The Coronavirus’ impact is unfathomable. According to Johns Hopkins University’s COVID-19 dashboard, more than 5 million people have been infected to date and over 323,000 people have died. Unfortunately, the devastation is not limited to our health or medical infrastructure. The full impact on businesses, jobs and the economy is still unknown.
The Unfolding Job and Economic Disaster
In the United States more than 33 million are out of work and counting. Latinos, young people and low-income earners have been hit the hardest. A Pew Research Center report found more than six in 10 Latinos or someone in their household has lost a job or has taken a pay cut due to the pandemic.
This is not surprising. Latinos are over represented in manual labor and the service industry according to various labor reports. To compound this, many Latinos do not have high levels of education. A 2018 Bureau of Labor Statistics report found just 76% of Latinos 25 and older had a high school diploma. Only 21% of Hispanics in the labor force had a college degree.
Despite this, the community is entrepreneurial. Until recently Hispanics were starting businesses in record numbers. The 4 million plus businesses owned by Latinos contribute more than $700 billion to the U.S. economy annually. Prior to the virus, Latinos also had record-low unemployment thanks to the policies of the Trump administration. The future seemed brighter than ever.
Now, the future is uncertain. When people live from one paycheck to the next having an emergency fund is a luxury. Add to that the wide wealth gap between Hispanics and other groups. Non-Hispanic, White households held $8.30 for every dollar of Latino household wealth in 2016. With a lack of financial literacy among the Hispanic community, these numbers are no surprise.
Latinos are undoubtedly drivers of the economy. If immediate action is not taken to bridge the gap, the community will be severely handicapped during the recovery.
The Trump administration took unprecedented action to help Americans regain their economic footing. This will no doubt benefit Latinos. But they also need easy access to capital and favorable lending conditions to come back stronger. Helping Latino businesses get off the ground is smart for everyone. They have already contributed hundreds of billions of dollars to the American economy while employing millions of people.
Going forward, I believe creative thinking will inject our economy with new growth. We need to look closely at severely impacted industries and find ways to bring manufacturing back; incentivize people to grow and start new companies by providing grants and free business courses; and build new industries in the process. It is abundantly clear that we need to protect our security interests by putting American interests first.
I do not have all the solutions, but I know that this country possesses incredible talent. We must utilize it to lead an economic renewal. Latinos also need policies and leaders who will support them. We need to get rid of red tape and lower taxes. We also need ways to help the private sector, small businesses and government collaborate. This will get people back to work faster.
Fortunately, business leaders are already working to help individuals adapt, retool and thrive. My own contribution was through a partnership. I have collaborated with entrepreneurship champion Bob Sager to make his guide “Seeing the Invisible So You Can Do the Impossible,” available in Spanish.
There are other resources for business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs. University incubators, Small Business Administration offices, fellow entrepreneurs and mentors can all be utilized. This is a moment where we can work together to unleash the spirit of American resilience and entrepreneurship.
An American Renewal
The virus has done enough damage. Americans of all stripes must work together to turn the tide of job and economic loss. The American people and, frankly, the world are counting on it. Let’s build something better instead. A future that will propel us to a new chapter of innovation and prosperity. Let’s make this era one of renewal, not one of fear and despair. History is watching us.
The original version of this article appeared on Real Clear Politics