September 29 COVID-19 Policy & Black Communities Roundup

Congressional Black Caucus Introduces Sweeping Legislation for Black America


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Last week the Congressional Black Caucus released the Jobs and Justice Act of 2020. The bill includes funding for targeted coronavirus tracing, testing, and treatment; investments in infrastructure through funding for local governments; a minimum wage increase;  and the passage of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. The package is made up of more than 200 bills championed by CBC Members and aims to be a “holistic response for Black America to not only survive the pandemic, but thrive after it ends.” 

Centrist Democrats Urge the House to Settle on Stimulus by Next Week

As negotiations between Democrats and the GOP on a new round of coronavirus relief remain stalled, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) continues to face increasing pressure from moderate Democrats and a bipartisan group of centrist legislators to bring a COVID-19 emergency aid proposal to a vote prior to the Oct. 2 House recess. While Pelosi held firm in her insistence on a package of no less than $2.2 trillion, the bipartisan group called for both parties to immediately act on a $1.5 trillion proposal.

White House Rushes to Appoint New Supreme Court Justice

President Trump nominated Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court on Saturday, as Senate Republicans (including Mitt Romney (R-UT)) moved to hold a vote to confirm the nominee this year. Romney’s decision enables Republicans to move forward with filling the vacancy created by the passing of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, despite their refusal to consider President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee to fill a vacancy created in February 2016 because it was a presidential election year. The Senate Judiciary Committee has scheduled confirmation hearings for October 12. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is facing pressure from liberal Democrats to fight against a confirmation vote prior to the elections.

With one in eight Black women still unemployed from the COVID-19 lockdown, the National Women’s Law Center says the Senate should use the energy focused on rushing the Supreme Court nominee toward helping Americans prepare for “more lockdowns and more economic blight.”

Other White House News

President Trump said he expects the Supreme Court to have to resolve a disputed election outcome in November, and he refuses to commit to a peaceful transfer of power after Election Day. The Atlantic expounds on the prospect of President Trump refusing to concede the November elections should he lose and highlights suppression of the Black vote as a key part of his campaign strategy.

President Trump, who has repeatedly promised that a coronavirus vaccine would be available by Election Day, stated that the White House may not approve the expected tougher guidelines for the emergency use of coronavirus vaccines. The National Medical Association has created a COVID-19 Task Force of Black doctors that plans to independently vet the federal review of COVID-19 vaccines.

Weak Indictment in Breonna Taylor Case Renews Call for Police Reform


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The Congressional Black Caucus charged that “the justice system is not just failing us [as Black people]; it has become complicit in our demise,” as news broke that the grand jury indicted one former police officer on charges of reckless endangerment, yet no charges against the two officers who actually shot Breonna Taylor in her home. The decision sparked widespread outrage and protests, and renewed calls for action against police brutality and violence against unarmed Black people.

Economic Studies & COVID-19

First-time unemployment claims rose to 870,000 for the week ending September 19, up from 860,000 the week prior. Prior to the coronavirus, the unemployment single week record high was 695,000, set in 1982.

A study by the Pew Research Center shows that of the 15% of adults who personally lost a job due to the coronavirus outbreak, half are still unemployed, and among Black adults surveyed, 43%  say they, or someone else in their household either have been laid off or taken a pay cut, compared to 53% of Latina/o adults, 47% of Asian adults, and 38% of white adults. The study also shows 43% of Black respondents  had trouble paying bills, compared to 37% of Latina/o respondents, 23% of Asian respondents, and 18% of white respondents. Fox Business notes that “the unemployment rate has fallen faster for white workers than Black workers, leaving a widening gap.” Center for American Progress Economist Gbenga Ajilore shows that while the Black unemployment rate is nearly consistently twice the white unemployment rate, the gap did shrink in April 2020, only to widen in the months since April.

The Center on Budget Policy and Priorities urges Congress to pass a new relief package, citing the Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey for September 2 to 14 that shows “Black and Latino adults were more than twice as likely to report that their household didn’t get enough to eat (19 percent for Black respondents and 18 percent for Latino respondents) as (compared to) white respondents (7 percent).” Furthermore, 25% of Black renters, 24% of Asian renters, and 22% of Latina/o renters were behind on rent, compared to 12% of white renters.

A recent Hello Alice survey of nearly 29,000 Black entrepreneurs found that 91%  need emergency grant support from the government, 64% need long-term grants, and 36% are having difficulty securing short-term capital.

NPR expounds on the findings of their September study showing that there is a wide gap in who is experiencing economic stress during the pandemic. A polling series from July – August, conducted by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, shows that 60% of Black respondents, 72% of Latina/o respondents, and 55% of Native American respondents are facing serious financial problems compared to 37% of Asian respondents and 36% of white respondents.

Citing data from the Food and Environment Reporting Network (FERN), the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) finds that people of color overwhelmingly make up the meat and poultry processing workforce. According to EPI analysis, of all animal slaughtering and processing workers in the U.S., Black (21.9%) and Latina/o (34.9%) workers combined make up more than half of the workforce. Black (11.3%) and Latina/o (16.8%) workers make up just 28.1% of all U.S. workers. As of September 22, more than 42,000 people in nearly 500 meat and poultry plants have been infected with COVID-19 and at least 200 have died.

The Institute for Women’s Policy Research President and CEO Dr. C. Nicole Mason states that federal and state governments must institute bold public policies in order for women to recoup the financial losses experienced since February. She identifies in USA Today that the “[s]ituation is particularly acute for Black and Latina women, close to a third of whom are employed in the service sector.”

Barbershops are implementing health care kiosks and infrared temperature checks, a service developed by the Black-owned booking and appointment platform Live Chair.

Political Studies & COVID-19

African Americans, Latina/os, and Asians account for more than three-quarters (76%) of the increased voter population between 2000 to 2018 according to a report from the Pew Research Center underscoring demographic shifts in the U.S. that have changed the composition of the electorate. During this period, the nation’s eligible voter population increased by 40.3 million, according to the Pew Research Center. The Pew Research Center also reports that Gen Z voters, 14 percent of whom are Black, are more ethnically diverse than previous generations of voters.

The Brennan Center for Justice identifies solutions to barriers to voting, including those that disproportionately affect Black people and those from other communities of color. Proposed solutions include passing the Voting Rights Advancement Act (which would restore preclearance provisions and update the Voting Rights Act) and the For the People Act, which includes key provisions like automatic voter registration, online registration, and same-day registration.

Former Georgia Gubernatorial Candidate and Fair Fight Action Founder Stacey Abrams shares advice on how to recognize and overcome efforts to suppress votes. According to Abrams “[i]t has three pieces to it, and it doesn’t matter where you live. Is it hard for you to register and stay on the rolls, is it hard for you to cast a ballot, and is it hard for you to make certain that ballot gets counted?”

Demōs laudes Kansas Governor Laura Kelly’s administration for sending thousands of voter registration applications to residents receiving public assistance as a means of mitigating the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on voter registration drives and other outreach efforts to people in underserved communities. Since March, Demōs and their partners have worked with several states–including Arizona, Michigan, North Carolina, and Virginia–to generate nearly 3 million voter registration application mailings.

Former NBA and WNBA players and coaches team up with Rock The Vote to launch an initiative called “Hoopers Vote,” to register young basketball fans to vote.

The Atlantic points to both the racism and ageism of a majority-white, majority non-elderly nation as a reason for the “blasé” response to the loss of 200,000 lives disproportionately made up of Black and elderly Americans due to COVID-19.

Two Rutgers New Jersey Medical School experts discuss the possibility that healthcare disparities underscored by the COVID-19 pandemic may be exacerbated by the decline in the number of Black-owned doctor’s offices.

Congresswoman Susan Brooks (R-IN) and Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE) make a bipartisan call for the passage of infrastructure packages to make broadband more available in underserved rural and urban communities to level the playing field for people of color and others in those communities.

Citing a Boston Globe finding that the largely Black and Latino school districts in Massachusetts have the largest amount of remote learning truancy reports, The New York Times reports on efforts to increase participation in remote learning across the country this fall.

Movement Building

Alternatives for Girls and Forgotten Harvest give groceries away in Detroit. So far they served 1,066 people.

Color of Change launches their Our Count Voter Justice project with the cast of Hamilton to explain five ways to take action such as registering to vote and getting counted in the 2020 Census.

Mothers of Hope hosts Hustle & Vote, a pop-up party offering voter registration and absentee ballot assistance, census completion, and poll worker sign-up information.

SisterReach hosts I Am A Voter, a virtual party to promote voter registration.

People for the American Way held a press conference with leaders from The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Alliance for Justice, and the National Women’s Law Centeroutlining what’s at stake with President Trump’s announcement of his Supreme Court nomination. People For the America Way President Ben Jealous states “there is nothing fair and just about stripping healthcare from Americans, especially during a pandemic, which is what this nominee will do.”


Upcoming events include “Economic Impacts of Medicaid Expansion” (REMI, September 30); “The Other Swing Voter Convening: Visioning Forward” (Boston University Center for Antiracist Research and Demos, September 30); “How will Black voters influence the 2020 election?” (Brookings Institution, September 30); “The wolf at the door: The menace of economic insecurity and how to fight it“ (Brookings Institution, October 1); “Data Mining Your School District” (Mississippi State Conference NAACP, One Voice, and the Mississippi Alliance of Black School Educators, October 3); “Skills and Economic Opportunity in a Post-COVID America” (Brookings Institution and Third Way, October 6); “Stay Well at Home with The Well Project (Series): Nutrition as Self-Care” (The Well Project, October 7); “Higher education and COVID-19: The future of learning, opportunity, and work” (Hamilton Project, October 8).

Last week, events were held by Black Futures Lab, Black Voters Matter, Brennan Center for Justice, Brookings Institution, CBC, Center for American Progress, Color of Change, Immigrant Advocates Response Collaborative (I-ARC), Knight Foundation, NAACP and OWN Your Vote, National Homelessness Law Center, National Urban League, Rainbow PUSH Coalition, SisterReach, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Third Way, 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.