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Washington Bureau Insider: May 1, 2020

Clint Odom
Executive Director Washington Bureau National Urban League

STATES ARE REOPENING, BUT ARE THEY READY? Nearly half the states are looking to reopen their economies in the face of major risks to health.

HOW MUCH TESTING IS ENOUGH? The Washington Bureau staff launches a new infographic that shows whether your state is conducting enough COVID-19 testing to help bring down the infection rate.

INTERVIEW WITH U.S. SENATOR TIM SCOTT. In our running series of interviews with Senators, we talk PPP, racially-disproportionate infection rates, opportunity zones, and more with the junior Senator from South Carolina, Tim Scott.

NEW 2020 CENSUS DATA: The data show a significant lag in the 2020 participation rate, despite the addition of an online option this year to the complete the census. Also, don't forget to take action to demand the Census Bureau conduct a complete and accurate count of African Americans in the 2020 census.

INSIDE SCOOP ON 2020: Biden announces the committee to pick a VP candidate. Current and former CBC members rack up primary wins.

. On this date in 1997, Secretary Alexis Herman becomes the first Black woman to be appointed U.S. Secretary of Labor.
This is America: Gun Violence Continues to Steal Lives
Gun violence is responsible for over 13,085 deaths so far in 2020. 
Health Matters
Coronavirus by the Numbers:
  • 1,070,032 cases (most in the world)
  • 63,019 deaths (most in the world)
  • 153,947 recoveries 
  • 6,231,182 total persons tested
Click here to see how the COVID-19 pandemic is advancing worldwide. Get free live updates from the New York Times at this link, or sign up for a free newsletter from the Washington Post here.

How Much Testing Is Enough? There is widespread agreement that more COVID-19 testing is key to discovering how pervasive infection rates are in a geographic area. With less than 2% of the U.S. population tested so far, we are nowhere near ubiquitous testing required to determine with accuracy where the virus lives. The World Health Organization has developed a benchmark to determine the adequacy of testing in a geographic area. You want to see 10% or less of tests administered coming back positive. A low percentage of positive tests show that social distancing,  and other mitigation methods are working. Countries like South Korea have tested so much that they have a 3% positive rate. The U.S., by comparison, has an average positive rate of 18.7%. States like New Jersey and New York, as you can see below, have extremely high rates because the disease is rampant there and testing rates are still very low as a percentage of the population. States currently below 10%, however, are not yet in the clear. As testing expands in those states, you might well see the positive rate increase over time before falling back to 10% or less.

So we have examined the states served by the National Urban League to determine how well they are doing. We hope you find this useful. We will publish the data on a weekly basis so you can track the progress over time.

Does Your Community Have Adequate Number of Ventilators? Find Out Here:  Around 48% of the U.S. adult population lives where virus patients could overwhelm the supply of mechanical ventilators and ICU beds. This is why the federal and state governments are so intent on flattening the curve of this disease. Search your Zip code to see how a surge of severe coronavirus infections could stretch hospital resources in your area.  
The Latest in 2020

The Countdown:
186 Days to Election Day
264 Days to Inauguration Day

Biden Names VP Selection Committee: Joe Biden’s presidential campaign yesterday announced the formation of a running mate selection committee, charged with vetting the third woman in U.S. history to seek the vice presidency on a major party ticket. Committee members include Biden’s longtime friend and former Senator Chris Dodd; Congressional Black Caucus Member and Biden protegee Lisa Blunt Rochester; Los Angeles Mayor and campaign co-chair Eric Garcetti; and Apple executive and former White House and Senate counsel Cynthia Hogan. Biden said he hopes vetting is complete by July. Campaign co-chair Rep. Cedric Richmond noticeably is not on the committee. “These four co-chairs reflect the strength and diversity of our party, and will provide tremendous insight and expertise to what will be a rigorous selection and vetting process,” campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon said in a written statement.
Several women have been mentioned for the shortlist, including former primary election opponents, members of Congress, governors, and a former gubernatorial candidate. At 77, Biden would be the oldest president ever to be sworn in if elected. He’s said that his running mate must be ready to run the country on day one. Hanging over his decision-making process is the Democratic debate over whether to choose a white woman to appeal to white working-class voters, a woman of color, or a progressive to help energize the base.
The VP selection process is one of the most guarded and secretive processes in Washington. It is unlikely the name of the VP pick will be announced before the campaign wants to release the name. While Biden is under pressure to pick a woman of color as a running mate, he assured donors that a Black woman will definitely be appointed to the Supreme Court if he becomes president. We at the WBI believe this is an unmistakable signal that the pick will not be a woman of color. 

Leaked "Don't Defend Trump" Memo Causes Controversy: If you are wondering why the President and GOP politicians have the word "China" in their mouths so much lately, you need only look at the National Republican Senatorial Committee’s leaked memo advising candidates to attack China rather than defend President Trump’s coronavirus response. The president's handling of the pandemic has sparked tensions between the White House and Senate Republicans. “On Monday ... Trump political adviser Justin Clark told NRSC executive director Kevin McLaughlin that any Republican candidate who followed the memo’s advice shouldn’t expect the active support of the reelection campaign and risked losing the support of Republican voters.”

New York Becomes First State to Cancel Dem Primary: The presidential primary was originally scheduled for April 28 but was delayed eight weeks due to the coronavirus pandemic. The state's election officials removed every Democrat except former Vice President Joe Biden from the presidential primary ballot on Monday, a move that has the effect of canceling the election scheduled for June 23. The move effectively made Biden the winner of the NY primary but angered Sen. Bernie Sanders supporters, who had said he wished to remain on the ballot in order to collect delegatesThe cancellation will likely save the state millions of dollars and make it easier to increase the use of voting by mail in local elections in the coming months.

There will still be Democratic primary elections for Congress on June 23rd, though. We have our eyes on the race for NY-9.

Mfume Wins His Old Congressional Seat; Succeeds Cummings for MD-7: Democrat Kweisi Mfume, 71, won the first election in Maryland since the coronavirus pandemic, winning a mostly vote-by-mail contest to reclaim a Baltimore-area congressional seat he held for 10 years before he left to head the NAACP. Mfume will fill the remainder of the term of Rep. Elijah Cummings that ends Jan. 3, 2021. Cummings died in October from longstanding health issues. According to the unofficial results, Mfume won with 72.5% of the vote.
Mfume also is on the June primary ballot for candidates seeking a full, two-year term in the 7th Congressional District. Mfume vowed Tuesday night to make his priority in Congress helping people sickened by the coronavirus and hurt by the economic impact of restrictions meant to slow the spread of COVID-19. Baltimore County has the third-highest number of COVID-19 cases in Maryland at 2,631. Some 370 African Americans in the state have lost their lives to the disease

CBC Member Beatty Fends Off Progressive Upstart to Win Dem Primary in OH-3: On Tuesday, four-term incumbent Congresswoman Joyce Beatty, 70, won the Democratic primary for Ohio’s Third Congressional District against Morgan Harper, 36, a progressive first-time candidate who was previously a senior adviser at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Ohio held mostly mail-in primaries because of the pandemic after voting originally scheduled for March 17 was delayed and in-person voting curtailed. After all votes were tabulated, Beatty won about 68% of the vote share with just under 44,000 votes, compared to Harper’s 32%. Beatty won the endorsement of the Franklin County Democratic Party; Harper was endorsed by Justice Democrats, a group that has backed progressive candidates in Democratic strongholds, including Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Policy & Hill Happenings
CBC Member Jahana Hayes' Husband Tests Positive for Coronavirus: Congresswoman Jahana Hayes (CT-5) announced yesterday that her husband, Milford Hayes, a Waterbury, CT police detective, has tested positive for COVID-19. Rep. Hayes made the following statement regarding her husband’s diagnosis: "This week, my husband, a first responder in the City of Waterbury was exposed to and tested positive for COVID-19 at his workplace. I am incredibly grateful that at this time he seems to be healthy and asymptomatic." Hayes also shared she tested negative. She and her family will be quarantining at home for the next two weeks.

Fed to Congress: Spend More To Prevent Deeper Economic Crisis:  This week, Fed Chairman Powell made clear his views that Congress must take further action to prevent American workers, businesses, and families from what he termed as “avoidable insolvencies.”  Powell noted that these actions will come at a high price, but they would also have the effect of ensuring that our country doesn’t fall into a deeper recession than economists currently estimate.

Pelosi Says States & Locals Need $1 Trillion in Recovery: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi suggested yesterday that states and local governments may need as much as $1 trillion in additional federal relief to help them weather the coronavirus pandemic. “I’ve talked about almost a trillion dollars right there — I would hope so,” she said, when asked about the need for state and local aid during her weekly press conference. “But we do have other issues that we want to deal with.“

Pelosi’s estimate of $1 trillion is twice the 
$500 billion requested by the National Governors Association last month and could signal the Speaker's view on the need for direct federal funding to cities.  The left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has warned that states could be facing budget shortfalls that total $650 billion over three years. And the U.S. Conference of Mayors has called for at least $250 billion.

Congress has already passed four bills totaling nearly $3 trillion in response to the pandemic. Senate Republicans are unlikely to support such a high figure for states, which are dealing with crashing state revenue and skyrocketing costs. Senate Majority Leader 
Mitch McConnell has expressed skepticism about bailing out states with existing budget issues. But he recently said he would be open to another package that provides state and local funding, as long as it includes liability protections to ward off a wave of lawsuits once states reopen their economies.

Senate Dems Issue New Report on COVID-19 Impact on Communities of Color: Yesterday, Senators Debbie Stabenow (MI), Chuck Schumer, Cory Booker, and Senator Kamala Harris released a report detailing the disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on communities of color and offering legislative solutions. The report proposes prescriptions like free, widespread coronavirus testing, expansion of Medicare in the states, housing assistance, worker pay and protection, recovery assistance to cities and states, and assistance to small businesses. Noticeably missing from the policy proposals was voting assistance.  The report can be found here.
Sen. Booker said: “The coronavirus pandemic has further exposed and exacerbated the deep, structural racial, and ethnic inequalities that have cost the lives and livelihoods of people of color for centuries ... There are tangible steps we can take now to reduce these disparities and mitigate the harmful economic consequences of this pandemic for everyone. We need to strengthen protections for our front-line workers, expand access to health care for those who don’t have it, and improve access to capital for minority-owned businesses, which often don’t have existing relationships with banks.”
Sen. Harris added: “People of color are being infected and dying from COVID-19 at alarming rates. These numbers are no doubt a reflection of reduced access to health care, longstanding income and wealth disparities, and generations of environmental injustice that make communities of color more vulnerable to the virus. We must meet the magnitude of this crisis by using the information provided in this report to address the unique needs of the hardest-hit communities.”

Michigan Senator Proposes New Grant Program for Non-Profits Fighting Pandemic: U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI) yesterday announced a proposal to establish a federal grant program to support local organizations that will provide resources and information to communities of color during public health emergencies like the coronavirus pandemic. The program would be focused on outreach and mitigation. It would be administered by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and coordinate with local faith-based organizations and non-profit organizations to increase awareness of public health information and safety guidelines in communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. In Michigan, African American residents make up 32% of cases and 41% of deaths, despite accounting for only 14% of the state’s population. The National Urban League worked with Sen. Peters to develop this grant program and will push for its inclusion in upcoming COVID-19 legislation.

DeVos Expands Second Chance Pell Pilot: Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced last Friday that 67 more colleges that will participate in an experimental program that allows incarcerated students to receive Pell Grants to pay for their education. "By expanding this experiment, we are providing a meaningful opportunity for more students to set themselves up for future success in the workforce," DeVos said in a statement. "The stories I've heard from students and institutions engaged in the experiment are very encouraging, and we look forward to seeing how this expansion will help even more students achieve a better future."

House Dems Announce Plan to Connect All Americans to Affordable Broadband Internet: Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr., Chairman of the Energy & Commerce Committee, and Congressman James E. Clyburn, House Majority Whip and Chairman of the House Democratic Rural Broadband Task Force, along with 10 members of the Rural Broadband Task Force and Energy & Commerce Committee, announced the House Democratic Plan to Connect All Americans to Affordable Broadband Internet.  This plan—an updated and expanded version of the broadband provisions of House Democrats’ Moving America Forward Framework—is the product of significant collaboration between the Rural Broadband Task Force, the Energy & Commerce Committee, and many Members of the House Democratic Caucus. 

Senate Banking Committee Democrats Urge Trump Administration to Prioritize Small Businesses and Nonprofits When Processing Paycheck Protection Program Loans: This message was conveyed in a letter led by Senate Banking Committee Ranking Member Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI).  The letter urged the Treasury Department and the Small Business Administration to ensure that the processing and disbursement of backlogged PPP loans has a strong focus on small business owners and nonprofits who most need this critical funding.  The letter also requested answers from the administration related to reports that banks procedures for implementing PPP loans are favoring bigger banks and larger loans that incur increased returns and fees for banks while leaving smaller businesses behind.

rump Administration Sets $20 Million Cap On All Total PPP Loans for Corporations and Their Subsidiaries:  The new rule, which the Treasury Department and the SBA released yesterday, will apply to firms that apply for PPP loan funds moving forward and for existing loans that have been approved but have yet to be disbursed.  The rule is intended to address public outrage about loopholes in the previous round of PPP program funding that allowed subsidiaries of parent companies with less than 500 employees to be treated as their own entities as the funding for the first iteration of the PPP funds ran out.  A notable example of the abuse of these loopholes is a chain of hotel companies controlled by one individual named Monty Bennett that applied submitted 74 applications and received $126 million for its 130 hotels resorts despite the company making $2.2 billion in revenue in 2019.  

These Census Completion Rates Ain't No Joke: Curious about how many people in your community are responding to the 2020 Census? Stay up-to-date with a map of self-response rates from across the United States here. The chart below shows the percentage of people who self-reported completing the census in each state (in green), compared to the total response rate in 2010 (in blue). 

State and Local Spotlight
Stay at Home Orders: Check here to see the latest in every state.

Black GA Residents Particularly At Risk as State Reopens: Yesterday, the CDC released a report showing that in a study Georgia state hospitalizations, more than four-fifths of patients hospitalized in the state with coronavirus were black. And while they were not more likely to die or need a ventilator, 83.2 percent of the 297 patients were black. This report comes in stark contrast to Mr. Kemp’s decision to reopen major parts of the economy this week and as national infection and death rates for communities of color continue to rise.

L.A. County Offers Free COVID-19 Testing to All Residents: Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said Wednesday that all city and county residents who want a coronavirus test can now get one for the first time since COVID-19 cases began appearing there in January. Los Angeles is now the first major city in America to offer free COVID-19 testing to all residents. While priority will still be given to those with symptoms, individuals without symptoms can also be tested. The announcement came on the same day that county health officials reported a surge in the number of new COVID-19 cases, which they attributed, in part, to more widespread testing.
Health officials say despite the uptick, the rate of hospitalization and death in the county has remained steady. Los Angeles County now has a total of nearly 22,485 and 1,056 deaths attributable to COVID-19. The county represents approximately half of the statewide total cases and deaths. This is a poignant reminder of the importance of sending federal recovery support directly to cities, instead of sending it to the states. Urban areas tend to be hotspots for infection, even in states that have been successful in flattening the curve.

Houston Prepares to Open -- An Interview With Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner
: In an interview with CNBC's Tyler Mattheson, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner answers the question: is the city ready to open?  This interview covers a wide range of issues including testing, tracing, isolating, treatment, and football, to name a few. 

Kansas and Fed Prison COVID-19 Outbreaks Raise Eighth Amendment Issues: Following a prison uprising in mid-security Lansing
 Correctional Facility over failure to provide prisoners with protection from coronavirus exposure, the grim news is out: 76 inmates and 75 staff members have tested positive. The first inmate fatality occurred Sunday, the second Wednesday.

State correctional facilities across the country are facing incredibly high rates of infection among inmates. This is because social spacing in these facilities is near impossible, and the facilities do not follow Centers for Disease Control & Prevention guidelines. According to the Marshall Project, in states where testing is available the rates are as high as 78%, and prison staff, in many cases, are not even being tested.

More than 70% of federal inmates who have been tested for the coronavirus have COVID-19, the Bureau of Prisons said Wednesday. About 2,700 inmates have been given tests, and 71 percent of those came back positive. Officials say they expect the overall number of cases to rise since testing so far has covered less than 2 percent of the 153,000 inmates in the federal system, The Wall Street Journal reported. These cases raise the specter that confinement of federal prisoners in known infected conditions without protective equipment and proper social spacing could require the release to home confinement for certain non-violent offenders under the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.
Is That a Fact?
Insider Interview with Senator Tim Scott

Senator, thank you for being with us during this difficult time. We hope you and your family are safe and in good health. I bring you greetings from our three Urban League affiliates in the Palmetto state who are working overtime as economic first responders back home. 
WBI: You were instrumental in shaping the Paycheck Protection Program, a provision of the CARES Act designed to help small businesses stay afloat while the economy recovers from the shock caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill originated in the Senate Small Business Committee. From your position as a key member of that committee, what types of entities are most in need of recovery assistance right now? 

Sen. Scott: Obviously, a huge variety of small businesses need assistance right now. Saving our mom and pop shops is at the top of the list – those generational stores that form the backbone of their neighborhood and community economy. I was also able to get a $10 million appropriation for the Minority Business Development Agency to make grants to minority business centers and minority chambers of commerce.
Another priority area I particularly focused on was ensuring 501(c)3 organizations had access to PPP loans. This includes non-profits and houses of worship, both of which are fundamental pillars in helping those in need. They are also typically very dependent on the generosity of others, and in these trying times, the fact is folks have fewer dollars to spread around. I wanted to make sure that these amazing organizations and congregations have the opportunity to continue helping their communities for years to come.

WBI: In the CARES legislation that became law last month, South Carolina received or is expected to receive $2 billion in direct recovery assistance, and a majority of South Carolina’s residents have or will receive $1,200 or more as a recovery rebate. According to the Small Business Administration, some 23,000 South Carolina small businesses and nonprofits, including churches, received $3.8 billion through the Paycheck Protection Program? Did South Carolina get its fair share of the recovery dollars compared to other states? 

Sen. Scott: We’ve had more than 435 financial institutions in South Carolina participate as lenders in the PPP to ensure as much assistance can flow to our small businesses as possible. We also know more that more than 1.3 million recovery checks totaling almost $2.5 billion have been delivered to South Carolinians. The best way to ensure that our state receives its fair share is to make sure these systems are working as efficiently as possible, which is something I remain focused on through talks with the SBA, the IRS, and Treasury.
WBI: Senator, as you know, African-Americans represent about 57% of the COVID-19 deaths in South Carolina, and African-Americans and Hispanics together represent about 41% of the confirmed COVID-19 cases. Now that interim CARES legislation has been signed into law, South Carolina is set to receive a portion of $25 billion going to the states to pay for more testing, a critical piece of defeating this virus. In your view, how should South Carolina deploy testing to flatten the curve and save lives?

Sen. Scott: There are three critical factors. First, and this goes for the nation as a whole, we have to greatly increase our testing capacity. Increased testing capacity will save lives, and allow us to make smarter decisions on reopening our economy. That means looking at every component, including the necessary testing supplies. In South Carolina, for instance, shortages in reagents have presented a major hurdle.
Second, we should focus on frontline health care workers and known at-risk communities, including people of color and folks with underlying health conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, and asthma, which have been linked to more severe COVID-19 complications. We can leverage some of our safety-net providers, like community health centers, to assist in this effort. And third, we need to listen to our public health experts and follow the data on where to deploy testing from there.

WBI: You are the architect of the opportunity zones concept that became part of a major tax reform bill that became law in December 2017. The idea of these opportunities is to use tax incentives to encourage investors to invest in distressed communities across the country. The pandemic is harming cash-strapped cities and exacerbating severe stress in housing markets throughout the country. Can opportunity zones be part of the solution to address pandemic-related stress in already distressed communities?

Sen. Scott: The most recent financial crisis made it abundantly clear that our low-income communities are too often the first hit and the last to recover when the American economy heads into a recession. Unlike in 2008, however, we are fortunate enough to have a new tool already on the books that allows us to readily identify and drive private capital towards our nation’s most distressed zip-codes - Opportunity Zones.
Opportunity Zones can absolutely help to ensure that these communities are not once again left behind as the economy eventually returns to a new normal, while simultaneously providing investors a legitimate option outside of a tumultuous marketplace. We know that there are just as many folks capable of changing the world in these neighborhoods as anywhere else, we just have to make sure they have the opportunity to do so.
In just the last two years (during the program’s infant state) we’ve already seen countless affordable housing projects, job-training and entrepreneurial focused projects, massive job creators. We’ve also seen projects that will have huge impacts on the socioeconomic needs of these communities while also helping to revitalize our nation’s poorest zip codes in a fraction of the time such a recovery would historically take. One of the best things we can work to do now is extend this incentive to foster more investment and enact my reporting legislation so we can continue to fully monitor the impacts and recovery of our nation’s most vulnerable populations.
Senator Scott, thank you for being with us today. You are a critical voice in the Senate. Thank you for your optimism and leadership in these trying times.

Action Alert!

Make Black Count! 
We still lack the resources to ensure our communities are counted. Without a complete and accurate count, the African-American community will lose more than $40 billion in federal dollars and could also lose seats in Congress and hard-fought political representation at all levels of government. Unless immediate changes are made by the Census Bureau, the National Urban League predicts that the 2020 Census will produce an undercount of African-Americans greater than the 2.1% (that’s close to 1 million individuals!) seen in the previous census. But YOUR voice can make a difference…

 WRITE the Census Bureau director to make the following changes TODAY!

IMPORTANT REMINDER: To ensure compliance with our 501(c)3 status, please use your personal email address and not your NUL email address when advocating on this issue.
Entertainment & Notables

Amazon, Whole Foods, Instacart Workers Organize a Historic Mass Strike: TODAY, workers at Amazon, Whole Foods, Instacart, Walmart, FedEx, Target, and Shipt say they will walk off the job to protest their employers’ failure to provide basic protections for frontline workers who are risking and losing their lives at work. Meanwhile, these same companies are making record profits. Workers Demands include sufficient paid leave, protective gear, and hazard pay.

Michelle Obama’s Memoir ‘Becoming’ Will Be a Netflix Documentary: The film, which follows the former first lady’s book tour after the release of her memoir in 2018, will premiere May 6.

On this date in 1997...
National Urban League Board of Trustees member Alexis Margaret Herman made history on May 1, 1997, when she was named the 23rd U.S. Labor Secretary. Congrats, Secretary Herman!

Facebook to Stream Virtual Graduation Ceremony with Oprah Winfrey as Commencement Speaker: Facebook recently announced that it will stream a live graduation event on May 15th on the Facebook platform, which will feature a commencement speech from Oprah Winfrey, as well as smaller speeches by Awkwafina, Jennifer Garner, Lil Nas X, and Simone Biles. Although the show will be broadcast over Facebook, select clips will show up on Instagram too.

Uber Supports Victims of Intimate Partner Abuse: As we reported earlier this month, intimate partner abuse has spiked during the pandemic as more households are under stay-at-home orders. To respond to this crisis within a crisis, Uber announced last week that the company will provide 50,000 free rides to shelters and safe spaces and more than 45,000 free meals in 35 cities across 16 countries. This is part of Uber’s pledge to provide 10 million free rides and deliveries to those who need them most. Hat’s off to Uber!

Samsung says COVID-19 Will Hurt Phones Sales and 5G Adoption: Samsung is
warning that the months ahead will be painful as the coronavirus pandemic disrupts global supply chains, hurts smartphone demand and complicates the roll out of 5G.  The company also says the crisis has sparked a fundamental change in how people live and also predicts that the world's reliance on digital services is here to stay as millions of people continue to work from home.
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