Federal government systematically shortchanging Black communities in distributing COVID aid

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People wait in line for masks and food in Harlem in New York City. Credit: Bebeto Matthews/AP

[A] study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that… funding inequities resulted from a formula that allocated large chunks of a $175 billion relief package based on hospital revenue, instead of numbers of Covid-19 cases or other health data.

The effect was to distribute more money through the federal CARES Act to large hospitals that already had the most resources, leaving smaller hospitals with large numbers of Black patients with disproportionately low funding to manage higher numbers of Covid-19 cases.

“We are finding large-scale racial bias in the way the federal government is distributing” the funds to hospitals, said Ziad Obermeyer, a physician and a co-author of the study from the University of California, Berkeley.

“If you take two hospitals getting the same amount of funding under the CARES Act, the dollars have to go further in Black counties than they do elsewhere,” he said. “Effectively that means there are fewer things the health systems can do in those counties, like testing, buying more personal protective equipment, or doing outreach to make sure people are being tested.”

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The study adds to a growing body of evidence showing that communities with large numbers of people of color are getting hit harder during the pandemic, with higher rates of infection than wealthier white communities.

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