US Rep. Robin Kelly on COVID-19 Health Disparities, Stimulus Funds

The COVID-19 pandemic has hit African American and Hispanic and Latino communities especially hard in terms of infection and death.

Hispanic and Latino residents account for 24.2% of the state’s confirmed cases, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health; black residents account for 19.4% of reported cases. People who tested positive but left their racial descriptions blank made up of 27.4% of the cases as of Tuesday. Individuals who self-identify as white account for 21.6% of cases.

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When it comes to deaths linked to COVID-19 in Illinois, white residents account for 42.4%; black residents account for 33.7%; and Hispanic and Latino residents account for 15%.

U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly (D-Illinois) doesn’t find those statistics surprising.

“The numbers are shocking, but not surprising because this has been going on forever. I’ve worked for a long time, three years on maternal mortality and [death during or after pregnancy] happens to all women, but black women die at a much higher rate. This is what we see over and over and over,” Kelly said Tuesday on “Chicago Tonight.”

“We need to look at the housing gap, education gap, the wealth gap, the job gap. And when we really look at those issues and make changes there, then I think we’ll see changes,” she said.

Kelly says congressional stimulus funds need to do more for states and local governments as well as more for teachers, firefighters, police officers, front-line health care workers and essential workers — including postal workers. 

Kelly is the daughter and sister of postal workers and is very concerned that President Donald Trump is threatening to withhold aid to the U.S. Postal Service.

“My district is urban, suburban and rural. It will really hurt my rural area, my small businesses my elderly population, if they privatize or if they shorten the days. I think he’s trying to really run it into the ground,” Kelly said.

She believes that Trump’s aim is to hurt Jeff Bezos, the owner of retail giant Amazon, which uses USPS for some of its delivery services. Kelly is also concerned that defunding or reducing USPS aid will impact mail-in votes in the November election.

“I think it’s utterly ridiculous. I think it’s some of his petty feelings about certain people that that’s causing him to act like that,” said Kelly.  “If the post office is not up to snuff then it will be harder to vote by mail.”

As far as restarting the economy in Illinois, Kelly thinks Gov. J.B. Pritzker is doing a good job with his newly announced plan to reopen the state based on science and data.

“He’s trying to go by the science and he’s trying to go by doctors,” Kelly said. “He wants to see hospitalizations go down. And he’s trying to test as many people as possible. And I think we need to look at is our curve really flattening?

“I know people want to go out. I mean my husband wants to go out. He’s, he’s like a caged lion but we have to do what’s right.”

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