning environment;
  • Additional allocated funds towards summer enrichment programs to help students readjust to in-person learning;
  • Only 20% of Black parents can work from home to support their students’ learning. All young people are not getting the same support from home, parents should not have to choose between missing work and leaving their child at home alone;
  • Socioemotional gaps for low income, students of color who already faced higher rates of trauma. Funding for counseling is tremendous during this time;
  • Implementing a dropout prevention program when students go back to school in the fall;
  • Prioritizing local, state and federal organization.

Black Workers & Black Businesses 

  • Developing universal protection for airborne diseases through enforceable regulation for essential work environments including, grocery stores, prisons, senior citizen’s homes, meat processing plants, etc. Experts need to enforce OSHA guidelines;
  • Allocating more money for state and local governments. States have to balance their budgets and the two ways they can save money is by firing people and canceling contracts, this is counterproductive;
  • Establishing unemployment insurance to prevent workers from choosing between work and their livelihood, essential workers deserve protection;
  • Advocating for postal services;
  • Implementing job training for seniors who face a disproportionate brunt in mortality and still have to make the decision to go back into the workforce to make ends meet;
  • Additional funding to make sure relief dollars are flowing to minority small businesses;
  • States lifting stay at home orders put Black essential workers front and center, even though they receive bottom rates of testing and have the highest rates of mortality;
  • Addressing the stark inequalities in our economy and generational poverty. Eviction is a ticking time bomb, once COVID-19 passes people will have to catch up on their rent and need the financial support to do so or we’ll see an increase in homelessness;
  • Bold leadership is required. We have to end talk of returning to normal, post-COVID-19 presents an opportunity to create a social net and welfare system that we need.

This is the Joint Center’s fourth online policy forum on COVID-19 and Black communities following an online policy briefing for CBC staffers on accessible vote-by-mail and safe in-person voting for Black communities (here), a briefing with FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks on COVID-19 and the digital divide (here), and an online policy forum with CBC Chair Karen Bass (D-CA) on the implications of congressional responses to COVID-19 on Black communities (here).

 

About Joint Center

The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, America’s Black think tank, is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization founded in 1970 and based in Washington, DC. The Joint Center's mission is to inform and illuminate the nation's major public policy debates through research, analysis, and information dissemination in order to improve the socioeconomic status of Black communities in the United States; expand their effective participation in the political and public policy arenas; and promote communication and relationships across racial and ethnic lines to strengthen the nation's pluralistic society.