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'Absolute disappointment' in CNY over delay on $20 bill featuring Harriet Tubman

Payne Horning
WRVO News File Photo
Karen Hill, right, is the president and CEO of the Harriet Tubman Home, Inc.

In recent testimony before Congress, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin revealed that the new $20 bill will not be released until 2028 because federal officials are working to shore up its security features as a way to combat counterfeiting. That will be an eight-year postponement from the date Jack Lew, Mnuchin's predecessor from the Obama Administration, had announced that a new note featuring Harriet Tubman, the famed conductor of the Underground Railroad, would debut.

It was supposed to be unveiled in 2020 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of when women gained the right to vote with the passage of the 19th Amendment.

Karen Hill, president and CEO of the Harriet Tubman Home, Inc. in Auburn, says the postponement is absolutely disappointing.

"There's no question that Tubman being on the $20 bill is a huge boost not only to the park in Auburn, New York, but also to central New York," Hill said. "No ifs, ands, or buts about it - the $20 bill is the most ubiquitous banknote and local economies especially will rise when she is on the $20."

The goal was to honor Tubman for her efforts leading slaves to freedom and recognize her work advancing the women's suffrage movement. Hill said the hope was that the release of the note would coincide with the commemorative events for the 19th Amedment. But that can still happen, she says. Hill is urging people to contact their federal representatives to ask that this be revisited.

"This is a mistake that could be corrected and needs to be corrected," Hill said.

According to the New York Times, a $20 bill featuring Tubman was being developed as early as 2016, and an image of that bill from the Bureau of Engraving and Printing was obtained by the Times. 

Central New York Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus) recently sent a letter to Mnuchin with other members of the House asking him to reaffirm the Treasury's previous commitment to place Tubman on the $20. Katko is also the author of a bill in congress that would direct the treasury to ensure all $20 bills printed after December 31, 2020 feature Tubman.

Payne Horning is a reporter and producer, primarily focusing on the city of Oswego and Oswego County. He has a passion for covering local politics and how it impacts the lives of everyday citizens. Originally from Iowa, Horning moved to Muncie, Indiana to study journalism, telecommunications and political science at Ball State University. While there, he worked as a reporter and substitute host at Indiana Public Radio. He also covered the 2015 session of the Indiana General Assembly for the statewide Indiana Public Broadcasting network.