Coronavirus

Pelosi Bill Aims to Fight Coronavirus With Hate Crime Reform and ‘Environmental Justice Grants’

The $3 trillion coronavirus relief package unveiled by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) and her Democratic colleagues on Tuesday contains only 20 mentions of "diversity."

That's a significant reduction compared with the 32 times the word "diversity" appeared in the relief package Pelosi introduced in March, which was several hundred pages shorter than the current version. But there's still plenty for progressives to be excited about. The word "economy," for example, appears just twice in the entire bill.

Like its previous iteration, the newly introduced Democratic legislation is stuffed with left-wing policies that have been slightly reframed to suggest a relevance to the coronavirus pandemic. For example, the bill would allocate $50 million for "environmental justice grants to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus."

The Environmental Protection Agency would use the funding to "investigate or address the disproportionate impacts of the COVID–19 pandemic in environmental justice communities," whatever that means.

The word "cannabis" appears 68 times in the text of the bill, occasionally in close proximity to "diversity." One provision of the bill, for example, would force federal banking regulators to issue an annual "diversity and inclusion report" to Congress on "minority-owned and women-owned cannabis-related legitimate businesses."

The Government Accountability Office would also be required to conduct a study to determine if such businesses are being unfairly discriminated against in terms of access to financial services. It's not immediately clear how these provisions are relevant to the coronavirus pandemic.

Other important pandemic-fighting reforms include a provision that would change the government's definition of "minority depository institutions"—minority-owned commercial banks or savings associations—to include women as a qualifying minority. The bill would establish special advisory committees to oversee these institutions and contains language designed to ensure that these committees are sufficiently diverse.

Additionally, the House Democratic plan to combat the coronavirus includes the establishment of new federal guidelines regarding hate crimes. It proposes providing federal grants to state and local law enforcement agencies to "train employees in identifying and classifying hate crimes."

The bill would also extend financial assistance to illegal immigrants by removing the requirement that recipients possess a Social Security number, a provision championed by celebrity freshman representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.) and other progressive members.

The House is expected to vote on the legislation on Friday. Unanimous Republican opposition is anticipated, but some liberal members are reportedly upset that the $3 trillion bill is not generous enough. Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D., Wash.), for example, had proposed a "paycheck guarantee" program that would cost $600 billion over the next six months. Senior Democrats rejected the proposal in favor of a tax credit that would cost a mere $200 billion.

Pelosi said the original version of the bill contained an additional $1 trillion worth of left-wing policy proposals. "Everything is big, and we can't do everything in this bill," Pelosi said during a conference call with Democratic lawmakers on Tuesday.

There's always next time.