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Federal Judge Temporarily Suspends Loan Forgiveness Program for Farmers of Color

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Milwaukee U.S. District Judge William Griesbach has paused the loan forgiveness program for people of color by temporarily suspending funding.

What We Know:

  • The loan forgiveness program is targeted at Black, American Indian, Hispanic, Asian American, and Pacific Islander farmers. The farmers can receive up to 120% of guaranteed or direct farm loan balances. This program was established by President Joe Biden’s administration as a part of his COVID-19 relief plan.
  • Griesbach’s reason for pausing the program is due to a lawsuit that is claiming the program is discriminating against white farmers since they are ineligible to apply for the loan. On April, 12 midwestern farmers from areas like Ohio, South Dakota, Minnesota, and Wisconsin sued the government to violate their constitutional rights. They are asking the U.S. Department of Agriculture to stop adding racial classifications when dictating who can receive the loan. The USDA is reviewing the Midwestern farmers’ claims.
  • Farmers of color have been overlooked for decades by being denied government assistance. Lack of government assistance has made it hard for farmers of color to own land, purchase necessary equipment, make investments, and support their loved ones. Black farmers sued the USDA in 1999 and 2010 for discrimination and the federal agency settled in both instances. Due to a history of discrimination and financial limitations, there has been a decrease in Black farmers in the U.S., from almost one million in 1920 to about 45,000 today.
  • Over 400 years ago, Black people in America did not have any rights, let alone ownership of property. They were stripped from their loved ones and sold to the highest bidder, forced to work for their new “masters.” This went on from the earlier 1600s to 1865, when the last group of slaves in Texas were freed after the Civil War. We now commemorate this day with the ceremonial holiday Juneteenth (June 19th).
  • Even after slavery ended, Black people still had to fight for their right to own their own land. Freed slaves were forced into sharecropping arrangements with white plantation owners to make a living. Because of these arrangements, there was a lack of government support for Black farmers, which has continued into the 20th century. Today’s farmers of color remain at the bottom of the list as a priority for government funding.
  • Last year, Former President Donald Trump’s administration gave close to $10 billion to farmers through the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program. White farmers were given almost $7 billion in payments, while Latino farmers were given $100 million, and Black farmers were only given $15 million. This distinct difference in payments has caused farmers of color to have doubts about the USDA going through with any future federal assistance programs.

Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA) stated, “these folks have been disappointed time and time again, that deep distrust was built over years. It didn’t happen overnight…It’s not going to be resolved overnight, but the best thing we can do right now is to deliver the [relief program].”

Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL) have asked the USDA to consider the race and gender of farmers receiving federal aid. Under their bill, the Farm Subsidy Transparency Act, farmers would have to inform them of their farm loans, crop insurance, farm subsidies, and any funding from the conservation and forestry and/or the Coronavirus Food Assistance program.

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Senate Prepares to Move Forward with Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill

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On Monday, the Senate pushed to pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill just hours after its legislative language was completed and unveiled. Senators who created the proposal expect it to clear the upper chamber in the following days.

What We Know:

  • Senate negotiators completed the 2,702-page bill on Sunday night. The bill, known as H.R. 3684, aims to provide $550 billion to fund the nation’s roads, bridges, railways, and public transit systems.
  • Since then, the Senate began taking up two amendments to the proposal. In addition, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer previewed three bipartisan amendments for consideration. Currently, it is uncertain how many amendments the Senate will consider. However, Schumer wants to vote on amendments quickly; he also noted that the first three “constitute only the first tranche of potential amendments.”
  • Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell commented that H.R. 3684’s text lays out “a good and important jumping point for what needs to be a robust and bipartisan process” on the Senate floor. McConnell added that an “artificial timetable” must not affect the Senate’s “full consideration” of the bill.
  • On July 28, the bipartisan group of Senators and the White House reached an agreement on H.R. 3684’s details. Officials also voted 66-28 on the deal, which opened the package to potential changes during the amendment process. After this, Senators worked throughout the weekend to hammer out the legislative language.
  • If the Senate passes H.R. 3684, it will be a significant victory for President Joe Biden. A key proposal in his economic agenda, Biden boasted on the impact H.R. 3684 will hold on the nation. On Sunday, he tweeted that the deal is the most important investment in America’s public transit history. He additionally stated the bill will impact the U.S. just as much as the invention of the Amtrak 50 years ago.

If Congress approves H.R. 3684, it will ensure that Democrats may begin work on a $3.5 trillion proposal that focuses on Biden’s plans for childcare, healthcare, education, the environment, and possibly immigration. Doing so will ensure another success on Pres. Biden’s behalf.

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Coronavirus

Florida Breaks Record for COVID-19 Hospitalizations

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Florida recently saw 10,207 hospitalizations caused by coronavirus cases, the highest number since July 23, 2020.

What We Know:

  • On July 23, 2020, Florida reached a high of 10,170 hospitalizations, just six months before the COVID-19 vaccine became available. The new record makes Florida the leader in per capita hospitalizations for the virus.
  • Most of the new cases come from the highly contagious Delta variant. On average, Florida sees 1,525 adult and 35 children hospitalizations daily. In addition, Saturday revealed a peak in positive numbers, as the stated reported  21,683 occurrences of COVID-19. The day prior, the Sunshine State saw 17,093 cases.
  • Many hospital employees believed the excess hospitalizations would end soon because of an increase in vaccinations. However, the Delta variant changed all this. The Associated Press wrote that several hospitals, including the Mayo Clinic Florida and the UF Health North emergency room, needed to operate overcapacity and put beds in hallways to treat patients; the Mayo Clinic will continue to do so until the current surge ends. In Tampa, some local ambulances already needed to divert ambulances to other locations because of capacity concerns.
  • The higher numbers also are a direct result of a loosening of restrictions and a governor’s stubbornness. Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis actively declares he will not enact any more mask mandates and vaccine requirements. Along with the state Legislature, this makes it difficult for local officials to impose restrictions that will ease the positive numbers.
  • Medical officials scorned DeSantis for his adamance on the issue. Dr. Bernard Ashby, a Miami-based vascular cardiologist and Florida State Lead for the Committee to Protect Health Care, commented that the state would not be in its position now if DeSantis focused more on lowering cases than proving Dr. Anthony Fauci wrong. Gainesville infectious disease expert Dr. Frederick Southwick agreed with Ashby’s statement, saying that DeSantis needed to stop acting like “Florida won the pandemic.”

DeSantis recently announced that Florida would resist any federal authorities’ campaigns to enforce mask mandates inside schools despite the criticism.

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NY Attorney General: Gov. Cuomo harassed women, tried to retaliate against accuser

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NEW YORK — Attorney General Letitia James on Tuesday announced the findings of her inquiry into accusations against Andrew Cuomo, concluding that the governor sexually harassed multiple women. James said victims included current and former employees, and that Cuomo tried to retaliate against at least one woman who came forward. Over 179 people were interviewed.

This is a breaking news story and will be updated.

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