Reopening Louisiana’s economy before proper health protections are in place would put many at risk. It also would disproportionately hit people of color, who have already faced more concentrated suffering from job loss, infections and deaths from Covid-19. Black and Latinx workers entered this pandemic with lower incomes and were more likely to be forced to make a choice between their health and their jobs. Jim Tankersley of The New York Times has more on how lifting restrictions too soon will only increase racial wealth disparities:
That push is likely to exacerbate longstanding inequalities, with workers who are college educated, relatively affluent and primarily white able to continue working from home and minimizing outdoor excursions to reduce the risk of contracting the virus. Those who are lower paid, less educated and employed in jobs where teleworking is not an option would face a bleak choice if states lift restrictive orders and employers order them back to work: expose themselves to the pandemic or lose their jobs. That disempowered group is heavily black and Latino, though it includes lower-income white workers as well.
In Louisiana, as Nola.com | The Advocate reports, Republican legislators are mulling whether to buck Gov. John Bel Edwards’ decision to extend the state’s stay-at-home order through May 15 by rescinding his emergency declaration. LBP explains why this is a terrible idea:
Doing so could not only endanger public health, but also potentially jeopardize hundreds of millions of dollars in federal support for vulnerable families during this crisis. Even under optimistic projections, Louisiana’s economy will take a long time to recover. Federal emergency assistance will be critically needed to make sure families continue to have a roof over their heads and food to eat and that businesses have the capital needed to stay open. Overturning the governor’s emergency declaration puts much of that funding at risk.
Landlords are still kicking Louisiana renters to the street
The governor’s stay-at-home order is hard to follow if you don’t have a home. But while some protections are in place for renters struggling to make ends meet during the pandemic, this hasn’t stopped landlords from attempting to evict families during this crisis, often in violation of the law. Dan Keating and Lauren Tierney of the Washington Post have more on why renters in Louisiana, with a high poverty rate and few renter protections, are now at particular risk of becoming homeless:
Even when renters are protected by the federal law, landlords are still delivering eviction notices. Over about a month, [Hannah] Adams said her Southeastern Louisiana agency dealt with 23 threatened illegal evictions — meaning a landlord changes the locks, puts property out on the street or takes other action without any court eviction proceeding. Eight of those went from threats to action. Three of those were blocked in court, she said, and the other five handled out of court. “Landlords take matters into their own hands in ways that are not legal,” she said.
Minority-owned small businesses receive less federal help
Congress created the Paycheck Protection Program to help small businesses keep their workers on the payroll during the pandemic. But many of the biggest beneficiaries have been large corporations. While lawmakers added money to the loan program last week, they failed to fix many of its structural issues, and that’s a big problem for many small, minority-owned companies. Jamil Smith of Rolling Stone explains:
(T)he Small Business Administration needs a set-aside of $10 billion of new PPP funds for Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) and Minority Depository Institutions (MDIs). It’s the only way that black, Latino, Asian, and other small business owners of color can have an equal chance to receive pandemic relief as wealthier bank clients. “CDFIs and MDIs have strong track records of lending to underserved businesses,” (Ashley) Harrington (of the Center for Responsible Lending) says. “However, without a specific allocation, the expanded PPP funding will run out before CDFIs and MDIs can access it, thwarting Congressional intent and the overall goals of the program.”
COVID recovery plans must build a more equitable Louisiana
The Governor and Legislature have each created task forces to help plan Louisiana’s recovery. But if these bodies fail to improve the economic fortunes of Louisianans of color, our post-COVID economy will suffer. Angelle Bradford, Tulane University School of Medicine doctoral student, writes in The Lens on why centering equity is essential to the state’s recovery efforts:
Confounding factors have worked for generations to destroy Black communities. And may it not be lost on us all that those very factors have led people to live, work, and breathe in areas relegated to doom. Neither lifestyle choices nor individual responsibility can explain away the widespread loss we are seeing in south Louisiana’s Black community, where earlier this month African Americans made up over 70 percent of COVID-19 fatalities despite being only 32 percent of the population.
Number of the Day:
1,502,811 – Population in Louisiana who live in a rental home or apartment. Louisiana scored 0.38 out of a possible 5 (higher is better), for the state’s protections for renters during the pandemic. (Source: Eviction Lab)