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COVID-19 hits Latino, Black and Native American wallets harder

By Jim Saksa and Michael Macagnone, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON - The coronavirus has hit people of color harder than white households, causing higher rates of infection, hospitalizations, deaths and, as a new survey has found, financial despair.

Black, Latino and Native American households reported disproportionately high income loss, financial problems and housing insecurity in a poll released Wednesday by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

The poll showed 72% of Latino households, 60% of Black households and 55% of Native American households reported a serious financial problem like using up all of their savings, food insecurity and an inability to pay for housing. For comparison, only 36% of white households said they have faced the same challenges since the pandemic's start.

"What this survey shows is that the disparate impact is not restricted to health. The economic toll on households of color has been extreme," Robert Wood Johnson Foundation CEO Richard Besser said. "This is despite hundreds of billions of dollars of federal assistance that has been directed at trying to reduce the economic hold this pandemic has had on people across the country."

Latinos also reported higher employment losses, with 63% saying they were furloughed, fired or had their hours cut, compared to 46% of all respondents.

The economic numbers for Latinos, Black Americans and Native Americans matches the inordinate health toll the pandemic has taken on those groups. An August report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found people of color suffered far greater rates of coronavirus infection, hospitalization and deaths than whites. The Latino case rate ratio is 2.8 times higher and the hospitalization rate is 4.8 times higher than whites. The infection rate among Black people is 2.6 times higher, and the hospitalization and death rates are 4.7 and 2.1 times higher, respectively.

 

"This public health crisis points to the strong connection between income and wealth and health, and it's going to be really important" to future public health policy, Besser said.

Congress has not passed legislation to address the fallout from the pandemic since the spring. Democratic leadership has butted heads with Republican counterparts and the White House over the size and scope of a package, resulting in a months-long stalemate.

In the meantime, enhanced unemployment benefits expired, the CDC issued a nationwide eviction moratorium and President Donald Trump delayed enforcement of payroll tax payments.

Besser, a former acting director of the CDC, urged Congress to pass additional economic aid immediately, saying that the agency's unprecedented moves would likely face strong legal challenges.

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