NAACP, faith leaders call for state to address COVID-19 disparities

Church leaders discuss plan to help African Americans recover from COVID-19

RALEIGH, N.C. — The North Carolina NAACP and faith leaders are putting forth a new plan that could help African American communities recover from the coronavirus, which is affecting them disproportionately.

The statistics are troubling, to say the least. African Americans make up 39 percent of North Carolina’s cases and 36 percent of deaths but they only account for 21 percent of the population.

The NAACP is calling on the state to create a special civil rights COVID-19 recovery office to specifically address financial, health and justice issues -- as the African American community continues to be disproportionately affected by the virus.

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“My stomach has been tied up in knots with how we are dancing around this,” said Rev. T Anthony Spearman, president of the North Carolina NAACP.

To address the economic hardships, the plan details the need to offer funding for minority-owned businesses.

Leaders want the state to immediately suspend mortgage and rent payments.

They’re calling on the governor and state leaders to raise the minimum wage and specifically the wage of essential workers by June.

“Blacks are more likely to be in occupations where there is a greater exposure to coronavirus,” said Dr. William Darity, of Duke University.

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Leaders are calling for paid sick time and paid medical leave for front-line workers.

The recovery plan urges the state to expand Medicaid, to get people access to treatment and to address the preexisting conditions that make the virus more deadly for African Americans in the first place.

Faith leaders warn these disparities do not just impact one community.

“Socially and economically the pandemics will find their ways to hot spots that are already facing inequalities. What the rest of the society needs to know is that it will not stay in those communities unless we close those inequalities the rest of us are risk,” said Rev. William Barber, of Repairers of the Breach.

Channel 9 was scheduled to speak with a North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services leader Friday to talk about what the state is doing to address the disparities. At the last minute, he had to reschedule our interview for next week.

But earlier this week, Dr. Mandy Cohen said the state is focused on opening up testing sites in areas where there is limited access to health care.

African Americans impacted more by COVID-19, data shows