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National Black Faith & Civil Rights Groups Send Letter to Congressional & Senate Leadership to Ensure that State & Local Governments Have the Resources Needed for COVID-19

May 08

Rev. Al Sharpton (NAN), Rev. Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson (CNBC), Sherrilyn Ifill (NAACP, LDF), Marc Morial (NUL), Derrick Johnson (NAACP), Melanie Campbell (BWR), Kristen Clarke (Lawyers Committee), Vanita Gupta (LCCHR) & Six Historically Black Religious Leaders Pen Letter to Federal Government Requesting Support Services in Communities of Color

(May 7, 2020) — A coalition of national Black faith and civil rights leaders along with the heads of the largest historically Black religious denominations, are calling on United States Congressional and Senate Leaders to ensure that state and local governments have the resources needed to support communities of color across the nation.

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We, the undersigned, call upon the U.S. Congress to ensure that state and local governments have the resources they need to help communities rise from the ashes of this terrible pandemic that has taken more than 65,000 American lives to date.

The Conference of National Black Churches (CNBC) and independent churches represented in this statement comprise a combined membership of more than 25 million people and more than 30,000 congregations.

The civil rights organizations represented are working tirelessly to empower and protect our communities – and to ensure that response to the coronavirus pandemic is consistent with the values of racial and economic justice.

As faith and civil rights leaders, we know that America cannot re-open without strong public services – everything from garbage collection to water treatment to road maintenance – that keep our communities running safely and smoothly.

We are troubled by the reluctance of some elected leaders in Washington to step up for America’s communities in the same way they have for big banks and corporations. During this unprecedented moment of challenge and crisis, Main Street clearly needs the same consideration as Wall Street. And we are appalled by the impact this callous disregard for public services will have on people of color.

The coronavirus has inflicted a brutal toll on the African-American community. According to the Centers for Disease Control, African-Americans constitute 20% of all U.S. coronavirus deaths, although we are only 12% of the U.S. population. The economic harm that communities of color will suffer, if the federal government fails to act, will also be devastating.

State and local governments were facing enormous pressures well before this public health and economic crisis began. During the Great Recession more than a decade ago, stern austerity measures stifled investment in our communities, imposing budget cuts from which states and localities never recovered.

And now, with the economy faltering and the tax base crumbling, state and local governments are in such fiscal distress that they are beginning to lay off and furlough public service workers, at exactly the moment when we need them most. A pink slip is no way to thank our everyday heroes – but that is exactly what will happen unless Congress moves quickly to invest enough aid to fix the problem.

We urge Congress to remember that, for decades, the public sector has been one of the nation’s most dependable employers of African-Americans, lifting generations of black families into the middle class.

Furthermore, support for public services should not be used as a bargaining chip to allow corporations to escape liability and accountability during this pandemic. When the Majority Leader of the United States Senate casually says we should let states go bankrupt or that he will not provide support for state and local governments without also providing a liability shield for corporations, that is a slap in the face to the hardworking public sector employees – from nurses to corrections officers to school custodians – who are putting their lives on the line to keep their neighbors safe. In the meantime, he always finds money to bail out the ultra-wealthy, never telling the CEOs to tighten their belts or do more with less. In fact, the coronavirus relief bill passed in late March contains what the New York Times calls “a small change to tax policy [that] could hand $170 billion in tax savings to real estate tycoons.”

If we have learned anything from the extraordinary hardship of the past three months, it is that protecting America’s communities requires a sturdy public service infrastructure and robust support for the men and women on the front lines of this pandemic. This is no time to abandon public service workers. This is a moment to fund the front lines.

Signatories

Reverend Al Sharpton, President of the National Action Network
Reverend W. Franklyn Richardson, Chairman of the Conference of National Black Churches (CNBC)
Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.
Derrick Johnson, President and CEO of the NAACP
Marc Morial, President & CEO of the National Urban League
Melanie Campbell, President and CEO of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation and convener of the Black Women’s Roundtable Public Policy Network
Kristen Clarke, President & Executive Director of the National Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (Lawyers’ Committee)
Vanita Gupta, President and CEO, Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
Senior Bishop Adam Jefferson Richardson, African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME)
Chairman Senior Bishop George E. Battle, Jr., African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church (AMEZ)
Senior Bishop Lawrence L. Reddick, III., Christian Methodist Episcopal Church (CME)
Dr. Samuel C. Tolbert, Jr., President, National Baptist Convention of America, International, Inc., (NBCA)
Dr. Jerry Young, President, National Baptist Convention, U.S.A. Inc. (NBC USA)
Dr. Timothy Stewart, President, Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc. (PNBC)
Presiding Bishop Charles E. Blake, Sr. Church of God In Christ (COG)