By Jason Lewis
Americans around the nation have been paying very close attention to the federal government because of the controversies surrounding former President Donald Trump’s administration, and also because of the push to elect President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris. But for most communities, the decisions that local politicians make directly impact the lives of local residents.
Local politicians on the city, county, and state level rely on policies and resources from the federal government to serve the people in their districts, so having a federal administration that understands the needs of people in the greater Los Angeles area and in the state of California is of great importance.
Los Angeles City Councilmember Mark Ridley-Thomas, Los Angeles County Supervisor Holly Mitchell, and California Assemblymember Sydney Kamlager spoke about how a Biden and Harris administration will impact local communities, and specifically Black communities.
The major issue that is currently affecting all Americans is the COVID-19 pandemic, and Black Americans have been hit the hardest. Biden and Harris’ approach to the pandemic is dramatically different from Trump’s approach.
“With an administration in place at the federal level, who understand and doesn’t deny the needs of underrepresented communities; an administration who is not running from this public health and economic pandemic, but understands that in a time like this that government plays a foundational role in supporting economies, communities, and people, I’m looking forward to this new leadership,” Mitchell said.
“It’s really important that you have federal officials that want to work with you as a state to make things easier, not harder,” Kamlager said. “For example, Black communities have suffered disproportionately as a result of COVID. The federal government plays a large role in recovery dollars and vaccine distribution. The federal government’s policies determine how much of the PPP (Paycheck Protection Program) money to give out, and who would get it. The federal government determined how the vaccine distribution would look like for states. Those kind of decisions impact states and impact constituents in those states.”
“There is no greater threat to our future and overall health of our city than COVID-19,” Ridley-Thomas said. “We must continue the work of equity—health equity, social equity, racial equity—in our COVID response. The data has shown that communities of color are being disproportionately impacted by this pandemic. With the most recent surge, we see again how the Black and Brown members of the community, as well as those who are low-income and part of the hospitality and retail workforce are being hit the hardest by this pandemic. It is crucial that we continue to tailor our response to ensure that every member of our community has the best opportunities for health and recovery.
“The pandemic response is a top priority for the new administration. Recently, the Biden/Harris administration released a detailed pandemic plan and several polices they plan to implement including ramping up vaccine distribution sites; center equity in its COVID-19 response by providing PPE, tests, vaccines, therapeutics and other resources in a fair and transparent way.”
While the COVID-19 pandemic is generally viewed as a health issue, it has also shined the light on several other issues that have negatively impacted Black communities for decades.
“It’s resources,” Mitchell said. “All COVID did was pull off the blinders. These are the same communities who have suffered from underemployment, housing instabilities, food instabilities. All of the issues that we see now that are being magnified by COVID were impacting our communities all along. We now have a federal administration that are not deniers about that reality. When you think about the policies that the Trump administration put in place; when we look at education, Betsy DeVos (Secretary of Education during the Trump administration) was about the worst thing that could happen to Black children.”
Historically in the United States, Black communities have not received the same financial resources that White communities have received.
“The federal government is responsible for policies, but it is also responsible for budgets,” Kamlager said. “Those budgets go to states, and also to individual entities. Many of our community-based organizations such as the YWCA, the Urban League, and even the Metro often time apply for grants directly from the federal government. If you have somebody in office who doesn’t care about you, or your community, then chances are you won’t get those grants. We know here in Los Angeles, groups like the Urban League, the Brotherhood Crusade, the YWCA, are offering programs that are helping our Black people.”
“Communities of color have been some of the most financially impacted during these unprecedented times,” Ridley-Thomas said. “Small businesses in local economies are the fuel of our larger regional and national economy. I expect that federal aid for small businesses will still be made available, but better targeted to reach underrepresented communities. The Biden Administration has ordered his government to conduct equity assessments of its agencies and reallocate resources to ‘advance equity for all, including people of color and others who have been historically underserved, marginalized and adversely affected by persistent poverty and inequality.’”
Trump’s administration rolled back former President Barack Obama administration civil rights protections, and Trump downplayed several race issues.
“Putting in place department heads who aren’t running from issues around race, class, and gender is a significant step toward us being funded and supported by federal polices that will bring resources that will help our communities,” Mitchell said.
Having a vice president in office who has local ties can also benefit local Black communities.
“My hope is that now that we have a new president in office, and a vice president who comes from California, that we will see immediate changes to how California has been treated, and ultimately we feel and see changes with how the Black communities have been treated,” Kamlager said.
“We have the first Black female vice president, and she also hails from California,” Mitchell said. “Being in the room, she can certainly speak to the unique needs of California and the unique needs of Los Angeles County.”
Visit Kamlager’s website at https://a54.asmdc.org, Mitchell’s website at https://mitchell.lacounty.gov/, and Ridley Thomas’ website at https://markridley-thomas.lacity.org/, and follow them all on social media.