Mikulski and Cummings Introduce The REBUILD Act to Address Systemic Poverty in Urban Areas
July 30, 2015
Washington, D.C. (July 30, 2015)—Today, Senator Barbara Mikulski, Vice-Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, announced the introduction of landmark legislation to appropriate more than $1.2 billion in emergency funding to address critical challenges facing our nation’s inner-city neighborhoods.
The Rebuilding Urban Inner Cities is Long Overdue Act of 2015 (REBUILD Act) will provide funding to help rebuild neighborhoods decimated by decades of discriminatory policies, to support economic revitalization, and to combat drug and gang violence.
“The people who live in our most distressed neighborhoods deserve a government on their side – one that works as hard for them as they work for their own families and communities,” Senator Mikulski said. “This bill is about rehabilitating neighborhoods, making them healthier and safer, and creating jobs today and jobs tomorrow for communities that need it most. By supporting small businesses, rebuilding infrastructure, expanding opportunity for our young people and tackling crime, we will lay the foundation for a brighter future.”
“Deep, systemic, and pervasive economic challenges unnecessarily limit the lives of too many inner-city residents in this nation,” said Cummings. “The REBUILD Act will help address the most urgent consequences of our lack of investment in urban areas and the disproportionate impact the Great Recession has had on inner-cities. It will also help ensure that the futures of these communities are priorities to our nation.”
The bill includes emergency funding for several critical programs, including:
• $500 million for the Community Development Block Grant program, which is essential to revitalizing urban neighborhoods and has been slashed by repeated funding cuts;
• $265 million for workforce training programs;
• $170 million for the Choice Neighborhoods program;
• $30 million to help eliminate lead paint commonly found in older inner-city homes;
• additional funding to expand drug courts and combat the methamphetamine and heroin epidemics affecting inner-cities; and
• extensions of Moving-to-Work agreements implemented by the Department of Housing and Urban Development through fiscal year 2028.
More than 50 years ago, President Lyndon Johnson established the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, known as the Kerner Commission, to conduct an exhaustive examination of the conditions in which inner-city, predominantly minority residents were living.
The Commission famously concluded: “Our Nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white—separate and unequal.”
The Commission urged the nation to turn to its “unfinished business” by ensuring “the realization of common opportunities for all within a single society.”
According to the Commission:
• between 16% and 20% of all African Americans living in “central cities” lived in “squalor and deprivation”;
• the incomes of nearly 41% of “nonwhites” were below the poverty line; and
• the unemployment rate for African Americans was more than double the unemployment rate for whites.
Yet today, a half century later:
• the number of high-poverty (poverty rates of 40% or more) census tracts in metropolitan areas grew by more than 48% between 2000 and 2011, according to a report issued by the Century Foundation and Rutgers Center for Urban Research and Education;
• African Americans comprised 37% of the population in high-poverty neighborhoods from 2007 to 2011, and Hispanic Americans comprised approximately 30% of populations in those neighborhoods, according to the Century Foundation and Rutgers Center for Urban Research and Education report;
• the median wealth of African American households was 20 times less than that of white households, according to a report issued in 2011 by the Pew Research Center; and
• the unemployment rate among African Americans in June 2015 was 9.5% while the overall unemployment rate was 5.3%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and in many urban areas, this disparity is significantly greater.
The noble goals of the Kerner Commission have not been met. Just last month, House Republicans passed legislation that would cut funding for the Public Housing Capital Fund, the Choice Neighborhoods program, and a federal program to reduce exposure to lead paint.
The Mikulski-Cummings bill aims to begin reversing the pattern of disinvestment in inner-city communities that has had devastating consequences for local residents over the last 50 years.
A one-page summary of the bill can be found here.