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Why the Next COVID Relief Package Must Protect Black Women

Last week, Republicans in Congress decided that the American people are less critical than billion-dollar corporations. These elected officials who were put in office to do one job—represent their constituents—determined that states with depleted budgets and millions of American people who are unemployed and suffering should ‘pull themselves up by the bootstraps.’ Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and President Trump have referred to federal aid as “blue state bailouts,” confirming that they, like many Republicans in Congress, are out of touch and aloof to the implications of the ongoing recession and challenges bought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. In Our Own Voice, along with 14 other Black Reproductive Justice organizations, have signed on to a letter with a list of demands for the next COVID-19 relief package, which Republicans in Congress have blatantly ignored. Even still, let us discuss why relief, particularly for Black women, matters right now.

As most health inequities have, it’s no surprise that the COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected Black people, specifically Black women. Moreover, while many would consider blackness a pre-existing health condition, years of systematic racism within our healthcare systems tell us otherwise. Black women stand at the intersections of many biases, including race, ethnicity, gender, and socio-economic determinants, impacting their health and safety. Recent months of data reported by the CDC have confirmed that hospitalization rates are highest among Black people, with Black people being five times more likely to be hospitalized due to the virus.

By putting forward a COVID-19 relief package that provides little to no aid, Republicans in Congress have principally dismissed the financial, mental, and emotional implications of this pandemic—many of which are devastating to Black people, specifically Black women. Black women are the least able to afford an economic crisis and are more likely to be evicted if one occurs. Black women are also more likely to have lower-wage jobs and are frequently uninsured or underinsured. Many health experts have reduced decreasing the risk of exposure to social-distancing in combination with mask-wearing. However, for the 67.5% of Black women who are heads of their households and essential workers, staying home, and social distancing is not an option. Black women have been forced to bear the burden of serving others while placing themselves and their family’s health and wellbeing at considerable risk. It is unfair and deprives Black women of the freedom and choice to create their families as they see fit and raise their families in safe and nurturing environments—it’s a human right that everyone deserves and one of the core tenants of Reproductive Justice.

In a matter of months, the United States “promoted” nearly 70 percent of Black women to essential workers, heroes even. Now is not the time to deny these women access to critical health care services and their right to cast their votes safely. The next COVID-19 relief package passed by Congress must include flexible funding for state and local jurisdictions to spend as they see fit in their communities and prevent avoidable hardship and evictions. The bill must also provide significant funding to support fair and accessible elections across the country.

Take action today, tell your Representative to protect Black women and vulnerable communities today.

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