Leader Schumer, Senate Democrats Announce Significant Additions To The Economic Justice Act, Expanding The Historic Proposal To More Than $435 Billion To Address Systemic Racism And Historic Underinvestment In Communities Of Color

December 18, 2020

Washington, D.C.— Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Senate Democrats today unveiled new additions to the Economic Justice Act, a major legislative proposal that now provides more than $435 billion in immediate and long-term investments in communities of color to address systemic racism and reverse decades of historic underinvestment.


Through eleven key initiatives, the Economic Justice Act aims to immediately help communities of color respond to the pandemic by investing over $135 billion in underfunded critical priorities, including child care, mental health and primary care, growth of minority-owned businesses, and job creation. This legislation also seeks to build long lasting wealth and health in these communities over the next five years by investing over $300 billion for infrastructure, a homeowner down payment tax credit, Medicaid expansion, and more.


Additionally, the bill makes key policy changes to better target federal assistance to high-poverty communities and to implement local hiring provisions to ensure more federal infrastructure spending translates into job opportunities for disadvantaged workers and underrepresented populations. The Economic Justice Act is not the conclusion of efforts in this space, but an initial down payment for communities of color and the first in many focused investments and policy initiatives to begin dismantling systematic racism.


Significant additions have also been made to Senate Democrats’ Economic Justice Act to further invest in communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic recession. The new additions to this legislation include increased infrastructure investment, robust labor standards and policies to improve pay, benefits and worker power, and a new $15 billion Community Justice Initiative to begin to right the wrongs of past federal policy that displaced, physically isolated, and stripped wealth from communities of color.


The Economic Justice Act was introduced today by Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL),  Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA), Senate Democratic Policy Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Senate Committee on Finance Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-OR), Senate Committee on Armed Services Ranking Member Jack Reed (D-RI), Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works Ranking Member Tom Carper (D-DE), Senate Committee on Small Business Ranking Member Ben Cardin (D-MD), Senate Committee on Budget Ranking Member Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Ranking Member Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Senate Committee on Rules Ranking Member Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Vice Chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Senator Udall (D-NM), Senate Committee on Intelligence Vice Chairman Mark Warner (D-VA), Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI), Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), Senate Committee on Homeland Security Ranking Member Gary Peters (D-MI), Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), and Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA).


Some key endorsements of the Economic Justice Act include the National Urban League, Conference of National Black Churches, NWLC, National Black Worker Center, PolicyLink, US Hispanic Chamber, CDFI Coalition, UnidosUs and Prosperity Now. A comprehensive list of endorsements can be found here.


A summary of Senate Democrats’ Economic Justice Act can be found here and below and a section by section summary can be found here:


The Economic Justice Act

A proposal from Senate Democrats that invests more than $435 billion to address systemic racism and historic underinvestment in communities of color.

 

In July, Senate Democrats announced a major new legislative proposal to make immediate and long-term investments in communities of color.  For far too long, Congress has underfunded critical priorities like public health, child care, infrastructure, and job creation in these communities. Our new plan would make a historic federal commitment to communities of color through ten major investments over the next five years.  Senate Democrats said this was an important down-payment to answer the calls to address systemic racism and historic underinvestment in communities of color.

 

The first objective of the proposal is to immediately help communities of color respond to the pandemic through investing over $135 billion in child care, mental health and primary care, and jobs.  The second objective of the proposal is building long lasting wealth and health in these communities over the next five years by investing over $300 billion for infrastructure, a homeowner down payment tax credit, Medicaid expansion, and more.

 

Federal underinvestment in communities of color has created systemic disparities that cross nearly every sector. These communities now bear a disproportionately severe burden of the COVID-19 pandemic and economic recession. But at the same time, Wall Street investors and billionaires continue to rake in profits. 

 

Importantly, this proposal would be in addition to other critical emergency relief items, like those included in the historic House-passed Heroes Act. Other critical, emergency investments – like rental assistance, hazard premium pay, and more – are desperately needed in the short-term to directly deal with the COVID-19 crisis. 

Through eleven initiatives, the Senate Democrats’ proposal would begin our efforts to reverse decades of underinvestment in these communities.

IMMEDIATE INVESTMENTS

Child Care is Essential Program

Invest in and stabilize child care providers in communities, including communities of color. Ensure that working families have access to child care, and early childhood educators continue to get paid throughout the pandemic.

$50 billion

Expand and Improve Access to Community Health Care

Support community-based behavioral, mental, and primary health care providers and services to increase access to care and incentivize providers to serve in high need areas, including communities of color.

$40 billion

Federally Supported Jobs, Training and At-Risk Youth Initiatives

Connect workers to in-demand jobs, like new contact tracing and immunization hiring programs and federal job training programs, including adult education and supported jobs programs, training for disconnected youth, registered apprenticeship, and aligned pre-apprenticeship training, and training and wrap-around services provided by community organizations. Create a Pandemic TANF emergency assistance grant program that would provide cash assistance, in-kind support, and subsidized jobs to low-income individuals and families. Invest in the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act and reform child support.

$28 billion

 

 

Capital and Support for Small Businesses

Make investments in community-focused lenders to facilitate more lending to small businesses in communities of color.  Permanently authorize and expand programs offered by the MBDA as well as the SBA, including the 7(a) Community Advantage and the PRIME programs.  Provide tax incentives for new small businesses.

 

$17 billion for Capital + Support

 

$3 billion PROGRESS Act (2 years)

TOTAL

More than $135 billion

 

LONG-TERM INVESTMENTS AND POLICY

Down Payment on Building 21st Century Infrastructure

High-speed Internet, Affordable Housing, K-12 Public School/Library/MSI Construction, and Environmental Justice.

$50 billion for high-speed internet

$35 billion for affordable housing

$59 billion for school and library infrastructure

$45 billion for clean water and clean air infrastructure, and reduced toxics exposure

$15 billion for healthy transportation

New Homeowner Down Payment Tax Credit

With historically low interest rates for home mortgages, provide $15,000 per family to expand access to homeownership.

$40 billion

Renters and Low Income Housing Tax Credits

Reduce rent and utilities to 30% of income for low-income individuals and families and build new low-income rental properties.

$25 billion over 5 years (rent) + $5 billion (LIHTC)

Expand Medicaid Coverage

Incent Medicaid expansion in non-expansion states.

$15 billion

Address Maternal Mortality and Health

Expand comprehensive Medicaid coverage to all pregnant individuals for one-year postpartum; fund grant programs to implement maternal safety standards; improve access to midwife and doula services; and more.

$15 billion

 

 

10-20-30 Anti-Poverty Initiative and Local Hiring Opportunities

Require a greater share of federal community and economic development funding go to communities with "persistent" and high poverty rates and create opportunities in federally-funded infrastructure projects for local hiring in communities of color and contracts for disadvantaged businesses.

No cost policy changes.

Raising the Minimum Wage and Strengthening Overtime Rights

Gradually increase the federal minimum wage to $15 by 2025; repeal the subminimum wages for tipped workers, youth workers, and workers with disabilities; strengthen overtime rights by setting the salary threshold at the 40th percentile of wages in the lowest wage census region.

No cost policy changes.

TOTAL

More than $300 billion

 

“Senate Democrats’ introduction of new additions to the Economic Justice Act further underscores our commitment to address systemic racism and reverse historic underinvestment in communities of color,” said Leader Schumer.  “Long before the pandemic, long before this recession, long before this year’s protests, structural inequalities have persisted in health care and housing, the economy and education. COVID-19 has only magnified these injustices and we must confront them with lasting, meaningful solutions that tear down economic and social barriers, and reinvest in historically underserved communities. The Economic Justice Act will do just that by investing over $300 billion for infrastructure, $135 billion for critical areas such as child care, mental health, job growth and growth of minority-owned businesses, along with a $15 billion Community Justice Initiative.”

 

The substantial additions to the Economic Justice Act make an even larger investment in Black and Brown communities across America that have been underfunded for generations,” said Senator Durbin. “The bill not only provides funding to help child care providers, expand public health care and access to affordable housing, address maternal mortality rates, improve job training, support at-risk youth, and increase access to capital for minority-owned businesses, but it also helps build back the communities that have been hit the hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic.  If we are serious about lifting up communities of color that have faced generations of inequalities, it starts by putting our money where our mouth is and passing this bill.” 

 

“Our nation’s deeply-rooted legacy of racism has long led to chronic underinvestment in Black communities and other communities of color, and for generations we’ve seen that imbalance manifest as tragic and unjust racial and ethnic disparities in our health care and education systems, in our workforce and neighborhoods, and beyond,” said Senator Murray.  “That’s why during this global health emergency and historic national reckoning on racism, Congress has a responsibility not only to help save lives, but to learn the lessons of our nation’s shameful past so we can ensure true equity in the federal government’s response efforts. The Economic Justice Act will make a much-needed down payment on our over-due work to address systemic racism in our societies and communities, and help provide Black people and other historically-marginalized communities with the federal resources they need to thrive on the other side of this crisis. I’m glad to have made updates to this legislation that will further strengthen its impact for the Black community and communities of color in areas such as infrastructure investment and workers’ economic security.”

 

“Economic and health care disparities existed in communities of color well before the COVID-19 crisis,” said Senator Stabenow. “The pandemic has magnified the historic underinvestment in Black, Latinx, Native American, and Asian American communities, making them the most vulnerable to the economic fallout during this crisis. Our bill addresses these inequalities with meaningful short-term and long-term investments.”

 

"The ability to support your family and build a secure, healthy future shouldn't be in question,” said Senator Wyden. “Yet countless families of color in Oregon and across America have been shut out from opportunities and deprived of fundamental rights because of the systemic racism that continues to plague America," Wyden said. "Focused, significant investments in the priorities of underserved and underrepresented communities is essential to closing the gap on the unjust disparities holding folks back."

 

Through targeted investments that have been overlooked or neglected for far too long, this proposal will jumpstart the urgent work of ending systemic disparities and structural inequities that have held back communities of color and our nation as a whole,” said Senator Reed. “We must seize this opportunity to live up to America’s ideals by tapping into our nation’s strength and unlocking equitable growth that will help America thrive.”

 

“The historic, pervasive racial disparities in economic and public health outcomes have only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Senator Cardin. “I am proud to join my Democratic colleagues to introduce this historic bill to make overdue investments in communities of color. Entrepreneurship is one of the keys to closing the racial wealth gap, and this bill will empower minority entrepreneurs and innovators to start small businesses and create jobs.”

 

“We will not make progress until we acknowledge and tackle all of the ways that centuries of racism and oppression have affected the lives of Black and brown Americans – their health, job opportunities, housing, education, generational wealth and so much more,” said Senator Brown. “Congress must act to eradicate the systemic racism that permeates every aspect of American society. I am proud to join my colleagues in this effort to address some of the disparities that Black and brown communities have endured for generations. People of color built this country. We must stand with them and work with them to find long-term solutions to these pervasive issues.”

 

“We need to ensure that our economic recovery doesn’t leave out communities of color that were left behind well before this pandemic began,” said Senator Klobuchar. This bill gets us closer to an economy that works for everyone by addressing the structural inequalities that have held back people of color in our country for too long.”

 

“The COVID-19 pandemic has worsened longstanding racial disparities and placed a spotlight on systemic underinvestment in communities of color,” said Senator Whitehouse. “ We are pushing to finally eliminate the obstacles to economic opportunity and health care that communities of color have faced for far too long.”

 

“I’m proud to support this legislation to invest in communities of color and address systemic racism that has held too many families back in this country,” said Senator Udall. “In particular, I was glad to help author critical provisions to ensure Native communities have the resources they need to thrive.”

 

“As a former Governor, entrepreneur, and venture capitalist, I know the long-term value of investing in our communities – particularly our Black and Brown communities who have long bared the consequences of historic underinvestment in business, education, and health care, among other areas,” said Senator Mark R. Warner. “In Congress, I’ve been proud to fight for increased funding for vulnerable communities that have been especially hard-hit by the COVID-19 crisis. It’s why I fought to include $12 billion for CDFIs and MDIs in our bipartisan COVID-19 relief package, and it’s why I’m proud to support these additions to the Economic Justice Act to help minority communities emerge stronger after this crisis.”

 

“The pandemic has hammered working families across America, and in all too many cases, communities of color have been hit first and hardest,” said Senator Merkley. “We need to invest in affordable, accessible health care, creating good-paying jobs, expanding opportunities for homeownership, and ultimately, creating a foundation for families to thrive. This is a moment that will test our nation and determine our future path, possibly for decades to come. Let’s not miss the opportunity to address this crisis now and set the stage for a more just and prosperous future for all Americans.”

 

“The COVID-19 pandemic has magnified long-standing tears in the social safety net for communities of color, and now it’s time to right this wrong by expanding our efforts to combat systemic racism,” said Senator Gillibrand. “As we rebuild our economy, it is critical that we make investments in child care, minority-owned businesses, Medicaid expansion, and other tools that support people of color. I am proud to put forth this historic commitment alongside my colleagues to ensure that no one is left behind in our nation’s recovery.”

 

“This bill will finally correct chronic federal underinvestment in communities of color,” said Senator Blumenthal. “Through this major surge in funding for priorities like child care, health care, businesses, and infrastructure, we can start to dismantle decades of systemic racism underlying this underinvestment. This legislation means jobs for Americans who have been historically locked out of opportunity and critical assistance for those most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. We must pass this landmark bill to make good on our country’s promise of just opportunity for all.”

 

“Systemic racism has plagued our country for far too long and those who deny it can do so no longer, particularly during this pandemic which has laid bare the health and economic disparities preventing communities of color from getting ahead. We know we have real work to do to heal the wounds of racism in our country and create shared prosperity for everyone,” said Senator Baldwin. “We must make long-term investments in communities of color to address systemic racism and reverse decades of historic underinvestment. That’s why I’m supporting the Economic Justice Act, a comprehensive proposal to invest in our underserved communities, help address systemic racism and move our country forward.”

 

“The Covid-19 pandemic has made painfully clear how interrelated the challenges we face are— the inequities that persist along racial lines in access to healthcare and health outcomes, economic opportunity, affordable childcare and housing and more,” said Senator Booker. “As we work to get this virus under control and get relief to the America people, we must address the immediate needs of the communities that have been hit the hardest by this crisis, and at the same time invest in long term efforts to address systemic racism, discrimination and disinvestment that have robbed justice and opportunity from people of color for generations. The Economic Justice Act will be an important step in that effort.”

 

“This unprecedented public health and economic crisis has brought to the forefront long-standing inequities, including access to quality health care, mental health care, child care and job training and opportunities,” said Senator Peters. “I’m proud to join my colleagues to build on the Economic Justice Act by expanding immediate and long-term investments in communities of color and underserved communities. We must address these disparities, so that no matter who you are or where you live — in Michigan and across our country — you can succeed.”

 

“Our economy currently puts the interests of big corporations and the wealthiest individuals before the needs of everyday Americans,” said Senator Van Hollen. “These built-in advantages for the powerful make it harder for working people, especially in communities of color, to get ahead. We must change this, and the Economic Justice Act will make sweeping reforms to our economy so that every American gets a fair shake. I’ve been proud to work on a number of the proposals included within this legislation – from closing the digital divide, to improving social services, to reducing long-term unemployment. We must address these disparities immediately, and I look forward to working with the Biden Administration to do just that.”

 

“This deadly pandemic has laid bare the overwhelming inequities in our healthcare, economic and environmental protection systems that have plagued communities of color for far too long,” said Senator Duckworth. “I’m proud to join Leader Schumer in introducing the Economic Justice Act, a critical piece of legislation that would help address generations of injustice by increasing access to child care and community healthcare, confronting the maternal mortality crisis and investing in infrastructure in communities of color in Illinois and across our nation.”

 

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