Washington, D.C. — Centuries of discrimination in employment, housing, education, and health care are causing people of color to contract and die of the coronavirus at higher rates than their white counterparts. Evidence analyzed by the Center for American Progress indicates that structural racism is also causing the economic crisis to be felt more acutely by people of color.
History shows that workers of color are often the first to be fired and last to be rehired during economic downturns. And Black and Latinx households still have not fully recovered from the Great Recession. Communities of color entered the current economic downturn with fewer savings to weather the crisis and less stable housing, as well as more likely to work in occupations that either have less job security as a result of the crisis or that put them at greater risk of contracting COVID-19.
In “The Economic Fallout of the Coronavirus for People of Color,” Connor Maxwell and Danyelle Solomon recommend steps that federal, state, and local lawmakers can take to mitigate the economic effects of the pandemic and ensure that people of color are protected:
- Expand access to unemployment insurance benefits. In recent years, states with higher percentages of Black and Latinx residents have made it more difficult to obtain benefits. States should dismantle obstacles to receiving unemployment insurance.
- Ensure that low-income individuals can access free COVID-19 testing and treatment. Many people of color don’t have access to affordable medical care or paid leave; lawmakers need to expand paid leave programs and health care coverage, including Medicaid.
- Send additional cash and financial assistance directly to households. A substantial number of Black and Latinx households are unbanked, meaning they will have to wait weeks or months to receive their stimulus money. For the duration of the crisis, lawmakers should provide additional rounds of assistance through a progressive formula that promotes equity.
- Provide targeted assistance to minority-owned businesses. Lawmakers should substantially expand the resources and authority of the Minority Business Development Agency and allocate financial assistance specifically for minority-owned businesses.
- Prohibit evictions and foreclosures. This prohibition should be extended through the end of the year.
- Ease the burden of student loan debt. Previous relief packages suspended payments on federally held student loans. The suspension should be expanded to include Perkins and Federal Family Education Loans. In addition, $10,000 in federal student loan debt should be canceled.
- Strengthen the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Because people of color have fewer assets and less liquidity, they are at greater risk of financial exploitation by predatory lenders. Federal lawmakers should expand the resources and authority of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to combat pandemic profiteering.
- Suspend negative credit reporting. Future relief packages should temporarily restrict the effect that high balance-to-limit ratios, new credit, and delinquencies have on credit scores.
- Enact and fully enforce employment discrimination statutes. Lawmakers should provide the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission civil rights attorneys with the resources they need to ensure a robust, equitable economic recovery.
“Discrimination in every facet of American society has made people of color more vulnerable to economic recessions,” said Danyelle Solomon, vice president of Race and Ethnicity Policy at CAP. “Previous recoveries created bold new policies and programs but exacerbated racial inequality. It’s important that we not repeat the mistakes of the past and that lawmakers are intentional in designing recovery policies that promote equity and help the people who need it the most.”