Durbin Discusses Impact Of COVID-19 With Africa Global Chamber Of Commerce

SPRINGFIELD – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today joined the Africa Global Chamber of Commerce virtual conference to discuss the racial disparities in health care impacting minority communities during the COVID-19 pandemic and seeking solutions for more equitable health care outcomes for communities of color. During the virtual conference, Durbin also spoke about the barriers minority-owned businesses face in accessing the Paycheck Protection Program.

“Our nation has never confronted a challenge quite like the coronavirus pandemic, and we need bold solutions to respond to the alarming systemic inequalities that are underscored by this public health crisis,” said Durbin. “I’ll continue to fight for more equitable health care outcomes for communities of color and ensure that minority-owned businesses have the support they need to carry through this economic uncertainty.”

In Illinois, African Americans account for nearly 40 percent of COVID-19 deaths despite making up only 15 percent of the state’s population. Chicago is seeing even higher levels of racial disparities, with African Americans accounting for about 60 percent of deaths while only making up 29 percent of the city’s population. To address these disparities, Durbin has called on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to begin reporting nationwide demographic data of cases and deaths related to COVID-19 and utilize this data seek solutions for the systemic health care inequalities worsening this pandemic for communities of color. Durbin has also cosponsored the Equitable Data Collection and Disclosure Act, which calls for the release of demographic data on COVID-19 testing, treatment, and deaths.

Durbin also addressed concerns about the accessibility of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) for minority-owned businesses. After many of these businesses were shut out of the PPP, Senate Democrats secured a $60 billion set aside in the interim emergency coronavirus relief legislation for community-based lenders that serve minority-owned businesses and small businesses without traditional banking relationships. Durbin has also called on the Small Business Administration and the U.S. Department of the Treasury to prioritize the needs of small businesses in underserved and rural communities when processing PPP loans and to report demographic data on PPP loan recipients.