Peters, Stabenow Introduce Legislation to Address Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Coronavirus Pandemic

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senators Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow joined their colleagues to introduce legislation to establish an interagency task force charged with identifying and addressing disparities that are disproportionately affecting minority communities in Michigan during the Coronavirus pandemic. The Coronavirus outbreak has heightened the urgent need to address longstanding inequities in the American health care system, particularly for minority communities who have long struggled to access high-quality, affordable health care. The COVID-19 Racial and Ethnic Disparities Task Force Act would bring together health care and other policy experts, community-based organizations, and federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial leaders to make data-driven recommendations on how the federal government could better direct critical resources to America’s hardest hit communities.

“The Coronavirus pandemic has shed a light on longstanding disparities and health inequities facing minority communities, especially in cities like Detroit where African Americans are suffering from Coronavirus at alarmingly disproportionate rates,” said Senator Peters, Ranking Member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. “We must do more for these historically underserved communities – which is why I have called for a federal task force to better understand the impact of this virus in our hardest hit communities and develop solutions to break down the systemic barriers that have once again been exposed by this unprecedented crisis.”

“The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted racial disparities in health care, employment, housing, and other areas that have existed for generations,” said Senator Stabenow. “This bill will help to highlight actions we can take to address the structural inequalities that have contributed to the disproportionate impact that this crisis has had on communities of color.”

Communities of color in Michigan have been disproportionately affected by the Coronavirus pandemic. While African Americans make up 13.6% of Michigan’s population, they have represented a staggering 33% of confirmed cases and 40% of deaths from the virus. Governor Gretchen Whitmer and Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist led the nation in creating a Michigan task force to address racial disparities for Coronavirus response. Peters and Stabenow’s legislation would create a national task force to aid minority communities in Michigan and across the country.

The COVID-19 Racial and Ethnic Disparities Task Force Act 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.
    • Recommendation 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.

###