COVID-19 Impact on Black Community
by Dianne Anderson
Beyond sheltering in place and constant handwashing that has become the new norm, experts and legislators are now scratching the surface of the far-reaching COVID-19.
To at least help deal with the economic fallout, some desperately needed money is set to come down to the local level.
Last week, Congressman Pete Aguilar announced over $13 million in new Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) and Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG) Program federal grant funds for five cities in the Inland Empire and the County of San Bernardino. The funding comes by way of the CARES Act to help support the economy, affordable housing, job creation, and to tackle homelessness.
Aguilar, who helped pass this third federal coronavirus response bill, said that the funds will empower the community to lessen the COVID-19 economic impact.
“I was proud to support this legislation, and I’ll continue fighting for more federal resources for our community,” said Aguilar in a statement.
As part of the allocation, the County of San Bernardino will receive $6,560,515. San Bernardino City will receive $3,023,526; Fontana is at $1,854,673; Rialto at $714,324; Rancho Cucamonga at $604,816 and Upland at $375,735
“We are experiencing unprecedented times, with a period of uncertainty to follow, the Coronavirus Aid Package that Congress approved will provide our community with a crucial lifeline to keep the economy moving. We are grateful for the leadership of the federal administration and their willingness to act quickly to ease the hardships,” said Fontana Mayor Acquanetta Warren in a statement.
“This is fantastic, and much needed for our first responders. It’s critical to meet the needs of our community,” commented Rialto Mayor Deborah Robertson.
In a recent webinar, the American Bar Association presented expert panelists to highlight critical impacts and “Implications of the COVID-19 Pandemic on African Americans and Communities of Color.”
Like pandemics throughout history, the panelists addressed why the Black community will take a heavier hit than whites. Unequal access to health and health insurance, underlying conditions, and racial bias in medical treatment are to blame.
Dr. Aletha Maybank addressed challenges facing Black doctors as the outbreak strikes harder in heavily concentrated Black communities, which are already stressed with underlying health conditions. She also spoke to the problems facing Native Americans as they try to fight the virus, but are isolated on reservations without ready access to clean running water.
Black and Brown people are more likely to be on the front-lines of the service sector, she added, such as janitorial, or they are left to clean up instead of being safe at home as much of the rest of the nation.
“Systems have made people vulnerable, structures have made people vulnerable and set them up in ways that it’s really hard to achieve, much harder to achieve optimal health,” said Maybank, MD, MPH, vice president and chief health equity officer, American Medical Association in Chicago.
In the South, is yet another regional challenge that the COVID crisis presents, particularly since the Black community is disproportionately dealing with health conditions, like diabetes, asthma and heart disease.
“How do folks get healthcare when there are spaces that are closed down, or further away?” she said.
Doctors of color are putting in longer hours and more effort, which is taking a toll.
“Physicians of color are more likely to see people of color, and they’re working extra hard, thinking extra hard, and emotionally becoming very spent,” she said.
Among the ABA esteemed panelists, Anthony Butler, president/CEO of AIDS Interfaith Residential Services, Inc., spoke to the COVID economic impact on individuals and business owners.
Of his concerns, he addressed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, emphasizing the importance for small business owners to seek guidance in navigating significant changes in federal legislation about how it affects their businesses and employees.
The federal government has responded in a few ways, but he’s hearing many questions regarding Stimulus dollars, such as how or where to get it. When it comes, he feels the check will help keep some in the community afloat.
“Some of the collateral consequences of COVID that I see happening longer term will be some instability in housing and hopefully, with proper guidance, and with a little bit of money management, that this will assist people with being able to maintain their housing,” he said.
Eventually, the current eviction moratorium is going to be over, but that brings its own set of challenges.
“Landlords who are also struggling are going to start to impact, and start to pick up where they left off just so they can maintain their income, as well. I believe hopefully this Stimulus check will be able to assist families in maintaining their houses,” he said.
In Orange County, Ernesta Wright is reminding the community that those without insurance will be at risk during the COVID-19 pandemic, but there is help. Covered California has expanded its Special Enrollment period.
“We’re definitely promoting that they have Special Enrollment. If they did not get insurance during the open enrollment period, anybody who doesn’t have health coverage is eligible during this time,” said Wright, executive director of the G.R.E.E.N. Foundation.
Getting access to testing is another major concern for the Black community, but she said at this time, it’s hard to tell who is getting what services. The data is not being aggregated by race through most major agencies.
However, she added, if history is any indicator of the future, African Americans have always battled access to health care.
“[COVID] would exacerbate it. Not only that, but more deaths will occur, people don’t go to the doctor because they don’t have health coverage or they don’t know that they are eligible,” said Wright, who works closely with the California Black Health Network.
During these past weeks of shelter in place, she is also trying to stick with a regular exercise regimen, walk outside, get fresh air, and always looking for new ways to not stay glued to global numbers.
It’s important to stay informed and stay safe, but she said it’s equally important to take some mental health time to be productive, creative, and do that one fun project that everyone puts off until later.
“One of our partners is doing a challenge and sending out a video to take regular afternoon dance breaks, so it’s been fun,” she said.
While the coming weeks will be tough, she said watching the numbers is not going to help as much as washing hands, only going out whenever absolutely needed and wearing the mask.
She recommends people just stay put for a while, and try reading and listening to uplifting messages.
“What we’re doing is putting out a list of faith-based organizations and trusted places for people to stay up to date. Stop looking at the White House briefing,” she said.
To see more Coronavirus resources, including information on Stimulus checks disbursements: https://aguilar.house.gov/resources/coronavirus-guidance-and-resources
To find out about Covered California coverage, see https://www.coveredca.com
For more information, see https://www.cablackhealthnetwork.org