Former congressman Cedric Richmond was one of the prominent faces during President Joe Biden’s campaign, announcing last November that he would be joining the incoming administration in an advisory role. Richmond recently spoke with theGrio regarding the passage of the American Rescue Plan, in particular, its greater implications within the Black community.
The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 went into effect on March 11, after a tense period of haggling between the U.S. House and Senate over the finer points of the $1.9 trillion bill. Already, the law has provided relief to many Americans who have endured their share of financial burden and hardship in the past year since the coronavirus pandemic hit.
Richmond, who was in the rooms with President Biden giving his perspective and advice, says that the law will significantly address the concerns of Black Americans and the poor most of all.
“We’re doing some things that are changing the lives of regular people. I’ve been in politics a long time and I’ve never seen answers and solutions like the ones we’re witnessing now,” Richmond told theGrio.
Richmond’s satisfaction of the law notwithstanding, theGrio felt it proper to inquire about the American Rescue Plan and its connection to Black Americans, who make up just 13 percent of the population but have suffered most of the economic and public health maladies since the pandemic took hold nationwide.
“I was in those rooms early as President Biden’s senior advisor and he said point blank that we need a law that answers and addresses the concerns of Black Americans, and these issues that families are dealing with,” Richmond said.
“We’re dealing with two crises. A public health crisis and an economic crisis because of the pandemic and the president said that we need to find a way to wrap our arms around them, beat COVID-19, and help families that are struggling,” he added.
Richmond continued, “And I remember President Biden saying to us inside those rooms that we’re going to address these concerns through the lens of equity. We know that African Americans make up 13 percent of the population, but we’re also marked at 24 percent of the deaths related to COVID-19. African Americans are disproportionately represented in unemployment, and the president said that we’re going to tackle this head on and be unapologetic about it.”
The law, according to Richmond’s first-hand account in its early formation, was intentional in its goals to address not only the concerns of Black Americans, but all who have suffered loss and inequity over the past 12 months. Again, Richmond assuredly added that President Biden went into this new law with the hopes of he was transparent about its intent and unafraid to use terms like poverty and systemic racism, noting how the two often go hand in hand, especially when it comes to addressing the media and outside groups.
“It’s refreshing because I don’t have to worry about going too far in supporting some of the president’s ideas. I remember one of the first days in the office [of Public Engagement], I took a call and there were about 40 people in attendance. Not one was African American and there was only one woman,” Richmond explained.
“I felt empowered enough to start the conversation with ‘Hey, I just want you all to know, good thing the president isn’t on this call because he’d ask where is the diversity?,’ because President Biden is intentional about his actions and it in turns allows us inside the White House to be true to who we are and have challenging but necessary talks especially about the inadequacies that we see,” Richmond said.
Given the haggling that went on across partisan lines regarding the American Rescue Plan and earlier packages passed by the past administration, theGrio asked Richmond his opinion on why the pushback from Republican lawmakers was so strong in comparison to their Democratic counterparts.
“I think people believe that’s how it needs to be. I believe the Republicans felt like [they] had to be against it, even when 56 or 57% of Republican voters and almost 70% of independents supported the law, this bill was bipartisan everywhere else in the United States except the U.S. Capitol,” Richmond said of the GOP’s apparent opposition to the law.
“We were not going to let anything get in the way of delivering aid to the American people and President Biden said from the start that he wasn’t going to be a Democratic president but a president for all Americans, and it’s a shame we had so many Republicans in Congress fighting against it despite Republican governors and mayors all across the country standing in support,” Richmond continued.
Richmond concluded that President Biden and members of the administration won’t spend time lamenting what didn’t happen in times past and forge ahead by pushing the finer points of the law, which will cut child poverty in half, put $1,400 in the hands of millions, enhances the earned income tax credit, along with the child tax credit among other longstanding benefits.
To learn more about the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, click here.
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