Congress sets sights on addressing racial inequalities in work, healthcare

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WASHINGTON, D.C. (NEXSTAR) — Leaders in Washington say the coronavirus pandemic has made racial inequities worse, especially when it comes to work and healthcare.

Ohio Rep. Marcia Fudge said fixing racial inequities in the healthcare system will require better communication.

“How can we build trust between underserved communities and local institutions including hospitals?” Fudge (D-OH) said.

Dr. Camara Jones of Emory University told Fudge that trust is built when the healthcare system listens.

“We need to have the people who are impacted by the decisions at the decision-making tables,” Jones said.

At a Congressional hearing Monday, health experts and lawmakers talked about the staggering difference of health outcomes during the pandemic.

“Communities of color are more likely to be infected with the virus and then, once infected, they’re more likely to die,” Jones said. “Because they are more burdened by chronic diseases with less access to healthcare.”

Experts told lawmakers inequality extends beyond healthcare, into the economy itself.

“It’s estimated that Black-owned businesses have experienced losses of 41 percent between February and April… 17 percent for white-owned companies,” said Avik Roy with the Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity.

“So what this indicates is opportunity is not equally distributed by race or ethnicity in this country, nor is exposure to risk,” Jones said.

Alabama Republican Bradley Byrne said about one-third of his constituents are African-American, but have suffered nearly 50 percent of COVID-19 deaths.

“But I think as a nation, we need to get to the bottom of this,” Byrne said. “Something is very wrong here and we need to address it.”

He added school and business closures also disproportionately affected minorities in his district.

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