2020 was an up and down year.
The year started off with Black Americans seeing unprecedented levels of economic success with record low unemployment rates, more jobs and higher incomes. But because of a pandemic COVID-19, things slowed down and came to almost a stop. Now at the end of the year we hear about the largest cyber breach in our nation's history.
We still have a lot to be thankful for as we look at some of the accomplishments of Sen. Tim Scott this year.
He led a letter that helped to secure more than $1 billion set aside exclusively for HBCUs and other minority-serving institutions (MSIs), along with administrative flexibilities for these institutions, as part of the CARES Act.
In June, he and his colleagues introduced the FLIGHT Act. This legislation establishes two pilot programs in coordination with HBCUs to lower the barriers to ROTC participation for students at HBCUs and cover flight-training costs for ROTC members enrolled at HBCUs. The goal of this bill is to increase diversity among U.S. military leadership by eliminating outdated requirements and barriers to completion.
He introduced the Promoting Robust Opportunities for Minority Institutions and Strengthening Entrepreneurship (PROMISE) Act. This legislation would require the Small Business Administration to produce an annual public report detailing its relationship with HBCUs strengthening the relationship between the two organizations. Additionally, the legislation would require the SBA to coordinate with HBCUs on internship opportunities and job openings.
Opportunity Zones: Minorities comprise the majority of residents in the 8,700 Opportunity Zones across the nation (56% non-white), translating to 1.4 million minority households who will see their personal lives, financial security and standard of living improve as a result of the local investments.
He was an original cosponsor of the First Step Act, the first federal criminal justice reform package in decades. The bill will cut recidivism, encourage job training, education and mental health and substance abuse treatments for incarcerated individuals and make our criminal justice system smarter while helping to ensure the scales of justice are weighted equally for all Americans.
He introduced, with Sen. Cardin, the bipartisan REACH Act. This bill aims to reduce racial and ethnic health disparities through comprehensive community engagement and culturally tailored strategies by codifying the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health (REACH) program, which has partnered with diverse populations to improve health outcomes for more than 20 years.
When Walter Scott was murdered by a police officer in his hometown of North Charleston in 2015, he immediately stepped forward to begin offering solutions. He introduced the Walter Scott Act to require police departments report every time an officer's weapon was discharged. He also authored bipartisan body camera legislation to ensure widespread use of body cameras by jurisdictions across the country. Following the murder of George Floyd in May 2020, he led the charge to build a comprehensive package (the JUSTICE Act) that focused on police reform, transparency and accountability.
He introduced, along with Cory Booker and Kamala Harris, the Justice for Victims of Lynching Act, legislation that would criminalize lynching for the first time in American history. The United States Senate unanimously passed this bill.
He included language in the last Farm Bill to allow heirs' property owners to obtain USDA farm numbers and gain fair access to the department's programs, removing a significant barrier to federal resources that African-American farmers and ranchers have long faced. We recently followed up, urging USDA to move quickly on implementation.
He cosponsored the World War I Valor Medals Review Act. The legislation would require the Department of Defense to review the service records of African-American, Asian-American, Hispanic-American, Jewish-American and Native-American war veterans who were awarded the Distinguished Service Cross or Navy Cross during World War I to determine whether any should have instead received the Medal of Honor.
He introduced legislation to reauthorize the Scholarships for Opportunity and Results (SOAR) Act and ensure that students and their families in the District of Columbia have continued choice and increased opportunity for their education through the Opportunity Scholarship Program (OPS).
With these successes for 2020, we can look forward to a better 2021.
By WILLIAM ODEN
Retired Air Force
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