Amid a pandemic that has killed thousands of Americans, which disproportionately affects Minorities, we must confront the reality that we don’t track anything in our communities and that is why we are still doing the same dance.
Minorities will always face an uphill battle no matter the challenge or even their myriad of accomplishments. Coupled with the longstanding issues of oppression comes even more uncertainties of the COVID-19 era. Minority millennials have lost family and friends. They’ve lost their jobs. Following the devastation wrought to communities and individuals, it’s now a matter of trying to live and cope with the after-effects of the coronavirus.
But, it’s not the first we’ve been here. History repeats itself. And if we do not learn from the ravages of the past, we cannot create a new future. Do we have the data at hand to help us learn from our past mistakes and make the changes that can improve our future? What’s next for the future for this marginalized – yet powerful – group if we don’t take a stand and effect powerful changes?
The current reality – US unemployment skyrocketing to hit record highs
More than 23 million Americans were unemployed as at April 2020 when the unemployment rate skyrocketed to 14.7 percent due to the negative effects of COVID-19. According to the Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, “approximately 40% of all jobs paying less than $40,000 per year in February were gone in March”. It is expected that the rate will be even higher May 2020.
Sectors that are primarily dominated by minorities were the hardest hit. Leisure and hospitality industries, retail, and health are just a few of those facing the harshest impacts. This does not include the millions who have had their work hours reduced resulting in lower take-home pay. Reduced hours also mean an inability to apply for unemployment benefits. (Not surprisingly, in some instances, unemployment benefits for persons who lost their jobs have been more than their previous paychecks. This further illustrates how far minorities are from equitable pay or a living wage).
Further, many small businesses have had to face the grim reality of closing as well. This may materialize despite the promised bailout under the small business loan program. Numerous small businesses were shut out as large corporations received millions from the Paycheck Protection Program administered through the SBA. Even here in Long Island, public companies secured millions in loans from the PPP while small business owners have had issues accessing loans. Small businesses that also keep millions of Americans employed.
Millennials who lost their jobs have been able to access unemployment benefits via the CARES Act. But additional jobless benefits expire at the end of July which they have to be mindful of.
So, how will millennials who have lost their jobs by the millions fare in the post-COVID-19 reality? They already face an uphill battle with the disparity in the wage gap and the heavier burdens of student loan debt incurred to purportedly deliver a better life.
Minority is the New Majority
Now, the unemployment discussion above does not take into account the effects that the pandemic has had on business owners who have had to close their businesses.
Not only have millennials overtaken Baby Boomers as the largest living adult population, but they are leading in terms of small business ownership. Within this statistic, minority millennials hold an exclusive position. Minority millennials comprise the majority of small business owners according to a study by Guidant Financial. For example, compared to baby boomers a “millennial entrepreneur is 77 percent more likely to be an African American”.
Therefore, minorities would undoubtedly have been affected but the widespread displacements surrounding not only the way the pandemic has been handled but also the effects on the communities they serve.
Plus, uncertainties are being compounded by policymakers.
Minority millennial business owners, like many other small business owners who were able to access the PPP before it ran dry, are now set to face another hurdle. The PPP loans were sold on the impression that they could easily be converted to grants. Therefore, small business owners were expecting to qualify for loan forgiveness according to the requirements that had been set out for accessing loans.
However, this may not be the case. Many small business owners may be faced with crippling debt that will force their businesses to permanently close. The forgiveness terms of the loans have shifted with each update. If this continues, small business owners – who may even lose their businesses before this pandemic is over – will face further debt repayments without a source of income.
Charting a New Course as Minority Millennials Post-COVID-19
But all isn’t lost. We have the tools at our fingertips to improve the hand that minority millennials have been dealt. As the largest generation in the current workforce, millennials have the potential to be the strongest voice to create change.
But first – we need to change to effect change. And that means start by quantifying issues and using the data we have to our advantage. We can use the data from Corona for real change, the data of police violence for real change, we can QUANTIFY injustice for real change.
At MinorityMillennials.org, we have seen firsthand the power that collective advocacy and action can bring about in our communities and states. It requires that each person equip themselves and those around them to be resilient in times of crisis. Retooling, education – without crippling debt – and new strategies must be at the forefront of the change for millennials. We have no choice but to bounce back from the ravages of COVID-19. And in its aftermath, minority millennials have the potential to rise like the phoenix they are.
So, what do you do now? How do minorities deal with the unique uncertainties looming in the distance? Especially when a second wave of the coronavirus is expected in the fall? And an even worse economic downturn is on the horizon?
We have to start working now to secure a future that supports minority millennials. What we do now to build generational wealth for our descendants determines how well we weather the post-COVID era.
Policy, influence, and culture are the trifecta needed to support the wealth-building efforts for the future. Changes are made when there are diverse voices in play. Staying in your lane and focusing on you leaves the group segregated and without the collective power that can drive sustainable growth for minorities.
Instead, become entrepreneurs, employers, employees, policymakers that bridge that gap to create policies and change that drive wealth in our communities. Work to remove the obstacles and empower the minority millennial community.
As you get ready to uplift your community, join MinorityMillenial.org to learn more about growing the MM community, and accessing support to empower yourself as you uplift others. As an organization actively working to develop solutions to the social issues our communities face, we will be designing methods to track proof of progress moving forward. We embrace anyone that feels the same. #minoritymillennials