Economics in Brief: Trump Regulator Quietly Closed Redlining Complaints, Investigation Shows – Next City
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Economics in Brief: Trump Regulator Quietly Closed Redlining Complaints, Investigation Shows

Redlining “officially” ended with the passage of the Fair Housing Act of 1968, but discrimination persists. (Credit: Mapping Inequality)

Trump Regulator Quietly Closed Redlining Complaints, Investigation Shows

Since President Trump took office, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency has shelved at least six investigations into discrimination and redlining at banks, according to a ProPublica investigation. This includes a stalled investigation into discriminatory lending practices at Bank of America; a Michigan bank that charged Black homeowners more interest; an online bank doing the same to women borrowers; a Chicago bank doing the same to Latino borrowers, and more.

In each case, ProPublica said, “despite staff recommendations that fines or other penalties be imposed, the OCC took no public action and closed the investigations quietly.”

From November 2017 until May of this year, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency was run by Joseph Otting, who previously led OneWest Bank along with current Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin. In 2019, OneWest agreed to a $100 million settlement with HUD for redlining Southern California communities, conduct that occurred while Mnuchin and Otting led the bank.

Per ProPublica, in June 2018, Otting testified before Congress that he had never seen racial bias in banking, a statement he later walked back.

$600 Weekly Unemployment Benefit Will End Soon; No New Stimulus Yet in Place

As the COVID-19 pandemic lingers and accelerates in many states, an ever-expanding number of Americans continue to rely on unemployment. But one federal assistance program is expected to expire in the coming weeks.

Typically, unemployment insurance covers 30 to 55 percent of a beneficiary’s job salary, but the CARES Act stipulated that beneficiaries would receive an additional $600 weekly. The $600 federal benefit, known as Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (PUC), is set to expire on or before July 31.

According to the Department of Labor, 33 million Americans were collecting unemployment benefits as of June 20 — significantly more compared to the 2 million who were collecting benefits in February of this year.

While the COVID-19 relief will soon end, Congress is working on passing a second stimulus package. In May, the House approved the Democratic-proposed HEROES Act, which would allocate $3 trillion in relief funds and extend PUC for those receiving unemployment through January 31, 2021. The proposal would also allow freelance, gig workers, independent contractors, and part-time workers to take advantage of unemployment benefits through March 2021. The proposed legislation would also provide Americans with another stimulus check as well as student loan relief. But CNBC reports that the Senate is unlikely to pass the bill when Congress reconvenes on July 20.

According to CNN, Senate GOP leaders dismissed Democrats’ $3 trillion bill and are drafting their own bill, expected to cost $1.3 trillion. Senate Majority Leader Mitchell McConnell is expected to introduce the new proposal as early as next week, three weeks before Congress goes into recess.

It’s unclear what the GOP proposal will entail, but it is expected to contain both Republican and Democratic provisions. A second stimulus check is likely to be included, however according to a Forbes report, the amount and eligibility requirements are up for debate. State governments are also likely to receive financial support for schools, colleges, and universities. Other items that were in the $3 trillion plan — such as payroll taxes, student loans forgiveness, and funds to rebuild infrastructure — are unlikely to be included.

The CNBC story points out that if Congress waits until after the $600 PUC expiration date then it could take several weeks to get the program up and running again, which would leave beneficiaries in limbo until the program is reinstated.

This week House Speaker Nancy Pelosi continued her efforts to persuade Congress to pass a resolution to help Americans affected by the pandemic.

“Every day that does by, the anxiety deepens in the homes of America — the kitchen table concerns about how they’re going to pay bills, or how they’re going to put food on the table,” Pelosi said. — Eddi Cabrera Blanco

Meet the ‘Unabashedly Pro-Labor’ Board Game, STRIKE!

The TESA Collective, a publisher that makes games about changing the world, has begun shipping its newest game: STRIKE! The Game of Worker Rebellion.

To center the game around a pro-labor rights theme, TESA partnered with Jobs with Justice, a labor rights group, to bring the game to life. Together, TESA and Jobs with Justice worked on world-building, game design and playtesting.

Funded through the Kickstarter platform, the board game leads players through a labor movement rebellion against corporate entities. Played with 2-4 people, players work together to organize citywide strikes and rally protesters to disband the fictional corporate giant, HappyCorp.

STRIKE! is TESA Collective’s fifth board game. Like their other games Rise Up: The Game of People & Power and Space Cats Fight Fascism, STRIKE! also combines cause and play.

Creators designed STRIKE! to be a catalyst for real-life culture change, according to Brian Van Slyke, the director of games, sales, and communications for TESA Collective, writing on Jobs for Justice’s site. Designers made it a top priority to appeal to both those knowledgeable about the labor movement and those who have only a surface-level awareness of labor issues, he writes.

The game makers created a more futuristic and comedic theme for the game to appeal to a wider audience, Slyke adds. Each player works together to defeat HappyCorp, which disguises itself as a helpful entity, when in fact its goal is to exploit the community for financial gain.

VICE notes the irony of a game about labor organizing being on the Kickstarter platform, given Kickstarter’s own relationship to its nascent union. In September 2019, VICE reported, three employees involved in union organizing were fired.

But as NPR reports, for tabletop games such as STRIKE!, which raised $46,032 through its Kickstarter campaign, there aren’t many funding options available and funding from fans is crucial to game makers.

Today, TESA’s games are played all over the United States, writes Slyke. He adds that the power of games is the ability to reach people in ways that traditional education, such as presentations and trainings, cannot.

“People learn best by doing. They become invested and interested in concepts when they are active participants. And games allow people to engage in concepts through play and excitement while generating moments that won’t be forgotten,” Slyke writes.

Fans can now purchase STRIKE! on the collective’s website.— Nicolette White

This article is part of The Bottom Line, a series exploring scalable solutions for problems related to affordability, inclusive economic growth and access to capital. Click here to subscribe to our Bottom Line newsletter. The Bottom Line is made possible with support from Citi Community Development.

Tags: covid-19laborunemploymentredlining

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