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The Appeal: New York Ends A Punishment That Traps People In Poverty

The Appeal, January 5, 2021, New York Ends A Punishment That Traps People In Poverty

On New Year’s Eve, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law a bill that will end the suspension of driver’s licenses over a failure to pay a traffic ticket, a major win for economic and racial justice advocates who have long decried the practice. The law will also reinstate the licenses of hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers, many of whom have lost driving privileges because they cannot afford to pay their fines.

Suspending driver’s licenses entrenches and punishes poverty by preventing people from driving to work, taking kids to school, or visiting their doctor during the COVID-19 pandemic. People who are stopped for driving on a suspended license face misdemeanor or felony charges, and arrests of people who can’t afford to pay fines and fees inflate jail populations across the country.

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Redlining and Neighborhood Health

Before the pandemic devastated minority communities, banks and government officials starved them of capital.

Lower-income and minority neighborhoods that were intentionally cut off from lending and investment decades ago today suffer not only from reduced wealth and greater poverty, but from lower life expectancy and higher prevalence of chronic diseases that are risk factors for poor outcomes from COVID-19, a new study shows.

The new study, from the National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC) with researchers from the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee Joseph J. Zilber School of Public Health and the University of Richmond’s Digital Scholarship Lab, compared 1930’s maps of government-sanctioned lending discrimination zones with current census and public health data.

Table of Content

  • Executive Summary
  • Introduction
  • Redlining, the HOLC Maps and Segregation
  • Segregation, Public Health and COVID-19
  • Methods
  • Results
  • Discussion
  • Conclusion and Policy Recommendations
  • Citations
  • Appendix

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