Weekly Democratic Address
October 16, 2020
Hello, I’m Congresswoman Barbara Lee. I’m privileged to represent California’s thirteenth Congressional District, which includes Oakland and the East Bay area.
I serve on the Appropriations Committee in the House of Representatives, Co-Chair of the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee and I serve as the Chair of the Majority Leader’s Task Force on Poverty and Opportunity.
Today, I’d like to talk to you about what House Democrats are fighting for in order to crush the COVID pandemic and provide Americans with much-needed economic help.
Over 215,000 people have lost their lives to this pandemic, and unemployment rates are reaching record highs.
This pandemic isn’t impacting everyone equally. If you are poor, Black, Latinx, Asian American, Pacific Islander or Indigenous, you know you’re at much greater risk – both from the virus and from the disparate economic impact. Indeed, while the stock market continues to deliver value for wealthy Americans, many working families are struggling.
A recent study shows eight million more Americans – many of them Black and brown – have been forced into poverty since May, which can be directly linked to Republican inaction. And contrary to the talking points from across the aisle, the majority of working-age adults on SNAP have employment. This pandemic has made an even bigger impact on America’s working poor.
American families are in desperate need of leadership. The Trump Administration has utterly failed in its response to this crisis. The President and Mitch McConnell have stalled negotiations, played politics with people’s lives and refused to compromise.
House Democrats have risen to the occasion and passed two pieces of legislation to achieve two goals: save lives and assist working people and their families, especially for our vulnerable communities.
This pandemic has had a terrible impact on communities of color. Black people are dying at two and half times the rate of white people in the United States. Indigenous and Latinx people are both 50 percent more likely to die from COVID than white Americans. Mortality rates within the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities are also so high. Between January and July, the AAPI death rate rose 35 percent, compared to an increase of 9 percent for white Americans.
Alongside Members of the Congressional Black Caucus, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, our Native American Democratic Members, and my House Democratic Colleagues, I have worked diligently to ensure that this does not go overlooked.
We are fighting to ensure the COVID-19 testing and tracing efforts, which were included in the Heroes Act, are made specifically available for medically underserved communities and communities of color. It’s crucial that these communities receive support from organizations and non-profits that have experience and relationships with the people living in the communities that they serve – people that live in their neighborhood and speak their language.
But we know that this is an economic crisis just as much as a public health crisis. Families need direct payments, Unemployment Insurance, small business loans and much more to weather this catastrophe. As more time passes, the relief millions and millions of Americans have relied on to keep them afloat has dried up, and the White House and Senate Republicans have looked the other way.
One way to reduce poverty is to expand the Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit, which provides critical support for working families. However, Republicans and the Trump Administration would rather continue providing tax benefits for some of the wealthiest in America than give relief to those most in need.
The latest White House coronavirus relief proposal takes one step forward but two steps back – it is not only insufficient; in many cases, it would make matters worse.
We urge Republicans to get serious about the health and economic crisis devastating millions, and join us to save lives, livelihoods and the life of our American Democracy.
Thank you for listening, and please continue letting your representatives know how you feel. We are in this together.