The COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing economic crisis have disproportionately harmed communities of color in Texas and underscored existing inequities. Black and Latino communities are dealing with higher rates of layoffs than their White neighbors, and immigrant families are being systematically excluded from state and federal COVID-19 relief efforts. These troubling inequities underscore the ways in which America’s history of racism, bias, and discrimination have remained embedded in its health, social, and economic systems.
While more federal aid to states could help ease state budget shortfalls, Texas lawmakers can help reverse current trends and create a broader economic recovery by enacting policies that adhere to the three principles set out in a new report from our friends at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in Washington, DC:
- Target Texans with the greatest health and economic needs
- For example, Texas lawmakers should urge Congress and the White House to increase Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly “food stamp”) benefits by 15% for all households to better reflect the cost of an adequate diet.
- Dismantle Texas’s longstanding racial, gender, and economic inequities
- Our state should adequately invest in child care infrastructure and address systemic racial and economic disparities in the child care sector.
- Protect state finances to preserve the foundations of long-term economic growth and opportunity
- Governor Abbott should accept billions in federal funds to provide comprehensive Medicaid health coverage to uninsured Texas adults below the poverty line.
White supremacy and structural racism created and now perpetuates disparities in power, resources, and opportunities – disadvantaging communities of color and preserving the privilege of an elite, largely white class. The wealthiest 10% of White households hold nearly two-thirds of all the country’s wealth, and other White households about another fifth, leaving only 13% for everyone else.
Disparities like these bring harm to Black and brown people and limit their ability to provide for their families and hinder their contributions that strengthen the broader economy. In the era of COVID-19, these disparities have resulted in even more severe health and economic inequities. Nationwide, counties that are majority people of color have far more COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations than mostly White counties. Making matters more dire, Black people have endured higher death rates. The country’s unprecedented unemployment levels have also affected lower-wage industries the most, where people of color, including immigrants, and women are overrepresented.
The need for these principled choices has always existed but is more important now than ever. “Like a scary camera we’ve turned on ourselves, the pandemic is exposing hard truths about our society that we have overlooked for too long,” Every Texan CEO Ann Beeson pointed out in her recent op-ed for the El Paso Times. Although they don’t fix all the wrongs that are present from our nation’s beginnings, the three principles and policies outlined above will help address the needs of those most impacted today and help respond to longstanding structural inequities.