Members of the United Black Legislative Caucus (UBLC) held a press conference to announce their priorities for the 2021 legislative session. The priorities focus on two primary goals: reducing racial inequity and helping Black Minnesotans recover from COVID-19.
UBLC members stated that while racial inequities and structural racism have existed long before COVID-19, the pandemic has held greater consequences for Black Minnesotans, from higher rates of death, greater job loss, and ever widening opportunity gaps in education due to inequal access to technology that enables distance learning. Legislators argued that given the structural and policy roots of these inequities, structural and policy changes are necessary.
With those goals and challenges in mind, the UBLC priorities for the 2021 legislative session include:
- Housing assistance and eviction reform, including:
- A 60-day extension of the foreclosure and eviction moratoriums beyond the end of the peacetime emergence, and a permanent 14-day notice period before an eviction process can start.
- Automatic expungement of eviction records when an eviction is overturned by a judge.
- A $50 million investment in housing assistance and sustainable rental assistance ensuring Minnesotans do not pay greater than 30% of their income in rent.
- Worker centered economic growth, focused on those hit hardest by COVID-19:
- Regional transit investments
- Opportunities to upskill for future jobs
- Technical support and microfinancing for Black owned businesses
- Investments in education:
- Funding for expanded summer school.
- Increasing access to full-service community schools
- Increasing the number of teachers of color in classrooms through strengthened training and retention
During the press conference, members of the UBLC also spoke to the stark disparities in maternal and infant health. Black women are 3-4 times more likely than white women to die while pregnant or giving birth, and Black infants are twice as likely to die before their first birthday. Both mortality rates are reduced significantly when care is provided by a Black doctor.
The United Black Legislative Caucus was formed in 2019 to elevate and advocate for issues relating to Minnesota’s Black communities. There are currently 10 members of the UBLC- the highest number of Black legislators ever in the Minnesota Legislature. There is growing consensus around the need to address equity in a systemic fashion. In the 2020 second special legislative session, the Minnesota House adopted HR 1- a resolution declaring racism a public health crisis. The resolution received support from legislators of both parties. The Minnesota Senate did not take up a similar resolution. (HR 1)