By Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr., National Newspaper Publishers Association President and CEO
For 194 years the Black Press of America has consistently “pleaded our own cause” for freedom, justice, equality and empowerment. Today we continue to plead that all elected officials at the federal, state, and local levels do all that is politically possible to act and to ensure progress that significantly improves the quality of life for our families, communities and businesses.
Now is the time for the Congress of the United States to act and to vote to pass President Joe Biden’s bold and consequential legislations: Build Back Better Framework and Infrastructure bills. Surveying across African American communities throughout the nation reveals overwhelming support for President Joe Biden’s legislative initiatives.
Let’s be clear. This is really not about being a conservative, liberal, progressive or someone who is indecisive in the middle of today’s political spectrum. These two historic bills are about moving the nation forward. Time is out for bickering and further debate. The time to enact is now.
Decades ago, when The Honorable Congressman Adam Clayton Powell (D-NY) would repeatedly say, “Keep the faith, baby,” it was actually a call to action for Black America and for the U.S. Congress.
The National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) salutes all the members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and the Progressive Caucus. In particular we acknowledge the outstanding leadership of CBC Chair, The Honorable Joyce Beatty (D-OH).
Here are the pertinent racial equity facts concerning Biden’s legislative agenda that must be voted on now without delay:
- President Biden believes we must invest in our country and communities of color by creating good jobs, lowering costs that hold back families, and building an economy where not just the wealthy get ahead.
- The Build Back Better Agenda and the bipartisan infrastructure deal will deliver progress towards this vision for working families across the country.
- The Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal will create good-paying, union jobs all across the country by fixing our roads and bridges, replacing lead pipes, installing electric vehicle charging stations, and more.
- And the Build Back Better Agenda invests in our people and gives working people in this country a fair shot to build a decent middle-class life, succeed, and thrive – instead of just trying to get by.
- The Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal includes investments that will take critical steps in advancing equity and racial justice throughout our economy – making our economy more fair, equitable, and just.
- BROADBAND: Ensures every American has access to reliable high-speed internet with a historic investment in broadband infrastructure deployment, helping lower prices for internet service and helping all Americans do their jobs, equally participate in school, access health care, and stay connected. Black families are 9% less likely to have high-speed internet than their white peers, and Latino Americans are 15% less likely. The deal will help close the digital divide.
- CLEAN WATER: Makes the largest investment in clean drinking water in American history, replacing all of the nation’s lead service pipes to deliver safe and clean drinking water to families and children – including the families of color who are at highest risk for lead exposure. Communities of color in cities like Chicago, Milwaukee, and Newark are also at particular risk.
- TRANSIT: Makes the largest federal investment in public transit to modernize our transit and replace thousands of transit vehicles, including buses, with clean, zero-emissions vehicles – reducing commute times and creating more opportunity for communities of color. Bus and transit workers are 31% Black and 19% Hispanic, compared to 12% and 18% respectively of the workforce overall.
- ELECTRIC BUSES: Delivers thousands of electrical school buses nationwide, including in rural communities, while helping school districts buy clean, American-made, zero-emissions buses and help make sure kids can breathe clean air since polluted air disproportionally impacts kids of color
- LEGACY POLLUTION: Makes the largest investment in the country’s history to address legacy pollution, cleaning up Superfund sites, Brownfields, coal and hard rock mines, and abandoned oil and natural gas wells to create good-paying, union jobs and advance environmental justice – including in rural communities and communities of color. 26% of Black Americans and 29% of Hispanic Americans live within 3 miles of a Superfund site, a higher percentage than for Americans overall.
- RESILIENCE: Makes the largest investment in the resilience of physical and natural systems in American history, helping safeguard communities of color from the climate crisis and extreme weather events since people of color are more likely to live in areas most vulnerable to these risks that can wash out roads, cause power outages, or flood schools. People of color are more likely to live in areas most vulnerable to flooding and other climate change-related weather events.
- And, President Biden and Democrats in Congress are making progress on the Build Back Better which will:
- CLIMATE: To position the U.S. to tackle the climate crisis and advance environmental justice, the plan creates good-paying, union jobs – like those building electric cars – that build a clean energy future, strengthens our nation’s resilience to more frequent extreme weather events, puts people to work capping wells and restoring abandoned mines, and puts in place tax cuts that accelerate clean energy technology and bolster domestic supply chains.
- HEALTH: The plan makes health care costs and premiums more affordable by by extending the American Rescue Plan’s cost savings, closing the Medicaid gap for low-income Americans, letting Medicare negotiate drug prices to lower prescription drug costs, and helping seniors access critical health care services like dental, vision, and hearing care.
- Extending the ARP’s cost savings helps 360,000 Black people and 730,000 Latinos save an average of $50 per person per month and allows 328,000 uninsured Black people and 580,000 uninsured Latinos to gain coverage.
- The plan also adds dental, vision, and hearing coverage for the more than 5.8 million Black people and 5 million Hispanic people on Medicare and closes the Medicaid gap for low-income Americans.
- FAMILY: The plan makes caring for your family more affordable by extending the Child Tax Credit; making child care and elder care more affordable; helping people, especially women, get back into the workforce; and making sure every 3- and 4-year old in America can go to pre-k.
- Only 62.6 percent of all three- and four-year-old Black children and only 59.4 percent of all three- and four-year-old Hispanic children are enrolled in preschool or kindergarten programs.
- The President is working to get both pieces of legislation across the finish line, and the American people are demanding exactly the kind of investment that President Biden and the Democrats are proposing. These are investments that will create jobs, lower taxes, and make life more affordable for working families.
Keeping the faith is not about patience or procrastination. It is about the courage to act, vote, and to enact legislation in real time. That time is now. Congress finally must now vote to approve Biden’s Build Back Better and Infrastructure bills. The future of our communities and the future of the nation are at stake.
Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. is President and CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) and Executive Producer/host of The Chavis Chronicles weekly on PBS TV stations throughout the United States; and can be reached at email@example.com