In a June 9th, Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee hearing, U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) pushed Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson to outline what HUD is doing to help African American, Latino, and low-income Americans who are disproportionately suffering due to the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.
Citing recent data on how the pandemic is increasing disparities in housing by race and income, Senator Cortez Masto asked Secretary Carson about his plans to help millions of unemployed renters pay rent—plans that were not outlined in his testimony. Senator Cortez Masto noted, “From what I’ve listened to your testimony and also in your written statement, you note the initial funds that Congress has provided to help people with housing assistance, but I don’t hear or see any answers about how your department will respond to the increasing numbers of African Americans, Latinos, and low income people who face rapidly increasing housing costs and eviction—what are you doing to address that. So, I guess my first question to you is, as HUD calculated the assistance formulas, did your researchers prioritize communities with high proportions of African Americans and Latinos and did you take that into consideration?”
“I don’t hear or see any answers about how your department will respond to the increasing numbers of African Americans, Latinos, and low income people who face rapidly increasing housing costs and eviction—what are you doing to address that.”
Secretary Carson said that HUD “always” looks at demographic data, and he went on to describe the “underlying comorbidities” that he argued were exacerbating the coronavirus crisis for communities of color and low-income communities.
Senator Cortez Masto tried to redirect his attention to the question of the economic impact of the pandemic: “I appreciate that, particularly coming from your background [as a doctor]. But let me ask you this: You’re Secretary of Housing and Urban Development right now. And so as you look at this data, which you don’t disagree with, what are you doing right now, particularly during this pandemic, to address the issue that we see more of this economic disparity within these communities? And I haven’t heard in this conversation we’ve had today how you as the Secretary of HUD are specifically addressing these. So that’s my first question to you.”
Secretary Carson noted that HUD is working with the multiagency White House Opportunity and Revitalization Council to address underlying causes of those disparities.
Senator Cortez Masto replied, “I appreciate what the White House is trying to do, but my question to you is specifically what policies and programs are you doing as the Secretary of Housing?”
In response, Secretary Carson noted that the White House Opportunity and Revitalization Council is part of an all-of-government approach to the coronavirus crisis.
Again, Senator Cortez Masto emphasized that she was seeking answers about HUD programs specifically: “I appreciate that, and I appreciate the all-in approach and the wraparound services approach and the holistic approach. But you are the Secretary of HUD, and so we’re looking for specific programs and policies out of your department to address the housing piece and I have not heard that and I think that’s the frustration we are hearing today from many of the Senators.”
Video of the full exchange is available here.
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