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National Urban League to Biden and Harris: Prioritize Pandemic Control and Economic Stimulus that Directs Jobs to Struggling Communities
By Amanda Scurlock
Published November 19, 2020

Marc H. Morial (Courtesy photo)

In a letter to President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, National Urban League President and CEO Marc H. Morial urged them to place top priority on comprehensive economic relief for Americans devastated by the coronavirus epidemic.

“As you assume the Presidency and Vice Presidency, Americans are standing in food lines, missing mortgage and rent payments and trying to keep the lights on,” Morial wrote. “This pandemic has upended their lives. For them, relief now is imperative.”

Morial suggested a two-pronged approach: an immediate stimulus response package of no less than $3 trillion, as well as a $2 trillion economic recovery and infrastructure package with a specific emphasis on providing job opportunities for Black and Brown workers who have been battered by the COVID recession and left out of previous relief programs.

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Additionally, Morial called for the immediate development of a vaccine distribution plan that targets the communities where the virus has flourished, and a commitment to appoint a slate of cabinet officers and advisors that reflects the nation’s diversity.

“The last four years have seen a dramatic roll back of civil rights protections, a surge in racially motivated hate crimes, a deterioration of trust between police and the communities they serve and the stark exposure of entrenched health and economic disparities,” Morial wrote.

He suggested a set of fundamental principles on racial justice and equity to guide the Biden Administration’s first 100 days and beyond:

  1. Fundamentally transform the criminal justice system
  2. Protect and defend voting rights
  3. Achieve economic parity for African Americans
  4. Advance equity in educational opportunities
  5. Promote a healthier nation by prioritizing testing, treatments, and cures for COVID in communities of color.

“The National Urban League, the nation’s largest and most effective historic civil rights and urban advocacy organization of its kind in the nation stands ready to partner with you in the fight for civil rights, voting rights, fair housing, health care, education, and employment which have always guided our work,” Morial wrote.

The text of the letter follows:

November 10, 2020

The Honorable Joe Biden

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President-Elect, United States of America

The Honorable Kamala Harris

Vice President-Elect, United States of America

Dear President-Elect Biden and Vice President-Elect Harris:

Congratulations on your resounding victory delivered with support from over 70 million Americans who voted for a change in direction and new policies that will help them and their families emerge from the nightmare of the COVID-19 pandemic and the burgled federal response to it.

Voters in Philadelphia, Detroit, Atlanta, Milwaukee, and other urban communities, both large and small, did not abdicate their responsibility to send an administration to Washington that will advocate for their hopes and dreams of a better tomorrow. Black voters turned out overwhelmingly in a way that makes us proud. They will not be satisfied with a symbolic victory. They need help and they need it now. They want action and so do we.

As you assume the Presidency and Vice Presidency, Americans are standing in food lines, missing mortgage and rent payments and trying to keep the lights on. This pandemic has upended their lives. For them, relief now is imperative. That’s why we are calling for several immediate things.

First, an immediate stimulus response package of no less than $3 trillion is needed and a $2 trillion economic recovery and infrastructure package is also needed to build a long term economy that works indeed for all.

We support a stimulus that aligns with the provisions of the Heroes Act passed by the House early last summer.

This economic recovery plan must not only be comprehensive, and rebuild the nation’s roads, bridges, and rails but it also must address water systems, parks, community facilities, affordable housing, and broadband. Such an initiative would maximize public investment and leverage public dollars to create millions of jobs as well as business opportunities for all Americans.

Central to this, and important to our recommendation, is that there be a specific emphasis on providing job opportunities for Black and Brown workers who have been particularly left out and battered by the COVID recession. We also need a broad commitment and language that emphasizes and requires the utilization of Black and Hispanic owned businesses, and such an economic recovery infrastructure package must include a broad federal commitment to invest in affordable housing given the looming housing crisis that could derail a fragile economic recovery.

The last four years have seen a dramatic roll back of civil rights protections, a surge in racially motivated hate crimes, a deterioration of trust between police and the communities they serve and the stark exposure of entrenched health and economic disparities. We offer a set of fundamental principles on racial justice and equity that we hope will guide your administration’s first 100 days and beyond.

 

These are:

  1. Fundamentally transform the criminal justice system
  2. Protect and defend voting rights
  3. Achieve economic parity for African Americans
  4. Advance equity in educational opportunities
  5. Promote a healthier nation by prioritizing testing, treatments, and cures for COVID in communities of color.

We would urge that your 100-day plan include introduction and passage of a new Voting Rights Advancement Act, Comprehensive Criminal Justice Reform plans, and a vaccine distribution plan that emphasizes outreach to the hardest-hit communities.

The White House recently announced plans to distribute a vaccine primarily through chain pharmacies, a plan which failed dismally when it came to the distribution of testing supplies. We need a national plan to bring the virus under control which directs supplies to the poor and urban communities that have been hardest hit but also addresses longstanding health and economic disparities that allowed the virus to proliferate there. Moreover, any vaccine plan must maximize the use of community-based sites such as schools, community centers, churches, and local Urban League affiliate headquarters.

Achieving the important goals that you have set forth will not be easy.

You will need a cabinet, senior advisors, and a federal workforce that reflects American diversity, excellence, and competence and we are confident that you are committed to that. We will support and publicly defend the wisdom and necessity of such a diverse cabinet as we have experienced the least diverse cabinet in 50 years in the outgoing administration.

The National Urban League, the nation’s largest and most effective historic civil rights and urban advocacy organization of its kind in the nation stands ready to partner with you in the fight for civil rights, voting rights, fair housing, health care, education, and employment which have always guided our work. This is an important time in American history, and we offer these as the first of several suggestions that we will offer in congratulating both of you for your historic success.

We are proud that both of you have joined National Urban League events many times over the years, and we look forward to welcoming you back in 2021.

With warmest regards, I am

Yours very truly,

 

Marc H. Morial

President and CEO

National Urban League

Categories: Marc Morial | Opinion
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