A group of Senate Republicans sent a letter to President Biden yesterday, stating that they are working on a counterproposal to the COVID relief legislation that is currently being developed. The letter indicated that the package they would be working on would have a smaller price tag, and later reports suggested their alternative proposal would be less than half the size. Many Republican Senators who signed the letter previously expressed concerns that the amount of relief contemplated by President Biden and congressional Democrats was too big. In fact, Senator Mitt Romney earlier called the total price of the Biden package “shocking.”
Here’s what’s shocking: More than one in five Black, non-Hispanic women and Latinas don’t have enough to eat. More than 1 in 12 Black women ages 20 and over (8.4%) and about 1 in 11 Latinas (9.1%) remained unemployed in December. Overall, there were nearly 2.1 million fewer women in the labor force in December than there were in February, before the pandemic started.
Women, and especially women of color, are bearing the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic and recession—and that is no accident. Years of public disinvestment—especially in Black and brown communities—created the underlying vulnerabilities in our economic, public health and other systems, that are currently wreaking havoc on the well-being of women and families of color. Arbitrarily limiting the amount of relief or leaving out relief that women and communities of color especially need, will inevitably perpetuate inequity and hardship.
Instead, we need large-scale public spending to address the immediate impacts of this crisis on women and their families—as Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen put it, we need to “act big.” Indeed, the Great Recession showed us that when too little relief is provided, economic recovery is undermined—and too many struggling families in fact never recovered. It’s not that we can’t afford to help the women and families hit hardest by the pandemic, it’s that we can’t afford not to.
President Biden has proposed a robust COVID relief package that centers the needs of women, especially women of color. What’s more, estimates indicate that the Biden relief plan would boost economic activity to pre-pandemic levels by the second half of 2021. This is no time to follow the failed austerity playbook. It’s time to take meaningful steps towards mending the deep flaws in our economy that COVID has exacerbated and build back better.