Last week Rep. Aaron Michlewitz, Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, hosted the third in a series of COVID Recovery Forums.
The forum last week focused on equity within the state’s economic recovery efforts.
“When you’d see those maps (charting COVID infections) a lot of the red spots became communities of color quickly,” said Michlewitz. “So now as we’re building this economy back we do we have an opportunity, from the state’s perspective, to keep things afloat and trying to keep things together by plugging the holes where we can or where we need to (economically). In the same breath we are also trying to look at long term visions about what is viable or doable. In terms of a legislature standpoint, or even from a city government and a federal government standpoint, we want to ask what we can be doing better. What should we be doing better? What things can we be looking towards to try and provide better equity as we move forward.”
Michlewitz said he and his staff had the idea to host these series of forums in order to connect with the community on some of the most pressing matters related to the state’s rebound in the face of the pandemic.
“I’m grateful for everyone for making the time to participate in this conversation, and I look forward to a meaningful dialogue about inequities in our system that have already existed, became exposed during the pandemic, and then were exacerbated throughout the crisis,” said Michlewitz said from testing to economic relief to the vaccination rollout, every aspect of the pandemic and subsequent recovery during these difficult times has forced many leaders to reexamine why certain communities had greater access to service than others.
“The goal we’ve laid out here is to create an open dialogue and to hear from some of our community’s leading experts who have been working on these issues throughout the pandemic day in and day out,” said Michlewitz.
Members of the panel during last week’s forum included Jen Benson, President of the Alliance for Business Leadership, Segun Idowu, Executive Director of the Black Economic Council of Massachusetts, and Karen Chen, Executive Director of the Chinese Progressive Association.
Idowu was on hand to advance the economic well being of black owned businesses, organizations, and the black residents of the Commonwealth throughout the pandemic. He talked about how COVID has hampered some efforts by minority business owners but also has presented some opportunities for businesses as well.
Benson participated and discussed the impacts of the COVID crisis has had on women in the workplace.
“We have seen so many reports coming forward about lack of childcare and the pressure this puts on women,” said Benson. “We’ve lost over 2.3 million women from the workforce since February 2020. So one of the things that we need to be focusing on is to build back better support for women and families in the workplace.”
Chen focused on the Asian American Community’s struggles during COVID–including housing issues and Anti-Asian sentiment due to the pandemic. .
“I think, very much like other communities of color, we’re very much impacted by the pandemic especially when it comes to housing, access to housing and affordable housing and allowing residents to be able to stay in Chinatown,” said Chen. “But one thing that’s particular to the Asian American community is really the Anti-Asian sentiment. It shows up in forms of violent incidents but also in economic disparity. When this pandemic started we knew that the longer the pandemic wnet the harder it would be for Asian businesses to recover.”
The hour long forum continued to expand on these important topics with Michlewitz pledging to address each issue the best he can when drafting or sponsoring ongoing legislation that helps support the state’s COVID recovery plan.