Earl Ofari Hutchinson
Trump took much deserved heat for deliberately and vindictively gumming up the works in not immediately signing the 900-billion-dollar second stimulus bill. The list of those hurt by the delay runs off the chart; renters, the unemployed, small to medium sized businesses, and the millions of the neediest of the needy. As usual African Americans are a disproportionate percent of the needy.
But even if Trump had put signature to the stimulus package immediately it wouldn’t help many Blacks. It’s not just the relatively miserly amount of money ladled out. Nor is it solely that the stimulus is again top heavy with big payouts to corporate industry groups from the airlines to the big hotels. Nor is it the paltry $600 individual payout to individuals.
The inherent disparity in who gets what and when, or even if, they get anything was glaringly apparent in the first much bigger and more expansive stimulus last spring. Blacks were far less likely to get a check than whites. They were far less likely to receive a payment on the same timely basis as whites. They were far less likely to have access to bank and savings accounts to put the money in if, or when, they received it.
Surveys on consumer buying habits and needs found that the money received barely covered the massive debt and needs of many of the Black recipients. They were more likely to be behind on their rent or mortgage payments. They were more likely to have been laid off from jobs faster than whites and they were far more likely to be unemployed longer than whites. They were also far less likely to receive unemployment benefits than whites. Even if none of these problems existed, many Blacks were still left out in the cold simply because they failed to file for the $1200 payout.
The COVID stimulus disparity was nowhere more evident than in the plight of small Black owned businesses Overall, the estimated 2.5 million Black owned businesses make up almost one-third of the eight million minority-owned businesses in the United States.
90 percent of minority businesses did not get a nickel of money from the SBA’s Payroll Protection Program. For Black owned businesses, the number is even worse. 95 percent got no funding.
In several informal polls on my Facebook pages, I asked this question: “Did you know of any Black owned business that got a COVID stimulus SBA Payroll Protection Program Loan?” There were a handful of “yeses.’ There was an avalanche of “nos.” Some expressed optimism that the grim shutoff of the money spigot to Black businesses would change with the 3 trillion-dollar stimulus package. It did but only marginally. Many small Black businesses at that point were too far gone to be saved, even if they could have qualified for a COVID stimulus loan or grant.
Trump, congressional leaders, and treasury officials loudly pledged that small businesses were a prime target of the aid program. There was a litany of much publicized online workshops and townhalls on where and how to apply for funding. Many banks announced that they had funds and encouraged businesses to apply. House Democrats sweetened the pot by prying $60 billion out of the loan package for minority banks. Yet, the number of Black businesspersons who got money since then has barely budged.
There is much justified finger pointing at the SBA, Treasury officials, corporate and bank lobbyists for lax to non-existent oversight, lax rules on who could get the money, and for earmarking far too much of the half trillion business in loans to major corporations. There is equally justified finger-pointing at the banks for tossing up a mountain of paperwork, tax and business filing documents, and account requirements that small business owners had little chance of hurdling. Then there was the muddle, confusion, and constant changing edicts about what and how the money could be used and what if any of it had to be paid back. In the months since then little has changed except the desperation of countless numbers of near penniless, distressed small Black business owners.
The first stimulus had virtually no lasting impact on lifting Blacks out of their disproportionate poverty or damping down the mountainous debt of many Blacks. The reason for this is simple. Blacks had greater indebtedness and were far poorer than whites long before COVID hit and the first stimulus payment was issued. The money many received was just a drop in the bucket against their mountainous needs.
The first stimulus on paper anyway was at least worthy of the name. The same can hardly be said of the second stimulus. Whatever money comes certainly is welcome. But for many Blacks, it will again still be the case of show me money that won’t be there for them.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is author of What’s Right and Wrong with the Electoral College (Middle Passage Press). He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on Radio One Network. He is host of the Hutchinson Report on KPFK-Pacifica Radio Los Angeles.