The COVID-19 relief bill includes $5 billion in aid for farmers of color who have long faced discrimination by federal officials

Black farmer depiction
A steel cutout depicting a 19th-century Black farmer rises from a field across the highway from the small community of Nicodemus, Kansas.

  • The COVID-19 relief bill has a $5 billion provision that will forgive debts for farmers of color.
  • Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock of Georgia led the push for the inclusion of the funding.
  • Farmers of color, and especially Black farmers, faced years of discrimination by federal officials.
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For over a century, Black farmers faced discrimination from the US Department of Agriculture and were largely excluded from federal loans and farm improvement initiatives.

In an effort led by Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock of Georgia, the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill that passed on Saturday includes a $5 billion provision that will forgive debts for Black, Hispanic, Indigenous, and other farmers of color, to enable reforms that will assist farmers with building generational wealth.

Last week, Warnock, Georgia’s first Black senator, praised the incorporation of the Emergency Relief for Farmers of Color Act into the COVID-19 bill.

He said that Democrats sought to “ensure equity in our recovery efforts and address longstanding injustices that have left some communities behind for far too long” and pledged that the aid “will not only help farmers of color, but will also lift up the economies of our rural communities working to recover from the economic turndown,” according to Rolling Stone.

Due to systemic racism from both private lenders and government officials, many Black farmers did not have set deed structures that allowed for properties to be passed down in whole, which created fractional ownership setups.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, chairwoman of the Agriculture Committee, strongly backed the effort, lauding Warnock for “coming in and and working to embrace this and get it over the line right away,” according to Rolling Stone.

In 1910, 14% of farmers in the US were Black, compared to 2% today, something that Stabenow highlighted.

“When you look at one of the very first ways that there was racial discrimination after slavery was legally abolished, it was lack of support for black farmers,” she said, adding that they “were discriminated against in terms of land ownership.”

Last year, Democratic Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey introduced “The Justice for Black Farmers Act,” which would allow Black farmers to individually reclaim 160 acres through a system of land grants to address racial discrimination in federal agricultural policy.

“Overtly discriminatory and unjust federal policy has robbed Black families in the United States of the ability to build and pass on intergenerational wealth,” he said in a statement. “When it comes to farming and agriculture, we know that there is a direct connection between discriminatory policies within the USDA [US Department of Agriculture] and the enormous land loss we have seen among Black farmers over the past century.”

Booker reintroduced his bill last month with cosponsors Warnock, Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Tina Smith of Minnesota, and Patrick Leahy of Vermont.

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Newly-released Georgia Senate runoff polls show Democratic candidates with a widening lead

Rev Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff meet in a georgia senate runoff rally
Georgia Democratic Senate candidates Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock greet each other onstage during the “Vote GA Blue” concert for Georgia Democratic Senate candidates Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff at New Birth Church on December 28, 2020.

  • The two Georgia Senate runoff elections will decide whether Republicans maintain control of the Senate. If Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock both win, Democrats will control the legislative and executive branches, allowing for President-elect Joe Biden to accomplish his legislative goals with greater ease.
  • According to newly-released polls from JMC Analytics and Polling, Warnock and Perdue have grown their projected leads wider than ever before as early votes continue to be cast.
  • JMC is one of just a handful of pollsters participating in the Senate runoffs — many of the most-recognized and most-reputable pollsters have not conducted any polls since the general election in November.
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Democratic Senate candidates Jon Ossoff and the Rev. Raphael Warnock have widened their projected leads against incumbent Republican candidates Sen. David Perdue and Sen. Kelly Loeffler in the Senate runoff elections in Georgia, according to a newly-released poll from JMC Analytics and Polling

The JMC polls, conducted between December 28-29, show Ossoff ahead of Perdue in a 50-43 percentage point margin – 7% of respondents were undecided. The divide between Warnock and Loeffler in the poll is even larger with Warnock ahead in a 53-44 percentage point margin with just 3% of respondents undecided. 

When asked how and when the survey takers would vote, 91% of respondents noted that they had already voted or planned to vote early in-person or by mail. Just 7% of respondents said they planned to vote on election day. 

In November, about 20% of the state’s votes were cast on election day. If JMC’s polling is correct, Loeffler and Perdue will need to receive far more of Georgia’s 2.6 million early votes than expected.

The two elections will have a direct impact on the beginning of President-elect Joe Biden’s presidency: If Ossoff and Warnock succeed in their respective races, the Democratic party will have control of the entirety of the legislative and executive branches of the federal government and would allow Biden to accomplish his legislative goals with greater ease.

But while JMC’s polling is a good sign for Democrats, it is one of only a handful of pollsters which have participated in the Georgia Senate runoffs.

The 2020 presidential election was home to hundreds of polls throughout the country – some of which were grossly off, leading to backlash.

Nick Gourevitch, a Democratic pollster with Global Strategy Group, told Politico that expecting trust in the Georgia polls following the tumultuous presidential polling results would be a mistake.

“Everybody fundamentally understands that it’s going to become an issue of partisan turnout,” Gourevitch said. “And anybody who tells you they know exactly what’s going to happen in terms of partisan turnout in a special election with two senators to decide control of the Senate in a post-Trump era when he’s not on the [ballot] – nobody knows the answer to that question. It’s a completely unique situation.”

Nate Silver, the editor-in-chief and founder of FiveThirtyEight, thinks the answer is even simpler: “I think pollsters are being chicken,” he said on FiveThirtyEight podcast on Tuesday.

Following the general election, FiveThirtyEight has tracked just 20 polls, many of which come from smaller, less experienced polling groups.

“You are not polling,” Silver said in reference to many of the large university-aligned pollsters, “because you are scared of being wrong… Pollsters don’t want to put their necks on the line because we live in a world where people are not very rational about probabilities and uncertainty.” 

President Trump’s recent defiance of the GOP is not helping Republican candidates.

Trump Georgia rally
President Donald Trump headlined a campaign rally in Valdosta, Ga., for Sens. David Perdue, left, and Kelly Loeffler, right.

Trump, for his part, has put Loeffler and Perdue in difficult political positions throughout their respective Senate runoff campaigns.

While Loeffler and Perdue have both ran as unwavering allies of Trump, with the president traveling to the state to headline a December 5 rally on their behalf, he mostly used the event to air grievances about his own election, repeatedly making debunked claims of voter fraud and falsely stating that he won the state over Biden.

Trump has repeatedly jousted with top Georgia Republicans from Gov. Brian Kemp to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, creating a sense of political disunity, which party members can ill afford if they are to win both races against well-funded Democratic challengers who have strong support from Biden and the party base.

The president’s consistent pressure campaign against the statewide election results drove Loeffler and Perdue to call for Raffensperger’s resignation last month, which the secretary of state firmly rejected.

When the $900 billion COVID-19 relief bill passed both houses of Congress, it included $600 direct stimulus checks, which Trump said was too low. Warnock and Ossoff have both been pressing for increased direct aid for months, and it has emerged as a major campaign issue in both Senate races.

Before Trump’s push for increased direct aid, Loeffler and Perdue touted their support for the compromise relief bill. However, with the president calling the $600 figure a “disgrace,” Loeffler quickly backed his proposal for $2,000 stimulus checks on December 29, followed by Perdue on the same day. 

Previously, Loeffler had been on the fence about increased stimulus payments, while Perdue has generally opposed stimulus checks, which Ossoff has highlighted in his campaign.

Despite Trump not actually being on the ballot, his legacy is at stake. Loeffler and Perdue still have to closely align themselves with the president to win or risk turning off his most ardent supporters.

With control of the Senate on the line and Democrats in a solid position to capture both seats, Loeffler and Perdue have to increase turnout on their side or a blue wave will give Biden the unified government that he needs to enact his agenda.

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Jon Ossoff has raised more money than any Senate candidate in US history in heated Georgia runoff election

Warnock and Ossoff
FILE: Democratic candidate for Senate Jon Ossoff, right, and Democratic candidate for Senate Raphael G Warnock, left, arrive before they speak to a crowd during a “Get Out the Early Vote” event at the SluttyVegan ATL restaurant on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020, in Jonesboro, Ga.

  • John Ossoff, the Georgia Democrat vying to oust the incumbent Republican Sen. David Perdue, has become the highest-funded candidate for Senate in US history, The New York Times first reported.
  • According to data from the Federal Election Commission, Ossoff raised $106.7 million between October 15 and December 16.
  • Also in Georgia, Reverend Raphael Warnock, the Democrat seeking to replace the Republican incumbent Sen. Kelly Loeffler, raised $103.3 million during the same time, according to the data. 
  • The Georgia runoff election, triggered with none of the candidates in either race received enough votes to win, has garnered national attention because the victors determine whether Republicans maintain control of the Senate.
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Jon Ossoff, the Georgia Democrat embattled in the heated runoff race against Republican Sen. David Perdue, the incumbent, has become the highest-funded senatorial candidate of all time, The New York Times first reported Friday.

The news comes following the release of the latest round of fundraising data from the Federal Elections Commission, covering the period between October 15 and December 16. During that period, Ossoff raised $106.7 million. Perdue raised $68 million during the same period, according to the FEC data.

Reverend Raphael Warnock, who is also embattled in a heated Georgia runoff race against incumbent Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler raised $103.3 million during the same period, according to the data. Loeffler raised approximately $64 million during the fundraising period, according to the FEC.

In both races during the general election, neither candidate received enough of the vote to be declared the winner, triggering a runoff election scheduled for January 5. The Georgia runoff races have captured nationwide attention because the winner of the races determines which party will control the US Senate.

If Ossoff and Warnock win both of their races, the Senate majority will be split evenly between Democrats and Republicans. But, if either Perdue or Loeffler wins, the GOP will continue to hold the power in the Senate, creating a roadblock for the Democrat-controlled House and president-elect Joe Biden, also a Democrat.

Biden flipped the state of Georgia blue during the general election, which was one of the states that proved key to his victory over President Donald Trump.  

Nearly half of the donations to Warnock and Ossoff were under $200, The New York Times noted. Just about 30% of donations to Perdue and Loeffler were from small donors, according to the data.

Both Ossoff and Warnock’s fundraising during the quarter surpassed the previous record broken by Jaime Harrison, who raised $57 million in a single quarter in his failed campaign against South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham. 

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More than 100 pastors call on Loeffler to stop spreading ‘reprehensible falsehoods’ about Warnock, denouncing them as ‘an attack against the Black Church’

kelly raphael georgia senate runoffs debate
GOP Sen. Kelly Loeffler and Democratic challenger Raphael Warnock appear during a debate on December 6, 2020, in Atlanta.

  • A group of over 100 pastors criticized the campaign strategy of GOP Sen. Kelly Loeffler of Georgia, calling her out for political attacks against Democrat Raphael Warnock which they feel have devolved into “a broader attack against the Black Church.”
  • “We call on you to cease and desist your false characterizations of Reverend Warnock as ‘radical’ or ‘socialist,’ when there is nothing in his background, writings or sermons that suggests those characterizations to be true, especially when taken in full context,” they wrote in an open letter, which was released on Saturday.
  • In a year where racial and social justice have been at the forefront of the national debate, especially among many Black parishioners, the pastors slammed Loeffler for criticizing Warnock as he addressed those very same issues.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

A group of over 100 pastors blasted the campaign strategy of GOP Sen. Kelly Loeffler of Georgia, calling her out on Saturday for political attacks against her Democratic opponent, the Rev. Raphael Warnock, which they feel have devolved into “a broader attack against the Black Church.”

In an open letter, signed mostly by Black clergy leaders local to Georgia while some live out of state, the group criticized the Loeffler campaign’s fervent depiction of Warnock, the senior pastor of Atlanta’s historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, as a “radical” and “a socialist.”

The New York Times first reported the release of the letter.

“We call on you to cease and desist your false characterizations of Reverend Warnock as ‘radical’ or ‘socialist,’ when there is nothing in his background, writings or sermons that suggests those characterizations to be true, especially when taken in full context,” they wrote.

In a year where racial and social justice have been at the forefront of the national debate, especially after the May 25 death of George Floyd while he was in police custody in Minneapolis, the pastors slammed Loeffler for criticizing Warnock as he addressed those very same issues.

“Your most recent attacks against Warnock for sermons condemning police brutality, advocating criminal justice reform, and expressing support for measures to reduce gun-violence – all concerns of his congregation – are beyond the pale and cannot go unaddressed by members of the faith community,” they wrote. “The reprehensible falsehoods must stop!”

The pastors accused Loeffler of failing to address issues of racial justice, which are highly resonant among Black voters, saying that she showed “disdain for Black elected officials and Black Lives Matter marches against systemic racism.”

Read more: EXCLUSIVE: Jared Kushner helped create a Trump campaign shell company that secretly paid the president’s family members and spent $617 million in reelection cash, a source tells Insider

The pastors also called out Loeffler for decrying religious-based attacks against Amy Coney Barrett during the conservative jurist’s Supreme Court nomination process while employing what they feel are religious-based attacks against Warnock.

“We witnessed how Conservatives uproariously cried foul when anyone asked how Amy Coney Barrett’s faith might affect her rulings as she was under consideration for the high court,” they wrote. “We remember your tweet characterizing those perceived attacks against Barrett as ‘disgusting’ but now you characterize Warnock’s religious convictions as ‘despicable, disgusting, and wrong.’ You continue to parse and take out of context decades old utterances by Warnock from the pulpit.”

On Sunday, Warnock responded to content of the letter on Twitter.

“My faith is the foundation upon which I have built my life,” he wrote. “It guides my service to my community and my country. [Loeffler’s] attacks on our faith are not just disappointing – they are hurtful to Black churches across Georgia.”

On Sunday, Loeffler responded to Warnock on Twitter, writing that “no one attacked the Black church.”

“We simply exposed your record in your own words,” she added. “Instead of playing the victim, start answering simple questions about what you’ve said and who you’ve associated yourself with. If you can’t – you shouldn’t be running for U.S. Senate.”


In the letter, the pastors also pivoted to Black voting rights, saying that Loeffler’s endorsement of President Donald Trump’s continued legal action against the 2020 election results is an affront to Black voters.

“We witnessed your naked hypocrisy as you supported 59 attempts at the delegitimization of Black votes with meaningless lawsuits by the Trump campaign operatives,” they wrote. “What can be more radical, more seditious than supporting 59 attempts to overthrow the will of the people by tossing Black votes?”

Loeffler and Warnock are locked in a tight January 2021 runoff election in Georgia, which will determine control of the Senate and take place just weeks before the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden.

A separate runoff election, also set for January 5, will feature a contest between GOP Sen. David Perdue, who is running for reelection to a second term, and his Democratic opponent, Jon Ossoff.

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If Democrats want to win in Georgia and seize the Senate, they need to go on the attack

Trump Georgia rally
President Donald Trump headlined a campaign rally in Valdosta, Ga., for Sens. David Perdue, left, and Kelly Loeffler, right.

  • Democrats Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff are running for two Senate seats and control of the Senate hangs in the balance.
  • Down ballot Democrats struggled on Election Day because they went on the defensive. To win in Georgia and take back the Senate, Democrats need to go on the offensive and attack the GOP.
  • A great line of attack for Democrats in Georgia would be to pin the Republican candidates — Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue — to the GOP’s biggest loser: Donald Trump.
  • Michael Gordon is a longtime Democratic strategist, a former spokesman for the Justice Department, and the principal for the strategic-communications firm Group Gordon.
  • This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
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Despite the hopes for a “Blue Wave,” Republicans surprised Democrats and many election analysts in November by holding onto 50 seats in the US Senate – just one seat away from retaining their majority. As usual, Democrats underestimated the Republican attack machine and the power of their false claims about Democratic socialism and defunding the police

But despite the strong GOP showing, there are two final Senate seats still up for grabs. The good people of Georgia have the chance to prevent Sen. Mitch McConnell from remaining majority leader and the grim reaper of progress. 

In the two runoffs that will decide control of the Senate, the Democratic candidates face historically long odds. Both contests are tight, and both Democratic candidates began their races as the underdog. The stakes couldn’t be higher, and Democrats need to leave it all on the field. 

The GOP has overperformed by keeping the Democrats on defense. In order to pull off their own Senate surprise, Democrats must flip the field and go on offense. 

Tie ’em to Trump

In November, the Georgia electorate joined a chorus of battleground victories in rejecting Trumpism. The statewide win for President-elect Joe Biden shows a path forward for Democrats. They should put the GOP’s biggest loser back on the ballot in the Peach State in order to secure a win in January. 

Even after President Donald Trump’s loss, Senate Republicans have shown that there is no daylight between themselves and the outgoing commander. Their latest hits include shrugging their shoulders when the president fired officials who defied him and hiding when he alleged voter fraud with no substantive evidence. 

In recent weeks, GOP senators have reached alarming levels of brazenness. Their bullying of Georgia election officials failed to strip power from Georgia voters but succeeded in showing the GOP’s disregard for law and the democratic process. 

Equally alarming has been Senate Republicans’ failure to denounce violent threats against election officials – and the dangerous rhetoric from the president and his team that incited these threats. Their tacit approval of violence has put the safety of Georgians – including many Republicans – at risk

Even Attorney General Bill Barr and the US Supreme Court have stood up to Trump on his election charade, but the Senate GOP is a profile in cowardice, not courage.

A vote against dysfunction

For their parts, Georgia’s GOP Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue have made no moves to jump off the Trump train. In fact, they’ve become first class passengers. The pair have been loyal battleground soldiers in Trump’s futile election fight. 

They have attacked honorable Georgia Republicans doing their jobs – or stood silently while the President came after GOP allies. They sided with a lawsuit against their state that the Republican Attorney General had strongly condemned. They fan the flames of chaos as tensions and threats increase in their state.

As Loeffler and Perdue continue to stand with the President and refuse to acknowledge his defeat, it’s clear who’s really on the ballot in these runoffs.

They have tied themselves inextricably to Trump and have made it clear that a vote for them is a vote for all things Trump: his failure on the pandemic, his tanking of the economy, and his all-out assault on the will of Georgia’s electorate.

Votes for Democratic challengers Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff are votes for progress and against the dysfunction in Washington that McConnell and company will surely bring. They also will be votes against the lame duck who is departing January 20. 

The alternative is gridlock and partisanship that will benefit no one other than our nation’s enemies. Democrats should label Senate Republicans as the Trump puppets they are and drive home that unless they are defanged, they will smear President-elect Joe Biden’s term with a bright orange stain. 

It’s time for Democrats to make the election – and the country – about the collective GOP failure of the past four years. Everything the national majority voted for in November depends on it. 

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