August 05, 2020

Harris, Van Hollen, Menendez, Booker Introduce Legislation to Increase Diversity on CARES Oversight Commission

Bill Would Ensure Board Represents Communities Hardest Hit by COVID-19 Pandemic 

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Kamala D. Harris (D-CA) on Wednesday joined Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) to introduce the CARES Congressional Oversight Commission Diversity Act, legislation to ensure that the communities who have been hit hardest by the coronavirus pandemic are represented on the Congressional Oversight Commission. The Coronavirus crisis has disproportionally impacted Black, Latinx, Pacific Islander, and Native American individuals; however, the current makeup of the CARES Congressional Oversight Commission does not include representation of these communities. The Senators’ bill would amend the CARES Act to modify the membership requirements of the Congressional Oversight Commission to ensure that groups disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 and the resulting economic recession are represented on the Commission.

“People of color are being infected and dying from coronavirus at astounding and disproportionate rates. As our country responds to this public health crisis, Congress must be proactive in ensuring that the leadership on the CARES Congressional Oversight Commission reflects the people it serves. This legislation is a necessary step to make sure perspectives from the hardest hit communities are at the decision making table and resources are allocated for their unique needs,” said Senator Harris.

“We know Black, Latinx, Pacific Islander, and Native American communities have been hit hardest by both the health and financial impacts of the coronavirus, and it is essential that these communities have a seat at the table in guiding and overseeing the federal response to the pandemic. This legislation will ensure that these communities are better represented on the Congressional Oversight Commission so they can play a key role in the process. We’ll be pushing Senate leadership to include this crucial provision in the next relief package,” said Senator Van Hollen.

“Communities of color that have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic deserve a seat on the CARES Congressional Oversight Commission,” said Senator Menendez. “Only with their input can we fully understand how the relief provided by Congress is or is not reaching those who need it most. I fully support Sen. Van Hollen’s legislation to add four members to the commission who represent these affected communities. I call on my colleagues to support this bill. Diversity is not an aspirational goal but an action item that constantly requires our attention.”

“From healthcare access and outcomes to economic security and opportunity, the COVID-19 crisis has exposed and deepened the deep-seated structural racial injustices in this country,” said Senator Booker.“As we continue to respond to this pandemic we cannot leave anyone behind, which is why our bill will make important changes to ensure that the communities most impacted by this crisis are the ones involved and included in directing our response to it.”

The individuals appointed to the CARES Act Congressional Oversight Commission are all committed, well-qualified public servants. However, none of them are from the Black, Latinx, Pacific Islander or Native American communities, all of which have been disproportionately hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. The CARES Congressional Oversight Commission Diversity Act would double the number of non-Chair commission members – adding four new members – and require half of the total members to be from groups disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 and the resulting economic recession.

Text of the legislation can be found here.

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