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Organizations urge lawmakers to address disproportionate COVID-19 impact on black communities

Posted at 11:39 PM, Apr 15, 2020

INDIANAPOLIS — Grass roots organizations are hoping lawmakers and other community stakeholders reach out to them to help address the disproportionate impact COVID-19 is having on the black community.

Dee Ross, founder and CEO of The Ross Foundation, says they could start with people like him.

"We know exactly what we need and don't need," Ross said. "We are the answers to our problems and they need to understand how important it is to having us, the community, at the table."

This comes after alarming statistics show 20 percent of the COVID-19 cases and deaths in Indiana are African Americans while only making up 10 percent of the state's population.

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The Indiana Black Legislative Caucus sent a letter to Gov. Eric Holcomb Wednesday urging him to consider several recommendations: adding testing and triage centers in black communities, anti-racism training for healthcare workers, and an outreach campaign are a few of them. Holcomb says he’s looking forward to working with the Black Caucus.

Public policy experts say these recommendations could address overall issues in black communities caused by decades of discriminatory laws and practices.

"It boils down to just calling things being related to race," said Dr. Breanca Merritt of Indiana University's Public Policy Institute. "I think often the language gets conflated to things like poverty and crime, when really we're seeing these racial disparities are happening regardless of income and behaviors that folks like to conflate with race."

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Ross says the virus is personal to him and is the reason why he is fighting to help those who are most vulnerable.

"This virus is real. It's very real," Ross said. "I have three family members on life support fighting for their lives. I've lost a family member and friend to this fight. We have to take this more serious and with urgency."

The Ross Foundation is partnering with community groups to help give out essential items and information about this virus.