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COVID-19 must be addressed through the lens of equity, by Rep. Donald McEachin

4/9/2020, 6 p.m.
The last few weeks have been difficult for us all. And in these incredibly challenging and scary times, we all ...
Rep. McEachin

The last few weeks have been difficult for us all. And in these incredibly challenging and scary times, we all are having to make great sacrifices to ensure that we defeat COVID-19 as quickly as possible. As non-essential workers across Virginia are working remotely, children are distance learning for the remainder of the academic year and families isolate from one another to conquer this viral enemy, we all are discovering new ways to come together.

Unfortunately, even as some of us have adjusted to this new normal, many Virginians are out of work, some are ill and small business owners are trying to figure out how to make sure their business survives this pandemic.

Recently, I joined Congress in passing the CARES Act, a stimulus bill to help make a real difference for struggling families, suffering small businesses and our overwhelmed health care system.

This bill delivered $15 billion in funding for state and local relief, including $3.31 billion for Virginia, to address the enormous costs of responding to the pandemic and $349 billion in forgivable loans for small businesses to not just survive but to keep their employees on the job.

For Virginians who have lost their jobs due to the economic uncertainty of the pandemic, the legislation provides an additional $260 billion for bolstered unemployment benefits so that out- of-work Americans can pay rent and bills while they must stay home.

To keep folks from falling behind, we also provided direct stimulus money to the vast majority of Americans. Most folks making less than $75,000 annually will be receiving $1,200 and families will receive $500 for each child, making it easier to buy groceries, pay bills and hopefully ease some of the financial burden this outbreak has placed on individuals.

Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, Congress has focused on ensuring our nation’s response puts workers and families first and keeps our communities safe while doing what we can to stimulate the economy.

However, to truly understand the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on all of our communities, we must address this pandemic through a lens of equity, focused on the communities most at risk.

The effects of COVID-19 across the country are drastic enough, but even as the coronavirus has upended our lives indiscriminately, the inequality deeply embedded in the fabric of American society guarantees the pandemic will hit some communities much harder than others.

Communities of color and low-income communities are especially vulnerable. We know the virus mortality rate is particularly high in communities with pre-existing conditions. Already grappling with the highest rates of high blood pressure and diabetes compared to any other racial demographic, black communities are more likely to be exposed to pollution that can cause other health problems, including asthma and cancer, and are less likely to have access to health care.

As Congress works on additional relief legislation to address the growing public health and economic crises caused by the coronavirus pandemic, we must work to ensure that legislation passed to provide relief across the country addresses directly the needs of disproportionately impacted communities during this crisis.