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From Barbershops To Bodegas, Pressley Wants Relief For 'Underrepresented' Businesses

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Democratic lawmakers are readying a massive new coronavirus relief package — despite Republican calls for a “pause” on pandemic aid legislation.

Meanwhile, the nation’s top court gave a lesson on the importance of hitting the mute button on important conference calls.

CHC Joins Call For Independent Probe Of Bristol County Jail Clash

Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, including caucus chair Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), have joined the full Massachusetts congressional delegation in demanding an independent federal probe into last week’s violent incident at the Bristol County House of Correction, which sent three immigration detainees to the hospital.

In a letter to the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General and Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, the lawmakers noted "conflicting accounts about what occurred” and that “both parties have leveled serious accusations of assault."

The lawmakers called on both agencies to investigate the incident, including its cause, as well as whether the Bristol County sheriff's office was in compliance with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention standards, and if detainees at the jail were denied access to their attorneys.

Several detainees who’ve since been released from Bristol County as a result of a class action suit claim they were placed in isolation leading up to the altercation — a means of retaliation for complaining about overcrowding and inhumane conditions amidst the coronavirus pandemic. One detainee still in custody alleges the sheriff physically assaulted him. Officials with the sheriff's office say the detainees refused to be moved to a unit designated for COVID testing, despite showing symptoms of the virus.

Rep. Joe Kennedy, whose district includes the jail, led the call for an independent investigation last week. State officials have already launched their own investigation.

Pressley, Harris Push For Direct ‘Microbusiness’ Grants After PPP Problems

In this image from video, Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., speaks on the floor of the House of Representatives at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Thursday, April 23, 2020. (House Television via AP)
In this image from video, Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., speaks on the floor of the House of Representatives at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Thursday, April 23, 2020. (House Television via AP)

Rep. Ayanna Pressley and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), are pressing for a new, $124.5 billion fund to provide direct grants of up to $250,000 each for small, local businesses, like bodegas and barber shops.

The lawmakers say the proposed fund is necessary because the federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which has been beset with problems since its rollout last month, has shut out many neighborhood businesses.

This lack of funding has hit minority-owned businesses particularly hard, Pressley said.

“Without deliberate action, this will widen the racial and gender wealth gap,” Pressley said in a statement. “As we work to mitigate the hurt caused by COVID-19, we must be intentional in directing aid to these small businesses that employ our neighbors, provide critical goods and services, and generate trillions of dollars in economic activity annually.”

The bill, introduced yesterday by Pressley and Harris, would set aside 75% of the proposed new funding for historically underrepresented businesses, including minority- owned and veteran-owned businesses. Funding would also be targeted for businesses with fewer than 10 employees, and businesses of up to 20 employees that employ workers from within the low-income communities they serve. The bill also requires data reporting on the ethnicity, race, industry, geographical demographics, and sex of grant applicants.

According to a Morning Consult poll, a plurality of voters believe the PPP funds have been doled out unfairly.

Clark Calls For $100 Billion Child-Care Sector Bailout

In this image from video, Rep. Katherine Clark, D-Mass., speaks on the floor of the House of Representatives at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Thursday, April 23, 2020. (House Television via AP)
In this image from video, Rep. Katherine Clark, D-Mass., speaks on the floor of the House of Representatives at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Thursday, April 23, 2020. (House Television via AP)

Rep. Katherine Clark is calling for $100 billion in aid for the child care sector in the next relief package and beyond.

In a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy yesterday, Clark, along with 87 House Democrats, called for the next coronavirus relief package to include $50 billion for a short-term stabilization fund to boost child care providers during the pandemic. The lawmakers also pressed for an additional $50 billion in long-term recovery funding.

“For a robust economic recovery, we cannot just maintain the status quo, where providers operate on the thinnest of margins and families struggle to find and afford quality care,” Clarke said. “We must begin to make a comprehensive investment in our early education and care system to ensure the economic and educational future of our country, and the moment to act is now.”

At 4 p.m. today, Clark will outline the need for the relief in a Facebook Live roundtable with child care experts and advocates.

3 More Things

Lynch presses for transparency in PPE Air Bridge deliveries: Rep. Stephen Lynch is calling for changes to FEMA’s Air Bridge program, which was set up to expedite delivery of personal protective equipment and other supplies from overseas to local communities. His call comes after the agency diverted as much as half of those shipments away from state and local officials without advance notice. “While there is a clear need to get the necessary supplies to locations that have been severely impacted, it leaves state officials, local mayors, first responders and COVID-19 patients at the mercy of FEMA for life-saving equipment,” Lynch said in a letter to FEMA administrator Peter T. Gaynor, asking for more transparency for local officials.

Lawmakers cheer pandemic relief for Atlantic seafood industry: Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey, and Reps. Seth Moulton and Bill Keating say the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s inclusion of East Coast seafood in the $9.5 billion in emergency food purchases under the CARES Act will give the Atlantic fishing industry a $20 million boost. The lawmakers had pushed for the purchases to include New England haddock, pollock and redfish. “These purchases will not only help to support our fishing industry during these trying times, but will also provide highly nutritious, sustainable food for families in need across the nation,” Keating said.

Warren urges Mnuchin not to ‘bail out’ oil industry: Warren urged Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin not to give coronavirus-related funding and loans to the oil and gas industries. "The fossil fuel industry already receives billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies annually," Warren wrote in a letter to Mnuchin. "These companies do not deserve special access to taxpayer-financed bailout funds at a time when millions of Americans are struggling to make ends meet."


WHAT I'M READING

  • Is It Fair To Compare Joe Biden To Brett Kavanaugh? (The Atlantic)
  • Three Potential Futures For Covid-19: Recurring Small Outbreaks, A Monster Wave, Or A Persistent Crisis. (Stat)

NUMBER OF THE WEEK

71%
That’s the percentage of Democratic voters who believe presumptive Democratic presidential nominee and former Vice President Joe Biden’s list of running mates should include Elizabeth Warren — making her the top veep choice, according to a CBS news poll.

Asked who is their first choice, Warren came out ahead again with 36%, over Sen. Kamala Harris with 19%, former Georgia Rep. Stacey Abrams with 14% and Sen. Amy Klobuchar with 13%.


PARTING NOTE

Even though we cannot gather in person this year for the annual WBUR Gala, we will still come together virtually. I am excited to be part of A Night In Together: The 2020 WBUR Gathering on Monday, where I’ll lead a conversation with Michael Barbaro and Lisa Tobin, host and executive producer of the popular New York Times podcast "The Daily.”

NPR Weekend Edition host Scott Simon will talk with Conan O’Brien, host of Conan on TBS and the "Conan O’Brien Needs A Friend" podcast. Read more.

Kimberly Atkins Twitter Senior News Correspondent
Kimberly Atkins is a senior news correspondent for WBUR, covering national political news from Washington, D.C., with a New England focus.

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