The House turned to work on the COVID-19 relief package Friday—President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan, an ambitious response to try to restore the nation’s physical and economic health following a year of pandemic and a year of callous negligence from Donald Trump and Senate Republicans. That negligence looks more and more like a deliberate effort by Republicans to further what seems to be their only guiding principle these days: white supremacy. They remain steadfastly and unanimously opposed to the legislation in both the House and Senate, still talking about blue state bailouts and excess spending.
Those are code words, because they know that this pandemic has hit communities of color so hard. They know the harm has been disproportionate, that the relief they have reluctantly provided over the past year hasn’t reached the communities that have needed it most. That’s not been kept secret: The traditional media has been reporting that for months and months. It’s still true now. A new survey conducted by SurveyMonkey for CNBC + Acorns Invest in You finds that Blacks and Latinos are twice as likely as white respondents to need the stimulus checks just to “get by.” In both communities 40% of respondents say they’re counting on the checks, and 31% of Asian Americans say the same, as opposed to 20% of whites who say they don’t need the checks, “and that the government should give the money to someone else who needs it.” People of color are also the least likely to receive financial assistance from the government quickly. More than 76% of white respondents say they’ve received at least one of the payments, but only 67% of Latinos, 65% of Blacks, and 61% of Asian-Americans have received the checks.
“Checks are likelier to get lost in the mail, so if you don’t have a bank account for direct deposit, then it’s easier to miss your stimulus payment,” said Louis Barajas, CFP, a member of the CNBC Financial Advisor Council. No big surprise there, or in the fact that communities of color have also been disproportionately impacted by the sabotage of the U.S. Postal Service. If they got the check, more Latinos (27%) and Blacks (26%) spent it on housing than whites (12%). “These latest data demonstrate how people of color are in a much more precarious financial position, which the pandemic has only exacerbated,” said Laura Wronski, a research scientist at SurveyMonkey.
While women in general have been absolutely crushed by this pandemic, women of color account for huge numbers of the unemployed. The rate of unemployment for Black women is 67% higher than for white women, and 73% higher among Latinas. They report the highest rates of emergency financial assistance as well, mostly borrowing from family and friends; 23% of Black women and 17% of Latinas reported having to borrow money. They also have had to rely more heavily on food bank—21% of African-American women and 19% of Hispanic women—as opposed to 9% of either Black or Hispanic men, and 8% of white men.
The American Rescue Plan helps everyone, but is absolutely essential to these American communities. Those $1,400 stimulus checks, the expanded unemployment insurance with $400 a week, more food and housing assistance, the child tax credit expansion and monthly payments, the minimum wage increase (which may or may not survive in the Senate)—all are direct economic benefits. On top of that is more funding to small businesses and targeted relief to hard-hit industries like restaurants, bars, and airlines, which helps all their employees.
It also clamps down on the virus itself, with $50 billion in testing and contact tracing as well as $19 billion directed to hiring for the public health workforce to expand testing, tracing, and vaccination. It has $16 billion to fund vaccine distribution and beef up supply chains. It also has $350 billion to state, local, and tribal governments—all of which have lost a total of 1.3 million jobs in the past year. It even has $47 billion for the Disaster Relief Fund administered by the Federal Emergency Management Administration, which helps cover funeral costs from COVID-19.
There’s $130 billion for K-12 education to help strapped school districts do the upgrades to ventilation systems that are necessary to make school buildings safe, to provide the personal protective equipment teachers and staff need, and to help districts with physical changes in school buildings to allow for social distancing. There’s another nearly $40 billion for colleges and other higher-education institutions, and a requirement that schools use at least half of any emergency grants be used to prevent homelessness and hunger for students. It also provides almost $40 billion for child care providers, and $1 billion for Head Start.
There isn’t a part of this $1.9 trillion that doesn’t either directly help people or help the businesses that employ them, which is why it’s so universally popular—even with Republican voters. Why Republican lawmakers are so convinced it makes sense to unanimously vote against this remains a mystery. Except for the part where it helps people of color.