At Thursday’s virtual briefing of the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis — which dealt with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on America’s minority communities — Republican members of the committee took a hard look at the effect that prolonged lockdowns around the country have had on minorities and emphasized the need to reopen our economy.
“The economic and health burden of the shutdown has had too big an impact on minority communities,” said Republican Whip and Select Subcommittee Ranking Member Steve Scalise (R-La.) in his statement at the beginning of the briefing. “Getting people back to work is critical to improving minority health outcomes.”
During his opening statement, health care expert Avik Roy explained that prolonged economic lockdowns have been devastating for minority-owned businesses throughout the country, which is having a negative effect on the health of minority communities.
“In late 2019, black unemployment reached its lowest rate in history: 5.4%,” Roy explained to the panel in regards to the coronavirus lockdown’s disproportionate effect on America’s minority communities. “Today the black unemployment rate is 16.7%.”
“Reopening the economy is essential for public health,” Dr. Roy told Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-Mo.) during the question-and-answer portion of the briefing.
“There’s a lot of research now — cumulative research — about the negative effects of unemployment and poverty,” Roy continued. “The one countervailing thing is that, if you lock down the economy, nobody’s getting into a car accident … everything else is negative.”
According to Roy’s research, the average American small business has less than 30 days of cash in reserve if they have no customers, he told the Select Subcommittee. “So we’re seeing already hundreds of thousands of Small businesses — many minority owned, by the way — permanently closed because they don’t have the cash reserves to reopen once we get out of lockdown,” he explained.
“The best way we can help Americans … African Americans, All Americans, is to open up our economy and let people go back to doing the things they need to do, from a health concern point of view that statement is true and from an economic point of view that statement is obviously true,” remarked Oversight Committee Ranking Member Jim Jordan (R-Ohio).
“Absolutely,” Roy responded.
“We need to continue to open, reopen and defeat coronavirus,” said Select Subcommittee Member Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.). “Safely reopening business doesn’t just put money in people’s pockets, it boosts their wealth and their wellbeing.”
In his remarks, Dr. Mark Green (R-Tenn.) called on lawmakers to take an honest and unbiased look at the data when evaluating the disparate impact of the coronavirus on black communities, pointing to medical data from the United States and around the world.
“Unfortunately, due to numerous factors COVID-19 is hitting disproportionately our black brothers and sisters across the globe,” Green said. “We must tackle this issue using a science-based approach that will truly help them … we’ve got to continue studying [COVID-19], but we’ve got to make sure we look at the data fairly.”