Poor People’s Campaign defines priorities for Biden

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MILFORD — Some activists from President Joe Biden’s home state outlined a list of policies Wednesday they would like him to enact in his first 100 days in office. “The Poor People’s Campaign has developed 14 policy priorities to heal the nation,” said Carl Lathon, a member of the coordinating committee for the organization’s Delaware branch. He described the points as a potential “moral and economic agenda for the first 100 days of the Biden administration.” The list includes everything from comprehensive immigration reform and climate-change legislation to a guarantee of quality housing for all and an immediate increase in the minimum wage to $15 an hour. But the first item on the group’s list is probably the most pressing. The campaign wants the president to “enact comprehensive and just COVID-19 relief that provides free testing, treatment, vaccines and direct payments to the poor,” according to a press release from the state branch. Mr. Lathon described widespread poverty in America as a dire moral failure of the world’s wealthiest country. “There were approximately 140 million people who are poor or low-income in this country, a number that has increased significantly during the pandemic,” he said. “Although they make up 40% of the population, their concerns are marginalized within state and national political discussions.” He had some Delaware-specific stats, as well. “As of 2020, 42% of the people in Delaware were poor or low-income, a total of 410,000 residents,” Mr. Lathon said. Throughout the Zoom call Wednesday, speakers often returned to how the poor have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. “The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the failure of our society to meet the needs of these people around health care, jobs, wages, housing, food, water and more,” Mr. Lathon said. To bolster their argument, activists brought in a few speakers from around the state. One of them was 9-year-old Brandon Garcia, who submitted a video. “Every Hispanic needs at least the COVID-19 shot, so they can live without dying,” he said. Sgt. Scott Saunders, a 30-year veteran with the Middletown Police Department, agreed. His statements are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of his department.

“I think we need to be able to educate each other as far as the COVID-19 vaccines go,” the sergeant said. He said it’s important to make sure everybody gets access. “We also need to acknowledge there are some people getting lost in the cracks, and if those people get lost in the cracks, that hurts the whole group.” Brandon, whose parents are immigrants, said reforming the immigration system is important to him, as well. “We need the Hispanics to have their immigration reform, so they can see their parents once in a while,” Brandon said. “I don’t want to think that my parents are going to get trapped by (Immigration and Customs Enforcement).” He said that Delaware and the U.S. are “my home, and this is where my family is supposed to be.” Brandon also expressed support for a minimum-wage increase. “I want my family and all Hispanics to have a $15 (hourly) salary at their work because they work hard in the fields and in the chicken plants,” he said. His outlook covered the long term, as well. “We need to continue saving this planet, our home — this is where we live,” Brandon said. “Our animals are going to go extinct very soon if we don’t take care of the world.” Sgt. Saunders also took the opportunity to speak about the broader situation. “We have to acknowledge there’s a lack of equity in our nation,” he said. That fact was made clear to him by the political and civil unrest that ripped across the United States in 2020. “We have the ingredients or wherewithal to be a great nation, but, at the same time, we have to be humble, and we have to be honest with ourselves and understand that there’s not a level playing field,” the sergeant said.

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