Senate Democrats are proposing a $350 billion measure designed specifically to “address systemic racism and historic underinvestment in communities of color,” via the Economic Justice Act, which they announced on Thursday.
Democrats view the measure as an “important down-payment to answer the calls to address systemic racism and historic underinvestment in communities of color.”
The act, unveiled on Thursday, effectively acts as a reparations proposal, with Democrats proposing to “immediately” help minority communities with a $135 billion investment in “child care, mental health and primary care, and jobs.” The remaining $215 billion would be used to address inequality in the long term, devoting the investment to “infrastructure, a homeowner down payment tax credit, Medicaid expansion, and more.” The act lists ten initiatives to “reverse decades of underinvestment” in the communities.
Proposals include reducing rent and utilities “to 30% of income for low-income individuals and families and build new low-income rental properties,” and providing “$15,000 per family to expand access to homeownership” for minority families, specifically.
It also calls for requiring “a greater share of federal community and economic development funding” to 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,” although Democrats consider those”no-cost” policy changes.
“For far too long, Congress has underfunded critical priorities like public health, child care, infrastructure, and job creation in these communities,” the proposal’s summary reads.
“Our new plan would make a historic federal commitment to communities of color through ten major investments over the next five years,” it adds.
While the act is estimated to cost $350 billion, Democrats believe they can effectively offset the cost by “re-programming $200 billion of unspent funds” from the $2.2 trillion CARES Act:
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. The Senate Democrats’ new Economic Justice Act would seek to partially offset the cost of the proposal by re-programming $200 billion of unspent funds from the CARES Act – the so-called Title IV Funds, laid out in Section 4003- that were previously provided to the Department of Treasury to facilitate corporate lending by the Federal Reserve.
Fifteen senators — including Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), and Kamala Harris (D-CA) — back the proposal.
“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,” Senate Minority Leader Schumer said in a statement.
“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,” he continued.
“The Economic Justice Act is a needed step in a long journey to address systematic racism and historic underinvestment in communities of color,” he added.
The move comes as progressives move to issue reparations at the local level as well. This week, North Carolina’s Asheville City Council voted in favor of reparations to black residents through the creation of the Community Reparations Commission. The measure does not issue direct payments to minority residents, but like the Senate Democrats’ proposal, it aims to direct community funds to certain programs and institutions to make “significant progress toward repairing the damage caused by public and private systemic Racism.”
Similarly, the “Biden-Sanders Unity Task Force” proposal advocates for the passage of Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee’s (D-TX) Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act, or H.R. 40.