August 05, 2021

NNPA Newswire

 

Nationally renowned civil rights and personal injury attorneys Ben Crump of Ben Crump Law and Bob Hilliard of Hilliard Martinez Gonzales announced today that they are reviewing a host of cases of racial profiling and discrimination in banking, suggesting a widespread pattern by multiple financial institutions.

“We’re uncovering unjustifiable, blatant discrimination against Black Americans by a number of major financial institutions,” said attorney Ben Crump. “If this year has revealed anything, it’s that Black Americans are too often treated like second class citizens in America. We won’t stand for that any longer. We will hold these institutions accountable for their racist actions and get justice for employees or customers who have been wrongly terminated, discriminated against, or profiled.”

Crump and Hilliard are reviewing bank discrimination cases in venues across the country. Together, they also represent hundreds of plaintiffs who were victimized by pharmaceutical giant Gilead’s actions to withhold a safer HIV drug so it could maximize profits from a drug with potential to damage patients’ bones and kidneys.

“In reviewing these cases against several financial institutions, we have uncovered a terrible pattern of racism against people of color,” said Hilliard. “I’m honored to work alongside Ben Crump to correct these injustices and hold these institutions accountable.”

Among the behaviors uncovered were these:

• Client and a few colleagues went to a well-known bank branch in California to cash checks they had received from their employer that day. The checks were drawn from an account at that bank. The bank employees refused to cash the checks, insisting that they were fraudulent. Client asked the teller to verify the check, and she was simply told “no.”

Without verifying the checks, the bank employees called the police who soon arrived at the bank and detained the client, her daughter, and her other colleagues. After a long period of time, the checks were verified and cashed. The client was in fear for her safety as she watched the police handcuff her daughter and other colleagues all because she was attempting to make a simple bank transaction.

• In June of 2020, a client went to a well-known bank branch in Georgia to deposit a check. Client was wearing a Black Lives Matter t-shirt.

The Caucasian teller at the bank told our client “All lives matter” and refused to deposit his check. The client didn’t create a scene, he just calmly left the bank after being discriminated against and denied services.

• A client who owns 18 popular fast-food franchises with great financial scores and sales was denied a $12 million business loan by a well-known bank even though he knows white franchise owners who have stores with worse financials who have been granted loans of this type.

Representatives from the fast-food corporation reached out to the bank to give their approval and recommendation that he be approved for the loan. The bank denied the loan for pretextual reasons, adding to the difficulty of being a black business owner.

• A client who received a notice from the bank saying they owe the balance of their mortgage in 90 days, or the bank will foreclose on their house — without any just cause and with several more years remaining on the loan.

Category: News

August 05, 2021

By Stacy M. Brown

NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent

 

According to the Children’s Defense Fund, children in foster care represent the most vulnerable youth in America.

Of the 423,997 in foster care in 2019 – 41 percent under the age of six – the average amount of time spent in the system stands at just under 20 months.

Authorities say children of color, mainly Black, American Indian and Alaska natives, are dramatically overrepresented in the child welfare system.

“Foster care is intended to be temporary, with the ultimate goal of returning children safely home to their families,” noted Dr. Starsky Wilson, Children’s Defense Fund [CDF] president and CEO.

Earlier this year, the CDF issued the State of America’s Children 2021 report.

 

Dr. Wilson and other experts have noted how the foster care system in America remains broken and stretched far beyond its capacity.

According to the Marshall Project and NPR research, about 10 percent of foster youth in the U.S. are entitled to Social Security benefits, either because their parents have died or because they have a physical or mental disability that would leave them in poverty without financial help.

“This money — typically more than $700 per month, though survivor benefits vary — is considered their property under federal law,” the researchers wrote.

However, they found that in at least 36 states and Washington, D.C., state foster care agencies “comb through their case files to find kids entitled to these benefits, then apply to Social Security to become each child’s financial representative, a process permitted by federal regulations.”

Once approved, the agencies take the money, almost always without notifying the children, their loved ones, or lawyers.

At least 10 state foster care agencies hire for-profit companies to obtain millions of dollars in Social Security benefits intended for the most vulnerable children in state care each year, the researchers found.

Further, policies and more innovative practices have gone unresolved in most regions, even as about 20,000 youths aged out of foster care without a permanent place to live.

Some agencies have failed children emotionally, physically, developmentally and psychologically.

Michele Bryant recently filed a lawsuit against the children’s home and the county of Sacramento, California, for “negligent and unlawful actions” that resulted in her daughter’s death.

Kendra Czekaj, 12, died after a truck struck and killed her last year while she pursued a friend who ran away from the children’s home.

“The foster care system that was supposed to keep her safe utterly failed her and instead put her in harm’s way,” Bryant said in a statement.

Dr. Tammy Lewis Wilborn of Wilborn Clinical Services LLC has served as a professional counselor for more than 20 years, with 90 percent of her career helping children and adolescents. She has also worked as a therapeutic foster care counselor.

“Part of the reason the system is broken is that the very people it is intended to help and serve are not being served,” Dr. Wilborn said. “Their emotional and psychological needs are not being addressed. Some young people have spent most of their lives in foster care and they are not receiving the social skills to be able to function.”

Dr. Wilborn continued:

“They are not receiving transitional adult skills needed to function optimally in society and, in terms of education, often because of multiple placements and insecure attachments, they are not learning at the rate of those who have home stability,” she said. “We are missing the fact that the youth are not being served.”

However, more states and agencies have recently increased their efforts to help youth.

This month, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser appointed Hillary Cairns as Acting Director of the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services.

Cairns, who earned a master’s in public policy and a law degree from Georgetown University, has pledged to continue vigilance in the city’s diversion program and the agency’s prevention and intervention initiatives to decrease juvenile justice and child welfare involvement.

In Pennsylvania, a program at Penn State University assists students formerly in foster care financially, academically, socially, emotionally and logistically.

Officials noted that the program aims to increase educational outcomes, college retention, graduation rates, grade point averages and both personal and societal contributions while decreasing public health costs and economic disparity in foster care students.

New York lawmakers passed a budget this year to include more money for a mentorship program for foster youth. The city has allocated $20 million in 2021 and at least $12 million for 2022 and beyond.

In Georgia, the nonprofit Fostering Media Connections reportedly has partnered with the Division of Family and Children Services and two other organizations to deliver reading material to 5,000 foster families in the Peach State.

“For children in foster care, we need to follow the science,” Dr. Wilborn insisted.

“Part of following the science is understanding what we know from counselors, psychologists and from adolescent child development physicians,” she said. “We need to provide trauma-informed clinical services. Black children, in particular, need this, and we must make sure that folks who serve as caregivers receive the support that they need and the training on how to utilize parenting skills that effectively support the healthy development of these young kids.”

Category: News

August 05, 2021

By Stacy M. Brown

NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent

 

The words rolled off U.S. Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn’s tongue so easily, yet it still proved as stunning an indictment as any ever leveled at former President Donald Trump.

“There was an attack on Jan. 6, and a hitman sent them. I want you to get to the bottom of that,” Dunn said as the gallery gasped and he and other officers wiped away tears.

The emotional testimony came during the U.S. House of Representatives’ Jan. 6 commission’s inquiry into the capitol riots.

The committee, formed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to investigate the attack on the U.S. Capitol, began hearings on Tuesday, July 27.

Dunn and three other officers highlighted the hearings by describing how they struggled to defend the Capitol and members of Congress.

 

With new video footage of the riot played during the hearing, the officers detailed how they were beaten and tased as Trump supporters stormed the building.

“At no point that day did I ever think about the politics of that crowd; even the things that were being said did not resonate in the midst of that chaos,” D.C. Metropolitan Police Officer Michael Fanone told the congressional panel.

“But what did resonate was the fact that thousands of Americans were attacking police officers who were simply doing their job,” Fanone asserted.

He added his firm belief that government officials incited the riot.

“In retrospect now, thinking about those events, the things that were said, it’s disgraceful members of our government, I believe were responsible for inciting that behavior and then continue to propagate those statements, things like this was the 1776, or that police officers who fought, risked their lives in some who gave theirs wore red coats,” Fanone stated.

“To me, those individuals are representative of the worst that America has to offer.”

Daniel Hodges, another D.C. police officer, used the law to explain why he refers to the rioters as terrorists.

“U.S. Code title 18 part 1 chapter 1.1.3, B as in brown, section 2.3.3.1,” Hodges explained.

“The term domestic terrorism means activities that involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any state and B, appeared to be intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population, or to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion or to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination or kidnapping and occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States.”

Dunn, who is Black, told the panel that the rioters used racial slurs when they approached him.

Dunn added that he’d encountered belligerent individuals before, but none like the Trump supporters who stormed the Capitol.

“The only difference that I see … they had marching orders,” Dunn remarked.

He noted that one of the scariest episodes during the riot – and today – are the suspects who believe they had a right to carry out the attack.

“When people feel emboldened by people in power, they assume they are right,” Dunn continued. “And that makes for a scary recipe for the future of this county. I think that’s why it is important that you all take this committee seriously and get to the bottom of why this happened and let’s make it never happen again.”

While no additional hearings are scheduled, U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), the committee’s chair, reported that others could occur next month.

“We now have a body of testimony that we will review. We are in the process of putting that together,” Rep. Thompson said.

“I put some members on notice that they won’t enjoy the entire August recess, but we will give them time to work in their districts. Then, conceivably, we could come back before the end of August.”

Category: News

August 05, 2021

By Stacy M. Brown

NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent

 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has taken new measures to protect renters from evictions.

Over the past two months, the new prohibition on evictions will apply to communities with high or substantial COVID-19 transmission.

A formal announcement is expected on Wednesday, August 4.

“My hope is it’s going to be a new moratorium that in some way covers close to 90 percent of the American people or renters,” President Joe Biden told news reporters on Tuesday.

The President expressed fears that the order would face court battles after the Supreme Court ruled that an extension to the original moratorium that expired on July 31 could not occur without clear and specific congressional authorization via new legislation.

Still, members of Congress who had pressed the Administration to act applauded the President.

“From the bottom of my heart and on behalf of millions of renters, I thank the President for listening and for encouraging the CDC to act,” Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), the chairwoman of the House Committee on Financial Services, said in a statement.

“This extension of the moratorium is the lifeline that millions of families have been waiting for. From the very beginning of this pandemic, it was clear that eviction moratoriums not only kept people housed but also saved lives,” Congresswoman Waters remarked.

Congressman Jimmy Gomez (D-Calif.), a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, also applauded the President.

“Today, the Biden administration answered our call to provide a lifeline to millions of Americans at risk of eviction. This new executive order represents the degree of empathy and responsiveness that this national health emergency demands,” Congressman Gomez asserted.

The Biden administration has repeated its assertion that there remains about $44 billion in federal COVID-19 relief available to states and municipalities to thwart evictions.

The American Rescue Plan provided nearly $47 billion in aid, but states and local governments have used just $3 billion.

“We need to continue working with local and state governments to ensure all of the funds Congress allocated reaches our constituents,” Congressman Gomez insisted.

“While my House Democratic colleagues work to secure sustainable housing solutions for the most vulnerable among us, I’d like to extend my appreciation to President Biden for helping us pursue every available option to keep our constituents healthy and in their homes.”

On July 31, 2021, Congressman Gomez, Congresswoman Waters, and several of their congressional colleagues sent a letter reiterating their ongoing calls for President Biden and CDC Director Rochelle Walensky to extend the federal eviction moratorium.

“As Chairwoman of the House Committee on Financial Services, I have made it a priority of mine to ensure that both renters and landlords are supported,” Congresswoman Waters stated.

“That is why I secured nearly $50 billion in emergency rental assistance that would go directly into the pockets of landlords to cover every penny of back-rent they are owed and keep struggling families housed throughout the pandemic. I urged corporate landlords not to evict tenants, met with members of the Biden administration to expedite and simplify the emergency rental assistance program, and introduced legislation to protect renters from evictions.”

The congresswoman continued:

“This temporary reprieve will not go to waste. The CDC’s targeted eviction moratorium will buy time for state and local governments to get their act together and ensure that renters and landlords receive the money that Congress allocated for them while keeping our most vulnerable off the streets.

“In the days and weeks ahead, I will work with my colleagues in Congress and with the Administration to help the governors, mayors, and others who are implementing this moratorium to get the money out the door. Renters should not be thrown out on the street.”

Category: News

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