COVID-19 Fact Sheet: Black Workers in New Orleans Face Higher Obstacles Than White Workers

A new brief released by the Insight Center for Community Economic Development looks into the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic on workers in the city of New Orleans, Louisiana.

As a majority-Black city that was already grappling with deep-seated racial inequality, the global pandemic is dramatically impacting the backbone and soul of New Orleans: Black people.

Not only have Black people in New Orleans accounted for two-thirds of the residents who have died from the coronavirus, but, as workers, they also comprise the lion’s share of the occupations most impacted by COVID-19. Since the pandemic struck, Black people across the US have either lost their jobs or have been classified as essential workers; the latter group has been forced to make decisions between protecting their health or receiving a paycheck.

Policymakers in Louisiana have long ignored the economic security and well-being of the population in its largest city and have now left its residents to work in occupations most at risk of exposure to COVID-19. Black people constitute 79% of all cooks, 87% of all hairdressers, and 84% of home health aides in Orleans Parish, but they only comprise 60% of the population. Women of all races are disproportionately represented in employment as childcare workers, home health aides, and maids and housekeepers. Most working people in these occupations lack paid sick leave or health insurance.

Since the onset of COVID-19, hospitality jobs have declined by nearly 50%, about double the decline of the next closest industry. Cities like New Orleans that rely on tourism and hospitality are likely to experience deeper economic slowdowns, but there is also a growing concern that New Orleans will experience permanent job loss and that Black and Brown people and women will be disproportionately affected.

Click here to read and download the full brief (PDF).

To learn more, listen to our Hidden Truths podcast episode with Ursula Price and LaToya Johnson of the New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice for an in-depth conversation on “COVID capitalism” and how New Orleans’ Black and Brown workers are fighting for a seat at the table to inform policy and practice.

Black and Brown Owned Businesses Hit Hardest by COVID-19 Pandemic

This fact sheet based on data by Robert Fairlie and released by the Insight Center for Community Economic Development shows that across the United States, businesses owned by Black, Latinx, and Asian people have closed down at an alarming rate during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Recent estimates, for example, show that 40 percent of the revenues of Black-owned businesses are more likely to be in sectors most impacted by the pandemic including leisure, hospitality and retail. Between February and April of 2020, more than 3 million small businesses closed dow n across the county. Businesses owned by people of color, women, and immigrants were most severely harmed, closing down faster than the national average. White owned businesses have closed down at a much slower rate, the only group to see a smaller share of businesses close than the national average.

Small businesses serve vital roles in our economy, particularly for people who are denied opportunities by employers and the job market. For Black and Brown people, small businesses are often the only pathway to economic security and/or a job where their dignity stays intact. As federal and state governments work to address the economic fallout of the pandemic, they must center businesses owned by people of color and women to ensure they are able to survive during and after the pandemic.

Click here to read and download the full fact sheet (PDF).

Rules of Our Economy Are Harming People of Color, Women, and Immigrants During COVID-19

This fact sheet released by the Insight Center for Community Economic Development provides an analysis of a selection of jobs most likely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic in California.

The jobs most at risk are overwhelmingly low-wage jobs, held primarily by people of color, women, and immigrants. With a median annual income of just $22,900 a year, these jobs pay poorly and have little to no benefits, making it so workers are unlikely to have savings to fall back on while weathering the effects of the pandemic. As California grapples with the necessary disruption to everyday life, communities with the least amount of power are dealing with the worst economic consequences.

Without meaningful interventions from state and federal governments, workers of color and women will be left struggling with the fallout from COVID-19 for decades to come.

Click here to read and download the full fact sheet (PDF).

Spell It with a Capital “B”

By Anne Price, President

“When a copyeditor deletes the capital “B,” they are in effect deleting the history and contributions of my people.” – Lori L. Thompson

Last week, in a step to modernize and commit to greater inclusion, The Brookings Institution, a well-established Washington D.C. think tank, announced that it would update its writing style guide to capitalize “Black” when referencing Black or African American people. For Brookings, this is not merely a typographical change but, rather, an intentional effort to recognize how people’s experiences are represented.

While there’s no standard rule on whether references to race should be lowercase or capitalized, most media outlets and publications that rely on the AP Stylebook refer to Black people in the lowercase. The APA style calls for capitalized Black and White, and The Chicago Manual of Style allows the authors to capitalize Black based on their preference. Major news outlets like The New York Times and the Associated Press both use lowercase black and white.

The question of how to properly refer to Black people in print has deep historical roots. In an 1878 editorial entitled “Spell it with a Capital,” Ferdinand Lee Barnett, husband of Ida B. Wells and founder of a Black weekly newspaper, asserted that the failure of white people to capitalize Negro was to show disrespect to, stigmatize, and “fasten a badge of inferiority” on Black people. In 1898, sociologist, historian, and civil rights activist W.E.B. DuBois proclaimed, “I believe that eight million Americans deserve a capital letter.”

This is precisely why capitalizing Black also matters…

Read Anne’s full piece here >>

Old Ways Wont Open New Doors sign

Remaking America’s Promise for the Next Generation

Anne Price | Medium

Last week, presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren unveiled a sweeping plan to tackle a $1.5 trillion student debt crisis to address our higher education system that is holding back generations of Americans. Her proposal calls for wiping out student debt of up to $50,000 for 42 million working and middle class Americans. Moreover, 90 percent of those who are burdened with student debt but dropped out of college would also benefit. The proposal makes all public colleges’ tuition and fees free, adds $100 billion in Pell grants over ten years, and creates a $50 billion fund for HBCUs (historically black colleges) and other minority-serving institutions. Senator Warren plans to pay for it with an annual 2 percent tax on families with $50 million or more in wealth.

Warren’s plan is sparking a debate about the scale of federal support needed to address the student loan crisis and surfacing narratives about fairness and deservedness. It also provides us the opportunity to examine how corporate power and anti-Black racism is depriving an entire generation of young people from getting ahead, whether that’s buying a home, saving for retirement, starting a family, or launching a business. Student debt ultimately serves as a multigenerational debt anchor that causes unrelenting stress, financial strain, and a spiraling cycle of debt.

Who carries debt and who defaults on their loans is racialized and gendered. About 11.5 percent of student loans are in default. According to the New York Federal Reserve, borrowers between the ages of 40 to 49 have the worst delinquency rates. It is estimated that in the next five years, 40 percent of borrowers are likely to default.

Last month we released a report about millennial women — defined as those born between 1980 and 1997— showing that two-thirds of student debt ($900 billion) is owed by women. And roughly $700 billion of outstanding loan balances are held by Americans under 40.

Click here to read the full piece on Medium.

Past the Drought: New Report Examines Inequities in California’s Central Valley

By Aisa Villarosa, Associate Director of Policy and Research

Take your pick of produce from any grocery aisle in the nation, and it’s likely to come from California’s Central Valley.

The Central Valley contains less than one percent of total farmland in the United States; and yet, the region grows nearly half of the country’s fruits, vegetables, and nuts, carrying a total annual value of over $33 billion.[1] This abundance is achieved through the year-round efforts of the Valley’s agricultural workers — thousands of women, men, and children who toil through scorching days and cold nights, with little pay or job protection.

Insight’s new report, Past the Drought: Overcoming Barriers to Economic Security in California’s Central Valley, spotlights how, despite decades of invaluable contributions to the nation’s economic growth, the Valley is the poorest region in California — with nearly 4 out of every 10 households unable to afford basic needs. Using Insight’s Self-Sufficiency Standard,[2] the report highlights key findings and offers recommendations for change so that all Central Valley residents can have a chance to thrive.

Click here to read the full piece.

Data For Black Lives | Black People vs Robots: Panel Discussion

Earlier this month, Anne Price shared her thoughts during a panel discussion titled “Black People vs. Robots: Reparations and Workers Rights in the Age of Automation” at the second annual Data for Black Lives conference.

The conference convened hundreds of data scientists, computer programmers, racial justice activists, and elected officials to discuss the role that data can and should play in Black communities. Click here or on the video below to watch a recording of Anne’s panel discussion.

#HiddenRules of Wealth and Income

Anne Price and Jhumpa Bhattacharya joined Darrick Hamilton, Andrea Flynn, Marshall Steinbaum, Restaurant Opportunities Centers (ROC) United, and Sandy Darity on Twitter for a live discussion on the hidden rules of wealth and income on February 14th hosted by The Roosevelt Institute. You can read their Twitter chat below.

Here are additional resources that were shared during the conversation:

Learn more and add to the conversation by using the hashtag #HiddenRules.

The End of DACA

The Insight Center is appalled by the Trump administration’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. A cruel and heartless decision, it puts over 800,000 Americans who came here as children in jeopardy of deportation, an act that tears families apart and forces people to abandon a life they have worked hard to create.

This un-American decision goes against everything Insight stands for, and is in direct violation of our vision of a society where all people can fully participate in the economy and have the freedom to bring their full selves to our diverse nation regardless of zip code, race, gender, or immigration status. DACA gave so many of our young people hope, peace of mind, and a sense of safety – basic human rights. It showed us that our government saw young, undocumented immigrants as human beings, and recognized the countless contributions they make to our society. With this reversal, our nation’s humanity is at stake. We urge Congress to step up and take action in passing the DREAM Act to stand against tyranny and hate.

We stand with Dreamers and will fight to ensure they are protected, safe, and have access to the basic human rights they deserve.

Photo courtesy; Susan Melkisethian of Flickr Creative Commons

Loy Mulyagonja

Senior Consultant

Loy Mulyagonja, CPA, is a Supervising Consultant at FMA and serves as a senior finance consultant to the Insight Center. Loy provides outsourcing services in an array of service areas, from daily accounting and bookkeeping to fiscal staff supervision and training, back-office accounting support, government and private grants management, and monitoring and compliance. She also has experience assisting clients in designing, implementing and maintaining proper and efficient accounting and financial reporting systems, including sound internal controls and policies and procedures.

Before joining FMA, Loy was the Chief Financial Officer at Center for Employment Opportunities where she managed and coordinated all financial and accounting activities including budgeting, monitoring and maintenance of internal controls, ensuring regulatory compliance, and continuously improving processes and systems.

Loy holds a Masters of Public Administration and BA in Business Administration in Accounting from Baruch College.