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Statement from Dream Corps CEO on the Passage of Emergency COVID-19 Relief Legislation

The Senate Passes a $2 Trillion Relief Package in Response to the Impact of COVID-19

WASHINGTON, D.C. [3/26/20]—“Disadvantaged people in the bases of both parties will be hit first and worst by COVID-19 and its economic impacts. There is some real help here — namely, funding for transit, rent and utility assistance, measures to help incarcerated individuals, and unemployment insurance — but not enough,” said CEO Nisha Anand.

“While we’re encouraged that many vulnerable people will receive some immediate relief, this bill is too close to the kind of business-as-usual bipartisanship that left us with mass incarceration and a climate crisis. What we need from future relief legislation is bottom-up bipartisanship that starts with the pain of people in low-income and communities of color who bear the brunt of this crisis. That type of bottom-up bipartisanship yielded historic criminal justice reform already, and it could help see us through this moment with greater dignity and freedom for every American,” continued Anand.

Before the first COVID-19 case in America, there were millions of people in low-income communities and communities of color locked out of the American Dream or locked up behind bars. This legislation delivers some meaningful measures, but is lacking in important ways:

Criminal Justice: 

  • The allocation of $100 million intended to help respond to the medical crisis within our federal Bureau of Prisons, as well as the $50 million for the Legal Services Corporation, are both encouraging.
  • The relief bill also includes key provisions that could expand video- and tele-conferencing, making it easier for incarcerated people in the Bureau of Prisons to communicate with the outside world. We urge the Attorney General to p this provision putinto effect immediately.
  • We need greater transparency and oversight of these funds, which might be spent in ways that do not improve either health or safety. 
  • We are also concerned by measures that appear over-reliant on the discretion of the Attorney General — for instance, much-needed allowances expanding home confinement — and by the lack of direct distribution of necessary medicine and hygiene products during this health crisis.

Jobs, Climate and Energy: 

  • The bailout package includes $25 billion for public transit, inclusive of maintenance & loss of revenue, as well as over one billion dollars in rental assistance and a significant downpayment on energy assistance for low-income households. 
  • The bill does nothing to prevent utility shut-offs, and makes trillions in loans to existing international corporations regardless of their environmental and public health impacts, rather than investing in a sustainable economy and good jobs of the future.

Communities of color and low-income communities: 

  • While large companies that invested in stock buybacks and shareholder dividends now have access to nearly limitless federal bailout funds, their workers will continue to struggle. 
  • Failing to include universal paid sick leave in the face of a public health crisis is a glaring absence. 
  • The structure of the bailout package’s loans, unemployment insurance, and direct payments all mean that millions of people, including recently returned formerly incarcerated persons, seniors and veterans receiving Social Security or Veterans’ benefits, very low-income households and people who are undocumented, will be left out of badly needed help. 
  • The amount allocated for elections is less than half of what was requested and needed, leaving the right to vote in jeopardy. 
  • Finally, while the bailout includes $13 billion for local schools, there is little oversight and the Senate failed to target these funds to the needs of low-income families and those with specific remote learning challenges.

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About Dream Corps:

Dream Corps closes prison doors and opens doors of opportunity. We bring people together across racial, social, and partisan lines to create a future with freedom and dignity for all. We are working to build a future where “we the people” means all of us.