May 11 COVID-19 Policy & Black Communities Roundup

This roundup reviews recent COVID-19 policy developments that affect Black communities. Click here for our COVID-19 policy page, which is constantly updated.

This week’s roundup includes:

  • Next Stimulus Package Still Looms: Here’s What It May Include
  • Past Stimulus Misses Mark for Many Black Businesses
  • House Republicans Appoint Members to Chairman Clyburn’s Oversight Committee
  • Black Unemployment Jumps 10 Points
  • Political Studies & COVID-19

Next Stimulus Package Still Looms:
Here’s What It May Include

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi gave more details about what House Democrats are looking to propose in the House’s next $2 trillion stimulus package proposal. While a House bill could be out within the next couple of days, the next bipartisan stimulus bill may not pass until just before the July 4 recess—if at all.

The House Democratic package that could be released this week could have money for states and localities, extended unemployment insurance and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), federal money to directly pay workers, hazard pay for frontline workers, expanded testing and contact tracing, and money for the postal service (the Leadership Conference and others urged more funding for the postal service for increased vote-by-mail ballots).

Speaker Pelosi stated that the new package would also include stabilizers to ensure that if certain indicators fall below a certain target, funding would automatically channel to those areas. This would hold true particularly for unemployment benefits, SNAP, and Medicaid. She said these triggers are needed so that benefits to vulnerable populations aren’t delayed amid crises due to partisan stalemates on Capitol Hill.

Targeted Medicaid funding is important because some states are starting to cut state spending on Medicaid due to drops in tax revenue (in 2018, 34% of nonelderly African Americans were covered by Medicaid). Likewise, according to a Washington Post poll conducted from April 27 to May 4, Black households experiencing a layoff are twice as likely as all households to say they received food stamps since the shutdown began (29% of Black households compared to 14% of all households).

Democrats and President Trump have indicated support for additional stimulus checks to individuals. Congresswoman Pelosi, Senator Bernie Sanders, and other lawmakers voiced support to include $2,000 in recurring monthly payments to Americans in the next stimulus package. (For details, see The Hill on Friday and Saturday).

However, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has expressed the need to “pause” on providing further aid. Senator McConnell indicated that “[i]f there is another rescue package, it must include and will include liability protections.” NAACP LDF’s position is that “allowing businesses to be shielded from liability will further exacerbate the impact on the Black community,” which makes up a disproportionate number of frontline and essential workers.

Experts continue to call for ‘hazard pay’ to compensate at-risk essential workers, and Senator Mitt Romney has proposed to increase pay of essential workers by up to an additional $12 per hour for the next three months for frontline workers in healthcare and grocery stores. Brookings notes in “Exposure on the Job that 38% of essential workers are nonwhite, and “the fact that black workers are more likely to be essential workers…is potentially a contributing factor to racial disparities in COVID-19 related deaths.” The CBC will also hold a telephone town hall with essential workers today at 7 pm ET.

For more on Congress and the COVID-19 stimulus this week, see the POLITICO PlaybookPOLITICO Morning ShiftPOLITICO on Speaker Pelosi’s “multitrillion-dollar marker,” The Hill’s Morning Report, and the National Urban League’s Washington Bureau Insider.

Past Stimulus Misses Mark for Many Black Businesses

While U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Steven T. Mnuchin and SBA Administrator Jovita Carranza announced last week success with the Payroll Protection Program (PPP), reports showed that the small business relief loans are still riddled with shortcomings. A Goldman Sachs survey showed that only 79% of Black-owned businesses applied for PPP in round one (compared to 91% of all small businesses) and only 40% of Black-owned businesses were approved (compared to 52% of all small businesses).

The average loan size for round two of PPP is $73,000 compared to $206,000 for round one, which suggests that smaller businesses are accessing the capital this time. As of last night, just over $188 billion of the program’s $310 billion had been allocated.

Some small business owners are finding that meeting the requirements to have the loans forgiven is more arduous than expected. While the CARES Act stated that the PPP loans could be used for payroll, mortgage interest, rent, and utilities and did not indicate a precise portion to be allocated for payroll, the SBA regulations required that 75% of the loan proceeds be used for payroll. House Speaker Pelosi has indicated she plans to eliminate this requirement.

The Inspector General of the Small Business Administration issued a report on Friday finding that the SBA failed to follow the requirements of the CARES Act and issue guidance to lenders to prioritize underserved borrowers. The report stated that: “Because SBA did not provide guidance to lenders about prioritizing borrowers in underserved and rural markets, these borrowers, including rural, minority and women-owned may not have received the loans as intended. In addition, because SBA did not require demographic data to identify PPP borrowers in underserved markets, it is unlikely that SBA will be able to determine the loan volume to the intended prioritized markets.” The Inspector General recommended that the SBA issue guidance to lenders to prioritize borrowers in underserved markets and revise the application to collect demographic information.

The National Urban League (NUL) President and CEO Marc H. Morial proposed—and Senator Chuck Schumer agreed—that the $10 billion in PPP money returned by large public companies should be targeted to businesses with fewer than ten employees and other underserved rural, minority-owned, and women-owned businesses and distributed by Community Development Financial Institutions and Minority Depository Institutions.

To help address these issues, on Thursday the Joint Center will host an online briefing on Black Businesses, Access to Capital, and Future Stimulus Proposals.

Panelists will include:

  • U.S. Black Chambers President & CEO Ron Busby
  • Association for Enterprise Opportunity President & CEO Connie Evans
  • Former SBA Deputy Administrator Marie Johns
  • Opportunity Finance Network President & CEO Lisa Mensah

On Friday we’ll post video from the session.

House Republicans Appoint Members to
Chairman Clyburn’s Oversight Committee

After showing discontent for weeks with House Speaker Pelosi forming another panel to oversee the $2 trillion CARES Act, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy selected Minority Whip Steve Scalise to lead the Republican contingent of the bipartisan House Select Committee on the Coronavirus Crisis. Representatives Jim Jordan, Mark Green, and Jackie Walorski fill out the Republican slate.

Majority Whip James Clyburn chairs the committee and House Financial Services Chair Maxine Waters is a member. As previously mentioned, their leadership is particularly important because there are no African American Members on another oversight body appointed by House and Senate leadership—the Congressional Oversight Commission.

Black Unemployment Jumps 10 Points

In April the Black unemployment rate jumped to 16.7% from 6.7% the previous month, and up from 5.8% in February before the coronavirus pandemic shutdown. Overall, the U.S. lost 20.5 million jobs and saw an unemployment rate of 14.7% in April, recorded as the steepest monthly surge in American unemployment in history. All groups except Black workers saw record high unemployment numbers, indicating the sad reality that Black workers have experienced high economic turmoil in previous years.

Unfortunately, this dataset likely underestimates the impact of this crisis because the it only counts those who are actively looking for work and may discount people who are unable to search for jobs because of childcare responsibilities or lack of access to the internet for job searches.

Washington Post survey conducted April 27-May 4 indicates that 16% of Black adults said they had been laid off or furloughed since the coronavirus outbreak began, compared to 11% of whites and 20% of Latinos.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics also reported that almost every job is at risk, with only the general merchandise stores industry adding jobs. Those include warehouse clubs and supercenters that sell groceries and other home items.

Political Studies & COVID-19

The Joint Center and Hispanic Telecommunications and Technology Partnership co-hosted a webinar on telemedicine for Black and Latino communities. Guests included founder and co-chair of the bipartisan Congressional Telehealth Caucus Congressman Mike Thompson (D-CA) and FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks, who urged communities in need to apply for the COVID-19 Telehealth Program as soon as possible to receive assistance.

Spencer was quoted in Naomi Cahn’s column in Forbes op-ed “Mother’s Day and COVID-19’s Impact On Women Of Color.

A new study by amfAR shows that counties with above average Black populations (greater than 13% of the county population) account for 35% of the U.S. population but 58% of the nation’s COVID-19 deaths, and reveals the need for adequate health insurance (11.5% of nonelderly African Americans lacked health insurance in 2018—slightly up from 10.7% in 2016).

Third Way highlights the benefits of healthcare legislation introduced by House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott for the federal government to pay 100% of premiums and to offer employer incentives. Dr. Patrick Sullivan, professor of epidemiology at Emory University, recommends “emergency enrollment for the Affordable Care Act” and “Medicaid expansion in the South.”

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) predicts millions more will enroll in Medicaid in the coming months and that Congress needs to expand the provisions in the existing Families First Coronavirus Response Act because it “provides far less funding than states need; it will end soon, and it does not apply to enrollees covered through the Affordable Care Act or Medicaid expansion.”

Several efforts continued to ensure fair voting. The Leadership Conference held multiple events to urge officials across the country to ensure fair, safe, and accessible elections in 2020. Rainbow PUSH endorsed Senator Amy Klobuchar’s Natural Disaster and Emergency Ballot Act of 2020 which would “require states to establish contingency plans for the conduct of elections for Federal office in response to national disasters.” NAACP LDF filed a federal lawsuit challenging Louisiana voting requirements that put voters at risk amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Organizing and Town Halls

The National Action Network, Black Women’s Roundtable Public Policy Network, NAACP, and the National Urban League participated in a call with former Vice President Joe Biden to discuss the needs of Black America

National Action Network also led a coalition of national Black faith and civil rights leaders that called on Congress to “ensure that state and local governments have the resources needed to support communities of color across the nation.”

NAACP LDF wrote a letter to Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson urging a statewide moratorium on evictions to protect tenants who have experienced economic hardship from the COVID-19 pandemic. LDF also condemned the NYPD for “excessive use of force in Black and Brown communities” in connection with the enforcement of social distancing rules

Color of Change’s Rashad Robinson wrote in the Guardian that a failed and corrupt response to COVID-19 is killing Black businesses, jobs, votes, and people. Color of Change is also calling for Congress to protect Black-owned businesses through small business grants, a mandate for a full, public accounting by race, gender, and geography of where stimulus money has gone, and targeted support funds for Black-owned businesses.

Upcoming events include “We The People: Protecting Our Vote in the Wake of COVID-19” (Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, May 11); “Crisis Conversations” (NAACP, May 12); “COVID and Black Workers: Outlook, Opportunities and Challenges” (New America, May 12); “Surviving COVID-19’s Economic Impact While Black” with Joint Center Vice President Jessica Fulton (Morehouse College, May 13); “How Black Communities Can Achieve Employment, Business, and Income Resilience During and After COVID-19” (New America, May 14); “Valuing Black Lives and Property in America’s Black Cities” (Brookings, May 19).

Last week events were held by Black Communities: A Conference for CollaborationThe Movement for Black LivesCenter on Budget and Policy Priorities, and Urban Institute.