BOSTON — Governor Charlie Baker has given businesses like barbershops and salons the green light to reopen next week, but many state and local community organizers say they’re not ready.
An hour after the governor’s announcement to reopen the state, the executive director of the Black Economic Council of Massachusetts, Segun Idowu, posted the following to Twitter.
“Until the rates of infection and death go down dramatically in communities of color – and specifically Black communities – the state of Massachusetts must remain closed. The state has the resources to help sustain businesses until then. It should do so,” the tweet read.
“We already didn’t have capital to sustain ourselves to cover operational expenses or payroll," Idowu told Boston 25 News. “So to add that extra line item in the budget to purchase this PPE equipment is also going to put a strain on our business and could make it that we can't open anyway.”
According to the City of Boston, African-Americans make up 39% of COVID-19-positive cases and 36% of known deaths in the city. Minority-owned businesses have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 crisis.
A federal reserve study showed black entrepreneurs are denied bank loans more than twice as often than their white peers, 53% to 25%. And people of color pay higher interest rates on average than their white peers, 7.8% to 6.4%.
In order to facilitate response efforts for COVID-19, the U.S. Department of Labor suspended, “all affirmative action obligations of supply and service and construction contracts.”
Idowu said that a coalition of community stakeholders have lobbied the state and federal government for long-term rent relief, small business loan assistance and better access to PPEs.
“Right now, if we thought it was bad before the pandemic," Idowu explained. "Even on the list of PPE vendors for the state. I’m still going through the list, but I didn’t recognize them as being minority-owned. It’s important that equity is at the beginning of this conversation and not at the end. And that’s why we’re saying reopening is happening too soon.”
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