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September 11, 2020

VIDEO: Rep. Pressley Discusses Urgent Need for Emergency State Aid to Address Racial Disparities in COVID-19

Video (YouTube)

WASHINGTON – In a House Financial Services Committee hearing yesterday, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07) discussed the urgent need for direct, emergency aid to state and local governments to manage the COVID-19 pandemic and address the disparate impacts of the crisis on communities of color. 

A full transcript of her exchange with Minnesota Governor Tim Walz is available below. 

Transcript: Rep. Pressley Discusses Urgent Need for Emergency State Aid to Address Racial Disparities in COVID-19
House Financial Services Committee

September 10, 2020

REP. PRESSLEY: As my colleagues on the other side of the aisle and their counterparts in the other chamber tout their messaging bill, here in the House, we have offered a comprehensive relief package that actually meets the scale of these crises: The Heroes Act, which includes over $900 billion in direct aid to states and cities. 

Collectively, we are facing global pandemic, the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, and a historic moment demanding this country reckon with a reality defined by centuries of systemic racism and inequality and oppression. 

So while this virus itself may not discriminate on the basis of race, every system in the United States, from economic, to education, to health care, certainly does. And for black women, these disparities are compounded. Today, we face a housing crisis where black women are twice as likely to be evicted. A public health crisis where we’re up to three times more likely to die of the coronavirus, and an economic crisis where we are twice as likely to be furloughed, and 30% more likely to be out of work. 

The Senate’s refusal to act and the Fed’s refusal to modify the terms of the Municipal Liquidity Facility have hamstrung states’ and cities’ capacity to manage these crises and to provide the necessary support to children and families. Even as Chairman Powell has repeatedly acknowledged the disproportionate effects of this pandemic on people of color. 

Governor, I’m wondering if you could speak to these racial disparities and how that shows up in your state, in that we see communities of color have disproportionately higher rates of infection, hospitalization and fatalities. And I’m also wondering if you could just speak to this historic budget shortfall and what this will mean both for public sector employment, but also what that impact will be on the services that they provide.

GOV. WALZ: Well, thank you, Congresswoman. I’m the last one standing, but I think it’s appropriate that I do need to stand to answer this because I am the state where George Floyd was killed in front of the world. I think a lot of thoughts we had about ourselves, and I’m very proud. Minnesota ranks first in educational achievement if you’re white, we rank last if you’re black. The same thing could be said about home-ownership, about college attainment, about many of those things. And early on when people were saying COVID was the great equalizer, you’re exactly right. It was not the great equalizer. It exposed health disparities and everything else that came on. 

The problem is anytime you have an economic downturn, whether it was caused by the housing bubble, or whether it was this case, because of COVID, it is falling disproportionately on those communities and I think we’re trying to use this as an opportunity to address those systemic issues, to listen to communities as they craft solutions. But I have to be very candid with you, that is going to take some resources to be able to do. And this is not that we’re asking you to help us fix all of our problems. We’re asking you simultaneously in a system as we address COVID, to address it in the right way so when we come out the other side of this, so I worry. I worry and you’re right, Congresswoman.

REP. PRESSLEY: So on the resourcing side of things and acknowledging those racial disparities, those health disparities, the Heroes Act also included a significant increase in the Federal Medicaid Matching Rate, or F-MAP. So briefly, could you just speak to how–how important is an F-MAP increase in your ability to really manage this pandemic?

GOV. WALZ: It’s huge. I obviously would like to see the Heroes Act, but in negotiating, please don’t negotiate away F-MAP. If you can leave that in at the 14%, that has a huge impact. And those of you on here who are asking us to be thoughtful and targeted, that target is the most vulnerable communities, those in need, and makes a difference. So that’s one that I would ask you please keep in.

REP. PRESSLEY: Thank you. And then let me just return to another question that I had in there, which is, could you–we’ve been speaking about the impact on public sector employees with this budget shortfall. Could you also speak to what that impact would be on the services that they provide?

GOV. WALZ: Well, it’s huge and I think you heard it on the local level. You’re talking about a lot of local entities, it’s public safety. And that’s a discussion, obviously, in Minnesota and across the country that we’re having, how do we re-imagine public safety where that’s our true outcome, and there’s respect and equity. But for us, it starts to become a real problem. There are very few places for us to be able to manage that budget, except as I’ll keep coming back to, health care and education. And those are fundamental tools to the future. They’re fundamental tools to our economic future as a country and those are what we’re worried about. 

REP. PRESSLEY: Well that’s my time. I had an education question, but thank you for being the last one standing there. Appreciate it.

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