Durbin Joins Harris, Kelly To Announce Legislation To Establish Task Force To Combat Racial And Ethnic Disparities In COVID-19
SPRINGFIELD – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today joined Senator Kamala D. Harris (D-CA) and Representative Robin Kelly (D-IL-02) to announce the bicameral COVID-19 Racial and Ethnic Disparities Task Force Act, legislation to bring together health care and other policy experts, community-based organizations, and federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial leaders to confront the racial and ethnic disparities of the coronavirus pandemic head on. The COVID-19 pandemic has heightened the urgent need to address long-standing inequities in our health care system that affect communities of color.
“Sadly, I was not surprised when I heard about the drastic racial and ethnic disparities in COVID-19 cases and deaths. We have known that communities of color have dealt with systemic health disparities for generations, but the federal government hasn’t done enough to understand the issue and present solutions. Our bill would start a serious whole-of-government approach to combat racial and ethnic disparities in health outcomes. We can’t wait any longer to get something done,” Durbin said.
“We know that COVID-19 is already taking an oversized toll on communities of color,” said Kelly. “It’s critical that we examine these disparities at the highest possible levels of our government and develop solutions to address, reduce and end them. Fundamentally, we need this analysis to give us hard, in-your-face proof of what we’ve known for generations to drive policy change.”
Along with Durbin, Harris, and Kelly, this legislation is co-sponsored by Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), Doug Jones (D-AL), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Ed Markey (D-MA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Gary Peters (D-MI), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Tina Smith (D-MN), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).
The bill would require the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to establish an interagency task force of policy experts, community leaders, and government officials to make data-driven recommendations to federal agencies about directing crucial resources—like testing kits, testing supplies, and personal protective equipment (PPE)—to communities with racial and ethnic disparities in COVID-19 infection, hospitalization and death rates. The task force’s work would guide a more equitable government response to the COVID-19 pandemic and future public health crises.
The COVID-19 Racial and Ethnic Disparities Task Force Act is endorsed by the Association of Asian Pacific Community Health Organizations, Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum, California Rural Indian Health Board, Center for American Progress, Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), Color of Change, National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF), National Council of Asian Pacific Americans, National Indian Health Board, National Hispanic Medical Association, National Medical Association, National Urban League, Third Way, and UnidosUS.
“The novel coronavirus pandemic has sickened and killed Black and Latino people at disparate rates, and equitable support is not reaching the nation’s hardest hit regions,” said Marc Morial, president and CEO, National Urban League. “We need to convene health care and policy experts with local leaders in order to allocate the necessary resources to meet everyone’s needs -- especially in communities that have historically suffered from unfair and insufficient response from the government during times of crisis. The National Urban League is proud to support this legislation that will deliver much-needed federal support to our communities during these challenging times.”
“A federal task-force on racial disparities in the COVID-19 pandemic is essential for Black and Brown communities that are dying at alarming rates across the country. This pandemic makes it more clear than ever before that inequality in communities of color threatens stability for communities of every color nationwide. Identifying ways to specifically support and flatten the curve in our communities will serves as a protection for the entire country,” said Rashad Robinson, president, Color Of Change, the largest online racial justice organization in the country.
The COVID-19 Racial and Ethnic Disparities Task Force would:
- Provide weekly resource allocation recommendations to FEMA and Congress including:
- Data on patient outcomes including hospitalizations, ventilation, and mortality disaggregated by race and ethnicity.
- Identification of communities that have high levels of racial and ethnic disparities in COVID-19 infection, hospitalization, and death rates.
- Recommendations to FEMA about how best to allocate critical COVID-19 resources like PPE, ventilators, testing kits, testing supplies, vaccinations (when available), staffing, and funding to these communities.
- Best practices when communities are able to effectively reduce racial and ethnic disparities.
- Provide oversight and recommendations to federal agencies about how to disburse COVID-19 relief funds—for instance, the Education Stabilization Fund and the Paycheck Protection Program created under the CARES Act—to address racial and ethnic disparities with respect to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Report to Congress on:
- Structural inequalities preceding the COVID-19 pandemic and how they contributed to racial and ethnic disparities in infection, hospitalization, and death rates.
- The initial federal response to the COVID-19 pandemic and its impacts on racial and ethnic disparities in infection, hospitalization, and death rates.
- Recommendations to combat racial and ethnic disparities in future infectious disease response.
- At the end of the COVID-19 public health crisis, establish a permanent Infectious Disease Racial and Ethnic Disparities Task Force to continue to identify and address racial and ethnic disparities in our health care system and improve future infectious disease response.
Bill text can be found here.
A one-pager on the bill can be found here.
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