COVID-19

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson Confirmed, Juneteenth Becomes Federal Holiday: June 17 Joint Center Roundup

Biden Administration

Senate confirms Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson: Judge Brown Jackson will serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit after the Senate confirmed her with a 54-44 vote. She is President Joe Biden’s first nominee for the DC Appeals court, which is often a stepping stone to the U.S. Supreme Court. Several organizations made statements on Judge Brown Jackson’s confirmation including the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, and NAACP LDF.

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 the Senate for confirming Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, and hopes to see more Black women confirmed to the U.S. Court of Appeals.

Biden set to double the number of Black women appeals court judges: President Biden nominated four Black women to the Court of Appeals—Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, Judge Tiffany Cunningham, Judge Candace Jackson-Akiwumi, and Judge Eunice C. Lee. Judge Brown Jackson was confirmed earlier this week, and USA Today reports the remaining three Black women “appear to be on course for confirmation.” If they are confirmed (and the current Black women serving on the U.S. Court of Appeals don’t retire), the number of Black women serving on the nation’s “second highest court” will increase from four to eight.

Federal judge slows Biden Administration’s attempts to give justice to Black farmers: President Biden’s plan to reverse decades of federal neglect and abuse of Black farmers through financial assistance and loan forgiveness is facing pushback from White farmers who filed a lawsuit (through the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty) against the government. (Biden’s plan will also provide relief for Indigenous, Latina/o, and Asian American farmers). The White farmers are attacking the effort for excluding them, and U.S. District Judge William C. Griesbach—a 2002 George W. Bush appointee—granted a temporary restraining order that will halt payments to farmers of color until he “rules more broadly on a lawsuit over whether or not the debt relief program discriminates against non-minority farmers.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has remained steadfast in its commitment to helping Black farmers, with a spokesperson telling Reuters that they “will continue to forcefully defend its ability to carry out this act of Congress and deliver debt relief to socially disadvantaged borrowers.” The spokesperson also clarified that the government can’t appeal the restraining order. Politico reports America First Legal, a group led by former President Trump’s top aide Stephen Miller, also filed a lawsuit against the USDA on behalf of Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller. Texas Tribune reports that the lawsuit was assigned to U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor, who was appointed by then-President Bush in 2007, and “handed Texas several major wins over the federal government opposing Democratic policies, including gutting Obamacare, ruling against family leave benefits for gay or lesbian couples and blocking guidelines to allow transgender students to use bathrooms aligning with their gender identity.”

A 2018 Tufts University analysis (via Reuters) found that “for decades, USDA employees and programs have discriminated against socially disadvantaged farmers by denying loans and delaying payments, resulting in $120 billion in lost farmland value since 1920.”

President Biden scheduled later today to sign bill into law recognizing Juneteenth as a federal holiday: The president is scheduled to sign the bill into law this afternoon at 3:30 pm ET. The bill was passed earlier this week unanimously in the U.S. Senate and by a 415-14 vote in the U.S. House. Juneteenth will become the 12th legal public holiday and the first since Martin Luther King Jr. Day was signed into law in 1983.

An agenda to power a robust and equitable economic recovery: The Biden Administration released its first regulatory agenda which includes “regulatory protections to help build an economy that makes it easier for families to break into the middle class and stay in the middle class; to dismantle persistent and systemic inequities; and to adopt a clean energy future for a healthier, safer, and more just tomorrow.”

Child Tax Credit Awareness Day: The Biden administration announced June 21 as Child Tax Credit Awareness Day. Its purpose will be to ensure families know about the expansion of the Child Tax Credit and understand “how it will benefit their families.” To do so, the Biden Administration encourages “elected officials, organizations that fight for children, and faith-based organizations, to help low-income families—who may have such low-incomes that they are not required to file taxes—to use a new, easy Child Tax Credit sign-up tool to help give their children a lifeline out of poverty.” March analysis found that the temporary $3,600 increase to the child tax credit will cut “child poverty among Black families by more than 50%”

Biden Administration re-emphasizes its fight against attacks on voting rights: The Biden Administration shared a fact sheet listing the “actions the administration has taken on voting rights” since inauguration day. The list includes signing an executive order directing “federal agencies, in a whole-of-government effort, to expand access to voter registration and election information,” nominating Vanita Gupta to serve as the Associate Attorney General and Kristen Clarke to lead the Department Of Justice’s Civil Rights Division (both were confirmed), and supporting the For the People Act and John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.

Attorney General addresses attacks on voting rights: In a speech, Attorney General Merrick Garland said “we must rededicate the resources of the Department of Justice to a critical part of its original mission: enforcing federal law to protect the franchise for all voters.” To do so, he said they’ll be “scrutinizing current laws and practices in order to determine whether they discriminate against Black voters and other voters of color” and noted that it was “particularly concerning in this regard are several studies showing that, in some jurisdictions, nonwhite voters must wait in line substantially longer than white voters to cast their ballots.” (In 2016, the Joint Center published a policy brief showing that average wait times were 12 minutes for White voters and 23 minutes for Black voters in the November 2012 election). In his speech, Attorney General Garland also noted that “within the next thirty days – we will double the [Civil Rights] division’s enforcement staff for protecting the right to vote,” and that the Civil Rights Division will “apply the same scrutiny to post-election audits, to ensure they abide by federal statutory requirements to protect election records and avoid the intimidation of voters,” “publish guidance explaining the civil and criminal statutes that apply to post-election audits,” “publish guidance with respect to early voting and voting by mail,” and “publish new guidance to make clear the voting protections that apply to all jurisdictions as they redraw their legislative maps.”

Remembering the Pulse victims: On the fifth anniversary of tragic shooting at Pulse nightclub where 49 people were killed, Domestic Policy Advisor Susan Rice and White House Public Engagement Director and Senior Advisor Cedric Richmond “hosted a virtual roundtable with LGBTQ+ leaders and gun violence survivors and advocates.” In March, Congressional Black Caucus Members Lucy McBath (D-GA), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), and Robin Kelly (D-IL) introduced H.R. 8, the Bipartisan Background Checks Act. The bill would require a background check for every gun sale or transfer. As of now firearms can be sold without a background check at gun shows, online, or person-to-person. Another bill, reintroduced by House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC), is H.R. 1446, the Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2021. This bill would extend the review period of background checks from three days to ten days.

Global vaccination effort: The White House announced that the United States and G7+ leaders will finance and provide approximately 2.3 billion vaccines for the world. Additionally, the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) will lead the effort and work with peer Development Finance Institutions including the International Finance Corporation, Proparco, and DEG to support vaccine manufacturing in Africa – for countries in Africa. According to Reuters data, some African countries including Algeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe have increasing numbers of COVID-19 cases and low vaccination rates (less than 5% of the population).


The Hill

Budget resolution paves the way for infrastructure bill: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) convenes with Democratic members of the Senate Budget Committee to begin the process for passing a budget resolution “paving the way for Democrats to pass a major infrastructure bill on a party-line vote.” As it stands, the infrastructure package would need 60 votes to pass outside the reconciliation process, but faces opposition from Senate progressives who “won’t vote for a bipartisan infrastructure bill unless all 50 members of the Democratic caucus agree on the size and shape of the later reconciliation bill.” Black communities may benefit greatly from President Biden’s infrastructure plan as it would expand broadband access and affordable housing options, provide workforce development assistance for dislocated or underserved individuals, andbegin to address the history of inequity in American infrastructure.

CBC members push for a vote on H.R. 40 this month: Several members of the Congressional Black Caucus push to pass H.R. 40, a bill that would create a commission to study the history of slavery in the U.S, racial discrimination that followed the Civil War, and “recommend ways to compensate living descendants.” Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) contends,“it’s time that this country live up to its promise of justice.” Republicans are concerned “that the outside commission would be stacked with Democrats and lead inevitably to astronomical cash payouts they say the Treasury can’t afford.”

CBC members honor American lives lost to COVID: Several members of Congress, including Congressional Black Caucus Chair Joyce Beatty (D-OH) and Majority Whip Clyburn (D-SC), honor the 600,000 lives lost to COVID-19. “Because Blacks and Hispanics are younger on average than Whites, it would stand to reason that they would be less likely to die from a disease that has been brutal to the elderly. But that’s not what is happening. Instead, the [CDC], adjusting for population age differences, estimates that Native Americans, Latinos and Blacks are two to three times more likely than White people to die of COVID-19.”

Senate hearing on D.C. statehood: Next week, theSenate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will hold a hearing to push for D.C. statehood. Scheduled speakers include Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, Mayor Muriel Bowser, and National Urban League President and CEO Marc Morial. The District’s 700,000 residents,46 percent of whom are Black, still lack full representation in Congress. Statehood would give residents full rights of citizenship and representation in Congress, and increase the possibility of African American representation in the U.S. Senate.

Black LGBTQ elders push for fundingEssence reports that Black LGBTQ elders call on Congress to target federal resources from the American Jobs Plan for racially diverse older Americans.

Black Republican criticism of CBCCongressman Byron Donalds (R-FL) says the Congressional Black Caucus has been silent about his omission from joining the caucus after he expressed interest in joining months ago. Sources point to the Congressman’s “support of former President Donald Trump and his decision to challenge the 2020 presidential election results as factors why he is being shut out.” While Black Republicans have held membership in the past, there are currently no GOP members of Congress in the CBC.

CBC PAC endorses Congresswoman Demings: The Congressional Black Caucus Political Action Committee (CBC PAC) endorsed Congresswoman Val Demings (D-FL) for her bid in the U.S. Senate. Members of CBC PAC describe Congresswoman Demings as “a proven leader and champion for the American people” who “fought for her constituents of Florida’s 10th congressional district with grace and dignity.” If elected, Congresswoman Demings would be the first Black woman to represent Florida in the U.S. Senate.

New bipartisan bill pushes for equity at SBA: Member of the Congressional Black Caucus Congressman Joe Neguse (D-CO) and Congresswoman Young Kim (R-CA) unveil legislation to authorize the Small Business Association to create a MicroCap Small Business Investment Company license that will allow qualified underrepresented investment managers to participate in the program. This entry-level license designation ensures equitable access to investment capital, increases the diversity of fund managers, and creates more investment vehicles serving small in underserved markets. Senator Hickenlooper (D-CA) applauds the bill and states “[i]ncreasing the diversity of fund managers will make investments in small businesses more equitable from end to end.”


Appointments

HBCU leaders press White House to appoint an HBCU Initiative ED: Several HBCU and MSI leaders including Grambling State University President Richard J. “Rick” Gallot, Jr., Virginia State University President Dr. Makola M. Abdullah, and Rutgers Center for Minority Serving Institutions Executive Director Dr. Marybeth Gasman, are calling for President Biden to select the executive director of the White House Initiative on HBCUs. They note that “an executive director with direct access to the administration is important,” and that this position “will help to ensure that HBCUs are provided the necessary opportunities to continue to provide a high-quality education…” Diverse Education reports that “a spokesperson at the Department of Education said that despite the vacancy in the top position, ‘there is currently a strong career team staffing the White House Initiative while the White House considers the appointment for the initiative.’”

Biden nominates Jia M. Cobb to the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. Jia M. Cobb is a partner at Relman Colfax, where she has practiced since 2012. Her plaintiff-side litigation practice focuses on fair housing, disability discrimination, employment discrimination, and cases at the intersection of civil rights and criminal justice. Ms. Cobb taught trial advocacy as an adjunct professor at American University Washington College of Law in 2011 and was a faculty member at Harvard Law School’s Trial Advocacy Workshop in 2010 and 2011.
Biden nominates Omar A. Williams to the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut. Judge Omar A. Williams has served as a Superior Court Judge in Hartford, Connecticut since 2016. In that role, Judge Williams has served on the New England Regional Judicial Opioid Initiative, the Sentence Review Division, and the Wiretap Panel.
Biden nominates Sharon L. Cromer for U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of The Gambia. Sharon L. Cromer, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, class of Career Minister, currently serves as the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Mission Director at the U.S. Embassy, Accra, Ghana. Previously she was the USAID Mission Director at the U.S. Embassy Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and she has also been USAID Mission Director at the U.S. Embassy in Abuja, Nigeria. In addition, Cromer also had an earlier assignment in Accra as Mission Director.
Biden nominates Troy Damian Fitrell for Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Republic of Guinea. Troy Fitrell, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, class of Counselor, is the Director of the Office of West African Affairs at the Department of State. He has served as Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. embassies in Ethiopia and Mauritius, as Deputy Director of the Department’s Office of Southern African Affairs, and as Deputy Director of the Office of International Security Cooperation in the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs. He was Senior Advisor to the United States Special Envoy for the Great Lakes of Africa, coordinating U.S. policy on the cross-border security, political, and economic issues in the Great Lakes region.
Biden nominates Michael D. Smith to be Chief Executive Officer of the Corporation for National and Community Service. Mr. Smith currently serves as the Executive Director of the My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) Alliance and is the Director of Youth Opportunity Programs at the Obama Foundation. He was the first and only White House director of the My Brother’s Keeper Alliance initiative when he served as a Senior Director of Cabinet Affairs for MBK.
Biden nominates Carlton Waterhouse for Assistant Administrator of Land and Emergency Management at the Environmental Protection Agency. Mr. Waterhouse was previously nominated in February to serve as the Deputy Assistant Administrator for Land and Emergency Management. He began his career as an attorney at EPA, serving in the Office of Regional Counsel in Atlanta, Georgia and the Office of General Counsel in Washington, DC.
Biden nominates Margaret Burnham to be a Member of the Civil Rights Cold Case Review Board. Ms. Burnham has served as a state court judge, civil rights lawyer, and human rights commissioner. Since 2002, she has been a Distinguished Professor of Law and Director of the Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project at Northeastern University.
Biden nominates Clayborne Carson to be a Member of the Civil Rights Cold Case Review Board. Dr. Carson is a professor of history at Stanford University and the Director of the Martin Luther King, Jr., Research and Education Institute. He has devoted most of his professional life to the study of MLK, Jr., and the movements King inspired. He will continue teaching as a Senior Fellow at Stanford’s Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law of the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies.
Biden nominates Gabrielle M. Dudley to be a Member of the Civil Rights Cold Case Review Board. Ms. Dudley is an Instruction Archivist at the Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library at Emory University. She is a founding member of the Atlanta Black Archives Alliance and has held leadership positions in the Society of American Archivists, Society of Georgia Archivists, and the Rare Book and Manuscript Section of the Association of College and Research Libraries.


Economic Studies

States cut unemployment: Nearly 3.6 million workers across 21 states face the early loss of all pandemic jobless benefits, including the $300 weekly Federal supplement, Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. (See the top 10 states in the chart above.) More than 46 percent of those receiving unemployment insurance in those 21 states are people of color, the National Employment Law Project finds.

Poverty gap endures: Black people are 41 percent more likely than White Americans to be experiencing third-generation poverty, according to Brookings.

Wealthy dodge taxes: The Center for American Progress applauds President Biden’s plan to shift the focus of IRS audits from low-income workers to high-income earners and large corporations as a way to advance racial equity. According to the Associated Press, a 2019 study found that the 10 most audited counties in the country were majority Black.

Wage hike benefits child care workers: A $15 per hour national minimum wage by 2025 would benefit as many as 560,000 child care workers, including a $3,200 annual earnings boost for Black child care workers, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

Medicaid expansions could reach 2 million: Slightly more than 2 million uninsured adults could gain access to Medicaid if the 12 states that have not expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act did so, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates. Black workers make up 28 percent of the Medicaid coverage gap.

Fair housing gets boost: Marcia Fudge, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, says the Biden administration is “taking action to realize the full promise” of the 1968 Fair Housing Act, including publishing a rule requiring local governments that accept federal housing funding to demonstrate tangible efforts to further fair housing.


Tech Policy

States control broadband expansions: The Treasury Department is giving states and localities unprecedented flexibility in using federal funds to expand access to broadband services, Pew finds. The interim rule calls for creating reliable access to unserved and underserved communities and allows states to determine funding priorities based on local needs.

Not user-friendly: Technical glitches and confusing eligibility guidelines from Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are frustrating users trying to access the federal Emergency Broadband Benefit program that subsidized internet access during the pandemic, reports Protocol, Politico’s media company.

Digital equity push: Bipartisan legislation introduced by Sens. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Rob Portman (R-OH), the Digital Equity Act, calls for spending $1.4 billion over five years on local internet projects. This is in addition to $100 billion to expand broadband access in the administration’s infrastructure plan.

Internet arriving slowly in Black Rural South: South Carolina’s Allendale County, one of 156 (as of 2017) counties in the Black Rural South, is getting affordable, high-speed broadband thanks to public, private, and educational stakeholders, Roll Call reports. Dr. Dominique Harrison, Director of Technology Policy at the Joint Center, is finalizing a report on expanding broadband in the Black Rural South.

Remote learning still needed: Black families still need remote learning despite the push to return to traditional classrooms, argues a senior fellow at FutureEd. Most students are not eligible for a vaccine, he notes, and asbestos and poor ventilation plague school buildings in Black communities, putting them at risk of COVID-19. Black and Latino youth account for nearly 60 percent of coronavirus deaths among those under age 18.

The buck stops…where? In anticipation of Congress passing comprehensive privacy legislation, New America assesses whether the authority to bring enforcement actions against companies violating user privacy should lie with the Federal Trade Commission or with a new federal agency.


Future of Work & Learning

White collar remains White: Black people are underrepresented among all professionals, and significantly so in areas of management, business and financial, and legal occupations, a new report by the Economic Policy Institute and the AFL-CIO finds. Black professionals are also more likely to be employed in the public sector and earn less than their White counterparts in similar occupations.

A lopsided field: Engineering: Only 5 percent of the nearly 1.7 million in engineering occupations in 2019 were Black, unchanged since 2009. In 2019, 81 percent were either White or Asian, according to the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce.

“Gateway” jobs on the way: Nearly half a million new jobs are forecast to be in occupations that are springboards to economic advancement, though the number pales in comparison to need, argue leaders from the Markle Foundation, Microsoft, and the National Urban League. Nearly 6 million such jobs are needed, especially for unemployed Black workers without a four-year degree and who previously held low-wage jobs.

HBCUs cut student debt: At least 11 HBCUs are reducing or eliminating recent graduates’ student debt loads, Inside Higher Ed reports.


COVID-19

States cut COVID reporting: An increasing number of states are reducing the volume and frequency of coronavirus reporting, raising concern among public health experts that the lack of data could leave communities unprepared for new outbreaks, especially in areas where vaccine rates remain very low, NPR reports. At least two dozen states have stopped providing daily updates of infections, hospitalizations, and deaths caused by the virus.

Accessibility and data improve vaccine equity: Creating accessible vaccination sites and having complete data that show disparate health outcomes among racial groups are among the keys to ensuring equitable access to the coronavirus vaccine in communities hit hardest by the pandemic, an MIT study finds.

Protecting workers from COVID-19: Worker advocacy groups are criticizing a new OSHA rule on COVID-19 protections for workers, which applies only to the healthcare industry. They point to the vulnerability of Black and other workers of color in low-wage industries.

Diversity pledge accountability: Shareholders are holding corporations accountable for diversity pledges made in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, the Los Angeles Times reports. Shareholders submitted a record 37 diversity-related proposals, garnering 43 percent support from shareholders, on average, effectively shifting the emphasis from gender diversity to include racial diversity.


Political Studies

Black women seek power: Black women candidates are positioning themselves for congressional, gubernatorial, and mayoral races in 2021 and 2022 following a historic election cycle for Black women in 2020, including the election of Kamala Harris as the first Black woman vice president.

Voting rights battle amps up: Progressive, voting rights, and civil rights groups, including the NAACP and the Black Lives Matter Fund, are increasing pressure on Senate Democrats, CNN reports, to pass federal voting legislation in the face of a GOP campaign to restrict voting in states across the country.

Law enforcement unions block reforms: Law enforcement groups are stifling passage of federal police reform legislation to curtail brutality and bias against African Americans. Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Tim Scott (R-SC) are leading the reform efforts, Politico reports.

Cops indicted: A former California police chief is among six men indicted on conspiracy charges in the Jan. 6 siege on the U.S. Capitol, NPR reports.


Movement Building

Color of Change issues a petition demanding Attorney General Merrick Garland to rescind a legal memo, issued by the Trump Administration, stating people released from prison on home confinement during the pandemic would be returned to prison after the pandemic is over.

In an effort to increase vaccinations in Black communities, Black Futures Lab starts a digital storytelling campaign and asks followers to share their reason for getting the vaccine.

Black Voters Matter continues their voter outreach tour from Mississippi to Washington D.C., to engage voters and raise awareness “as more than 40 states consider legislation to restrict voting rights, which would have a disproportionate impact on Black communities.”


Events

Upcoming events include “Juneteenth Panel Discussion with Black Workers Juneteenth Coalition” (National Black Worker Center, June 17); “Black Men: Our Votes, Our Voices, Our Issues” (Third Way, June 17); “Cracking down on worker misclassification” (Economic Policy Institute, June 17); “Equity First – A Conversation with Dr. Shaun R. Harper” (Lumina Foundation, June 22); “How to keep young people of color safe through Mobile Response” (CLASP, June 23); “Policies to protect workers and families: Rethinking social insurance” (Brookings Institution, June 23); “What Do Trade and Manufacturing Have to Do with Racial Justice?” (Groundwork Collaborative, The Century Foundation, and Urban Manufacturing Alliance, June 24); “Stable Housing Is a Critical First Step toward Racial Equity” (Urban Institute, June 29).

Last week, events were held by the Black Women’s Roundtable and NCNWInstitute for Women’s Policy ResearchNAACPUrban InstituteWashington Center for Equitable Growth.


Podcast

TechTank Podcast Episode 20: Did citizens’ use of technology deliver justice for George Floyd? (Brookings Institution)

To Support Black Male Teachers, A Nonprofit is Paying Off Student Loans (EdSurge)

The Whiteness of Wealth (Economic Policy Institute)

What’s Missing In Biden’s Plan To Address The Racial Wealth Gap (Wbur)

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