In February, when the coronavirus seemed like a distant threat in the United States, President Trump celebrated record low unemployment rates with a self-promoting speech to a North Carolina economic summit.

“From the day I took office, I have been working to build an unlimited future for African American communities who have given, served, and sacrificed so much for our nation,” he said, pointing to record low unemployment rates.

And “really happily for me,” the president trumpeted this month, was the “700,000 jobs for African American workers added in the last two months.”

Yet, even as monthly black jobless rates were falling to 5.4 percent in August 2019, continuing a drop that began years earlier under President Barack Obama, Trump administration policies and programs — notably regarding the Minority Business Development Agency and the Small Business Administration — did not advance black economic development.

Then, as the United States attempted its latest reckoning with centuries of systemic racism, it became clear that “The Coronavirus Crisis Is Worsening Racial Inequality.” That’s the title of a paper from the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, outlining ways administration policies and programs work against African American financial progress.

Rather than a “great equalizer,” as New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) called the virus, “inequality has only worsened during the current national hardship,” said Connor Maxwell, the article’s author. And while covid-19 would hurt the economy no matter who occupied the White House, “the Trump administration’s economic policies have directly contributed to the current recession’s disproportionate impact on Black Americans.

“These disparities were completely avoidable. Black suffering is not inevitable,” he added. “Had the Trump administration prioritized the economic well-being of all Americans instead of just wealthy investors, black Americans would likely be in a better economic situation than they are now.”

Examples of the disparities and related Trump policies include:

●The administration repeatedly has proposed devastating budget cuts for the Commerce Department’s Minority Business Development Agency. Trump’s fiscal 2021 budget request would slash its funding by 76 percent, which would emaciate the agency’s mission to promote the growth of minority-owned businesses.

●Despite vocal support from Trump for small, black-owned businesses, only 3 percent of funding through the Small Business Administration’s primary loan program goes to African Americans, who are 13 percent of the population. That also was the case during Obama’s tenure.

●From March into early June, 54 percent of black families lost employment income, compared with 43 percent of white households, according to Maxwell’s calculations using Census Bureau data. Nearly 3 in 10 black renters missed a rental payment, compared with 13 percent of white renters. Nearly one-quarter of African American homeowners and 45 percent of black renters, both at least twice the white rates, “have slight or no confidence that they will be able to make next month’s payment,” he wrote, and “27 percent of Black respondents reported that they are currently experiencing food insecurity.” That’s three times the white rate.

●“The number of active business owners in the United States plummeted by 3.3 million or 22 percent over the crucial two-month window from February to April 2020,” according to the National Bureau of Economic Research, a private, nonpartisan organization that is the official recession arbiter. “The drop in business owners was the largest on record. . . . African-American businesses were hit especially hard experiencing a 41 percent drop. Latinx business owners fell by 32 percent, and Asian business owners dropped by 26 percent.”

An SBA statement distanced the agency from its own data, saying because the demographic information “is provided by the loan applicants on a voluntary basis, it is not necessarily inclusive of all SBA borrowers, nor can its accuracy be verified by the Agency. Accordingly, SBA cannot make any representation as to the completeness or accuracy of the information provided.”

The White House, the Office of Management and Budget, the Treasury Department and the Commerce Department did not respond to a request for comment.

Compounding covid-19’s ravaging and racial health impact, its recession “is devastating black Americans,” said Marc Morial, president and chief executive of the National Urban League. “Anyone who has a job that doesn't allow them to work inside of home is either in a risky job or they’ve probably been laid off.”

On top of that, he said, there has been very little in Trump’s agenda to enhance black employment.

He inherited a growing economy from Obama. He inherited an arc of declining unemployment from Obama,” Morial added. “He’s riding on Obama’s coattails.”

Bureau of Labor Statistics data back Morial’s point. Despite Trump’s boasting, before the pandemic, the black unemployment rate decreased slower under his watch than Obama’s.

During Obama’s last three years, the black unemployment rate fell from 11.9 percent in December 2013 to 7.9 percent in December 2016. Those four percentage points equal a one-third drop.

During the first three years under Trump, the African American jobless rate fell from 7.9 percent in February 2017 to 5.8 percent in February 2020. Those 2.1 percentage points equal a drop of just over one-fourth.

The virus-induced black jobless rate shot up to 16.8 percent in May and was 15.4 percent in June, about one-third higher than the white unemployment figure.

“This is a tough situation and it’s especially tough for black Americans,” Morial said. “It's always going to be tougher for black Americans because we’re the caboose of the American economic train.”

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