Promoting economic recovery for communities of color and low-wage workers

High Fidelity, a black owned business on Melrose Avenue, displays a "Minority Owned" signed in the window with hopes that their business would not be looted or damaged during the riots that took place the night before in Los Angeles, CA on Sunday, May 31, 2020. (Photo by Desmond A. Hester / Sipa USA)No Use UK. No Use Germany.

On July 14, 2020, Camille Busette testified in front of the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Investor Protection, Entrepreneurship, and Capital Markets in a hearing entitled “Promoting Economic Recovery: Examining Worker Protections and Capital Markets in the COVID-19 Era.”

Busette used her appearance to urge lawmakers to focus recovery efforts on addressing the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on communities of color, the enduring equity crisis in the U.S., and the continued financial insecurity of low-wage workers.

Busette reviewed the pre-pandemic economy for low-wage workers and for Black, Latino, and Native American communities and provided early data on the ways in which the pandemic itself and early steps to reopen the economy have exacerbated trends that were present in the pre-pandemic economy. She concluded her testimony by urging lawmakers to focus on three broad goals: closing the racial wealth gap, improving the wages and opportunities for upward mobility for low-wage workers, and eliminating existing health disparities. Her testimony provided additional texture on these goals:

  1. Closing the racial wealth gap. This includes charging the Federal Reserve with pegging its policies to lowering the Black unemployment rate until it matches the white unemployment rate, further supporting Black- and minority-owned businesses by providing short-term liquidity, and by incentivizing lending and addressing banks’ concerns about the risk of lending to underserved small businesses, and finally by thinking about how to craft payments to Black families that are designed to remunerate them for the effects of public policies intended to exclude them from participating in the economy.
  2. Improving wages and opportunities for upward mobility for Americans who earn low wages. This includes authorizing as an automatic stabilizer that kicks in when the economy is in recession a continuation of the additional $600 per week in unemployment insurance that was part of the CARES Act. And drawing from the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, Congress should mandate that all employers of low-wage workers provide paid leave. Finally, Congress should consider raising the federal minimum wage by $5/hour.
  3. Eliminating the existing health disparities that are prevalent in low-income communities of color. Congress can provide incentives to states and local governments to prioritize easily accessed healthcare centers and to require that their medical professionals are certified in the provision of care in a culturally sensitive manner.

The complete testimony can be viewed here. Watch video of the hearing below: