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Senate Passes $1.9 Trillion American Rescue Plan

“As the President said last week, once the rescue plan is signed, we’ll be able to start getting payments out this month,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday. “Treasury and IRS are working tirelessly to make that happen. They are building on lessons learned from previous rounds to increase the households that will get electronic payments, which are substantially faster than checks,” Psaki added.

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This is the most transformational piece of legislation that I’ve seen in all my years in Congress,” House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) stated. (Photo: iStockphoto / NNPA

President Joe Biden promised help was on the way to an America still battered by COVID-19, and after a marathon session of debate known as vote-a-rama and some dissension in the Democratic ranks – particularly Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia—the U.S. Senate finally passed the president’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan on Saturday, March 6.

“Today, the Senate passed the American Rescue Plan bringing us one step closer to delivering much-needed relief,” President Biden said from the White House shortly after the measure passed along party lines.

“When I took office, I promised help was on the way. Thanks to Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer and Senate Democrats, we’ve taken one more giant step forward in delivering on that promise. I hope the American Rescue Plan receives quick passage in the House so it can be sent to my desk to be signed,” the president continued.

Schumer (D-N.Y.) declared just prior to the vote, “We’re not going to make the same mistake we made after the last economic downtown, when Congress did too little to help the nation rebound, locking us into a long, slow, painful recovery. We are not going to be timid in the face of big challenges.”

Following the vote, Sen. Schumer spoke with the president on the telephone.

“He put together a great plan. It was just right,” the Senator remarked.

“It was strong and deep, but also very popular.”

The vote was the first significant test of the Biden Presidency.

It served as a litmus test of how united Democrats would be after four years of having debilitating Donald Trump-led legislation rammed through a favorable Senate.

During the four years of Republican control, a host of Democrat-proposed bills stalled in the upper chamber in what became known as former Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s graveyard.

Sen. Manchin, who has discovered new and swing-vote power, has wielded it mightily, forcing changes to the bill that was passed by the House a week earlier.

The West Virginia moderate objected to the president’s and other Democrats who fought to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour. That portion of the bill was removed to facilitate the legislation getting through the reconciliation process. Sen. Manchin held up the vote for hours wanting – and receiving – a change from $400 to $300 to the federal unemployment insurance addition to the bill.

Ultimately, the bill passed along party lines 50-49 – one Republican Senator was absent, and therefore, Democrats didn’t need Vice President Kamala Harris’ tie-breaking vote.

The bill still must be returned to the House for final approval before it heads to President Biden’s desk for signature.

Once the bill becomes law, it’s believed that the IRS would quickly begin sending out a new round of stimulus payments. Single tax filers making $75,000 or less would receive $1,400, while married couples who file jointly and make less than $150,000 would receive $2,800.

Families will also receive $1,400 per child, and adult children claimed as dependents would also receive $1,400.

Unlike previous stimulus payments, single tax filers making at least $80,000, or couples earning more than $160,000, will not receive a check.

It’s also important to know that the IRS will determine eligibility based on either a 2019 or 2020 tax return.

If you have not filed your 2020 taxes, the government will use 2019 income.

Individuals who may have lost their jobs or whose incomes decreased in 2020 should file as soon as possible.

Otherwise, the IRS will use your 2019 income.

Like the previous stimulus, you are not required to pay taxes on the payments, and those owing child support or student debt to the federal government will be protected from garnishment.

However, lawmakers did not make provisions to protect anyone from garnishment who might have private debt.

The bill allows for the first $10,200 of unemployment payments tax-free, and those who receive food stamps will see a 15 percent increase in those benefits through September. Families whose children’s schools have remained closed are also in line to receive EBT benefits through the summer.

The legislation sends about $20 billion to state and local governments to help low-income households cover back rent and utility bills.

It also contains a provision that allows families with minor children to claim a larger tax credit this year.

Those who qualify would receive a child tax credit of $3,600 for each child under six.

Families will also receive $3,000 for each under age 18, up from the current credit of up to $2,000 per child under age 17.

The American Rescue Plan also provides $15 billion to the Emergency Injury Disaster Loan Program, which provides long-term, low-interest loans from the Small Business Administration.

Severely impacted small businesses with fewer than 10 workers will be given priority for some of the money.

Additionally, more people will qualify for higher premium subsidies through the Affordable Care Act.

“Today’s passage of bold relief legislation is exactly what Georgians had in mind when they sent me to the Senate to help our state recover from the devastation of this once-in-a-century pandemic and corresponding economic downturn,” said Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.).

“For months, families and communities across the nation have been waiting for the substantive federal assistance they need to pay their rent, buy food and medicine, safely reopen all of our schools and keep essential workers on the job – and because of Georgia, that help is finally just around the corner.”

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Activism

OCCUR & the San Francisco Foundation FAITHS Program Present: A Model Built on Faith 2022 Leadership Series

Presenter, Karl Mill, Esq., is founder of Mill Law Center, a firm providing legal support to the nonprofit and social enterprise sectors. A long-time champion of underserved communities, Mill is dedicated to promoting justice under the law. “Our firm is in the nonprofit sector because we want to devote our lives to activities that relieve suffering and promote justice” says Mill.

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Workshop 3: Building Your Legal Guardrails

May 26, 2022

As organizations and communities emerge from years of changes and transformations due to the Covid pandemic, the broader landscapes in which they function have also changed. What current and possible new legal guardrails must be in place to move forward into the new normal? OCCUR and the San Francisco Foundation FAITHS program present Building Your Legal Guardrails. This capacity training will provide nonprofit and faith-based leaders with an overview of legal topics key to understanding and exploring the rapidly changing legal landscape.

Presenter, Karl Mill, Esq., is founder of Mill Law Center, a firm providing legal support to the nonprofit and social enterprise sectors. A long-time champion of underserved communities, Mill is dedicated to promoting justice under the law. “Our firm is in the nonprofit sector because we want to devote our lives to activities that relieve suffering and promote justice” says Mill. “We focus on priority areas such as racial justice, combatting economic and educational inequality, supporting immigrants’ rights, and dismantling mass incarceration and the school-to-prison pipeline. Understanding key elements of the law is critical to advancing the work of all those who work in the nonprofit arena.”

Please join us for this informative workshop!

Date/Time:
May 26, 2022, 9 a.m.-11a.m.
Location: Zoom
How to Attend: Please RSVP on our website, amodelbuiltonfaith.org
Questions: Email info@occurnow.org, or call (510) 839-2440

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Activism

COMMENTARY: “COVID-19 and White Supremacy, Creating Our New Normal”

We must rescue and refine the best of Black ways. Look at our historical grandeur. We once imagined the great Step Pyramid before there was a pyramid. How did we do that? Black people lived through over four hundred years of rabid, hostile, savage, dehumanization yet never became rabid, hostile, savage dehumanizing people. Our way, our worldview, our narrative, our normativity is what allowed us to do this. This is what we need to revisit.

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Dr. Wade Nobles
Dr. Wade Nobles

Black Mental Health pt. 2

By Tanya Dennis

With the global COVID-19 pandemic, we knew the world would never be the same. For some, COVID-19 has provided an opportunity to correct a society filled with bias, inequality, and meanness.

For Dr. Wade Nobles, long-time scholar/activist, and co-founder of the Association of Black Psychologists, “This is our time of reckoning. It is a time to redo what we have always done, sometimes under the radar, always in opposition to white supremacy. This is the time for Black people to interlock, reconnect and heal our community without European influence.”

Dr. Nobles, the Bay Area Chapter of the Association of Black Psychologists, and Oakland Frontline Healers are bringing together the best minds and calling on every sector to join them in the development of African American Wellness Hubs and an African American Healing Center in Oakland.

“Restoring wellness is to make the whole well. It is to connect everything and everyone in life affirming ways throughout the entire African world. Our way of being well and whole were well established in our past. In the past we gathered and found solutions collectively. Remember rent parties, Sunday church special offerings to send a child off to college or visiting the sick and shut in? These are our examples. In our way, personhood, familyhood, neighborhood, peoplehood, all the “hoods” are of equal importance. We can’t have a sick community and think our people will be well.”

Nobles and colleagues, after surveying and talking with Black people in Black communities across the nation, designed a detailed written plan for an African American Wellness Hub Complex. They envision a hub that is linked spiritually and psychologically, as a place where wellness and wholeness is real and ethnically authentic. Nobles said, “In many places our children are failing in school, many of our children are feeling they have no value, are being demeaned and assaulted. We need to take charge of these places. If teachers don’t love our children, they cannot ignite in them a desire to know and a passion for learning. If law enforcement doesn’t have high regard and deep respect for Black people, they will never understand that to ‘serve and protect’ means to be life affirming in what they do.”

“A big part of our new normal is to have in our thought, beliefs, and behavior the best of our wisdom, traditions and restorative practice available. This means to have in place living learning laboratories that are unapologetically devoted to our wellness, e.g., a wellness hub complex with healing centers. To have an exceptional and extraordinary place to bring people together and take them from hostile angry dis-at-ease producing places to places where we can work in harmony, create in dignity, and live to inspire life and ways of being that is affirming.”

Alameda County has stepped forward and is committed to establishing a Black Mental Health facility in partnership with the Association of Black Psychologists. The Association is grateful to Alameda County but notes four or five locations are necessary considering the amount of damage and illness that needs to be undone in the Black community.

Nobles says, “We must create a space, place and time that is guided by an African American wellness narrative that is awe-inspiring.” As an example of how important space is, he notes, “We tried to escape the blight and poverty of the inner city and move out to the suburbs, but all we did was go from inner city hostility to outer city hostility in the white enclave. At least in the inner city, our children didn’t lose their point of reference of belonging in the neighborhood or church. Healing spaces and places must be grounded in life affirming worldview and culture.”

“We must rescue and refine the best of Black ways. Look at our historical grandeur. We once imagined the great Step Pyramid before there was a pyramid. How did we do that? Black people lived through over four hundred years of rabid, hostile, savage, dehumanization yet never became rabid, hostile, savage dehumanizing people. Our way, our worldview, our narrative, our normativity is what allowed us to do this. This is what we need to revisit. We need a wellness place in our Black community where people can ‘imagine the better.’ A place where we can dismantle the ill and wrongfulness and recreate a vibrant affirming life spirit.”

Dr. Nobles says, “our new normal is the old African normal, where Black people inspired greatness just by living well and whole. Black people are a people of caring, sharing and daring. Our way was to care for our people, to share what we have, and to dare to be free. Our history records us having sacred places in nature where we would go to recreate our spirit of wellness. We need those places today and that’s why we need an African American Wellness Hub and healing centers.”

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Bay Area

Higher Black Unemployment in California Distorts Rosy Picture of Job Recovery

A sharp drop in the national unemployment rate for all Americans — down to 3.6% in February — brings the number of people without jobs across the United States to just one tenth of a point above the pre-pandemic level of 3.5% (February 2020), according to data compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics at the U.S. Department of Labor

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Cecilia Rouse is chair of President Biden’s Council of Economic Advisers. Commons Wikipedia.org photo.
Cecilia Rouse is chair of President Biden’s Council of Economic Advisers. Commons Wikipedia.org photo.

By Aldon Thomas Stiles, California Black Media

Officials in Sacramento and Washington frequently point to the low unemployment rate in the state and around the country as proof that the U.S. economy has recovered from the downturn experienced during the global COVID-19 crisis.

But the total unemployment rate for Black Californians seems stuck at almost three times higher than the national rate — despite steady increases in overall hiring of African Americans in the state.

A sharp drop in the national unemployment rate for all Americans — down to 3.6% in February — brings the number of people without jobs across the United States to just one tenth of a point above the pre-pandemic level of 3.5% (February 2020), according to data compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics at the U.S. Department of Labor.

In February alone, the U.S. economy added a remarkable 431,000 jobs, bringing the number of jobs created since 2021 to 7.9 million.

Cecilia Rouse, chair of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers, told California Black Media that the nation’s Black unemployment rate has drastically decreased since the pandemic related recession.

“At the height of this pandemic, the unemployment rate for Black people was 16.8% and from what we saw this month, it is down to 6.2%,” she said.

Overall, unemployment in California is also down from a pinnacle in 2020 during the peak of the pandemic. The state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate declined 10.5 percentage points from April 2020 to February 2022, from 15.9% to 5.4%.

According to the California Employment Development Department (EDD), the state’s economy has added 2,405,900 non-farm jobs, “in effect, recovering 87.2% of the non-farm jobs it lost during the COVID-19 recession.”

Although Black unemployment in California has seen a decrease during the recovery period as well, it has not dropped to pre-pandemic levels, according to state officials.

Black unemployment was hovering at around 10% for the fourth quarter of 2021, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. At that time, California’s overall unemployment rate was 7.5%, about two points higher than it was for February.

Although the unemployment rate for Black Californians is higher than the state rate, it continues to move downward.

From April 2020 to February 2022, California increased its number of Black workers by 59,000, going from 1,009,000 in April 2020 to 1,068,000 in February 2022.

Before the COVID-19 recession from February 2020 to April 2020, there were 1,133,000 employed Black workers in California, according to the EDD.

Over the course of the COVID-19 recession, the state lost 2,758,900 non-farm jobs and the unemployment rate rose from 4.1% in February 2020 to 15.9% only two months later. Over this time period, the unemployment rate for California’s Black workers rose 8.2 percentage points.

Across the country, the unemployment rate for African Americans is also decreasing, dropping from 9.5% in March 2021 to 6.2% in March 2022, according to the U.S. Labor Department.

“What we’ve seen is tremendous improvement in the labor market status for Black Americans, Black workers,” Rouse says, attributing the improving numbers to the American Rescue Plan, the Biden administration’s pandemic recovery initiative.

“It provided the resources to help us get through this pandemic,” said Rouse. “The management of the pandemic is fundamental and so integral to this strong labor market recovery that we’re seeing.”

Since 2021, growth in employment for Black Californians has been significant in three industries: Transportation and utilities, services, and the leisure and hospitality industries.

According to the EDD, there has been an increase of over 50,000 Black employed workers in the transportation and utilities industry, over 14,100 in other services, and over 13,700 in the leisure and hospitality industry.

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