WASHINGTON, D.C. – The top Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee Kevin Brady (R-TX) delivered the following opening statement at a Full Committee Hearing on The Disproportionate Impact of COVID-19 on Communities of Color.
CLICK HERE to watch the hearing.
Remarks as prepared for delivery:
“Thank you, Chairman Neal.
“Let me begin by urging our Democratic colleagues to reopen the House. There is much work to be done; the Senate is in session and the Trump administration has continued to work throughout this crisis.
“Establishing an unconstitutional proxy voting system – like the one Congress banned in the 1990’s due to blatant corruption – in place of a phased, gradual reopening of the operations of the U.S. House of Representatives is a disservice to our constituents and country.
“If truckers, nurses, and supermarket employees are considered essential workers, why does Speaker Pelosi believe we are not?
“The Coronavirus is one of the greatest health and economic challenges in American history. It has required an unprecedented response.
“Who knows how many lives and livelihoods would have been saved if China had not covered up and misled the world as to the origin, infectiousness, and deadly characteristics of COVID-19?
“For more than 120 years, America has struggled with health disparities found in communities of color, first revealed by University of Pennsylvania scholar W.E.B. DuBois in his historic 1899 book “The Philadelphia Negro,” and followed by Booker T. Washington, who in 1915 convened the “Conference on Improvement of Health Conditions” of African Americans at Tuskegee, Alabama.
“This committee today shines a bright light on this continuing, unacceptable disparity.
“This is no time to be playing politics, we can’t ignore that racial disparities predate this virus by more than a century.
“People of color, and this nation, deserve serious solutions, not sound bites. Especially from those that purely hate President Trump—who was taking decisive action to fight this virus and limit travel from China while Democrats were still focused on impeachment.
“This virus seeks the vulnerable, the immune-compromised, those with co-morbidities.
“That people of color are impacted more reveals what we’ve known for generations: that our health system does not serve all and does not meet the unique health characteristics of all Americans.
“That is what we must focus on: real solutions to long standing disparities.
“We know that this challenge is both health and economic related.
“Although all minority communities enjoyed higher paychecks and the lowest unemployment on record thanks to President Trump’s tax reform, we know these groups are also hardest hit as state and local leaders locked down the economy, and some continue to.
” In addition to applying maximum pressure to the coronavirus, our top economic priority is to make sure the 39 million Americans who are temporarily unemployed are not permanently unemployed.
“We must make sure our economy reopens safely, that the jobless return to work; that local businesses can rebuild their workforce and remake their workplaces, so they are safe for employees and customers.
“If we fail, people of color will bear the brunt of this economic delay, and all Americans will face the consequences of long-term unemployment: more drug & alcohol abuse, domestic violence, crime, depression, suicide, and shorter lifespans.
“Today, we must work together to identify strategies to improve the health of minorities in America – physical and economic health – knowing that these groups got the short end of both for more than a century.
“I worry that the important Medicaid program does not follow the poor but rather follows wealthy states.
“Medicaid dollars are supposed to help low-income families and workers, but since the Affordable Care Act rewards states for shifting their focus away from those who need it most.
“I’m frustrated that these disparities are made worse by the 32 states who today are refusing to share the CARES Act emergency aid with their small and rural communities as Congress intended.
“The highest rates of concentrated low-income Americans reside in rural communities. They are the ones who are harmed by the refusal of too many state capitals to pass these crucial relief dollars on to small and rural communities.
“I’m proud Chairman Neal has established a task force to address health care challenges for rural and underserved communities. That is important. But it is unacceptable for states to hoard the CARES emergency aid Congress sent to small and rural cities and counties.
“I am introducing legislation to revoke a portion of the CRF aid of states who refuse to share crucial COVID-19 funding with small and rural communities as Congress intended.
“Because these communities deliver care to vulnerable populations.
“To help all Americans overcome this virus and eliminate disparities in our communities, Congress must continue to ensure access to care for all, to keep health providers’ doors open, and ban surprise billing.
“We must continue investing in testing and in community-based health-care facilities.
“And we must continue to support small businesses—including those owned by Americans of color—and help the jobless return to work.
“Those are things Congress can do immediately. But in the long-term, we need to focus on increasing access to health care and prosperity in these communities.
“That is where I hope we can focus our conversation on today.
“Thank you, Chairman Neal.”
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