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.”
In addition to voting measures, Robinson also demanded the coronavirus doesn’t negatively impact the 2020 Census where “Black people are among the most undercounted populations in the census and an undercount will lead to communities not getting the funding and representation they need or deserve for the next 10 years.” He suggested the Census Bureau make clear and impactful contingency plans since the coronavirus “will likely hinder the efforts of census workers going door-to-door to ensure participation.”
Finally, Robinson called for action to make sure the coronavirus doesn’t affect the health of incarcerated individuals.
“We are deeply concerned about the health, safety, and dignity of disproportionately Black incarcerated men and women as officials respond to this outbreak,” he said. “While prison populations are quarantined from the general public, they are at high risk for COVID-19 outbreaks as they are kept in close quarters with inadequate food, water, and health care. Yet the nation’s jails and prisons have reportedly little access to coronavirus tests and in some cases, no soap, despite the inevitable spread of the epidemic in a captive population. Federal and state officials must ensure that testing and treatment for COVID-19 is available as needed in all jails and prisons.”
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