Rev. Jesse Jackson and the Rainbow Push Coalition hosted a town hall on the coronavirus pandemic and how it’s affecting the African American community.
Jackson and the coalition gathered 17 doctors, politicians, and spiritual and economic advisors for the event Thursday. Here are some of the highlights from the event.
Why African Americans are Dying at a Higher Rate
Dr. Leon McDougle, the president elect for the National Medical Association, explained a correlation between the coronavirus and African Americans.
“We’re seeing a much higher percentage of people dying with diabetes and we know African Americans have a higher prevalence of diabetes.” McDougle said.
“We’re finding that people who are infected with cornavirus and have diabetes are much more likely to have more severe symptoms, especially for those who have uncontrolled diabetes with high blood sugar,” McDougle added. “We’re thinking that decreases the immune response and sets people up for more problems.”
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) noted that in Louisiana, African Americans have a 70% death rate due to coronavirus despite being 30% of the state’s population. Klobuchar added that African Americans in Alabama have a 44% death rate despite being 26% of the population.
“I don’t see this as an issue that’s separate from the pandemic,” Klobuchar said. “I see the pandemic casting a huge light on what we know needs to be fixed in this country.”
Mail-in Voting in the Age of Coronavirus
Sens. Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) introduced the Natural Disaster and Emergency Ballot Act Wednesday. The bill ensures the presidential election is not suspended by the coronavirus and would ensure voters have 20 days of early voting in all states.
The bill would also require that all mail-in ballots submitted during 21 days leading to an election be counted, and ensure that all voters have the option to request absentee ballots.
“The president said he doesn’t want mail-in voting, but he used it in Florida,” Klobuchar said. “If it’s good enough for the president, its good enough for the country.”
Spencer Overton, President of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, said mail-in voting is important but so are the details.
“While we definitely want to do mail-in voting, we want it to have free postage and other protections so that we’re able to participate by mail, but also for those who aren’t going to vote by mail, having clean, sanitary, safe polling places is also critical.”
Paycheck Protection Program
Rev. Dr. S. Todd Yeary, the senior vice president for the coalition, said the first installment of Paycheck Protection Program came with a litany of errors.
“When the portals began to open in phase 1 there was still a lack of clarity about who was included and excluded,” Yeary said. “We actually lost quite a bit of time even to get started, much less dealing with the added frustrations.”
Yeary added when the PPP received a second injection of funds, guidelines were implemented to make sure things went smoother and small businesses received funds.
“We did what we felt was necessary to try to get ahead of this when round two was coming,” Yeary said. “To that end, we focused on getting technical assistance on the front end to be able to connect with the process sooner.”
Dr. Yeary and the coalition built a website providing information and technical assistance to help small, minority, and female-owned businesses.
Continuing the Fight for African Americans and Minorities
Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), the chair of the House Financial Committee, outlined what she’s been fighting for in Washington D.C.
“My priorities have been to ban all evictions and foreclosures, suspend all negative consumer credit reporting, and provide 15.5 billion in homeless assistance,” Waters said. “We’re also fighting to support small businesses, minority- and women-owned businesses, community development financial institutions, and minority banks.”
Waters added that she’s currently working with Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin and Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell to ensure lending facilities and other liquidity measures are helping small businesses and banks.