Honoring a day of freedom

Honoring a day of freedom

Today is Juneteenth, the celebration of the day that Black Texans were finally told that they were free, more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation. Jamelle Bouie of The New York Times explains how we can use Juneteenth as a time to reflect on the contributions of Black Americans who fought for the freedom that we know today:

Juneteenth may mark just one moment in the struggle for emancipation, but the holiday gives us an occasion to reflect on the profound contributions of enslaved black Americans to the cause of human freedom. It gives us another way to recognize the central place of slavery and its demise in our national story. And it gives us an opportunity to remember that American democracy has more authors than the shrewd lawyers and erudite farmer-philosophers of the Revolution, that our experiment in liberty owes as much to the men and women who toiled in bondage as it does to anyone else in this nation’s history.

 

Relief for frontline workers
A bill that seeks to provide a one-time, $250 payment to front-line workers who make less than $50,000 a year has gained traction at the Legislature. House Bill 70 cleared the House unanimously on Thursday, and is the only worker-centered relief that has moved forward in this special session. Sam Karlin of the Advocate reports

Republicans have sought to ensure small businesses will get $300 million out of a $865 million pot of federal funding from a stimulus package passed by Congress. Local governments would get the other $565 million. [Rep.] Jenkins’ bill would take $50 million to fund. Originally, he drafted the bill to take the money from the small business portion of the funds. Republicans in committee changed it to take the money entirely from the portion earmarked for local governments. The deal struck Thursday takes $25 million from the portion dedicated to businesses and $25 million from the pot for local governments.

 

Millions at risk for missing stimulus
As many as 12 million low-income Americans are at risk of missing out on federal stimulus payments despite being eligible. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reports that this group consists of people who must file paperwork with the IRS by Oct. 15 to receive the $1,200 payments that millions of other, mostly wealthier Americans received automatically. The report’s authors estimate that 113,300 people in Louisiana are eligible for stimulus payments but didn’t receive them automatically—potentially leaving $94 million in federal aid to our state’s residents unclaimed.

Governors and other state officials can play a central role in reaching these 12 million individuals, up to 9 million of whom — roughly 3 in 4 — participate in SNAP (formerly food stamps) or Medicaid, which states and counties administer. This group of non-filers eligible for payments are disproportionately people of color because they are likelier to have lower incomes due to historical racism and ongoing bias and discrimination.

 

COVID-19’s impact on vulnerable college students
Many students from low-income households need housing, food and technical support to be successful in college. In March, as hundreds of universities began transitioning to online learning amidst the pandemic, many of these same students lost the support structures offered by their college campuses, the jobs that they worked both on and off-campus to support themselves while in school and access to SNAP, which requires most college students to work 20 hours a week to get and keep food assistance. The Hope Center at Temple University has released the results of a survey of over 38,000 college students to better assess the impact of COVID-19 on their lives and learning: 

With nearly three in five students experiencing basic needs insecurity during the pandemic, it is understandable that at least half of them also said they are having difficulty concentrating on schoolwork. Basic needs insecurity among college students was already widespread before the pandemic, and this report indicates that the rates are likely worse now. Moreover, there are stark racial/ethnic disparities that, if not remedied, will further drive inequities in college attainment.

 

Number of the Day
27,000 – The number of young undocumented immigrants who are part of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program who work in healthcare, many of whom are on the frontlines of fighting COVID-19. (Source: The New York Times)