Written By Royce Dunmore
Posted March 13, 2020
Disparities Black people face when dealing with the coronavirus could affect everything from voting to being incarcerated to socioeconomic status, and more.
With the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) reaching pandemic proportions, the racial justice organization Color of Change has released a statement highlighting the disparities Black people face when dealing with the virus.
The president of Color Of Change, Rashad Robinson, explained:
“This pandemic reveals a terrifying reality — many Americans don’t even know if they are infected with COVID-19 because they are scared to go to the hospital and receive free tests and treatment that may saddle them with debt that could take years to pay off. After years of Republicans, big pharma, and major corporations fighting against paid sick leave legislation and medicare for all we are left with a crisis where disproportionately Black low wage workers are continuing to support the public without the health insurance or paid time off that would make us all safer.”
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), about 29 percent of the workforce was able to work from home. Ninety percent of higher-wage workers received paid sick leave compared to lower-income workers, according to BLS. Just 31 percent of workers with salaries in the bottom 10% were allowed paid sick leave.
Among the working poor, Black workers will witness an even greater impact.
According to BLS, Black and Hispanic workers are more than twice as likely to receive poverty-level wages compared to their white counterparts. About 8 percent of Black and Hispanic workers earn wages below the poverty level compared to 4 percent of the white workforce. Black women workers suffer the most with 10 percent classified as the working poor, compared to 3.5% of white men.
“There’s a lot of occupational segregation in this country,” said Elise Gould, senior economist at EPI, according to Yahoo Finance. “So when we think of those low-wage workers they’re more likely to be women, black and Hispanic workers. This could hit some communities more than others.”
Robinson called out some of the richest names in the country when pointing to the inequality black and brown people face and how an economy impacted by the coronavirus could affect them. “Billionaires like Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, and Bill Gates, who have made billions from Americans, have the means to provide testing for the entire country, several times over,” he said. “As we face down a potential recession, we also must ensure that our government bails out the working people and consumers who will feel the brunt of this recession, instead of executives and industries who have been hoarding their profits since Trump’s tax cuts took effect.”
So far, Donald Trump has unveiled a payroll tax cuts proposal through the election and into the end of the year, giving relief to some working Americans. On Wednesday, Democrats also released the Families First Coronavirus Response Act bill, which would provide paid sick leave, food assistance, and extra funds for unemployment insurance benefits.
Although such measures are needed, Robinson from Color of Change is demanding more.