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Washington Bureau Insider: May 29, 2020

Clint Odom
Executive Director Washington Bureau National Urban League

UNREST IN MINNEAPOLIS. Trump calls protesters "Thugs," and the National Guard has been activated. Meanwhile, the police officers fired in connection with the death of George Lloyd remain free. We will begin extensive coverage of the George Lloyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery cases starting next week.

INTERVIEW WITH SENATE INTEL & SMALL BUSINESS COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN MARCO RUBIO. We cover a range of issues from Russian election interference, small business lending, building U.S. manufacturing capacity, and hurricanes during a pandemic.

TESTING DATA SHOWS.  The amount of testing is on the rise in most states, but are states testing in areas with the probability of high infection rates? Or is testing happening in wealthy areas with low infection rates?

VEEPSTAKES. Sen. Klobchar's VP candidacy is troubling to many Black activists. Warren is the ideal pick, says one prominent Democratic pollster.  

NEW 2020 CENSUS DATA AND ACTION ALERTS: 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 justice for Ahmaud Arbery, affordable broadband Internet to families with school children, and that the Census Bureau conduct a complete and accurate count of African Americans in the 2020 census.
This is America: Gun Violence Continues to Steal Lives
Gun violence is responsible for over 16,220 deaths so far in 2020. 

No Justice, No Peace -- Protests in the Twin Cities, Louisville: 
In response to the fatal police shooting of Breonna Taylor, protests in Louisville, Kentucky left at least
7 people shot last night. Meanwhile in Minneapolis, protestors set an MPD station on fire, police arrested CNN reporter Omar Jimenez, and President Trump penned an incendiary tweet calling for gun violence against persons suspected of looting (which Twitter removed as violating its anti-violence policy). More on escalating tensions between the social media company and the president below) The latest here

The National Council of Asian Pacific Americans Statement in Solidarity with the Black Community: In response to the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans (NCAPA) issued a statement demanding "justice for the countless black men, women and children who continue to die at the hands of a system that has determined their skin color be justification for lethal use of force."
Health Matters
Coronavirus by the Numbers:
  • 1,724,873 cases (most in the world)
  • 101,698 deaths (most in the world)
  • 399,991 recoveries 
  • 15,646,041 total persons tested (as of 5/29/20)
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? More COVID-19 testing is key to discovering how pervasive infection rates are in a geographic area. And yet, most states aren't anywhere near the levels suggested by the World Health Organization and other experts. We also have reported that states appear to be fudging their numbers to show either a lower rate of infection or a lower rate of positive tests. Over time, however, the numbers win out. California and Texas are surging in the number of tests ticking upward, but we don't know whether the testing is taking place in areas of high probability of infection or low. A Los Angeles Times investigation of testing in Los Angeles county revealed that rich people have plentiful access to testing, but low and moderate-income people do not. If we do not test in areas where we know the infection exists, we will not bring the virus to heel. 

Wastewater Testing Gains Traction: What began as an intriguing lab finding about a month ago has quickly leapt to the threshold of real-world use. With widespread swab testing still hampered by capacity issues, inaccuracy, and slow turnaround,
testing wastewater for the coronavirus’ genetic signature could give communities a faster way to spot a rebound in cases — as soon as this fall. Peter Grevatt, CEO of the nonprofit Water Research Foundation, says “There is real hope that this can be a sensitive, early warning” if, as officials ease social distancing measures, COVID-19 begins to spread again. Studies in the U.S. and the Netherlands, among others, have shown these tests can pick up a signal about a week before the first clinical case.

Is Six Feet Enough? 
It may not be far enough apart for effective social distancing, according to new commentary published in the journal Science. Medical experts say six feet of distance may not properly shield others from aerosols passed by breathing and speaking, especially in indoor situations, by people infected with COVID-19. Like most things coronavirus, the experts say more information is needed about the nature of its spread. For now, masks seem like the best preventive measure, as Dr. Anthony Fauci has reiterated this week, imploring people to wear them.  While wearing a mask isn't 100% effective, Fauci has said it's pandemic best practice, an important safeguard, and a sign of respect for others. 

Antibody Test Suggests Lower COVID Death Rate: 
Antibody tests are finding that larger numbers of Americans have been infected with the coronavirus but never became seriously ill than was previously considered. Caitlin Rivers of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security found that the “current best estimates for infection fatality risk are between 0.5% and 1%.” That is in stark contrast to death rates as high as 5% or more, but that calculation includes people who were only tested after they got sick enough to require tests to detect the virus. Even with a mortality rate of 1%, however, experts say COVID is still many times more deadly than seasonal influenza. Take this info with a grain of salt, given this week's reporting that antibody tests may be wrong almost half the time... 

The Latest in 2020

The Countdown:
158 Days to Election Day
236 Days to Inauguration Day

Black Activists Warn Biden Against Klobuchar as VP:  Over a dozen Black and Latino strategists and activists have warned in that
selecting Klobuchar would not help Biden excite Black voters and, in fact, might have the opposite effect. Aimee Allison, founder of She the People, which promotes women of color in politics, said that Klobuchar would “risk losing the very base the Democrats need to win.”  Klobuchar’s poor performance among nonwhite voters during the presidential primary, as well as her record as a prosecutor in Minnesota, give her problems with communities of colors that another top white contender, Elizabeth Warren, does not. Biden has confirmed that "multiple black women [are] being considered" for vice president, including: Sen. Kamala Harris, former Georgia gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams and Florida Rep. Val Demings.

Lead Democratic Pollster Tells Biden To Pick Warren: Stan Greenberg, one of the Democratic Party's longtime leading pollsters, briefed top Biden campaign officials earlier this month on two battleground surveys, addressing the question hanging over Biden and his inner circle: Which vice presidential candidate will help the most in November? His conclusion was blunt: “
Sen. Warren is the obvious solution.” Biden's biggest issue is that he hasn't unified the Democratic party -- Greenberg believes picking Warren is the clearest and easiest way to fix this. 

What Donald Trump Wants In a Convention, Regardless of COVID: 
There’s a fascinating story in this weekend’s Politico Magazine that explains why President Donald Trump is so intent on holding a 50,000 attendee Republican National Committee Convention in Charlotte later this summer in the midst of a pandemic. He loves the show and pageantry. This is one of the most obvious examples of where coronavirus and politics collide. It's a great read.

Races to Watch in the Senate:

...And in the House: 

Policy & Hill Happenings
House Republicans Sue to Block Proxy Voting: This week, Republicans filed a lawsuit to block the rule change allowing for proxy voting in the House. Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy believes any legislation passed under the proxy-voting rules would be unconstitutional. It would take years for the lawsuit to go through the courts, and it has little to no effect now. It is also unlikely that a judge would take up the case and if one would, the speech and debate clause would also likely prevent a court from forcing Congress to change the rule.

House Passes Legislation To Provide Small Businesses Flexibility on PPP Loans: In the latest effort by House Democrats to help mitigate the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic on struggling small businesses, the
House voted 417-1 to relax certain PPP loan terms in an effort to make it easier for businesses to have such loans forgiven. The bill would allow businesses to be able to spend less of the PPP funds they’ve received on payroll — 60% instead of 75% — while still qualifying for full loan forgiveness. It would also provide businesses with more time – up to 24 weeks – to use PPP loans rather than the current 8-week timeline for using these funds. Another House bill that would have required the Small Business Administration to submit a report documenting the recipients of all PPP loan assistance of more than $2 million was called up for a vote on Thursday but failed to secure passage of the full House in large part due to Republican opposition to the measure. 
Treasury Advances National Urban League Proposal To Set-Aside $10 Billion in PPP Funds For Lenders That Serve Communities of Color: The
announcement means that the SBA will allow Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) to process and facilitate $10 billion of Round 2 PPP funds. CDFIs work to expand economic opportunity in low-income communities by providing eligible small businesses with access to financial products and the technical assistance they need to serve their local residents. The National Urban League requested inclusion of this set-aside in the second round of PPP funding after small business owners of color were almost entirely excluded from the first round of PPP funding through no fault of their own. The exclusion of minority-owned small businesses from the first round happened because the CARES Act requires lenders to distribute and process PPP loans on a first-come first-serve basis, which inherently benefited better-resourced businesses with pre-existing commercial lending relationships. As such, these companies received expedited support and approval on their applications, in effect shutting out the many minority-owned small businesses that typically do not have these relationships and the same access to credit. 
Businesses of color represent 8.7 million U.S. jobs and have revenues of $1.3 trillion in each year. Data currently shows that our nation’s minority-owned small businesses, which have an annual payroll of $280 billion, are disproportionately located in areas that have been more affected by the COVID-19 virus. Many of these businesses have thin financial cushions and face difficulty accessing the credit they need to grow their business than their white counterparts. In 2019, 58% of black and Latino households in the United States 
lacked enough funds to cover three months of expenses without income compared with 29% of white households. Moreover, according to a recent Federal Reserve report, only 23% of black-owned businesses were able to line up a loan in 2019 compared with 46% of white-owned businesses. 
Fed COVID-19 Lending Update: The Federal Reserve
announced on Thursday that less than 4% of the $2.6 trillion in emergency lending it has made available for eligible businesses with over 500 employees has been tapped thus far.  The Fed also announced that the average loan for current recipients stands at $95 billion and that 5 of the 11 emergency lending facilities the agency has created during the COVID-19 pandemic are fully or partially available at the moment. 

Slow Start to Hunger Program Leaves Most Eligible Kids Without Food: Child hunger is soaring, but two months after Congress approved billions to replace school meals, only 15 percent of eligible children had received benefits. The program, Pandemic-EBT, aims to compensate for the declining reach of school meals by placing their value on electronic cards that families can use in grocery stores. But collecting lunch lists from thousands of school districts, transferring them to often-outdated state computers and issuing specialized cards has proved much harder than envisioned, leaving millions of needy families waiting to buy food. 

Democrats Introduce Child Care Bill: House Appropriations Labor-HHS-Education Subcommittee Chair Rosa DeLauro, House Education and Labor Chair Bobby Scott and Senate HELP ranking member Patty Murray on Wednesday introduced the Child Care is Essential Act, which would create a $50 billion Child Care Stabilization Fund within the existing Child Care and Development Block Grant program. The new fund would provide grant funding to child care providers to support their operating expenses. It would also provide tuition and co-payment relief for working families. The bill would prioritize providers that work with underserved populations and ensure that the grants are awarded equitably across child care settings.

Groups Ask Congress to Waive IDEA Provision Since Sec. DeVos Won’t: A coalition of organizations
 sent a letter to Congressional leaders asking them to waive the provision in federal law that requires districts to maintain funding levels from year to year. The “maintenance of effort” provision in IDEA has already presented issues for districts as budgets are already seeing cuts as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Sec. of Education Betsy DeVos had the opportunity to waive this requirement but said she saw “no reason” to. 

FCC Divided Over Trump's Executive Order Regarding Social Media Platforms: There’s a
growing divide at the Federal Communications Commission over Trump's executive order, which strips liability protection in certain cases for companies like Twitter, Google and Facebook for the content on their sites, meaning they could face legal jeopardy if they allowed false and defamatory posts. Without a liability shield, they presumably would have to be more aggressive about policing messages that press the boundaries — like the president’s. In statements made Thursday, Commissioners Jessica Rosenworcel and Brendan Carr took opposing sides over an executive order targeting Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Democrat Rosenworcel said that the order “is not the answer” while Republican Carr suggested that the proposal “makes sense.” If the current draft order is signed, the FCC would be at the helm of adjudicating complaints of social media bias online. On Wednesday, President Donald Trump announced an executive order targeting Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. The law exempts social media companies from most liability for speech on their platforms, provided they make a good faith effort to remove unlawful posts. The Trump administration’s draft order harkens back to a failed effort to empower the Federal Communications Commission with the ability to determine whether a company no longer qualifies for the “good faith” provision of the law based on complaints fielded from the public. National Urban League SVP Clint Odom took to Twitter to criticize the order after it was signed.

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). Although we have more time to fill out the census forms, these numbers do not look good

State and Local Spotlight
All 50 states are at least partially reopened, even though data this week shows at least 17 of them had recorded a clear upward trend of average new daily cases over the prior week. Check here to see the latest in every state.
Insider Interview with Senator Marco Rubio

We welcome Senator Marco Rubio, the senior U.S. Senator from Florida to speak with us today.

WBI: Senator, congratulations on your appointment to serve as the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, a committee known for the bipartisan and workman-like way it oversees the intelligence community and intelligence operations around the globe.  In 2018, the Intel Committee issued a report confirming that before, during and after the 2016 presidential election, Russia’s Internet Research Agency used social media to distract and divide American voters, demobilize the electorate and depress the vote. Russian propagandists specifically targeted African Americans through a wide-reaching influence campaign. Do you believe the Russians are still actively trying to interfere in the November elections? If so, are we better prepared in 2020 to beat back these efforts?

Sen. Rubio: There is no doubt that Russia, China, and other malign actors are looking to sow chaos among our citizens. That is pretty easy these days given how divided we are as a nation. In 2016, Russia exploited these cultural and racial tensions to turn us against one another and erode confidence in our political institutions. Our enemies realize this form of social media meddling and disinformation offer a relatively cheap way to conduct   cyberwarfare against the United States. 

Our government must stay vigilant going into November, and every public figure -- including those in the media -- must remain cautious about inadvertently spreading the type of misinformation that we saw in 2016. That said, I am more confident about our preparation, in part because we are all now well aware of the threat and the tactics.
WBI: In addition to serving as chairman of the Intel Committee, you serve as chairman of the Senate Small Business & Entrepreneurship Committee. Your committee oversees the distribution of nearly $700 billion in capital to help American small businesses remain afloat while the economy wakes up from a medically-induced coma. The first round of the Paycheck Protection Program struggled to get capital into the hands of “mom and pop” businesses. The second round seems to be doing better based on the average size of the loans and intentional efforts to put mission-based lenders like CDFIs and MDIs in the mix. What changes need to be made to PPP to make sure capital flows to the businesses that need it most, including businesses owned by minority and women entrepreneurs? Do you support efforts to provide more flexibility to small business borrowers to avoid the prospect PPP turning into loans?
Sen. Rubio: PPP was the first program in our nation’s history to provide robust payroll support for small businesses. New programs are usually years in the making, but we created and launched this one in a matter of weeks. It was an unprecedented effort that saved tens of millions of jobs.
It was created and launched in a matter of weeks during a time of immense uncertainty and fear, and despite some of the challenges, tens of millions of jobs were saved.

Of course, there were some challenges and we learned a lot of lessons for the future, be it in the middle of a global pandemic or just in terms of ordinary policy making. One is just how integral smaller, community banks have been. Nobody knows their towns and cities better than these institutions. They have a vested interest in their communities. You can see the impact in the data, but also anecdotally from people who have banking relationships with these institutions.

One of the other lessons is that not every small business or self-employed individual had strong banking relationships. We designed PPP to ensure the participation of CDFIs and MDIs, which played a critical role in making sure underserved communities -- oftentimes minority-owned businesses -- had access to PPP loans. Sometimes those loans were for as little as $10,000, but it was the difference between having a job and going bankrupt. The administration’s recent announcement of a $10 billion set aside for CDFIs is something I have called for because we have to ensure a diversity of options in lending institutions as we work to close the structural gap in underbanked communities.

As policymakers, we also have to understand how this public health and economic crisis is evolving. At some point soon, Congress will act in a bipartisan way to provide flexibility for PPP recipients. We want to ensure business owners can spend their PPP funds to aid in reopening while still receiving forgiveness.
WBI: You have been a long-time advocate for revival of the manufacturing sector in our country. The pandemic has revealed that a lack of domestic manufacturing capacity of critical goods like ventilators, personal protective equipment, and testing supplies, has created a national security vulnerability. What changes in our industrial policy should we pursue to reduce this vulnerability?
Sen. Rubio: We need to make national resilience a priority in our economic policymaking -- one that is balanced with efficiency, not at best an afterthought. As this pandemic has shown, it’s in the national interest to be able to make strategically critical goods like facemasks here. It’s also in the national interest to make sure Americans have access to dignified, stable work, which our manufacturing historically provided.
Earlier this week, I posted a Medium essay on “
Deindustrialization, racial discrimination, and the case for common good capitalism.” When we talk about the deindustrialization of America, the story is too often told solely in terms of its impact on the rural white voter; but the decline in our nation’s manufacturing base has been ruinous for American workers from all backgrounds. It has also specifically meant that our nation’s communities of color have faced yet another barrier to closing the wealth gap ripped open by other chapters in our history. This needs to be addressed. As I’ve said before, both the moral legitimacy of our economy, and the strength and resilience of our economy, depend on communities of color being able to thrive and succeed.
A robust industrial policy will help reverse some of those economic trends. It means, in part, identifying the industries critical to winning the future and helping the private sector thrive in them. More specifically, industrial policy would entail the creation of federal incentives for productive investment in American workers through tax policy and federal guarantees, while disincentivizing unproductive corporate behavior like stock buybacks. In sectors where foreign subsidies draw investment away from the United States, the government should help catalyze the creation of domestic supply chains via cooperatives.
Those policies will help make America’s economy more resilient, but they will also begin restoring dignified work in communities across the nation, rural and urban alike. That type of economic and community revival will be critical to our nation’s future.
WBI: We would be remiss if we didn’t take notice of the start of hurricane season on June 1st. For the sixth consecutive year, we have experienced a named storm before June 1st. How prepared are we as a nation to handle the twin natural disasters of a novel coronavirus epidemic and severe storms that could make social distancing, access to healthcare, testing, tracing, and isolation nearly impossible?
Sen. Rubio: The timing of hurricane season amidst this crisis is a major concern for our country, of course, and Florida in particular. In April, I wrote to the FEMA Administrator to request guidance and procedures for emergency management in light of current coronavirus-related protocols, such as social distancing. FEMA issued such guidance shortly thereafter. Given the unprecedented nature of the coronavirus pandemic, I am working to ensure that constituents of my state have access to all the information and resources needed in the event of a storm.
In the spirit of promoting the best information, I recently introduced the Built to Last Act with Senator Baldwin (D-WI), which would help ensure federal, state, local and private buildings, roads, and other infrastructure are more resilient to extreme weather events by equipping the standards-developing organizations that issue building codes and other standards with the best available information on weather-related risks, including floods, hurricanes and wildfires.
As chairman of the Small Business Committee, I have also worked particularly hard to make sure that the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Office of Disaster Assistance (ODA) is prepared for whatever unique challenges may arise as a result of the dual impact of storms and the coronavirus. I have written to the SBA to ensure that the ODA has the staffing needed to provide assistance and that we don't run into any funding issues because of both of these crises potentially impacting simultaneously. In addition, I am working in tandem with Governor DeSantis and Senator Scott to ensure that state authorities are fully equipped to handle whatever may come.

Mr. Chairman, thank you for your time and your tremendous leadership. Be safe. 


Action Alert!

Tell the DOJ: “We Will Not Rest with an Arrest…We Demand Justice for Ahmaud!” 
ENOUGH IS ENOUGH! The lethal use of force against African Americans on “suspicion” of any crime MUST END! Because the state of Georgia is one of four U.S. states without a hate crimes statute, we are calling on U.S. Attorney General William Barr and the career officials of the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice to move swiftly to investigate the unnecessary killing of Ahmaud Arbery as a hate crime under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.
#ArrestIsNotEnough! Contact the Department of Justice TODAY and demand #JusticeforAhmaud! When you are done, make sure your SHARE this campaign link with others in your community and social media networks! Campaign Link:

Get Families Connected:
Urge Congress to include the Emergency Educational Connections Act of 2020 [H.R. 6563] in the fourth COVID-19 Relief package is now LIVE!
Please take a moment TODAY to
send an email to your Senators and Representatives in the House. 


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

Facebook Will Allow Employees to Work From Home: Facebook will allow many employees to work from home permanently. This could lead to a geographical expansion of Facebook employees, but there’s a catch: They may not be able to keep their big Silicon Valley salaries in more affordable parts of the country. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, told workers during a staff meeting that was livestreamed on his Facebook page that within a decade as many as half of the company’s more than 48,000 employees would work from home. “It’s clear that Covid has changed a lot about our lives, and that certainly includes the way that most of us work,” Mr. Zuckerberg said. “Coming out of this period, I expect that remote work is going to be a growing trend as well.”

T-Mobile Recognized for COVID Response: Forbes Magazine, in a ranking out just Tuesday, named T-Mobile in the TOP TEN companies in the U.S., in terms of our COVID response. Among their notable actions, the wireless carrier shuttered about 80% of company-owned stores in mid-March. "It might have been because Seattle was the early epicenter here in the U.S...We jumped in right away," said Mike Sievert, chief executive of the Washington State-based company, at a virtual conference in May. "We immediately took actions to simultaneously keep our customers safe and our employees safe and keep our operations going."
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