It's a Racist Plan, Not a Rescue Plan
Polls show most Americans support the COVID-19 relief bill. But this bill comes with a slap in the face for people who believe in racial equality and want everyone to benefit.
Section 1005 of the bill offers women and minority farm owners a total debt forgiveness of up to hundreds of thousands of dollars per farmer. No strings or other requirements. An amazing offer -- but white men need not apply.
Newly elected Georgia Senator Raphael Warnock, who proposed it, says it's intended to make up for years of discrimination. Sorry, Senator, but this is discrimination.
There's more discrimination in the bill's aid to restaurants, Section 6003. It grants restaurant owners up to $5 million per facility to offset losses during the pandemic. That's a lifeline for restaurants hanging on week by week, trying to make one more mortgage or rent payment and keep from going out of business.
Here's the hitch: Only women, minorities and veterans can apply during the program's first three weeks. Most white men have to go to the back of the line, even if their losses are larger or their need more pressing.
Treating white male farmers and restaurant owners like second-class citizens violates a fundamental principle that we're equal under the law -- a principle guaranteed by the 14th Amendment.
The pandemic is hurting everyone.
Many of New York's upstate dairy farmers are facing bankruptcy because restaurants accounted for half the demand for their products. Yet, the farm aid in the COVID-19 relief bill is not about helping them get through the pandemic. Most of them won't be eligible because they're white men.
The bill looks more like reparations than COVID-19 relief. It says farm aid is being provided "for the purposes of addressing the longstanding and widespread discrimination against socially disadvantaged farmers."
The truth is that farmers have been struggling for a decade, and more than half lose money year after year. Minority-owned farms are generally less in debt than farms owned by whites, though diminished access to credit may be part of the reason. Debt relief is urgently needed by white and minority farmers alike.