Doing more, with less – Protecting our frontline workers

By Ron Busby

As the nation begins to slowly emerge from quarantine brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, many remain in shock by the health and economic carnage we are all experiencing. From Wall Street to Main Street, business and financial leaders are stunned by the virus’s impact on nearly every facet of our lives.

No sector of our economy has been disproportionately stymied more than Black-owned businesses from coast to coast. For more than a decade, U.S. Black Chambers has led the fight on Capitol Hill and in corporate board rooms on behalf of the country’s more than 3 million Black businesses.

In the wake of the pandemic, data revealed what many of us have always known – Black businesses are financially fragile. Most of our businesses are family-owned and regularly confronted with cash flow, operational and legal hurdles that are eating away years of hard work and sacrifice. The challenges faced by Black business owners often mirror those we see in the communities where they are located, hire from, and committed to serving.

Like Black businesses, medical facilities located in minority communities are facing many never-before-seen challenges as well. Since the outbreak, doctors, nurses, and other essential workers have been forced to ration care and perform unfamiliar jobs because of staff and equipment shortages. Medical facilities such as Howard University Hospital in Washington, DC, and Prince George’s Hospital Center in Maryland, have served Black communities for decades and are vital partners who provide opportunities for small business growth. Workers in these facilities perform heroic duties in unprecedented conditions. They deserve our support, but today are under the threat of over-reaching lawsuits.

Perhaps the most vulnerable health care sector is nursing homes and long-term health facilities. These facilities, which care for thousands of low-income, aging members of the Black community, were already short on medical supplies and personal protective equipment. They are now struggling to adapt to an ever-changing virus and rising COVID-19 caseloads. These facilities need federal and state funding to help support patients, families, front-line workers, and community partners.

As Congress continues to debate proposals related to liability protection, we urge them to do so with the collective good in mind and not allow over-zealous legal actions to punish those who are already doing more, with less.

Ron Busby is the president and CEO of U.S. Black Chambers, Inc.

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