WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), a senior member of the Senate Banking Committee, today questioned Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell on the disproportionate economic impact the pandemic is having minority-owned businesses and the African-American and Hispanic communities at large. Sen. Menendez highlighted the need to account for racial inequalities in the next COVID-19 relief package.

Recent studies shows that up to 40% of black-owned small businesses would permanently shut their doors as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, compared to 17% of white-owned small businesses. Furthermore, the economic impact of the pandemic will lead to greater eviction and foreclosure rates among minority communities, forcing more African-Americans and Hispanics out of their homes.

“We cannot ignore the reality that when a segment of our society—African-Americans and Hispanics—is disproportionately affected by COVID-19, disproportionately affected in their income, [and] disproportionally affected in their businesses’ potential closures, you cannot have that segment of the economy ultimately doing so worse than everybody else and believe that the economy is going to do well,” Sen. Menendez said to Powell. “It certainly cries out for all of us to be dealing with these realities, not just in terms of justice, but in terms of the national interest.”

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Sen. Menendez has led efforts in the Senate demanding the Trump Administration to do more to help minority communities disproportionately impacted by the virus, and urging pharmaceutical companies to prioritize diversity in any coronavirus vaccine or trial to ensure minorities are not left behind in the race for a vaccine or treatment. He also helped pass Paycheck Protection Program reforms to help minority-owned businesses better access federal pandemic assistance.

Last week, Sen. Menendez penned an op-ed published in Newsweek addressing racial inequalities in America made evident by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sen. Menendez is a cosponsor of the Justice in Policing Act of 2020, a comprehensive legislation to end police brutality and change the culture of law enforcement departments authored by Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) in the wake of George Floyd’s death at the hands of the police.