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Biden aims for quicker shots, virus 'independence' by July 4

WASHINGTON — One year after the nation was brought to a near-standstill by the coronavirus, President Joe Biden pledged in his first prime-time address Thursday night to make all adults eligible for vaccines by May 1 and raised the prospect of “independence from this virus” by the Fourth of July. He offered Americans fresh hope and appealed anew for their help.

Speaking in the White House East Room, Biden began by his 24-minute address by honoring the “collective suffering” of Americans over the past year and then offered them a vision for a return to a modicum of normalcy this summer.

“We are bound together by the loss and the pain of the days that have gone by,” he said. “We are also bound together by the hope and the possibilities in the days in front of us.”

He predicted Americans could safely gather at least in small groups for July Fourth to “make this Independence Day truly special.”

But he also cautioned that this was a “goal” and attaining it depends on people’s cooperation in following public health guidelines and rolling up their arms to get vaccinated as soon as eligible. Only that, he said, can bring about an end to a pandemic that has killed more than 530,000 Americans and disrupted the lives of countless more.

“While it was different for everyone, we all lost something,” Biden said of the sacrifices of the yearlong-and-counting pandemic.

The speech came just hours after Biden signed into law a $1.9 trillion relief package that he said will help defeat the virus, nurse the economy back to health and deliver direct aid to Americans struggling to make ends meet.

Some cash distributions could begin arriving in the bank accounts of Americans this weekend.

“This historic legislation is about rebuilding the backbone of this country,” Biden said as he signed the bill in the Oval Office.

Most noticeable to many Americans are provisions providing up to $1,400 in direct payments and extending $300 weekly emergency unemployment benefits into early September. Also included are expanded tax credits over the next year for children, child care and family leave — some of them credits that Democrats have signaled they’d like to make permanent — plus spending for renters, food programs and people’s utility bills.

In his Thursday night address, Biden said that as vaccine supplies continue to increase, he will direct states and territories to make all adults eligible for vaccination by May 1. The U.S. is expecting to have enough doses for those 255 million adults by the end of that month, but the process of actually administering those doses will take time.

Biden announced an expansion of other efforts to speed vaccinations, including deploying an additional 4,000 active-duty troops to support vaccination efforts and allowing more people — such as medical students, veterinarians and dentists — to deliver shots. He is also directing more doses toward some 950 community health centers and up to 20,000 retail pharmacies, to make it easier for people to get vaccinated closer to their homes.

Biden added that his administration is planning to launch a nationwide website to help people find doses, saying it would address frustrations so that there would be “no more searching day and night for an appointment.”

Even as he offered optimism, Biden made clear that the July 4 timetable applied only to smaller gatherings, not larger ones, and requires cooperation from Americans to continue to wear face coverings, maintain social distancing and follow federal guidelines meant to slow the spread of the virus in the near term. He also called on them roll up their sleeves to get vaccinated as soon as they’re eligible.

This is “not the time to not stick with the rules,” Biden said, warning of the potential for backsliding just as the nation is on the cusp of defeating the virus. “I need you, the American people,” he added. “I need you. I need every American to do their part.”

The House gave final congressional approval to the sweeping package by a near party line 220-211 vote on Wednesday, seven weeks after Biden entered the White House and four days after the Senate passed the bill. Republicans in both chambers opposed the legislation unanimously, characterizing it as bloated, crammed with liberal policies and heedless of signs the crises are easing.

Biden had originally planned to sign the bill on Friday, but it arrived at the White House more quickly than anticipated.

“We want to move as fast as possible,” tweeted chief of staff Ron Klain.

Biden’s initial prime-time speech was “a big moment,” said presidential historian and Rice University professor Douglas Brinkley. “He’s got to win over hearts and minds for people to stay masked and get vaccinated, but also recognize that after the last year, the federal government hasn’t forgotten you.”

Biden’s evening remarks in the East Room were central to a pivotal week for the president as he addresses the defining challenge of his term: shepherding the nation through the twin public health and economic storms brought about by the virus.

On Monday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released initial guidance for how vaccinated people can resume some normal activities. On Wednesday, Congress approved the president’s $1.9 trillion “American Rescue Plan,” aimed at easing the economic impact of the virus on tens of millions of people. And the nation was on pace to administer its 100 millionth dose of vaccine as soon as Thursday.

Almost exactly one year ago, President Donald Trump addressed the nation to mark the WHO’s declaration of a global pandemic. He announced travel restrictions and called for Americans to practice good hygiene but displayed little alarm about the forthcoming catastrophe. Trump, it was later revealed, acknowledged that he had been deliberately “playing down” the threat of the virus.

Biden implicitly criticized his predecessor, opening his remarks by referring to “denials for days, weeks, then months that led to more deaths, more infections, more stress, and more loneliness.”

Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium to offer Johnson & Johnson vaccine


The Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium has announced updates to its vaccination administration.

The organization will be administering the Johnson& Johnson and Moderna vaccines.

“Personally I think that both Moderna and Johnson & Johnson provide the efficacy to combat this epidemic right now, but we realize that people have personal preferences and we wanted an opportunity to offer you both,” said Dr. Ala Stanford, founder of the Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium.

The organization is offering the J&J vaccine as the only one dose shot on March 12 and March 15.

On March 14 and March 16, the consortium is administering Moderna. People who need second shot of Moderna are asked to come to the vaccine clinic on their respective appointment dates.

The vaccinations will be administered as follows — March 12 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Deliverance Evangelistic Church, 2001 W. Lehigh Avenue and March 14, March 15 and March 16 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Liacouras Center, 1776 N. Broad St.

This comes as the Philadelphia Department of Public Health announced on Wednesday that it has expanded vaccine eligibility to those 65 and older.

The Health Department notified COVID-19 vaccine providers that the Philadelphia Vaccine Advisory Committee has recommended a change to the Philadelphia Phase 1b eligibility criteria to include those aged 65 years and older. Previously, eligibility by age criteria for Philadelphia Phase 1b was only those who were 75 years or older. This change is possible because of the increased number of vaccine doses coming into the city and was considered by the Vaccine Advisory Committee in order to bring the city’s vaccine distribution program into line with the surrounding counties and state.

Clear Vision Impact Fund obtains $100 million in loans for minority owned businesses

The Clear Vision Impact Fund plans to start making loans to businesses that are either minority-owned or serve underperforming communities that have experienced a persistent lack of capital to support economic growth.

Clear Vision was founded by Siebert Williams Shank & Co., LLC, a U.S. investment bank certified as both a minority-owned and women-owned enterprise.

Clear Vision has obtained commitments of $100 million of the planned $250 million fund, which was announced in August 2020 with an initial capital commitment from Microsoft Corporation. Other leading global corporations that now have made capital commitments to the fund include Apple, Comcast Corporation, Constellation Brands and eBay.

“The members of the Siebert Williams Shank and Clear Vision Impact Fund teams are gratified to have received the support and confidence of these industry-leading corporate partners that have enabled this important mission,” Christopher J. Williams, principal of Clear Vision’s general partner and chairman of Siebert Williams Shank & Co, said in a news release.

“We look forward to enhancing the economic prospects for the diverse community members that will benefit from the economic growth that is made possible through this critically important investment initiative.”

The Philadelphia-based Comcast Corporation has made a $25 million investment in the fund.

“Suzanne, Chris, and team have created an incredible platform to provide minority-owned businesses operating in underserved markets with immediate and much needed capital at a critical time,” said Mike Cavanagh, chief financial officer, Comcast Corporation.

“We hope that our $25 million investment in the Clear Vision Impact Fund and ongoing great partnership with Siebert Williams Shank & Co. will have a meaningful impact on diverse communities nationwide, as our company continues to accelerate its efforts to address systemic inequality and create a more equitable society.”

“Minority-owned businesses are under-represented in our industry and many other business segments as pervasive and systemic barriers have existed for these companies and their leaders for far too long,” said Bill Newlands, Constellation Brands’ president and CEO.

“We are proud to partner with Siebert Williams Shank & Co. and the other companies that have joined together through the Clear Vision Impact Fund to play a role in creating meaningful progress. By working together and committing to sustained action, we can provide more equitable opportunity for these businesses, their employees, and the communities they support.”

“EBay’s purpose is to empower people and create economic opportunity for all,” said eBay’s Interim CFO, Andy Cring.

“We are proud to help further this purpose by investing $25 million in the Clear Vision Impact Fund to bolster small and medium sized businesses that are based in, or serve, underserved communities nationally.”

“We’re pleased to see the progress with the Clear Vision Impact Fund and that our investment, along with others, helped reach this important milestone,” said Tahreem Kampton, treasurer and chief information officer at Microsoft.

The fund is targeting businesses that:

Are majority owned/controlled by minorities (with an emphasis on African American and Latino) or operate in, service, employ under-represented populations.

Have $5 million to $150 million in revenue.

Have a two or more year operating history.

Have $1 million-plus in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization or substantial tangible asset collateral and history of or path to profitability.

For information about the fund, email contact@clearvisionimpact.com

Council members push for hearings on racial gaps in educational resources, property assessments

Philadelphia’s City Council is taking a look at how to examine racial gaps in school resources and the city’s property assessments.

Two resolutions went through City Council on Thursday that set the stage for the hearings.

One resolution tasks the council’s Committee on Education to hold a hearing and examine potential systemic biases that have created inequalities between Black- and white-led schools, resulting in fewer resources for Black-led schools.

At-large Councilmember Isaiah Thomas, the main sponsor of the resolution about educational resources, said during the legislative session that he believed in “African-center education” and there “perception issues around Black institutions, Black educators, Black children and Black families.”

Thomas hoped to avoid having a debate over charter schools usurp the hearing.

“The most important thing for us moving forward,” Thomas said, “is to move this conversation to a public forum so we can assure that the dialogue is one that is transparent, it’s informative, it’s factual and it’s one that’s looked at through a lens of equity as well as justice.”

Councilwoman Cherelle Parker put forward the resolution calling for the council’s Committee on Housing, Neighborhood Development and the Homeless to hold a hearing examining the race gap in home appraisals and its impact on homeowners and wealth accumulation in the city.

Parker said in an email that among the goals of the hearing was to examine the role that race plays throughout the property appraisal process, including the racial demographics of the neighborhood, the race of the homeowner, and the race of the appraiser.

Parker said she hoped the hearing also would set the stage for finding solutions. In Philadelphia, 95% of property appraisers and assessors are white, not-Hispanic, according to an op-ed Parker submitted along with others to WHYY.

“One goal that I can immediately think of is developing strategies to diversify the field of appraisers in Philadelphia, where currently only 5% of appraisers/assessors are Black or brown,” Parker said.

Hearing dates have yet to be scheduled.

Other council action

Council considers forcing negligent property owners to pay bill for repairs.

$400M bond proposed to fund anti-poverty, affordable housing plan.

Resolutions from Juneteenth to Bernard Smalley get thumbs-up.

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