This story is part of TRACE (Toward Response and Community Equity), a year-long series that will track how and where the region’s government, philanthropic, civic and private sector is working toward a more just recovery.
President-elect Joe Biden is stepping into the White House at one of the most fraught times in American history. He is faced with a defeated president who refuses to concede and a virus which refuses to abate.
Now many of the nation’s 74 million voters who cast their ballot for the Democratic insurgent are watching carefully to see if the duo will manage to provide the equitable solutions necessary to alleviate the physical and economic devastation caused by coronavirus.
COVID-19, which is in the midst of another surge, has ripped through layers of vulnerability to expose deep inequities in America.
Report after report shows that Black, Indigenous, Latinx, women and the poor have suffered disproportionately from the pandemic starting with the death rate. “If they had died of COVID-19 at the same actual rate as white Americans, about 21,800 Black, 11,400 Latino, 750 Indigenous and 65 Pacific Islander Americans would still be alive,” according to statistics from APM Research Lab’s Color of Coronavirus project.
The Center for High Impact Philanthropy’s data shows that 13 of the area’s rapid response COVID funds have spent over $40 million since the pandemic’s onset trying to help keep the region’s neediest residents, and the nonprofits that serve them, afloat in the short term.
However, the long-term solution to this pandemic devastation will have to come from the federal government. If the Biden administration does not use a social justice framework in forming its coronavirus solutions, they will enact policies that continue to exacerbate the country’s long history of inequality and institutional racism.
Consider the Great Recession of 2008. By states relying on layoffs, funding cuts and increased fees and fines, governments increased “hardships for many struggling families, especially in community of color,” said Courtney Sanders, policy analyst with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. The result is it took longer for communities of color to recuperate from the economic downturn.
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This election begins the country’s reckoning with dismantling systemic racism and here are three local issues that bear constant scrutiny :
- The economic impact of the virus has been concentrated among low income workers. According to the Commonwealth Fund survey, over half of Latinx and almost half of Black survey respondents reported experiencing an economic challenge because of the pandemic. That’s more than double the rate of white respondents at 21 percent.
- Unemployment has been particularly brutal for Black and Hispanic women who work in some of the hardest hit industries — food service, hospitality, and some retail.
- The country has 10 million fewer jobs than it did before the pandemic hit and in October, more than a million people have become “long term unemployed,” which means they have been without a job for at least 27 weeks. Yet many of the federal programs designed to help are set to expire on December 31.
- Pfizer and vaccine codeveloper BioNTech have just announced that it is very close to having a viable vaccination. Demand is expected to be high and already governments around the world have preordered 500 million doses.
- The question is how will the vaccination process be rolled out to ensure it will be distributed fairly to Black and brown communities?
- The Philadelphia Health Department has already designed a three-phase roll out in anticipation of receiving a vaccine. Phase one will focus on high-risk populations in controlled settings. As more of the vaccine becomes available, the health department will include more residents.
- The digital divide used to be a problem. And then, with coronavirus, it became an overnight emergency. Now, amid the surge in coronavirus cases, Philadelphia School District Superintendent Dr. William Hite has suspended its in-person school plans indefinitely. “It continues to be our goal to transition to hybrid learning,” Hite said,” but we remain committed to doing so only when guidance and data from the PDPH, PDE and PDH shows that we can do it safely.”
- The problem is the educational wellbeing of thousands of school children rests upon the ability to have a stable internet connection, making access to it no longer a luxury but a necessity. This is further pushing the have nots behind.
- Educators are concerned about the long-term impact this forced experiment in remote learning will ultimately have on students of color.
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