Denver – Today, Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet announced that he will cosponsor the COVID-19 Racial and Ethnic Disparities Task Force Act, legislation introduced by U.S. Senator Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) to bring together health care and other policy experts, community-based organizations, and federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial leaders to confront the racial and ethnic disparities of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. This pandemic has heightened the urgency of addressing long-standing inequities in our health care system.
“You can draw a straight line between the higher coronavirus infection and death rates among communities of color and the historic disparities they’ve faced in access to quality health care, housing, schools, and other services,” said Bennet. “We have to confront directly and honestly the systemic inequalities that have led this virus to disproportionately hurt certain racial and ethnic groups in our country. The COVID-19 Racial and Ethnic Disparities Task Force Act will help us contend with this history so that, going forward, we can better protect all communities from this pandemic and those to come.”
The bill would require the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to establish an interagency task force of policy experts, community leaders, and government officials to make data-driven recommendations to federal agencies, including the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), about directing crucial resources—like testing kits, testing supplies, and personal protective equipment (PPE)—to communities with racial and ethnic disparities in COVID-19 infection, hospitalization, and death rates. The task force’s work would guide a more equitable government response to the COVID-19 pandemic and future public health crises.
Along with Bennet and Harris, this legislation is co-sponsored by U.S. Senators Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Doug Jones (D-Ala.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.).
The COVID-19 Racial and Ethnic Disparities Task Force Act is endorsed by the Association of Asian Pacific Community Health Organizations, Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum, California Rural Indian Health Board, Center for American Progress, Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), Color of Change, National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF), National Council of Asian Pacific Americans, National Indian Health Board, National Hispanic Medical Association, National Medical Association, National Urban League, Third Way, and UnidosUS.
The COVID-19 Racial and Ethnic Disparities Task Force 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.
- Recommendations 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 Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (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.
The text of the bill is available HERE.A one-pager on the bill is available HERE.