“Checks are likelier to get lost in the mail, so if you don’t have a bank account for direct deposit, then it’s easier to miss your stimulus payment,” said Louis Barajas, CFP, a member of the CNBC Financial Advisor Council. No big surprise there, or in the fact that communities of color have also been disproportionately impacted by the sabotage of the U.S. Postal Service. If they got the check, more Latinos (27%) and Blacks (26%) spent it on housing than whites (12%). “These latest data demonstrate how people of color are in a much more precarious financial position, which the pandemic has only exacerbated,” said Laura Wronski, a research scientist at SurveyMonkey.
While women in general have been absolutely crushed by this pandemic, women of color account for huge numbers of the unemployed. The rate of unemployment for Black women is 67% higher than for white women, and 73% higher among Latinas. They report the highest rates of emergency financial assistance as well, mostly borrowing from family and friends; 23% of Black women and 17% of Latinas reported having to borrow money. They also have had to rely more heavily on food bank—21% of African-American women and 19% of Hispanic women—as opposed to 9% of either Black or Hispanic men, and 8% of white men.
The American Rescue Plan helps everyone, but is absolutely essential to these American communities. Those $1,400 stimulus checks, the expanded unemployment insurance with $400 a week, more food and housing assistance, the child tax credit expansion and monthly payments, the minimum wage increase (which may or may not survive in the Senate)—all are direct economic benefits. On top of that is more funding to small businesses and targeted relief to hard-hit industries like restaurants, bars, and airlines, which helps all their employees.
It also clamps down on the virus itself, with $50 billion in testing and contact tracing as well as $19 billion directed to hiring for the public health workforce to expand testing, tracing, and vaccination. It has $16 billion to fund vaccine distribution and beef up supply chains. It also has $350 billion to state, local, and tribal governments—all of which have lost a total of 1.3 million jobs in the past year. It even has $47 billion for the Disaster Relief Fund administered by the Federal Emergency Management Administration, which helps cover funeral costs from COVID-19.
There’s $130 billion for K-12 education to help strapped school districts do the upgrades to ventilation systems that are necessary to make school buildings safe, to provide the personal protective equipment teachers and staff need, and to help districts with physical changes in school buildings to allow for social distancing. There’s another nearly $40 billion for colleges and other higher-education institutions, and a requirement that schools use at least half of any emergency grants be used to prevent homelessness and hunger for students. It also provides almost $40 billion for child care providers, and $1 billion for Head Start.
There isn’t a part of this $1.9 trillion that doesn’t either directly help people or help the businesses that employ them, which is why it’s so universally popular—even with Republican voters. Why Republican lawmakers are so convinced it makes sense to unanimously vote against this remains a mystery. Except for the part where it helps people of color.