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New LSU study shines light on African American hardships amid pandemic in Baton Rouge

3 years 5 months 1 week ago Wednesday, September 16 2020 Sep 16, 2020 September 16, 2020 9:36 PM September 16, 2020 in News
Source: WBRZ

BATON ROUGE - New research is shedding light on the experiences of African Americans dealing with COVID-19 and the lack of resources available to Black-owned businesses.

On Florida Blvd. inside of Millenial Park sits Jive Turkey. A Black-owned restaurant in the heart of Mid City.

Business is moving right along at a steady pace, but since the hit of the coronavirus pandemic, things have been quite challenging.

Curt Jackson is the owner of Jive Turkey. He says since Governor John Bel Edwards implemented the first virus-related shutdown, the business has not been easy.

With fewer customers dining in, Thomas had to resort to borrowing money in hopes of keeping the business afloat while doors remained open. Jive Turkey did not qualify for most small business aid.

LSU's associate professor David Stamps and the university collected data showing Black residents living in the city have been hit the hardest compared to their racial counterparts.

"The reality was, a lot of small businesses, a lot of minority businesses, weren't able to access that capital because they didn't have a relationship with a bank," Stamps said.

The study focused on the lack of resources such as medical care, transportation, and technology lacking in the African American community.

In this case, it's financial stability for restaurant owners.

"It's basically a barrier. So the idea is, if you want to support these communities, if you want to see these communities not only survive COVID but thrive afterwards, we need to remove some of the barriers. So all of the legalese and the relationships that oftentimes, we're just not privy to.

Owner of Memphis Mac BBQ, Carlos Thomas, has experienced those barriers first hand.

"We really didn't have a lot of the qualifications for PPE loans and we've kind of stayed afloat by boots dropping, basically. Our own funds and getting private funding from friends," Thomas said.

LSU's David Stamps says this research is not a cry for help, but more of a call to action. 

The plan is to help Black-owned businesses stand on their feet. Stamps says this is simply a heads up for policy makers.

"Moving forward, you know these small businesses exist, you know they're influential within the community. Write checks and put them directly into their pockets," Stamps said.

Key findings from the study "Black and Essential" (Impact of COVID-19 on Black Baton Rouge Residents) can be found below:

Key Findings (based on 322 Black Baton Rouge residents, 48 percent male, 49 percent female and 3 percent non-gender binary; ranging from 18 to 76 years of age with an average age of 35): 

Black Baton Rouge Residents in the Home

Forty-five percent (45 percent) of respondents have someone in their household with a serious health condition such as high blood pressure, heart disease, lung disease or cancer. Eighteen percent (18 percent) of respondents have someone in their household that works in a health care setting. Forty-five percent (45 percent) of respondents have someone in their household employed in a position identified as essential work.


Black Baton Rouge Residents & Family Support

Fifty percent (50 percent) of respondents reported having supported family financially before the pandemic, and since COVID-19, there is a reported 2 percent increase among respondents who now support family members financially.


Black Baton Rouge Residents & Family Dynamics

Twenty-nine percent (29 percent) of households have multiple generations, including grandparents, living together. Eight percent (8 percent) of respondents stated that family members or friends have moved into their homes since the beginning of the pandemic, with an average of two additional people moving in.


Black Baton Rouge Residents, Emotional and Practical Support

Participants noted that during the pandemic, there is increased reliance on familial and community support, primarily using technology to call, text, FaceTime or use Zoom. This level of communication was aimed toward checking on the emotional well-being of family and community members and aiding in helping others seek vital information on navigating the pandemic, including locating resources such as masks. 


Black Baton Rouge Residents & Expressed Community Needs

Roughly 15 percent of participants stated the need for additional monetary support in the form of cash and supplies, such as toiletries, from both family, community members and organizations. Open-ended questions aided in offering narratives among respondents that shed light on the needs of Black Baton Rouge residents. For example, a 25-year-old female shared, “My elderly neighbor is an EBT recipient. I try to do most of her shopping for her. But [government] should put in the work to allow EBT recipients to use their benefits online." Also, a 38-year-old female shared, “There needs to be better access to medical care and special transportation for the elderly in our community.” 


Black Baton Rouge Residents Housing & Medical Care

Thirty-three percent (33 percent) of respondents mentioned that there was not enough money “once in a while,” in the household for rent or mortgage pre-COVID. That figure rose by 4 percent since the pandemic. 


Key Takeaways from Data

Black Baton Rouge residents, similar to many other Black populations across the United States, have been hit the hardest—compared to their racial counterparts—by the pandemic. Based on the findings, it becomes clear that access to resources, including use of new media technologies, are crucial in supporting the community. These findings suggest that increasing digital literacy and accessibility (ex: the use of debit cards, SNAP and EBT online) and mitigating the digital divide, would help support communities as they seek to utilize digital spaces, such as shopping online and telemedicine services, to order supplies and medications. Also, financial support, directed towards individuals, local small businesses and nonprofits are crucial, as relying on support from family, community members, and local organizations such as churches was a large theme throughout the data.

Read the full report by clicking here.

For the executive summary and topline, click here.

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