The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Power Up: Black and Hispanic Americans are getting laid off at higher rates than white workers.

with Brent D. Griffiths

Good morning and welcome back. Tips, comments, recipes? You know the drill. Thanks for waking up with us. 

Death toll: As of this morning, a total of 73,243 U.S. deaths due to covid-19 and at least 1,222,000 cases have been reported since Feb. 29, per The Post's tracker. 

The People

THE RACE GAP: Communities of color are already bearing the brunt of covid-19, as African Americans and Latinos are getting sick and dying of the disease caused by the novel coronavirus at higher rates. 

A new Washington Post/Ipsos finds those disparities extend to job losses as well — Hispanics are nearly twice as likely as whites to have lost their jobs amid shutdowns across the country. Blacks are also more likely to have been laid off. And racial disparities in income and wealth will likely worsen as a result of the economic downturn. 

  • “The poll finds that 20 percent of Hispanic adults and 16 percent of blacks report being laid off or furloughed since the outbreak began in the United States, compared with 11 percent of whites and 12 percent of workers of other races,” our colleagues Tracy Jan and Scott Clement report. 

Even more bad news may be coming. Tomorrow, the Labor Department will release the first jobs report tcovering an entire month of shutdowns. If the unemployment rate rises to 16 percent on Friday and historic ratios hold, the gaps for communities of color will be enormous, Heidi Shierholz, policy director at the Economic Policy Institute and the chief economist to the labor secretary during the Obama administration told our colleagues.

  • Just how bad it will get: “ … the black unemployment rate, which is typically double that of whites, can be expected to reach nearly 30 percent, Shierholz said; the Hispanic unemployment rate can be expected to hit 20 percent,” per Tracy and Scott.
  • “All recessions exacerbate existing inequalities by race and ethnicity — and always hit black and Hispanic workers harder — but this one will be worse,” Shierholz said. “It will be an absolute nightmare.”

The polling comes as we're learning even more about the disproportionate hit African Americans are taking from the virus: “Black people make up a disproportionate share of the population in 22 percent of U.S. counties, and those localities account for more than half of coronavirus cases and nearly 60 percent of deaths, a national study by an AIDS research group found,” our colleague Vanessa Williams reports.

  • Big development: The study found socioeconomic factors were better predictors than health.
  • Employment status and access to health care were better predictors of infection and death rates than underlying health conditions.

Why this is happening: “Black and Hispanic workers are bearing the brunt of the economic crisis because they are overrepresented in industries that were hit first by social distancing mandates and stay-at-home orders, economists say,” Tracy and Scott report. “These include leisure and hospitality, such as hotels and restaurants; retail; and construction, where Latino men make up more than a quarter of workers.”

  • Key: “We still have a lot of occupational segregation in this country,” Heidi Shierholz, chief economist to the secretary of labor during the Obama administration and an expert on wage inequality and unemployment, told our colleagues. “Some of it is due to differences in educational attainment. Some of it is due to discrimination and people’s access to networks.”

“Age and education also factor into the layoffs,” our colleagues write: “The Post-Ipsos poll finds younger and blue-collar workers, as well as those without college degrees, are most likely to have lost their jobs.”

Disparities extend beyond job losses: “Among those who have been laid off, Hispanics are most likely to say the pandemic has been ‘a serious source of stress’ and are twice as likely as whites to say their families will face ‘real financial trouble’ in a month or less if nothing changes,” our colleagues write. 

  • “But they are also the least likely group to have applied for or received unemployment benefits since March 1 or to have received a federal relief check.”

MISPLACED OPTIMISM: Laid off and furloughed workers are optimistic they will return to their old jobs, the Washington Post-Ipsos poll released this morning finds. 

  • Nearly 6 in 10 say it is ‘very likely’ they will get their old job back, according to the poll,” Heather Long and Emily Guskin report.
  • "Going back to a prior job is typically much easier — and faster — than searching for an entirely new job,” per Heather and Emily. “It also gives laid-off workers a greater sense of comfort about their finances. Studies show that workers who believe they are only a few weeks away from a steady job again are less likely to spiral into a depression or stop paying major bills.”

But economists fear people might be too optimistic: “The longer people are out of work, the less likely they are to be called back,” our colleagues write. “In an alarming trend, companies like General Electric and Nordstrom initially announced they were furloughing employees, a temporary layoff where workers aren’t paid but usually keep their health insurance. But now some of those furloughs are becoming permanent layoffs."

  • The largest unknown is how reopening goes: “Economists say the best chance for any sort of recovery is to get as many workers as possible back into their old jobs.”
  • “A new report from the Becker Friedman Institute at the University of Chicago predicts 42 percent of the recent layoffs from the pandemic will result in permanent job losses. There are two big issues: First, many companies are going bankrupt or shutting down permanently, so they won’t need workers. Second, even after parts of the economy reopen, many people will be hesitant to shop, travel and go out to eat as they did before. Businesses operating at half capacity or switching to online or takeout don’t need nearly as many workers,” per Heather and Emily.

Another snag: Some of these jobless workers are having trouble accessing federal relief provided to them by the coronavirus stimulus package.

  • 61 percent of laid off workers say they have received a $1,200 or more relief check from the federal government. But 38 percent have not.  
  • There are even more issues with unemployment insurance: Half of the laid-off workers say they have been able to apply for unemployment, but under 3 in 10 have received money so far, The Post-Ipsos poll finds. Of those who tried to apply but were unsuccessful, 4 in 10 report that they could not complete the application because phone lines were so busy that they could not get through or their state’s unemployment website wasn’t working,” Heather and Emily report.

At The White House

TRUMP TASK FORCE FLIP FLOP: “The president declared that the White House coronavirus task force would ‘continue on indefinitely,’ reversing his suggestion not 24 hours earlier that it might soon be disbanded and reflecting an administration increasingly torn between a drive for normalcy and pressure to show caution,” Matt Zapotosky and John Wagner report.

  • “I thought we could wind it down sooner, but I had no idea how popular the task force is until actually yesterday when I started talking about winding down,” Trump said Wednesday, after signing a proclamation in the Oval Office honoring nurses. “It is appreciated by the public.”
  • “White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany later said the task force had ‘gotten our country through this,’ and Trump had decided it was 'here to stay.'”

TOP TRUMP ALLY TO HEAD POST OFFICE: “A top donor to President Trump and the Republican National Committee will be named the new head of the Postal Service, putting a top ally of the president in charge of an agency where Trump has long pressed for major changes in how it handles its business,” Josh Dawsey, Lisa Rein and Jacob Bogage report.

  • “The Postal Service’s board of governors confirmed late Wednesday that Louis DeJoy, a North Carolina businessman who is currently in charge of fundraising for the Republican National Convention in Charlotte, will serve as the new postmaster general,” our colleagues write.

What it means: The action will probably move Trump “closer than ever before to forcing the service to renegotiate its terms with companies and its own union workforce,”they report. “Trump’s Treasury Department and the Postal Service are in the midst of a negotiation over a $10 billion line of credit approved as part of coronavirus legislation in March."

  • That includes fighting back against Amazon: “Trump has indicated he wants the Postal Service to dramatically raise fees for delivering packages for customers such as Amazon in exchange for tapping the line of credit. Trump has long argued that Amazon doesn’t pay the Postal Service enough, a charge the agency has fiercely contested." (Amazon’s chief executive, Jeff Bezos, owns The Washington Post.)

Global Power

THE ROGUE OP TO CAPTURE MADURO: “Inside a glittering Miami high-rise, representatives of the Venezuelan opposition sat in a room adorned with samurai swords and listened to a pitch. They had been appointed by opposition leader Juan Guaidó to explore all options in their U.S.-backed quest to oust Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro. On that afternoon on the shores of Biscayne Bay last September, a former U.S. Army Green Beret presented them with an answer,” Anthony Faiola, Karen DeYoung and Ana Vanessa Herrero report.

  • Operation Resolution: “Jordan Goudreau, a 43-year-old Special Forces veteran who ran a strategic-security firm on the Florida Space Coast, laid out a plan that could double as a screenplay for an episode of ‘Jack Ryan,’” our colleagues write. “Goudreau claimed to have 800 men ready to penetrate Venezuela and ‘extract’ Maduro and his henchmen, according to J.J. Rendón, the Venezuelan political strategist tapped by Guaidó to help lead the secretive committee.”
Venezuelan authorities detained two U.S. citizens working with a U.S. military veteran for a failed armed incursion, President Nicolas Maduro said May 4. (Video: Reuters)

The plan seemed to be moving forward in October when an agreement was signed. But then things unraveled: “Soon after the signing, Rendón said, Goudreau began acting erratically. He failed to produce evidence of the financial backing he claimed to have lined up to fund the operation, Rendón said, and demanded immediate payment of a $1.5 million retainer,” our colleagues write. “There was no evidence of 800 men.”

  • The operation was considered dead … until Sunday morning: “The men proclaimed the start of an operation to “liberate” Venezuela, and Goudreau said participants had entered the country. But by then the mission — apparently infiltrated by Maduro’s agents — had already sustained a devastating blow, with eight men killed and two captured.”

Trump and other U.S. officials have denied any knowledge: “Goudreau says he unsuccessfully sought U.S. backing through an aide in the office of Vice President Pence. He declined to name the aide,” our colleagues write. “A spokeswoman for Pence said Wednesday that there was ‘zero contact’ between anyone in the vice president’s office and Goudreau.”

  • Guaidó denied any existing contract with Goudreau: “Goudreau counters that the agreement — supplied in part to The Post by Goudreau, with a more complete version provided by Rendón — bound the opposition to his services and initial fee. A seven-page document provided by Goudreau carries Guaido’s signature, along with those of Rendón and fellow opposition official Sergio Vergara … Rendón, however, insists that the document Goudreau produced was never signed by Guaidó, and provided previous and subsequent agreements to The Post that did not bear Guaido’s name." 

In the Agencies

RULE CHANGE UPENDS HANDLING OF SEXUAL ASSAULT COMPLAINTS: “Education Secretary Betsy DeVos released a sweeping new directive governing how schools must handle allegations of sexual assault and harassment, granting new rights to the accused and handing colleges a clear but controversial road map to navigating these highly charged investigations,” Laura Meckler reports.

The changes go into effect on Aug. 14 and may be DeVos's most lasting legacy: “The new rule bars universities from using a single official to investigate and judge complaints, a popular model, and instead creates a judicial-like process in which the accused has the right to a live hearing and to cross-examine accusers,” our colleague writes.

  • The regulation affects every school that receives federal funding: “The rule also adds dating violence and stalking to the definition of sexual harassment. But it otherwise offers a narrow definition of harassment, requiring that it be severe and pervasive, as well as objectively offensive.”

Women's rights groups have criticized the changes since they were first proposed in 2018: “Even before the 2,033-page regulation was released, opponents were vowing a legal challenge, hoping to halt or at least stall the new rule,” our colleague writes. Democratic lawmakers tore into the changes.

  • Joe Biden has promised to restore Obama-era rules: The former vice president has denied sexual assault allegations made against him. Biden promised to put a “quick-end” to DeVos's regulation if he wins in November. Since it is a formal regulation, a Biden administration would need congressional action to undo or modify it.

Supporters said it would add more fairness to the process: “They were particularly buoyed by the requirement for cross-examination, saying it is the most effective way of ferreting out the truth of what happened in a situation in which students offer different recollections of the same event.”

  • There are limits to what can happen: “Accusers are not required to be face to face with or answer questions directly from the accused,” our colleague writes. “The regulation also provides ‘rape shield protections,’ such as a bar on questions about an accuser’s sexual history." 

In the Media


CDC's detailed guide on how to reopen is shelved: “The 17-page report by a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention team, titled ‘Guidance for Implementing the Opening Up America Again Framework,’ was researched and written to help faith leaders, business owners, educators and state and local officials as they begin to reopen,” the Associated Press's Jason Dearen and Mike Stobbe report.

  • Americans will likely never see it: “It was supposed to be published last Friday, but agency scientists were told the guidance ‘would never see the light of day,’ according to a CDC official,” the AP reports. “The official was not authorized to talk to reporters and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.”

Trump pledges to continue to fight to invalidate Obamacare: The president said “he will continue trying to toss out all of the Affordable Care Act, even as some in his administration, including Attorney General William P. Barr, have privately argued parts of the law should be preserved amid a pandemic,” Devlin Barrett reports.

Axl Rose welcomes Steven Mnuchin to the jungle: Poison taught us every rose has its thorn. Axl Rose has his tweets. Last night, the legendary Guns N' Roses signer attacked Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Twitter over the Trump administration's handling of the coronavirus, Variety reports.

  • Mnuchin sought to clap back, ending his reply with what he apparently thought was a U.S. flag emoji: But the secretary, once an executive producer of the Lego Movie, soon found out that everything is, in fact, not awesome. He had chosen the flag of Liberia instead. Mnuchin later deleted the original tweet and fixed it with the proper flag. But perhaps in true Entourage form, they should hug it out.