Congress Moves to Expand the Racial Wealth Gap

At a time when wealth inequity is at extremes, it’s been incredibly disappointing to see Congress take several actions this past week that would expand the racial wealth gap in this country. Government should work to solve inequities and address injustices, not perpetuate them. But while it’s deeply troubling, we continue to push back and fight for programs and policies that our communities need.

Retirement Savings

Congressional Action: Last Wednesday, the Senate, after already passing in the House, voted to roll back a Department of Labor rule that supported the implementation of programs like the Illinois Secure Choice Savings Program.  By rolling back this rule, Congress and the Trump Administration (which is all but certain to sign the legislation into law) are making it harder for workers to access retirement savings opportunities. Workers that currently can’t save at their jobs are disproportionately workers of color and low-income workers.

Advancing Equity:  We have always maintained that Secure Choice would not be subject to ERISA laws – with or without the DOL rule. State Treasurer Frerichs released a statement assuring Illinoisans that implementation will continue and is scheduled to launch in 2018. Secure Choice will expand retirement savings opportunities for an estimated 1.2 million Illinois workers. Learn More.

Health Care

Congressional Action: Last Thursday, the House passed the American Health Care Act (AHCA). AHCA would dismantle many of the gains won with the Affordable Care Act, including killing Medicaid expansion as of 2020. In addition to stripping healthcare coverage from millions, the AHCA further expands the racial wealth gap by giving a tax break to the wealthy and the very wealthy instead of investing in healthcare. Rather than investing in healthcare for all, the bill would cut taxes by about $800 billion over the next decade. The top 20% of earners would receive 64% of that tax cut, with the top 1% of earners receiving 40% of the tax break.

Advancing Equity: While the AHCA passed the House, it still has to get through the Senate where it will face significant opposition. Heartland Alliance is a proud member of the Protect Our Care Illinois coalition, which has brought together people from around the state to fight for their health care and keep our elected officials accountable. Learn More.

Consumer Protections

Congressional Action: On Monday the Financial CHOICE Act passed out of the House Financial Service Committee. The legislation would eliminate regulations put in place under the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. Additionally it would strip the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) of its powers, including: strip away the agency’s authority to regulate large banks and payday lenders remove its power to prosecute companies that engage in unfair, deceptive or abusive acts or practices; eliminate independent funding from the Federal Reserve Bank and give Congress the power to set the CFPB’s budget; stop public access to the CFPB’s database of more than 1.1 million consumer complaints.

Advancing Equity: While this bill has a long way to go, it is one of multiple efforts to weaken the CFPB. Elimination of the CFPB would be devastating to racial equity efforts. The CFPB is essential in protecting communities of color from discriminatory financial practices that have led to the current racial wealth gap.  Advocates across the country are joining together to defend the CFPB. Join Us.


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