U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI) has announced a proposal to establish a federal grant program to support local organizations that will provide resources and information to communities of color during public health emergencies like the Coronavirus pandemic.
The program would be focused on outreach and mitigation.
It would be administered by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and coordinate with local faith-based and non-profit organizations to increase awareness of public health information and safety guidelines in communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.
In Michigan, African American residents make up 32% of cases and 41% of deaths, despite accounting for only 14% of the state’s population.
“We must do more to help underserved and minority communities that have been particularly hard-hit by this pandemic, including the African American community in Michigan,” said Senator Peters, Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. “In many communities in Michigan and across the country, non-profits and faith-based organizations are trusted sources of information and resources. My proposal would allow these groups to access federal grants to help their neighbors during public health emergencies, including this crisis. I will be pushing to advance my proposal as part of future Coronavirus relief legislation.”
Many local non-profits and faith-based organizations are trusted sources of information and have a presence in communities of color, including those that lack access to internet and a primary health provider for information on resources about how to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus.
Throughout this pandemic, these organizations have provided information on testing sites, how to access broadband for distance learning, food banks and meal distribution, accessing mental health services – and more.
These groups do not receive federal support to publicize this information and available services.
By allowing them to apply for federal grants, these organizations could expand efforts to disseminate information locally, and they are uniquely situated to help stop the spread of COVID-19 and protect their friends and neighbors.
“Each year across the great state of Michigan, YWCA staff work to ensure the health, safety, and economic security of more than 12,800 women, children and families, many of whom are people of color,” said YWCA USA CEO, Alejandra Y. Castillo. “We are grateful to Senator Peters for this important focus on COVID-19 racial disparities. We must work to ensure that communities of color who are most vulnerable to the worst outcomes of the COVID crisis receive the life-saving information needed to protect themselves and their families.”
“We commend Senator Peters for his leadership in advancing much needed legislation that works to address the disparities in the dissemination of crucial and accurate healthcare and safety information to racial and ethnic minority communities and others,” said Hilary O. Shelton, Director & Senior Vice President For Policy and Advocacy, NAACP Washington Bureau.
“Across the United States, Black Americans are dying of COVID-19 at disproportionally high rates,” said Ebonie Riley, DC Bureau Chief, National Action Network. “Data from Michigan, Louisiana, Illinois, and New York also shows racial imbalances. Our communities have been far behind, still lacking resources and information. Churches and community-based organizations have filled in the gaps. National Action Network is proud to support the new grant program for faith-based and community organizations proposed by Senator Gary Peters, which would help address the lack of funding for the black community. This funding would provide our communities with information to combat public health emergencies such as COVID.”
“Generations of inaction and discrimination, now built into our systems, mean that low-income communities and communities of color are being hit first and worst,” said Nisha Anand, CEO, Dream Corps. “Congress must protect the most vulnerable among us and act in recognition of the fact that this pandemic is both a health and economic crisis — and one that will hurt some people more than others. The vulnerable communities that will be hurt worst by this crisis make up the base of support of both parties, and so both parties have a vested interest in coming together to identify common ground that helps vulnerable people. Enabling community-based and faith-based groups to share information about how communities can stay safe, healthy, and vibrant during this time is an urgent step that we urge Congress to take immediately.”
Peters has led numerous efforts to provide resources to minority communities that have been most affected by this unprecedented public health emergency and economic crisis. Last week, Peters led the effort that was signed into law to increase funding for small community-based lenders that support rural and minority-owned businesses – including Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) and Minority Depository Institutions (MDIs). Peters also pressed the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to be more transparent with their efforts to address existing racial and socioeconomic disparities in their Coronavirus pandemic response and ensure vulnerable communities get the help they need. Additionally, Peters introduced a bill earlier this month to require HHS to collect and report racial and other demographic data about the testing, treatment, and outcomes of COVID-19.