As Senate hearings begin this week to confirm President Joe Biden’s cabinet appointments, the Black Economic Alliance has seven questions on economic issues of importance concerning communities of color.
The alliance notes people of color have been excluded from top economic positions at federal economy and regulatory agencies. The alliance also cites a Georgetown University Law Center study showing that of the 327 people who have been appointed to a financial regulatory agency, only 10 have been Black.
The lack of seats at the table for Black people has had a direct impact on the Black residents in the U.S. Black Americans are behind multiple races in terms of economic freedom and access to credit and funds.
During his election run, Biden pledged to promote diversity across all federal agencies, and his cabinet picks reflect that. The alliance believes it’s critical for the Senate to ensure Biden appointees realize that racial equity must be a top priority in their roles and that the committees that oversee them will hold them accountable to make progress.
The alliance also wants the questions to be a part of the official record to provide a voice to the concerns of communities of color.
The Seven Questions
- You have had leadership roles at various government bodies, companies or nonprofit organizations. Some of these have not had particularly strong records of hiring diverse talent. Others show better results. To help us gauge your commitment to diverse hiring and understand how you will approach it should you be confirmed, can you explain where you have excelled in hiring and promoting people of color in your previous jobs and where there is opportunity for improvement?
- The racial wealth gap may be among the most complex and lingering vestiges of America’s original sin of slavery, and it is a systemic risk to our economy. Generations of some white families have built and passed down wealth, and Black families have not because of institutional racism in housing and lending and other forms of discrimination. According to Brookings, the typical white family has 10 times the wealth of the typical Black family. What are some short- and long-term strategies your agency can advance to begin to close this gap?
- The COVID pandemic has disproportionately impacted Black and Latinx businesses. Their owners have been hit by both the health and economic effects more so than their white peers. The Cares Act created some resources and reforms specifically designed to assist these businesses. Some have worked better than others. How do you assess these measures and how will you prioritize helping minority businesses during the pandemic and beyond?
- Black and Latinx communities are more likely to be unbanked or underbanked than white communities, and they often rely on financial products that have less favorable terms and may harm more than help. Responsible financial tools are not as accessible as they should be in communities of color. How will you work with the financial services sector to reach and appropriately serve more people of color?
- Firms owned by minorities manage less than 1% of the approximately $70 trillion in U.S. assets under management in retirement plans, pensions and endowments, according to a 2017 GAO report. By comparison, some large, individual companies’ share is multiples of all minority firms combined. These facts showcase the urgency for the federal government to significantly increase its contracting with minority-owned businesses. What responsibility do you have in this role to significantly expand opportunities for minority-owned businesses to contract with the federal government?
- Your agency has outside advisory councils and task forces composed of industry leaders, academics, nonprofits and other policy makers. They serve as volunteers but have significant influence being appointed by and working closely with you. Should your agency be judged by its success in populating these groups with more diverse advisors on these councils and task forces and over what period of time?
- Since the 2020 racial justice protests, some companies seem to be more intentional about increasing board and C-suite diversity. Progress, however, is very slow. Diverse boards and leadership teams are better prepared to navigate the needs of their workforce, customers and communities. What will you do to accelerate private sector efforts to achieve more inclusive leadership?
The alliance’s goal is to put a robust focus on economic equity and a renewed commitment to financial policymaking that will close these gaps. The alliance believes the Biden-Harris administration can finally begin to close the gaps and allow Black Americans not only a seat at the table but something to eat and drink as well.