Minding the Wealth Gap: Putting Policy in Place to Increase Black Wealth

Contributed by -

Margaret C. Simms, Ph.D.


When asked to describe the economic well-being of African Americans, there is a tendency to focus on income, employment, or poverty rates. While these factors are important, they are not the only measures of economic well-being. Wealth is another key measure. It is both a driver of other measures of economic well-being and a consequence of poor outcomes in those areas.

Wealth is the sum of all assets minus liabilities or debt. Wealth, in the form of savings, can tide families over during difficult times; fund an education; provide a down payment on a house; or act as seed capital for a business start-up. Without assets, individuals and families will find it much more difficult to get ahead, leaving them unable to provide their children with the necessary resources and tools to achieve economic success.

By all measures of wealth, African Americans entered the pandemic at a distinct disadvantage. According to data from the Federal Reserve Bank’s[i] 2019 survey of consumer finances, the typical African American household had less than 15% of the median wealth of the typical white household ($24,100 versus $188,200).

The largest source of wealth for most families is in their home. And here, African Americans are further disadvantaged in two ways: First, they are less likely to own homes – only 45% own their homes as opposed to 74% of whites. Second, their stake in those homes is traditionally lower. The median home equity for African Americans was $150,000 in 2019 versus $310,000 for their white peers.

Another prime source of wealth is business ownership. And for African Americans, the numbers are similarly discouraging. Only 4.8% of African Americans owned businesses in 2019 compared to 16.5% of their white counterparts; and those Black-owned businesses were smaller, with lower revenues and fewer employees.

While home and business ownership are ways to build wealth and pass it on to the next generation, liquid or near-liquid assets in the form of savings and investment accounts are important components of wealth. These financial vehicles provide individuals and families with resources to draw on when they lose their jobs or get sick. They are also a source of funds to pay for the kind of education or career training that gives them, or their children, access to better jobs. But, as with other measures, African Americans lag here ($5,500 vs. $49,510).

Given the numerous disadvantages, there was every reason to worry over how African Americans would fare during a year that was trying for everyone.

Although we do not have the data to assess the impact of the sharp economic downturn and acute health crisis, we can, however, look back at the country’s most recent experience of economic decline to get a sense of how wealth will be affected. The Great Recession of 2007-2009 resulted in a 26.2% decline in wealth for white households and a 47.6% decline for African American households.[ii]  Several sources of data suggest that it is very likely that we will emerge from this pandemic-induced economic decline with an even wider racial wealth gap.

Hardship data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau show that African Americans are more likely to have drawn down on their savings early in the pandemic (51.6% vs. 36% of whites).[iii] One year after the pandemic, they were more likely to face problems related to homeownership. African American households are nearly three times as likely as white households to be behind on their mortgage (17% vs. 6.7%) and almost one and a half times as likely to expect foreclosure if they are behind on their mortgage (22.1% vs. 15.7% of whites).[iv] 

A Federal Reserve survey, conducted in late 2020, of older, more established business owners showed that Black business owners over the age of 45 were more likely to have curtailed business operations, drawn on personal assets, borrowed from family or friends, and reduced their own salaries than white business owners.[v]  They were also less likely to have received Payroll Protection Plan funds. And if they received them, they were more likely to receive less than requested.

After centuries of overt discrimination and structural racism, African Americans are disadvantaged at generational wealth building. The theft of their land, the exploitation of their labor, and the role American businesses played by legally enforcing or sanctioning residential segregation all contributed to depriving African Americans of wealth.[vi] Given the agenda of the Biden administration to “redress systemic racism,” today, we find ourselves at an opportune moment to work on reducing barriers to wealth and supporting African American wealth building.

Historically, many federal policies designed to assist and support middle- and low-income families by improving their economic condition were not implemented equitably. On his first day in office, President Biden signed an executive order requiring that all government agencies review their programs to assess whether any of their regulations or practices result in inequitable treatment by race.[vii]  As part of that assessment, agencies will have to improve their data gathering and monitoring to identify patterns of service delivery and structures that might be barriers to equitable access. This will be an important tool for both assessing and monitoring progress.

Here are a few wealth-building proposals, including some embedded in the American Families Plan and the American Jobs Plan.[viii]

  • Reduce or eliminate student debt:

While not a form of wealth measured explicitly in our data, human capital in the form of education or training is an important tool for economic advancement. The high cost of education precludes many individuals from accessing the training they need to get ahead. Many African Americans become saddled with a debt burden so heavy that it keeps them from building wealth for many years after they complete their education, leaving them far behind many of their white peers, whose educations were fully paid for or whose loan burdens were far lower.

  • Make health care more affordable and increase wages:

While not directly related to asset development, there are policies that could make it easier for African Americans to build assets. These include implementing universal health insurance and reducing health insurance premiums, which would allow more people access to decent health care and decrease the need for families to draw down on limited savings to cover emergency medical expenses. Efforts to increase the number of jobs that pay living wages would also help because more workers would be able to save for emergencies and investments.[ix]

  • Increase African American homeownership:

One way to increase homeownership is to increase outreach to potential homeowners, informing them of down payment support programs and financing options. In addition, we must reexamine the criteria to qualify for mortgages to determine if they are implicitly biased for reasons beyond creditworthiness.[x]

  • Facilitate business ownership: 

Government resources that support minority business development have diminished over the past decade. As a candidate, Biden proposed elevating the Minority Business Development Administration, which would offer additional bandwidth to expand businesses owned by entrepreneurs of color. The administration should also reexamine federal programs such as the New Markets Tax Credit initiative to ferret out the ways in which its design and structure perpetuates structural racism, which would help eliminate barriers and improve African American entrepreneurs’ access to capital funds.[xi]

There are a variety of ways to increase access to opportunity for African Americans. Many of these prescriptions could come via the implementation of programs or policies put forth by then-candidate Biden. Since assuming office, other directives have come via proposals of now-President Biden. During the past 50 years, at worse, government policies neglected or impeded access to opportunity. At best, these policies managed to partially, if unevenly, combat discrimination and break down barriers. It is clear that much remains to be done if African Americans are to be afforded a chance at a better life through personal wealth creation.


[i] https://www.federalreserve.gov/econres/notes/feds-notes/disparities-in-wealth-by-race-and-ethnicity-in-the-2019-survey-of-consumer-finances-20200928.htm

[ii] https://www.urban.org/urban-wire/how-policymakers-can-ensure-covid-19-pandemic-doesnt-widen-racial-wealth-gap

[iii] https://www.urban.org/urban-wire/how-covid-19-affecting-black-and-latino-families-employment-and-financial-well-being

[iv] Estimates derived from Census Bureau Household Pulse data tables for March 17-29. https://www.census.gov/data/tables/2021/demo/hhp/hhp27.html

[v] https://www.newyorkfed.org/medialibrary/FedSmallBusiness/files/2021/45-entrepreneuers-aarp-report  

[vi] https://www.urban.org/urban-wire/racial-inequities-will-grow-unless-we-consciously-work-eliminate-them

[vii] https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2021/01/25/2021-01753/advancing-racial-equity-and-support-for-underserved-communities-through-the-federal-government

[viii] https://joebiden.com/racial-economic-equity/

[ix] https://www.urban.org/urban-wire/how-policymakers-can-ensure-covid-19-pandemic-doesnt-widen-racial-wealth-gap

[x] https://www.urban.org/urban-wire/2040-us-will-experience-modest-homeownership-declines-black-households-impact-will-be-dramatic

[xi] https://www.urban.org/events/past-present-and-future-new-markets-tax-credit-program


Removing the Roadblocks to a Dream Deferred

Contributed by -

David S. Huntley


Many runners speak of a runner’s high. It’s a temporary state of euphoria when you feel as though space and time disappear and you can push past pain and exhaustion. I would know. For years, I’ve hit the pavement, running 6 miles a day - rain or shine, a little less these days, but still running. But no amount of training, degrees or accolades can help me or you outrun the inequities we face.

Mentally, physically, emotionally, we’re tired. I’m tired.

We’ve been stretched to the max and then asked to go further. And this race for our humanity seems, at times, without a finish line. We take a few steps forward and, boom, another shoe drops, and we’re two steps back.

We’re fighting for our peace, our rights, and our lives. And, we’re running against great opposition, often wondering when we’ll have an opportunity to recover.

From corporations to private citizens, people from all walks of life are standing with us in this moment. As our collective voices reach a fever pitch, we have a unique opportunity to change the trajectory for future generations, and it feels real and tangible this time. We must seize this moment, holding both ourselves, allies and those we seek to influence, accountable.

The National Urban League  is doing just that, holding each of us accountable for the progress we so desperately need. Through its annual State of Black America® report and the semi-annual Equality IndexTM, the National Urban League ensures we are fully apprised of the economic disparities that exist within our communities and also where we’re making progress.

Last year was devastating and so far, 2021 hasn’t felt much different. From a global pandemic to social unrest, last year dealt blows to families, caused businesses to fail, and caused unthinkable loss. Tragically, some of this loss has been caused by those sworn to serve and protect. These trials have shone a spotlight on the urgency of breaking the cycle of systemic inequities.

I am so proud that AT&T is in partnership with the National Urban League for this vital work.

At AT&T, we understand that our world works best when we can all live our best lives. We have both a moral and business obligation to Stand for Equality, which is one of our core values. We have supported calls for police reform, made significant investments in Black-owned and other minority businesses, launched programs to attract more diverse talent, and we stand for voting rights. Still, we know there is more work to do. During the pandemic we committed $11.5 million to create opportunities to create economic opportunities and foster upward mobility for Black and other underserved communities who face long-standing social inequities and higher unemployment, all of which are exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Both AT&T and the National Urban League understand that equity cannot be achieved without equal access to the tools and resources that keep us connected. It is our desire to help usher in the change the National Urban League seeks to make through its Lewis Latimer plan for Digital Equity and Inclusion.  In 2020, we spent $3.1 billion with Black-owned suppliers, surpassing a $3 billion two-year commitment to drive impactful and meaningful change with Black suppliers in the U.S.

Ultimately, investments alone won’t be enough to win this race.  There must be massive efforts in showing people the way. While we’re in this race, pursuing “good trouble,” as the late Congressman John Lewis would say, we must invest in our communities. I know I wouldn’t be where I am today if others hadn’t invested in me.

Winning hearts and minds requires generational change. In 2015, I had the privilege to speak at the National Urban League’s State of Black America® event. That morning, I’d hoped to stand before those in attendance and speak about the progress we were making. The nation’s first Black President was closing out his second term; entrepreneurship was up, and for a moment it was almost as if we’d “arrived”. But I didn’t give a speech on our successes that evening. I couldn’t stand in front of an audience that night, which included one of my college-aged sons, and not talk about Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland, Jordan Davis, and the many other young Black lives taken before their time. Six years later, it seems new names of Black lives are added to this list of “gone to soon” by the week.

We can never grow complacent with the speed of progress or grow weary in this challenging race. Our fight for a new normal, one that is diverse, inclusive, and equitable, is not a sprint or marathon; it is a sustained journey.

Mitigating the Economic Impact of COVID-19 on Black Communities Through Fintech

Contributed by -

Kristen E. Broady, Ph.D., MBA

Fellow Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program

Tiffany N. Ford, Ph.D., MPH



Senior Fellow Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a disparate impact on Americans across racial and ethnic divides, not only creating a health crisis but also an economic crisis and worsening racial wealth and income gaps. Fintech companies — companies that use innovations in the finance and technology spaces to provide alternative financial services — can help mitigate the racial wealth and income gaps exacerbated by the pandemic. Fintech can serve as a conduit for financial education and wealth creation for underserved populations historically left out of the traditional financial system.

Responding to increased COVID-19 cases in March 2020, states began to order the closure of nonessential businesses, including restaurants, bars, salons, and retail stores (Gersema, 2020). These state-ordered closures, along with voluntary social distancing, helped mitigate the spread of the pandemic but led to mass layoffs and unemployment.

Employment fell by 701,000 in March 2020, and the unemployment rate increased by 0.9 percentage points, the largest month-over-month increase since January 1975 (BLS 2020). According to a report by the Hamilton Project at Brookings Institution, “COVID-19–related job losses wiped out 113 straight months of job growth, with total nonfarm employment falling by 20.5 million jobs in April.” While the pandemic created an economic crisis across the country, it had a disparate impact on Black and Hispanic workers — particularly women.

From the start, job losses were concentrated among women, particularly Black and Hispanic women workers. In addition, workers between the ages of 16-19 and low-wage workers were also affected. Before nationwide stay-at-home orders were imposed in March, the U.S. unemployment rate stood at 4.4% — by April, it skyrocketed to 14.7%. During that same time, the rate for Black workers went from 5.2% to 16.5% for Black women and from 7% to 16% for Black men.

As businesses began to reopen and restrictions loosened, the U.S. unemployment rate began to drop, falling to 6.9% in October 2020, but the rate for Black women was 2.3 percentage points higher at 9.2%; and the rate for Black men was 4.6 percentage points higher at 11.5%. The May 2021 jobs report has confirmed what we already knew: Inequality remains in full and detrimental effect. While the U.S. unemployment rate was 5.8%, the unemployment rate for Black women workers was 8.2%, and the rate for Black men workers was 9.8%, compared to 4.8% for white women and 5.1% for white men.

According to a 2019 study by McKinsey & Company, Black Americans can expect to earn up to $1 million less than white Americans over their lifetimes. The data shows that on average Black people have higher unemployment rates, lower earnings, lower rates of homeownership, and pay more for credit and banking services. These factors contribute to vast disparities in wealth accumulation between their households and white households (Foohey and Martin, 2020). These preexisting disparities obviously left some households more vulnerable than others in the wake of the COVID-19 induced recession.

Black and Hispanic people are also more likely than white people to depend on non-traditional, high interest financial services like check cashing companies and payday lenders because there are fewer banks in Black and Hispanic neighborhoods. Increasing access to traditional banking services could save Black and Hispanic Americans up to $40,000 over their lifetime (Moise, 2019).

The percentage of Black adults who are not digitally literate (22%) is about twice the percentage of white adults (11%). Both the disparity in access to banks and low digital literacy threaten the ability of Black Americans to grow wealth in the digital economy. Fintech can help fill that access and literacy gap. Fintech companies can host, sponsor, and participate in forums and events that feature Black and Hispanic speakers and address financial topics specific to Black and Hispanic communities (Betterment, 2020). By partnering with HBCUs, minority serving institutions, Black churches, and Black sororities and fraternities, fintech companies can provide information on financial literacy, banking access, credit, housing, and other topics to fight racial economic inequality.

According to a Brookings Institution report, “Black people represent 12.7% of the U.S. population but only 4.3% of the nation’s 22.2 million business owners.” Black entrepreneurs face barriers to opening businesses with respect to access to credit. Henderson et al. (2015) examined the influence of race and gender on access to business credit lines and found that Black-owned startups received lower than expected business credit scores while white-owned startups with similar firm characteristics were treated more favorably. Through automation and sophisticated algorithms, fintech companies can provide alternative methods to assess the creditworthiness of business owners and begin to chip away at obstacles to access in banking services for underserved individuals, businesses, and communities.

Over the past 20 years, fintech companies have reimagined how to capture data, reach broader audiences, and expand access to credit (Strochak, 2017). Fintech companies can reduce costs and prices, speed up delivery, and increase convenience for underserved populations by taking advantage of automation (Saunders, 2019). The fintech industry is strategically positioned to mitigate longstanding racial wealth and income gaps by:

  1. Collaborations between Fintech companies and financial institutions. Financially vulnerable populations experience greater income and expense volatility. Financial technology companies can partner with banks to provide accounts that do not have overdraft fees, minimum balance requirements, and account maintenance fees to help reduce the negative impacts of this volatility (Walsh, 2020). 
  2. Help Americans build savings to cover unexpected expenses. Many Americans, particularly low-income workers, do not have sufficient savings to cover an unexpected emergency expense – a reality that has been made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic (Konish, 2021). A study by EPI found that in 2016 half of families had no retirement savings at all and that disparities existed by race. Two-thirds (68 percent) of white non-Hispanic families had retirement savings, compared to 41 percent for Black families and 35 percent for Hispanic families.
  • To increase the saving ability of Black and Hispanic families, fintech companies can offer high-yield savings accounts, automated savings features, and robo and microinvesting tools to increase savings opportunities (Walsh, 2020). 
  • BlackRock (an investment firm) established an Emergency Savings Initiative, making a $50 million philanthropic commitment to help their employees, customers, gig workers, and college students take steps to improve their financial health and increase their long-term financial well-being.
  1. Use Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning to extend affordable credit.  People generally need credit and access to other financial services to buy homes and cars, finance businesses, and send their children to college. Credit can also factor in other situations, including hiring processes for some jobs (Robinson and Yu, 2014). Credit scores can significantly impact consumers’ financial lives as lenders rely extensively on them in decision making for mortgages, auto loans, and credit cards (Consumer Financial Protection Bureau). Machine learning can help bankers make loan decisions faster and with less effort by analyzing historical loan performance data to predict loan repayment (Dryer, 2018).
  2. Provide low or no interest rate installment payment plans. PayPal offers the Pay in 4 plan which allows consumers to split their payments in 4 – one every two weeks.  The plan offers interest free payments and does not impact the purchasers credit score.
  3. Support Black-owned business start-ups and innovator training programs. VentureWell’s E-Team Program supports science- and engineering-based student teams in bringing their innovative ideas to market. The program also offers trainings for teams on business model development, customer discovery, and intellectual property. Fintech companies, like PayPal should consider offering similar grants on a broader scale to support Black-owned business startups and partner with minority serving institutions to offer trainings to prepare students for entrepreneurial pathways.

Federal efforts to reduce poverty and racial inequality and the progress Black and Hispanic families have made since the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 have not shielded these communities from systemic barriers to wealth accumulation due to discrimination, poverty, and a shortage of social connections (Chetty, et al., 2020). While fintech cannot close the racial wealth gap, its technologies and innovations can be exploited to explicitly promote modern era financial literacy and generational wealth building in Black and brown communities.

The New Normal: Diverse, Equitable and Inclusive

Contributed by -

Tim Murphy


On behalf of the National Urban League’s board of trustees, I am proud to present this year’s edition of the State of Black America®: The New Normal: Diverse, Equitable, and Inclusive.

This annual publication is a legacy of the great Vernon Jordan, who oversaw the very first publication of the State of Black America during his tenure as CEO of the National Urban League. We are deeply grateful for all that Mr. Jordan accomplished nationally with our organization and mourn his passing in March of this year.

Fittingly, this year’s report examines and recommends strategies and initiatives our nation can — and must — put into place to meet the three-fold urgencies of the moment: structural racism, COVID-19 and entrenched health inequities, and the pandemic-induced economic crisis, particularly as these issues affect the Black community and other communities of color.

If the last year has taught us anything, it is that only when we remain vigilant and are intentional in our actions that we can make progress toward racial equality in the U.S. and change the course of our nation’s present ­­— and its future.

In 2020, inspired by the nationwide protests of concerned citizens demanding change, American businesses were moved to “get off the sidelines” — in word and in deed — and demonstrate solidarity with the fight for racial justice and equality.

The National Urban League has a long and respected history of partnering with like-minded businesses to advance racial and economic equity. Together, we act with intention to narrow economic and other equality gaps by creating jobs and opportunities. Our recent history should serve as an example of how the private and nonprofit sector can successfully engage in the urgent work that remains before us. Now is the time for businesses to step up and do what they do best: execute. I call on my fellow business leaders to take a stand and intentionally build equity in three key areas: people, markets and society.


First, we must take a close look within. We need to put a sharp focus on our workforces and ensure we are recruiting, developing and retaining Black employees at every level. While there are many approaches to take, a few ideas stand out:

  • Build understanding across our workforces by providing relevant training for employees and managers;
  • Bolster Black employee recruitment through expanded talent pools that include HBCUs and Black professional organizations, ensuring that mentorship and career development opportunities are distributed equally;  
  • Take an honest, hard look at our companies’ wage data to determine whether wage gaps exist. If so, we must implement transparent policies and practices to eliminate any unjustified gaps.


Every industry, product and service is being scrutinized on how actively it welcomes and engages Black consumers, suppliers and communities — and rightfully so. That data can and should inform how we design and run our businesses with greater equality in the marketplace. Of course, we must do all we can to gather and wield data without bias and use it thoughtfully to drive equity. Many companies will find ample opportunities to grow commerce with Black-owned businesses. We must be informed and ready to seize that opportunity.


The response to the recent anti-voting legislation in Georgia has proven that when businesses speak out, concerned citizens and legislators take notice. We must stand in solidarity with other community leaders and take positions that support, respect and protect the rights of the Black community – whether it is voting rights, police reform or criminal justice reform. Business leaders are uniquely positioned to bring heightened attention to issues within the Black community outside of our own companies. We must bring all the resources within our command to the table – including partnerships, investments and intentional advocacy – to help build equity in our society.

In addition, within our workforces, we can enlist scores of volunteers who are motivated and eager to take part in essential community service opportunities. We can call on employees to apply their business skills to projects ranging from racial justice to entrepreneurship. To this end, I am so proud that Mastercard and the National Urban League have agreed to launch the Entrepreneurship & Workforce Resource Partnership to support 5,000 Black entrepreneurs by 2025.

Like you, I am impatient to live in a nation where everyone has the same opportunity to thrive and live free from the daily threat and reality of discrimination, repression and fear. Within the corporate sector, we have the resources, influence and credibility to help create a more just and equal nation. Let’s set our intention and work together to make it happen.

Walking the Walk: Lilly Acts, Advocates and Partners for Racial Justice

Contributed by -

Tiffany R. Benjamin


Lilly’s purpose is to discover, develop and deliver new medicines to make life better for people around the world. It’s complex work that requires people with diverse skills and perspectives who challenge each other to be the best we can be every day. Diversity is essential for innovation, and to understand the customers who depend on us.

We have been on a journey to build more equity into our systems and to create a more diverse and inclusive environment. Our board and executive committee are more diverse than ever, and our leadership ranks are 46% women and 22% minorities.

But we know it’s not enough.

We see the impact of racial injustice and inequities in our communities. Biases that impede the progress of any population hurt our employees and our business. For far too long, minorities and underserved populations appear to be at the forefront of disparities at disproportional rates. As a major employer, we have a responsibility to take significant actions outside our company to make a difference.

In June 2020, we launched our Racial Justice Initiative. We announced it at a community event we coordinated to encourage others to join in as trauma gripped the nation after the death of George Floyd. The Lilly Foundation committed $25 million and our company pledged 25,000 employee volunteer hours over five years to address racial injustice and increase opportunities for Black Americans.

You can learn about what we have done in 2020 and 2021 on Lilly.com and within our 2020 ESG report’s community engagement section.

Here I will highlight two major parts of this initiative: health and jobs.


Healthcare is our business. We are investing to make medicines and care more accessible and affordable to reduce healthcare disparities for underrepresented and underserved populations. Here are three examples:

  • Clinical trial diversity. For more than a decade, Lilly has focused on bringing more diverse patients into the clinical trials we conduct for potential new medicines. We’ve expanded these efforts. One strategy is to partner with external groups to recruit more minority physicians as clinical trial investigators. That’s because people feel more comfortable volunteering for a trial if the doctor speaks their language or understands their culture. We still have work to do for some health conditions, but overall we’re seeing progress. Among the most recent 12,000 U.S. patients in our clinical trials, 39% were minorities—about the same as in the U.S. population.
  • Health Equity Fund. We are partnering with Direct Relief to establish the Health Equity Fund in the U.S. The fund will offer a chance for urban and rural health centers and free clinics to apply for grants of up to $250,000. The intent is to help provide high-quality, culturally appropriate healthcare and to help address social conditions that affect health for underserved people. Lilly is committing $5 million over five years.
  • Insulin affordability. Lilly has long been committed to developing long-term policy solutions to address gaps in our current U.S. healthcare system. In the meantime, we have many programs to help people afford their insulin. As of January 2021, anyone who uses Lilly insulin, whether they have insurance or not, is eligible to fill their prescription for $35 a month.  Although these efforts pre-date our Racial Justice Initiative, they are important in reducing healthcare disparities.

Career opportunities are core to equity in our community, so creating access to good jobs is a major part of our Racial Justice Initiative. Here are several examples:

  • Lilly and a coalition of leading corporate and civic organizations across Central Indiana signed the Indy Racial Equity Pledge to advance racial equity for Black Americans. Lilly announced four new commitments:
    • Increasing the current representation of Blacks in our U.S. workforce from approximately 10% to 13% to align more closely with the demographics, nationally, of the patients and communities we serve.
    • Doubling the company’s annualized spend with Black suppliers by the end of 2022.
    • Providing $1 million to LYNX Capital Corporation to support local Black-owned businesses and entrepreneurship.
    • And the Lilly Foundation granted $250,000 to the Indianapolis Urban League, related to its establishment of the Indianapolis Entrepreneurship Center. The center will provide learning opportunities to encourage Black entrepreneurship in Indianapolis.
  • We have joined forces with other major companies to hire, train and advance Black Americans into 1 million family sustaining jobs through a partnership with the OneTen coalition.

As part of that commitment, we have developed an apprenticeship program for individuals at local colleges who don’t yet have their degrees. The first apprentices have begun their work and others will begin in the coming months. The goal is to provide these individuals with the skills necessary to obtain a job after the completion of the program.

  • Unseen Capital Fund. Lilly is providing a $30 million limited partner investment in Unseen Capital Health Fund LP, a new venture capital fund created by racially diverse and historically underrepresented business leaders. The fund will provide support for minority-owned, early-stage health care companies.


If we’re going to continue deliver on our promise of life-changing medicines to our patients, we must address the need for equity of opportunity for everyone. That means rooting out ingrained assumptions and biases in our organizations and using our influence to partner with organizations like the Urban League to do the same in our communities.

Issues of racial injustice run deep, and they will not be solved overnight. But the journey of a thousand miles always begins with a commitment to move forward with one step. That’s what we must do. It’s important to our employees, our business and the patients who depend on us.

The Future of Work Should be Based on Where We’re Going, Not Where We Used to Be

Contributed by -

Tony Xu


More than a year has passed since COVID-19 began to ravage our healthcare system, devastate our economy, and lay bare how systemic racism has contributed to the suffering of communities of color. The pandemic’s disproportionate impact on the mental, physical, and economic health of communities of color was felt nationwide. Black-owned businesses saw revenue drops of over 50% and, in early 2020, a more than 40% closure rate. Even as the recovery began, unemployment for Black Americans hovered just below double digits. Challenges remain to achieving an equitable recovery in the areas of health, education, jobs, and for Black-owned businesses.

It’s important that our nation recover from the pandemic in a just way, rooted in equity and access so that every community, especially communities of color, can thrive. The road to an equitable recovery includes earnings opportunities that help people support themselves and their families by providing supplemental income and connecting local businesses with customers in new ways so they can compete in the modern economy.

I learned from my mom that running a small business depends not only on the grit and determination of the people who work there, but also on the support of the community to keep its doors open. I immigrated to this country at the age of five, and growing up, I helped my mom as a dishwasher in the restaurant where she worked. I started DoorDash to help small businesses and people like my mom be able to reach customers through delivery instead of turning down orders because they couldn’t fulfill them.

Local businesses depend on platforms such as DoorDash now more than ever. On-demand logistics platforms help local businesses grow and provide earnings opportunities for people who want to be their own boss, start their own business or make some extra money on the side. For individuals who traditionally face barriers to employment, platforms like DoorDash provide flexible work arrangements and allow them to start earning money quickly while ensuring businesses can reach their customers. Long before 2020, workers and businesses were benefiting from the gig economy and generating billions in economic activity. Then the pandemic hit.

Between March and September 2020, with unemployment levels at historic highs and an uncertain future for many industries, 1.9 million new couriers (known as “Dashers”) joined the DoorDash platform. Eighty-six percent (86%) of Dashers reported facing some level of financial hardship during that same period, including the nearly half who said someone in their household had lost a job or had their wages reduced. Being able to earn income at the touch of a button has proven to be invaluable, and we’ve heard that this is especially true for Dashers of color. Dashers who live in zip codes with above average Black or Latino representation earned $2.1 billion in that same period.

Gig economy workers are as diverse as the communities where we live. They are parents, students, retirees, caregivers, and people transitioning to new jobs. Four out of five Dashers say that delivering with DoorDash is not their main source of income, which is why, on average, they deliver for just four hours per week. Now, we have an opportunity to rethink our current labor systems and improve how today’s workers gain access to earning opportunities and the protections and benefits that are right for them.

We need to preserve access to flexible, independent work for all workers, and in particular those who are facing barriers to employment, while also providing a new and fair benefits framework. This framework should be portable so a person can move across any gig economy platform, proportional so that benefits are equal to the time a person puts in, and flexible to suit individual needs. In California, where one version of this model was implemented, we’ve seen increased earnings for Dashers, while they maintain the independence they value and are offered new benefits and protections

In addition to providing immediate earnings opportunities, DoorDash is proud to partner with the National Urban League in launching the Financial Empowerment Program. This first-of-its kind program is designed to help workers - including Dashers - attain new job skills and entrepreneurial success and build generational wealth through financial literacy training, educational funding, job programs, and more. Empowering gig economy workers from underrepresented communities and helping them access tools that can place them on a pathway to financial security is part of the responsibility we have to take action and create what we want to be seen in the world around us.

The need for flexibility extends to merchants too. During the pandemic, many businesses faced the prospect of closing their doors. Having access to on-demand delivery and logistics through DoorDash proved to be a lifeline for local merchants who needed to pivot to takeout and delivery when shelter-in-place orders were instituted. We’re proud that the odds of staying open during the pandemic are eight times more likely for restaurants on DoorDash, and 65% of restaurants say they were able to increase profits during COVID-19 because of DoorDash and the Dashers who power our platform.

In addition to creating pathways to participate in the online convenience economy for local merchants, we’re proud of the training and grants provided through our Main Street Strong Accelerator program as part of our five-year, $200 million Main Street Strong Pledge. Black-owned businesses on DoorDash are also able to access matching loans through our partnership with Kiva. We support entrepreneurship and access to opportunity for merchants in underrepresented communities by connecting them to customers, highlighting them on our platform, connecting them to small business advising, and welcoming them to our Main Street Strong Accelerator program annually.

DoorDash’s mission to empower local economies has never changed, but the conditions that enable local economies to thrive have evolved faster than any of us could have anticipated. If we’re going to lift up underserved communities and promote the ability to build a secure financial future, the future of work must be based on where we are going instead of where we used to be.

Changing the Trajectory of Health for Black America

Contributed by -

Michael Sneed


When I was growing up in Chicago in the 1960s, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a towering figure in my life. In fact, my childhood address was just a few miles from where Dr. King and his family temporarily relocated in 1965 to lead a civil rights charge in our city. His determination for racial and social justice has been a source of inspiration throughout my life.

Over the last four decades, as I have built my career at Johnson & Johnson, the world’s largest and most broadly-based healthcare company, I’ve often returned to one particular quote of Dr. King’s. In 1966, he said: “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.” 55 years later, these words still ring true, and as loudly as ever. For centuries, Black Americans have experienced persistent neglect within our healthcare system, which has too often seemed indifferent to startling and unconscionable facts. For instance:

  1. COVID-19 has killed Black people at nearly twice the rate of their white counterparts.
  2. Black, American Indian, and Alaska Native women are two to three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women.
  3. Black Americans are far more likely to live with cardiovascular diseases than other populations.

I believe strongly that there cannot be justice in America until there is justice in healthcare, and that we cannot credibly claim that Black Lives Matter if our healthcare system conveys that they don’t.  For Black Americans to thrive socially and economically, we must confront racism as a public health threat and address the economic, physical and social conditions that together perpetuate injustice.

This is why Johnson & Johnson (J&J) launched Our Race to Health Equity with an initial commitment of $100 million over the next five years to help eliminate health inequities for people of color.

Of course, we know this work can’t be done alone; change on the scale needed to tackle health inequities requires partnerships, including our decades-long collaboration with the National Urban League. Through these partnerships, we collectively elevate what we can do to benefit the communities we serve.

Inclusive Research & Development

Justice in healthcare starts with our approach to research and development. While Black Americans comprise 13% of the U.S. population, they make up only 5% of clinical trial participants. To ensure medications and health innovations are effective for Black Americans, we must make clinical trials more inclusive, with more effective outreach to diverse populations.

For example, to ensure robust participation in our COVID-19 ENSEMBLE vaccine trial, J&J engaged in conversations with underrepresented communities across the United States about opportunities to participate in clinical research, including activating our “Research Includes Me” campaign and website. J&J also partnered with trusted community groups such as the National Black Churches Initiative, Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, National Medical Association, and National Black Nurses Association to improve clinical trial diversity as well as ensure communities of color are informed regarding COVID-19 vaccine safety and efficacy.


Culturally Competent Care

Improving how Black Americans access and experience the healthcare system is also critical to tackling racism as a public health threat. One in five Black adults say they were treated unfairly because of their race in the past year when getting health care for themselves or a family member.

For this reason, many Black Americans prefer treatment by Black doctors, which research shows leads to better health outcomes. Yet, there are far too few Black doctors to consistently give patients this option. Our health system needs a larger pipeline of diverse health professionals, additional training in providing culturally competent care and tools for health workers to advocate for themselves, their peers, and their communities. 

By partnering with national and community-based organizations that share our commitment to health equity, we are nurturing a more diverse and culturally competent healthcare system in a variety of ways, including:

  1. Building leadership and resilience among Black health workers: We partnered with the National Black Nurses Associations to offer the Nursing Leaders Program online for the first time at the University of Pennsylvania. The program equips Black nursing leaders to succeed as frontline advocates and voices for their patients, and as decision-makers who affect systems change and improve health outcomes for whole communities. In 2021, we’ll also launch a collaboration with the National League for Nursing to introduce new leadership and resilience training programs across six nursing schools at HBCUs. 
  2. Propelling Black students into STEM fields: From scholarships and mentoring for medical students of color through the National Medical Fellowships to programs inspiring young girls of color to pursue STEM careers through the National Society for Black Engineers and Girl’s Inc., we are helping to prepare the next generation of diverse and culturally-attuned health workers.
  3. Investing in health entrepreneurship: Recognizing the power of entrepreneurs to reimagine solutions to our greatest health needs and close the racial health gap, we are supporting innovators to scale their novel ideas through Village Capital’s new Building A Culturally Competent Healthcare System Accelerator and the CLSA Inspire QuickFire Challenge for Diverse Innovators.    
  4. Broadening community access to healthcare: Too often health providers are separated from those who need them most. From churches to schools—and even roving healthcare vans— J&J and partners rolled out programs in states across the nation to get COVID-19 testing and other crucial health services to underserved communities.

Closing the maternal mortality gap: The prevalence of maternity care deserts in Georgia has contributed to its ranking as one of the most dangerous places in the U.S. for Black women to give birth. J&J is working to transform maternal healthcare in Georgia by unifying the efforts of academic institutions, researchers, community organizations, and maternal health leaders.

The color of your skin should have no bearing on your health or longevity. For too long, in America, we’ve allowed this fundamental injustice to persist. Change is overdue. With empathy, humility, and an enduring commitment, we at J&J are seeking to put our unique capabilities to productive use on this challenge. We welcome others across sectors to join us.   

First Draw, Second Draw: Lessons Learned From the Paycheck Protection Program

Contributed by -

Lisa Cook, Ph.D.


Prior to the life-altering appearance of the coronavirus, most small businesses reported being in “good shape,” with 73% reporting good or stable financial health. However, depending on the race or ethnicity of the owner, the financial health of these businesses varied greatly. Twenty-seven percent of small white-owned businesses reported being “at risk” or “in distress,” compared to 49% of small Hispanic-owned businesses and 57% of small Black-owned businesses reporting the same.[1]

During the turbulence of the pandemic — with its resulting human, economic, and financial crises unfolding together at breakneck speed — Black and Hispanic businesses were woefully unprepared to weather the adverse economic shock.

According to the Federal Reserve, even before the health crisis, minority-owned businesses were  more likely to be financially distressed and three times more likely to close than a nonminority-owned business in the event of a two-month revenue shock.[2] The concentration and overrepresentation of small minority-owned businesses in certain sectors — such as accommodation and food services, personal and laundry services, and retail — made them even more vulnerable in the wake of COVID-19.[3]

Many businesses felt the effects of the pandemic by the spring of 2020. It is estimated that 100,000 small businesses (or 2% of small businesses) had already closed in May of 2020.[4] In the following month, things became far worse. Among the businesses listed on Yelp, the 140,000 businesses that closed on March 1 remained closed by mid-June. Thirty-five percent of the listed shopping and retail businesses had closed their doors temporarily, while 53% of the listed restaurants closed their doors permanently.[5]

The pandemic, along with its mandated restrictions and voluntary actions, caused one of the sharpest economic downturns in U.S. history. Small business revenue took a big hit. Many businesses were left unable to meet their expenses, particularly Black-owned businesses, and temporary and permanent business closings became a tell-tale remnant of the crisis (Fairlie 2020; Global Strategy Group 2020).

In the face of this historic recession, Congress sprang into action and established the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), a forgivable loans program for small businesses to keep their employees on their payroll during the public health crisis. It was the largest ever investment in small businesses, and it served as a critical lifeline, lessening the pain of the pandemic-induced recession for some, while postponing it for others.

The federal Small Business Administration (SBA) administered the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). The program provided approximately $350 billion in loans — allotted for operating expenses, including payroll, mortgage interest or rent, utilities, and approved expenses — to small businesses with 500 employees or less. To disburse the loans, the SBA relied on SBA-qualified lenders, including depository institutions, such as banks and credit unions, as well as non-depository institution lenders, such as Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs).

The SBA began accepting PPP loan applications April 3, 2020. Thirteen days later, the funding had already run out. It was big corporations and businesses — not the intended small businesses — that received the lion’s share of funds. The difficulties small business owners faced when attempting to access PPP loans were well documented (Global Strategy Group 2020; Trevizo 2020).

Congress acted by allocating an additional $310 billion in funding for a second round of PPP loans. For round two, Congress made a few course-correcting modifications, including allowing the smallest businesses and non-traditional businesses that were initially meant to be targeted access to the loans first. The Federal Reserve created the Paycheck Protection Program Liquidity Facility (PPPLF) to give a much-needed financial boost to the Paycheck Protection Program. The PPPLF provided credit to SBA lenders using PPP loans as collateral. In doing so, the Federal Reserve supplied added liquidity and, thus, expanded the capacity of financial institutions to make PPP loans.

When announcing that the PPPLF was fully operational on April 16, 2020, the Federal Reserve initially made the provision available to depository institutions only. (By April 30, access was extended to all SBA-authorized lenders.) The initial provision provided credit to smaller non-depository institutions that were more likely to lend in communities underserved by commercial banks, such as CDFIs and fintech operators (Liu and Volker, 2020). Furthermore, these non-traditional lenders benefited greatly from the PPPLF’s affordable credit, thus bolstering the likelihood of their participation in the Paycheck Protection Program.

Minority-owned businesses reported not being able to access PPP loans due to the SBA’s heavy reliance on large banks, with whom they have had historically poor relationships.[6] In addition, the burden of business closures was unevenly distributed. By April 2020, 41% of Black-owned businesses reported being closed, compared to 35% business closures overall (Fairlie 2020). A nationwide survey conducted by the Global Strategy Group for the Color of Change and UnidosUS (the only survey that provided demographic data on PPP loan recipients) reported that, despite the initial round of PPP loan support, 45% of Black and Latino businesses would close by the end of the 2020 without more relief.

When you take historical discrimination in lending and the initial design of the Paycheck Protection Program into account, it is likely that many Black-owned businesses received smaller PPP loans than they should have. My coauthors and I found that Black-owned businesses received loans that were approximately 50% lower than observationally similar white-owned businesses. The silver lining is that the difference was marginally smaller in areas with more bank competition and disappeared over time as changes to the program were implemented (Atkins, Cook, and Seamans 2021).

Given these realities, a few possible policy interventions seem warranted.

First, in preparation for the next financial crisis or national emergency, racial disparities in lending through traditional financial institutions need to be investigated and addressed by the various regulators who oversee these institutions. Discriminatory lending and banking practices should not be allowed to exist anywhere in the financial system.

Second, the next and final SBA inspector general’s report should include a systematic accounting of the factors that negatively affected the participation of Black business owners in the Paycheck Protection Program. And beyond preparation for future economic and health crises, SBA infrastructure and capacity should be increased such that all loans, whether standard or emergency, are processed more rapidly than is currently the case. Moreover, the SBA should consider providing direct funding in the near future.

Third, demographic data collected at the time of the execution of the program should be applied to all PPP loans going forward. This is standard for other SBA loans and will help with targeting funding better in the future.

Finally, serious consideration should be given to increasing the capacity of CDFIs to reach and service business owners in underserved communities, and the systemic factors that engender the structurally fragile nature of small minority-owned businesses should be addressed.[*]



[1] McKinsey (2020).

[2] McKinsey (2020).

[3] McKinsey (2020).

[4] Bartik, Bertrand, Cullen, Glaeser, Luca, and Stanton (2020).

[5] Grossman (2020).

[6] Color of Change (2020).


[*] Atkins, Rachel, Lisa D. Cook, and Robert Seamans, “Discrimination in Lending? Evidence from the Paycheck Protection Program,” January 15, 2021.

Baker, Scott R., R.A. Farrokhnia, Michaela Pagel, Constantine Yannelis, and Steffen Meyer, “Here’s How Americans are Spending Their Stimulus Checks,” Kellogg Insight, Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University, April 2020.

Bartik, Alexander, Marianne Bertrand, Zoe Cullen, Edward Glaeser, Michael Luca, and Christopher Stanton, NBER Working Paper No. 26989, April 2020.

Bartik, Alexander, Marianne Bertrand, Feng Lin, Jesse Rothstein, and Matthew Unrath, “Measuring the Labor Market at the Onset of the COVID-19 Crisis,” Becker-Friedman Institute Working Paper Series No. 2020-83, University of Chicago, June 2020.

Cook, Lisa D., “Getting Money Urgently to Low-Wage Workers,” Washington Center for Equitable Growth, March 30, 2020.

Fairlie, Robert W., “The Impact of Covid-19 on Small Business Owners: Evidence of Early-Stage Losses from the April 2020 Current Population Survey,” NBER Working Paper No. 27309, June 2020.

Grossman, Matt, “140,000 Businesses Listed on Yelp Are Still Closed Because of Covid-19 Pandemic,” Wall Street Journal, June 25, 2020.

Guzman, Zack, “Rising coronavirus cases threaten the already shaky recovery for America's restaurants,” Yahoo Finance, July 6, 2020.

Long, Heather, “Small business used to define America’s economy. The pandemic could change that forever.” Washington Post, May 12, 2020.

McKinsey and Co., “COVID-19’’s effect on minority-owned small businesses in the United States,” May 2020.

Merle, Renae, “Evictions are likely to skyrocket this summer as jobs remain scarce. Black renters will be hard hit,” Washington Post, July 6, 2020.

Paine, Neil and Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux, “What Economists Fear Most in This Recovery,” FiveThirtyEight.com, June 23, 2020.

U.S. Census Bureau, Household Pulse Survey, June 2020.

Meeting the Moment: The Urgent Case for Investing in Child Care

Contributed by -

Erin Robinson


For too long, the United States has refused to support children and families, significantly underinvesting in child care and early education, hamstringing our economy, and making it harder for parents to work. Even before the pandemic altered the way many Americans work, the United States lost $57 billion annually in earnings, productivity, and revenue due to the child care crisis. The pandemic is revealing the extent to which businesses rely on employees having access to reliable, quality, affordable child care. Without it, hundreds of thousands of working parents have had to leave the workforce. It’s why economists and  Americans of every political stripe agree that our economic recovery depends on boosting federal investment in child care. Put simply: Child care is a matter of racial, economic, and gender equity and is crucial to the productivity and competitiveness of this country.

This year marks 50 years since President Nixon vetoed the Comprehensive Child Development Act, which would have greatly subsidized child care in the United States and recognized that working families deserve the support that high-quality child care provides. Today, many families struggle to afford high-quality child care. And families who need the most help affording child care are not receiving it. Only 1 in 7 children who are eligible for federal child care subsidies receive them. It is clear that our current system is exacerbating, not curbing, inequality. Low-income families spend more than a third of their income on child care; middle-income families spend 14%; and the wealthiest families spend 7% of their income on child care, the same percentage the federal government has deemed the acceptable threshold of affordability for all families.

A half-century since Nixon’s veto, a lack of robust and sustained federal investments keeps the child care industry on the edge of viability. Underinvestment has been the norm for an industry that is a critical part of the nation’s infrastructure. Early educators (also referred to as child care workers) make a median wage of  just $12.24 per hour. In the child care field, which is majority female and disproportionately women of color, Black women make even lower wages than their early educator counterparts.

The child care crisis also exacerbates racial inequality and disproportionately affects families of color. Pre-pandemic data show that Black and multiracial parents experienced job disruptions –

such as quitting a job, not taking a job, or greatly changing a job – due to child care issues at twice the rate of white parents. Data also paint a grim picture of access, in which more than 50% of Latinx, American Indian, and Alaska Native (AIAN) families live in a child care desert – an area with an inadequate supply of licensed child care.  Black families also spend more of their income on child care than any other racial group. For example, a median income Black family with two children could spend 56% of household income on center-based child care.

Our flawed system also strains maternal workforce participation, fueling gender inequality. A recent report found that “expanding access to affordable, high-quality child care to everyone who needs it would increase the number of women with young children working full-time/full-year by about 17%, and by about 31% for women without any college degree.” To ensure an equitable recovery, policymakers should immediately tackle the child care crisis. The longer women are out of the workforce, the more their wages will lag, undermining families’ economic security and exacerbating the gender wage gap.

There have been some promising developments in the effort to create a child care system that works for all families. The Child Care for Working Families Act proposes capping child care payments at 7% of household income for families making 150% or less of their state’s median income. Research from a previous iteration of the Child Care for Working Families Act shows it would create 2.3 million jobs if enacted, which includes new jobs in the child care and early education sector and an increase in employed parents. It would also increase pay for early educators by at least 26%. 

President Biden also understands the positive effects that significant investment in child care can have for families and our economy, which is why he incorporated major provisions of federal child care legislation into his campaign platform – promising to address affordability, access, and compensation for the early educator workforce. His administration also worked with Congress to pass the American Rescue Plan, a historic investment in child care to address issues caused by the coronavirus crisis, such as child care providers closing down and going into significant debt to stay open. This relief funding was a desperately needed stopgap, but sustained, robust federal investment is the only way to repair the cracked foundation of child care in this country. President Biden’s American Families Plan presents an opportunity for Congress to advance child care priorities, including main provisions of the Child Care for Working Families Act.

Fifty years after a president refused to substantially fund an essential support for working families, will we miss our moment now? Will we have learned nothing from the struggles families have faced for so many years, particularly this last one? The moment is now for the United States to build a child care system that supports high-quality child care for all families – including care for children with disabilities and care for children whose parents work non-traditional hours. We must not go back to the patchwork, exploitative child care system we had before, which relied on the underpaid labor of women, disproportionately women of color.

A child care system supported by a robust, sustained federal investment will give parents choices to decide what works best for their families. They won’t have to give up jobs they enjoy because they can’t afford quality care for their children. It means parents could rest well in the knowledge that their children are safe and receiving enriching learning experiences during the most crucial period of brain development in their lives. It means the people, mostly women, who educate our young children will earn wages which value the essential nature of the work they do. And it means the United States can rebuild stronger and more equitably, strengthening our ability to compete around the globe. 

Working Policies for Working Moms

Contributed by -

Congresswoman Katie Porter


COVID-19 has been a disaster. Communities across the country, from Columbus, Georgia, to Costa Mesa, California, have mourned the loss of over half a million loved ones. Our economy shed millions of jobs, and families’ budgets have been stretched thin. While Americans from every walk of life have had to grapple with these stresses, the data show that the economic burden of the pandemic has fallen hardest on women of color.

The combination of an unstable job market and restricted child care options has been a one-two punch, primarily for women, and especially for women of color. The December 2020 jobs report revealed that Black and Latina women accounted for all of the net jobs lost that month. The industries hit hardest by the pandemic, such as food service and retail, have more women of color working in them. Many were laid off, while others were forced out by school closures and a lack of child care. Indeed, millions of women left the workforce during the pandemic because they had to care for their kids. Millions more considered leaving, with many citing the lack of child care options due to the pandemic as the reason.

At the same time, moms who couldn’t afford to quit were disproportionately Black and brown low-wage workers in jobs that require in-person labor. In the transition to remote schooling, these women faced the impossible choice of either going to work to put food on the table or staying home to take care of their kids.

This turns back the tide of progress that swelled before 2020; before the pandemic, more women were in the workforce than ever before. Yet, women were still responsible for most of the physical and emotional labor involved in running a home. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that working women averaged more than 3 hours per day of household work and child care—more than the 2.5 hours per day unemployed men spend on the same activities. Single parents, 81% of whom are women and 66% of whom are Black, often have to shoulder this entire burden by themselves.

The pandemic’s harm on women of color is putting decades of progress at risk; and the consequences will be felt for decades to come. Discrepancies that have long existed between men and women — for example, gaps in pay, wealth, retirement savings, homeownership, and the time it takes to pay off student loans — are likely to widen if we don’t take meaningful action to help women reenter the workforce. This burden will largely fall on those already underserved: families of color.

I’ve seen the system fail families of color time and again throughout my career. Before Congress, I helped California families losing their homes in the foreclosure crisis; and as a law professor, I studied families in bankruptcy. I’ve seen how job interruptions can cause long-term financial harm. Someone who hasn’t been working will likely rejoin the job market at a lower wage, leading to less wealth accumulation over their lifetime. Black families already hurt by this pandemic will feel this more acutely, with the average Black family having 10 times less wealth than their white counterpart. And of course, a lost job doesn’t just restrict career mobility and economic opportunity. It can also mean the loss of health insurance, which is especially devastating in a country where health care costs are astronomical, during a pandemic in which Black and brown Americans are more likely to get the virus and die.

Every year, our politicians (who are more likely to be old, male, and white than the population) try to sell the story that the solution for working families is for individual households to step up.

The reality is that America has never prioritized families like other developed countries have. Our lack of investments in child care and paid leave aren’t new. They’re decades-old problems that the pandemic has intensified — and this negligence is rapidly catching up to us.

No amount of color-coded spreadsheets, meal prep, or leaning on our “support” networks will be enough for working women — pandemic or not. Our country’s failure to meaningfully invest in families is a systemic problem that demands comprehensive, aggressive solutions.

First and foremost, we need to recognize that strong family policy is strong economic policy. Child care doesn’t just help women or people with kids; it helps our entire economy by making it easier for people to go to work. Similarly, paid leave doesn’t just support individual families; it makes our workforce more globally competitive because workers can take the time they need to care for a sick child or themselves without disrupting their careers. Every member of Congress — not just Democratic women or members of color — should be pushing for these policy solutions.

How we recover economically from the COVID-19 crisis will largely depend on whether we finally invest in women and families. In Congress, I’m backing legislation that makes child care cheaper and easier to get. The Child Care is Essential Act would provide grants to child care providers to help them safely reopen and operate, and the Child Care for Working Families Act would prevent low-income families from spending more than 7% of their income on childcare. I also wrote legislation, the Support Working Families Act, that would help parents take paid time off to care for loved ones. Importantly, all these bills recognize that bringing affordability to child care cannot come at the expense of the caregivers who do the work, more than half of whom are women of color.

Any working mom can tell you that life was hard enough before the pandemic. As the coronavirus continues to attack the physical and financial health of the American people, it also serves as an unfortunate reminder of the devastation that happens when we fail to support working parents — and how it’s historically marginalized groups who are hit the hardest and left the farthest behind.

It’s long past time for policymakers to take meaningful action to support women. Our country will not fully heal from the pandemic if families don’t get dedicated help in our economic recovery.

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