The Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) released the following statement after the bipartisan Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security, or CARES Act, passed the Senate:
“When America catches a cold, Black America catches pneumonia. So as America continues to deal with the impact of the coronavirus health crisis, the CBC is fighting for bold solutions to support the needs of Black families, seniors, workers, businesses, and communities.” On March 20, the CBC submitted an extensive 11-page proposal to House and Senate leadership with recommendations to support the recovery of Black America.
The original bill introduced in the Senate gave a bailout to rich people and big corporations, but after several days of negotiations, the bill has been amended to address the needs of main street Americans.
Members of the Congressional Black Caucus, including Senator Cory Booker and Senator Kamala Harris, fought for the legislative issues outlined in the CBC proposal. These priorities included a higher amount of direct payment assistance for people, from $600 in the original bill introduced by Senate Republicans, to $1200 in the final bipartisan agreement. Members also fought for an additional $500 child tax credit per child and a moratorium on foreclosures and evictions. Additionally, CBC Members secured $447 million for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), among other priorities included.
Congress must first ensure the health, security, and financial stability of the American people impacted by COVID-19, and not just the health of Wall Street.
That’s why the Congressional Black Caucus advocated for several provisions adopted in the Senate Coronavirus relief package such as:
- Unemployment Compensation: Expansion of unemployment benefits to $600 per week in addition to the base max eligible for unemployment insurance;
- Funding HBCUs: $447 million to HBCUs of the $1.05B for Minority Serving Institutions;
- Direct Financial Payments: Direct payments for as much as $1,200 for individual taxpayers, and $500 per child, phased out when incomes exceed $75,000 for individuals and $150,000 for couples filing jointly.
- Protection for Families: $15.5 billion in additional funding for SNAP to ensure all Americans, including seniors and children, receive the food they need.
- Support for college students: Provides temporary moratorium of 6 months for federal student loans.
- Protecting Homes: Temporary Moratorium on eviction filings for all federally backed mortgage loans
- Black Businesses: Gives the Minority Business Development Agency $10 million to make grants to minority-owned businesses.
- Small Businesses: Provides funding through the Small Business Administration for special emergency loans of up to $10 million for eligible nonprofits and small businesses.
- Criminal Justice Support and Reform: $100 million for the Federal Bureau of Prisons to respond to the coronavirus pandemic with critical resources. Additional benefits for the prison system will include: ensuring all incarcerated individuals and staff are tested for Coronavirus, prioritizing the release of incarcerated individuals in prisons, jails, and detention centers through clemency, commutations and compassionate release; immediate temporary release to home confinement for those determined to be low-risk defenders; and for individuals who will remain incarcerated during this time the allowance of video conferencing and telephone calls free of charge to preserve families and their visitation needs
- Anti-poverty support: Provides $1 billion for the Community Services Block Grant and $750 million for Head Start.
- Community Development: Authorizes $2 billion in Community Development Block Grants to build healthier communities.
- Protection for the Homeless: $4 billion in homeless assistance grants
- Health Care: $127 billion for medical response efforts, including tax credits for manufacturers of ventilators, masks, and other resources; both funding and flexibility to address the surge in mental health needs.
- Protection for Our College Students: Use of Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (SEOG) for emergency financial aid to assist undergraduates or graduate students; also allows institutions to make Federal Work-Study payments to students unable to fulfill their work obligations up to one year.
- Support for Education: $1.1 billion of emergency education relief funds will go directly to Title I, ESEA schools; $100 million for Project SERV to help schools implement distance learning; $25 million for Distance Learning and Telemedicine to expand investments in telemedicine and broadband; and an additional $100 million for the Rural Utilities Service’s Distance Learning, Telemedicine, and Broadband Program, and prioritize 90 percent of the funds to go to rural areas.
The CARES Act is a welcomed next step to providing some relief for Black people around the country and the CBC will continue to fight for full and equitable relief for our communities in subsequent stimulus packages.