COVID-19 OUTBREAK: Coronavirus Pandemic Impact in Black Communities May Be Disproportionately Worse

By Barney Blakeney

As the Coronavirus pandemic spreads pandemonium around the world, Black communities are likely to feel its most devastating effects, says Trident Urban League Executive Director Otha Meadows.

Social distancing and commercial upheaval characterize the pandemic in American communities, but such effects may be disproportionately adverse in Black communities, Meadows predicts. The pandemic unexpectedly has changed life for everyone around the world overnight, Meadows said Monday.

As retail businesses shut their doors, Meadows notes more Blacks work in low wage hourly positions in the service industry than any other ethnic group. Large numbers of Black workers will see their employment compromised, he said reasoning that even as the U.S. boasted a robust economy with low unemployment, Black unemployment still doubled or near doubled that of other groups. “The pandemic will have a potentially devastating impact on the viability of Black folk,” Meadows said. “And that’s just the employment side!”

The pandemic’s impact on the U.S. financial market has been significant. 401K plans will take hits, Meadows said. Many Blacks invested in such financial tools still have not recovered from the recession of 2009 continuing a widening wealth gap. Since home equity represents the greatest source of wealth for many African Americans, the housing market crash of 2009 still weighs heavily on their financial viability. A potential financial recession resulting from the pandemic would disproportionately affect Black homeowners, he said.

In the Charleston region where North Charleston has one of the nation’s highest rates of evictions, Meadows said he is concerned that families in which wage earners now hold several jobs, but still have difficulty paying rent, potentially may see radical changes in employment opportunities. The likely result may be greater numbers in homelessness. “As people lose jobs that will impact their ability to pay rent – or mortgages!” he exclaimed.

The pandemic likely will impact Black student education disproportionately as well, he said. “Schools may not open again this year. A lot of Black don’t have broadband at home. A lot of Black students who need to be in an educational environment the most, are in limbo. We’ve been in tough times before, but this is going to be even tougher,” Meadows said. “After the virus is gone, we’ll still have to deal with these economic impacts.”

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