Schumer unveils $350B Economic Justice Act to fight 'systemic racism'

Senate Democrats want money invested in minority and underserved communities hardest hit by COVID-19 crisis

Senate Democrats on Thursday released a $350 billion plan to tackle "systemic racism" and "historic underinvestment" in communities of color that have been hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic and economic downturn.

The Economic Justice Act calls for 10 major investments over the next five years to help communities of color with child care, health care, jobs programs, infrastructure improvements and housing assistance.

Senate Democrats framed their proposal as a down payment on calls to address systemic racism and economic disparities that have been spotlighted in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and the death of George Floyd. There's a growing movement underway for Congress to tackle the disparities through slavery reparations to African Americans.

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"Long before the pandemic, long before this recession, long before this year’s protests, structural inequalities have persisted in health care and housing, the economy and education," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.,  said in a statement. "COVID-19 has only magnified these injustices and we must confront them with lasting, meaningful solutions that tear down economic and social barriers, and reinvest in historically underserved communities. The Economic Justice Act is a needed step in a long journey to address systematic racism and historic underinvestment in communities of color."

The Economic Justice Act would be partially funded through reprogramming $200 billion in unspent funds from the CARES Act coronavirus response legislation signed into law in March.

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In the short term, the proposal calls for $50 billion in child care programs, $40 billion for community health care efforts, $25 billion for job training and at-risk youth initiatives, $20 billion for capital and support for small businesses.

The longer-term investment would mean $115 billion in infrastructure such as schools, housing and broadband access; $40 billion in new homeowner down payment assistance; $30 billion in assistance for renters and low-income housing tax credits, $15 billion to encourage non-expansion states to expand Medicaid coverage and $15 billion for Medicaid to help pregnant moms through one year postpartum.

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With Republicans in charge of the Senate and mounting concerns over exploding federal deficits, passage of this legislation is an uphill climb. Democrats are still pushing for another aid package for coronavirus relief that has languished for months in Washington since House Democrats passed a massive $3 trillion HEROES Act in May to extend economic and health relief to Americans devastated by the pandemic.

But the White House has signaled support for a new relief package of some kind.