According to The State, Trump is calling on a White House council, which usually focuses on revitalizing urban areas, to shift its attention to the economic disparities in Black communities.
He’s bringing in Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina — the U.S. Senate’s only Black Republican — to assist his administration with a plan. In an interview with The State, Scott explained that he’d make a presentation at the White House this month that would involve “some ideas on ways to address the systemic issues that are confronting vulnerable as well as minority communities.”
Scott supported the Opportunity Zones initiative that Trump signed into law back in 2017. The program — which provides tax incentives to business owners who make long-term investments in designated distressed communities — formed the basis for the White House Opportunity and Revitalization Council in 2018.
Now, this very group is charged with focusing efforts on “supporting underserved communities impacted by the coronavirus.”
Scott said he will call for more support with expanding “connectivity” in parts of the country that don’t have reliable Internet access. The so-called “digital divide” has prevented large groups of the population from being able to work and learn from home during the pandemic, and from benefiting from telemedicine.
Scott also wants Trump’s administration to push policies that will help Americans become more financially secure enough to buy their own homes, “not necessarily turning over to public housing,” he said. Scott continued that he will advocate for a federal expansion of the Opportunity Zones model to give more incentives for investors “to take a second look” at putting down roots in distressed communities in what he called the “post-COVID-19 economy.”
Although Scott said his presentation will focus on the economic needs of the communities most devastated by the coronavirus, he said it would not address earlier requests that the Trump administration initiate a national data collection drive to determine the racial disparities in the contraction of, and fatalities from, the coronavirus.
This is extremely problematic because many other political leaders and healthcare specialists have said that data collection can lead to more targeted resources for disproportionately affected communities. So far, states have been left with the responsibility to collect coronavirus-related data by race, and the findings have been bleak.
For example in South Carolina, Scott’s state, the Department of Health and Environmental Control has found that 44% of all positive cases of COVID-19, and 53% of all deaths attributed to the virus were among Black people, who make up approximately 27% of the state’s population.
Scott said he would leave data collection to the state’s elected officials, such as South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster.
“We’ve seen a healthy reaction to the importance of data collection and communicating to communities of color the importance of social distancing protocols,” Scott said. “I spoke with (Surgeon General) Jerome Adams about these issues as well, and have spoken to a lot of the leading denominations since the Church is such a large part of the African American community.”
Scott argued that he was continuing to press for data collection, “but that is a separate track from what the president announced” with the newly assembled council.
While Scott is talking about communicating with church leaders, he didn’t address Black communities’ likelihood to have underlying health conditions such as diabetes and hypertension due to inequities in access to health care. These underlying conditions could play a strong role in the disproportionate Black deaths due to the coronavirus. Where is the access to adequate health care plan? How will Scott and the council address Black people who are often required to go into jobs that risk exposure to the coronavirus. With mega companies like Amazon reportedly not showing support to workers, what is Scott and the administration’s plan for this?
Darrell Scott, the CEO of the Urban Revitalization Council who has no relation to the senator, said his group is working closely with the Trump administration to collect racial disparity data nationwide, but he said it won’t be “an easy lift.” He said he’s been in touch with Tim Scott and has meetings scheduled with the White House council, but considering Tim’s take, there’s no promises any actions will be taken.
Tim Scott is rarely vigilant when calling out racism as well. There have been various instances where he’s either refused to call out Trump’s racism or he’s backed Trump’s lies against America’s first Black president Barack Obama.
Meanwhile, groups like the Congressional Black Caucus have been making recommendations for Black people since lockdowns started, but Congress and the Trump administration have been slow to act.
On Monday, presidential nominee Joe Biden released a six-point plan to help Black communities affected by the health crisis. The broad plan included things like making “far-reaching investments in ending health disparities by race,” addressing “environmental justice,” and advancing the “economic mobility of African Americans” and closing “the racial wealth and income gaps.”
But again, all of these are just plans during a crisis that is urgent.
One Black Republican political operative familiar with Trump’s White House council explained, “As you know, one of the oldest games in this town is to set up a commission or committee to buy time because you have no solution to a problem.”
He continued, “This administration doesn’t have that luxury. People are hurting.”