Unlearning Racism Newsletter Week 7 UPDATE! Gov’t rolled back ICE restrictions so we are now urging our senators to pass the HEROES Act

Hi everyone!

Summary of email for the skimmers of the group: The government agreed to rescind its harmful policy that would have barred international students from staying in the US! Because this was our suggested non-financial action of the week, we are imploring our readers to instead take two minutes to call your senators and encourage them to pass the HEROES Act! 

We know we just emailed you 24 hours ago BUT we have exciting news about the ICE policy regarding international students and online-only courses this fall (the one we mentioned in the ONE WAY TO TAKE NON-FINANCIAL ACTION section this week). The government has agreed to drop the restrictions imposed by the SVEP and ICE policies that would have barred international students from staying in the United States this fall if they attended universities enrolled in online-only coursework, following a hearing this afternoon in Harvard and MIT lawsuit against the agencies!

This goes to show the power of protest, social media advocacy, calling our representatives, and making our voices heard. We’re letting this be a moment of “wow, when we organize, we really can move the needle!” 

This is a big win and we are so thankful for this good news in what can sometimes feel like a constant stream of bad. That being said,you’re not off the hook for this week’s non-financial action. Especially because we are not convening for dialogue until next Sunday (July 26th), we wanted to send along another opportunity to take ten minutes of your week to actionably commit to anti-racism work, particularly related to COVID-19.  

(ANOTHER) WAY TO TAKE NON-FINANCIAL ACTION: The HEROES Act (H.R. 6800)

The Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act is the second potential stimulus bill that seeks to infuse $3 trillion of federal funds into communities whose needs have been exacerbated by the novel coronavirus. The bill aims to reduce the catastrophic consequences for 37 million people who have lost their jobs, including essential workers who are particularly vulnerable to contracting and to suffering economic loss as a result of COVID-19, — and to protect and strengthen the public services that are so integral to our society,  particularly public schools and universities

The HEROES Act was passed by the House of Representatives on May 15th but still awaits a vote in the Senate. We’re not saying it’s a perfect piece of legislation (frankly, Emily thinks it’s not enough), but it is absolutely better than nothing. 

The HEROES Act would do the following:

  • Provide another round of stimulus checks (also called economic impact payments) of up to $6,000 per household. Their structure is similar to the CARES ACT: Individuals earning up to $75,000 would get a one-time $1,200 check, and couples earning up to $150,000 would be eligible for $2,400. AND this time, up to three dependents, including adult dependents who were excluded in the CARES Act package, would be eligible for up to $1200. → You can even calculate your own potential stimulus through this Omni Calculator
  • Extend the measures from the CARES Act (that first stimulus package), including extending the extra $600 weekly federal unemployment benefit through January 2021.
  • Extend the CARES Act’s student loan forgiveness program (slated to end September 2020) through September 2021, and expand it to all federal student loans, including Federal Perkins Loans and some FFEL Program and HEAL loans not owned by the Department of Education.
  • Provide nearly $100 billion for rental assistance to be distributed through an already existing nationwide grant rental assistance program that would verify a tenant’s inability to pay rent and present vouchers to cover the cost of rent and utilities. 
  • Extend the ban on evictions for nonpayment for a year following its enactment date.
  • Provide $75 billion for a homeowner assistance fund meant to prevent mortgage defaults and property foreclosure.
  • Establish a $200 billion “Heroes’ Fund” to provide hazard pay to some essential workers. This would come in the form of a $13 per hour pay premium on top of their regular pay for “all hours worked in essential industries through the end of 2020,” up to $25,000 for essential workers earning less than $200,000 per year and up to $5,000 for workers earning more than $200,000 per year.
  • Provide $4 billion to establish a new Emergency Broadband Connectivity Fund, administered by the FCC and would reimburse Internet service providers (ISPs) for a monthly discount of up to $50 on certain households’ monthly Internet bill. It would also allocate $1.5 billion for connectivity and devices for students, schools, and libraries as schools tackle distance learning this fall. It would also authorize $2 billion in subsidies to rural health care providers to increase connectivity through the duration of the pandemic. 
  • Provide $75 billion for the bipartisan CONTACT Initiative, a nationwide evidence-based system for testing, contact tracing, surveillance, containment and mitigation of COVID-19, guidance on isolation of infected individuals and public reporting on testing, tracing and quarantine of positive COVID-19 cases, per the advice of Johns Hopkins’ National Plan to Enable Comprehensive COVID-19 Case Finding and Contact Tracing in the US. 
  • Increase the federal matching rate for Medicaid by 14%, providing a much-needed boost to state budgets after increased Medicaid enrollment this spring and summer due to the spike in unemployment.

…And so much more.This could be life-saving money for millions of Americans this fall, particularly our most vulnerable. And, as we already talked about this week, providing relief to the effects of COVID-19 in whatever ways we can is anti-racist work. Housing assistance, Medicaid expansion, contact tracing, increasing internet access, hazard pay for essential workers, forgiving student loans: all anti-racist work. 

So here’s your task:CALL! YOUR! SENATOR! (And be nice about it – it’s likely an intern who will hear your call). If you don’t know what to say, feel free to personalize this 2-minute script and use it to make your own:

“Hi my name is [your name] and I live in [city], [state]. I am calling to urge [Senator’s name] to support the HR 6800, HEROES Act, to protect our state and its people. I know that many of my neighbors have been laid off of work because of COVID and are at risk of eviction, increased student loan debt, or simply not having the money to put food on their table without further unemployment or stimulus money. Because of this increased economic pressure, I know that many of my neighbors may be at risk of eviction. I know that small businesses in my community rely on their consumer base being able to afford their products, and that both stimulus checks and extensions of federal unemployment money would help keep these businesses afloat and prevent further unemployment. I know that many schools will inevitably be distance learning this fall and I believe it is important that all students have access to the technology they need in order to learn this year. I know many essential workers are risking their lives to provide services that our community needs to function and, for that risk, it is imperative that they receive hazard pay. And I know that millions of people across the country have and will contract COVID-19, so it is important to me that our state has the funds to implement widespread testing and contact tracing. If the HEROES Act is passed, it would address all of these concerns and more. I very much urge [insert senator’s name here] to do everything in [insert senator’s pronouns here] power to support and pass the HEROES Act.”

Use the govtrack.us portal to find your U.S. Senators and their contact info. There are two of them for each state. Give them a holler or shoot them an email (though remember, our friend/local politics intern expert Rachel says calls are even more effective).  It’s okay if it’s awkward! Feeling awkward for 2-4 minutes is worth a family not losing their home this fall! Feeling awkward is an uncomfortable but productive side effect of anti-racist work!

Okay, that’s all we’ve got for ya this week! Let us know how calling your senator goes. We are cheering for you! We’ll see you in your inboxes next Monday and via Zoom in 11 short days!

In solidarity,

Ellie and Emily

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