April 23, 2020 

LAWT News Service 


On Friday, April 17, Congressmember Karen Bass and Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson led a call with nearly 200 National Black Caucus of Local Elected Officials (NBC-LEO) members to discuss the impacts of COVID-19 in South Los Angeles and other Black communities across the nation. Issues from racial disparity, access to resources and testing, and the limitations of federal funds in local communities were amongst many topics discussed. The purpose of the call was to better understand the implications of COVID-19 in Black communities and help leaders address these issues.


“Before the pandemic hit, 2020 was already a significant year for Black people. We called an Emergency Summit with the Congressional Black Caucus in February to lay out our agenda for ensuring that Black folks are counted in the 2020 Census and that Trump is defeated in the White House” said Congressmember Karen Bass, Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus. “With COVID-19 disproportionately impacting our communities to their detriment, it is more important now than ever that Black leaders unite to create a plan that ensures our communities get their fair share of public health and economic resources necessary to survive this pandemic and beyond.”


Bass and Harris-Dawson were joined by Carlie Jones, President of NBC-LEO, a caucus of the National League of Cities, as well as members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), including Congressmember Hank Johnson of Georgia and Congressmember Marcia Fudge of Ohio who discussed the CARES Act, the historic $2 trillion stimulus package that recently passed in Congress. 


“Unfortunately, what we’ve experienced in South LA due to the coronavirus is not unique to what other Black communities are experiencing across the country. It was important for myself and Congressmember Karen Bass to lead this national discussion with Black leaders to establish a unified sense of what our communities need locally and how those needs should be addressed in upcoming federal legislation” said Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson. “The crisis presents a unique environment to move forward on a progressive agenda that addresses inequality and meets the needs of Black communities.”


The CARES Act did not fully address the needs and limitations of local municipalities and smaller cities across the nation. Many smaller cities with dense Black communities did not qualify for these funds, leaving them to fight for limited resources at the state level. Several local elected officials who represent smaller cities stated that it has become increasingly difficult to access the resources necessary to combat COVID-19 in their communities without federal support. From large to small, cities like Los Angeles & Cincinnati have already begun issuing furloughs to its civil workers.


Members of the CBC plan to address limitations from the CARES Act bill by introducing a supplemental bill that will call for an additional $250 billion to go towards smaller cities that were unable to receive federal funds in this stimulus package.


Though the City of Los Angeles has taken strides to address major economic impacts to renters, business owners, and workers, the City is still struggling to meet the myriad of needs that residents face. Just last week, the Angeleno Card was announced, however, the site to register crashed within hours of implementation due to overwhelming demand. Additionally, small businesses are unable to access funds from the federal Small Business Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), because they are competing with large corporations.


Another critical topic discussed was the racial disparities found in the impacts of COVID-19. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), African Americans make up 13% of the U.S. population, yet account for over 30% of the country’s COVID-19 patients. Though these numbers are frightening, they aren’t shocking. They portray the same narrative and circumstances that those in the Black community have lived through time after time and illustrate the anecdote “when America catches a cold, Black America catches pneumonia.”


“Racial health disparities are nothing new in our community,” said Dr. Ebony Hamilton, an associate professor at the University of Virginia who tuned into the call to provide medical insight. She went on to say “this virus kills, but so does poverty.”


“We get the virus more because we live in dense communities, we are the ones carrying out the essential work, and we are put in harm’s way, yet we are not protected the way we should be” said Congressmember Marica Fudge.


NBC-LEO President Carlie Jones mentioned how we need data that is aggregated to show just how severe the impact of COVID-19 has been in the Black community.


The CBC includes fifty three Congressional members, and they will do their best to demand what our communities need by withholding their vote if need be.


As Black lawmakers and leaders across the country are working to address the immediate effects of COVID-19, leaders on the call are already planning to permanently invest and rebuild our communities.

Category: News