The African American community is dealing with two crises: the disproportionate impact of the coronavirus pandemic, and systemic racism that has been, once again, laid bare in the aftermath of the George Floyd killing.
But exacerbating both of those crises is a third, more insidious problem, according to Marc Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League: persistent income inequality that means "when people even get back to work, that paycheck doesn't go far enough to help them make ends meet."
Morial spoke to Cheddar on Monday and called for the Senate to immediately take up the HEROES Act, the stimulus bill passed by the House last month that would extend enhanced unemployment benefits for those who lost their jobs amid the pandemic. Those enhanced benefits are currently scheduled to lapse on July 1.
"It's a fantasy to believe that without continued fiscal intervention by the Congress, and continued monetary intervention by the Fed, that we can get back on our feet economically," he said.
Even if the Senate were to move on the HEROES Act (and it's a big if — the GOP-controlled upper chamber has not been in a rush to take up the bill, with some members calling it "dead on arrival"), lawmakers still need to take action to address the underlying issues that made income inequality a problem long before the coronavirus reached our shores, Morial said.
He called on Congress to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to a "living wage" of $15, and expand the child tax credit. Those two actions would go a long way toward helping to get us out of the "40-year ditch" we've dug ourselves, he said.
"It's going to take a commitment by the public and private sectors to move us beyond it."