Members from the Congressional Black Caucus, Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus held a press conference on July 20 to discuss the impact that the debt ceiling talks could have on minority communities.

Members from the three caucuses stressed the importance of protecting government programs that are vital for the growth and sustainability of minorities in America, particularly Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

“This is not an abstract debate. These are discussions that can very well impact the beneficiaries of the most important programs that the federal government has to offer all Americans, and, unfortunately, there could be a disproportionate impact on communities of color,” said Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chairman Charles A. Gonzalez (D-Texas).

As they broke down the numbers and laid out statistics from each minority group, the members from the three caucuses explained that cutting Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid would have damaging and detrimental effects.

Seniors that depend on Social Security for income could suffer greatly if the program was cut. According to the lawmakers, within the African-American community, 29 percent of elderly married couples and 56 percent of elderly unmarried individuals rely on Social Security for 90 percent or more of their monthly income. Other minority communities share similar numbers, with 43 percent of Latino seniors and one in five Asian American and Pacific Islander seniors depending on Social Security for most of their income.

Those benefitting from Medicare and Medicaid are also at great risk. Medicaid provides health care to 49 percent of African Americans living below the poverty line and to 24 percent living just above the poverty line. Medicaid covers half of all Black and Latino children in the United States and over 20 percent of Southeast Asian Americans under 18.

“This is not a game,” said Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.). “We’re talking about millions and millions of Americans and their lives.”

The tri-caucus members vowed to stay alert and observant as the debt ceiling debates continue.

“We’re just placing everyone on notice that we’re going to be vigilant,” said Gonzalez.

“We’re going to be very careful as these discussions progress, and we intend on having our voices heard.”

“We are calling on the Republican leadership to do what is right; to do what we all know must be done. Release the debt ceiling and all of the people who are being held with it – the poor, and the racial and ethnic minorities we stand here on behalf of today,” said Black Caucus member Donna M. Christensen (D-V.I.).

“There is an urgent need to resolve the debt ceiling issue, and it is beyond irresponsible not to raise the debt ceiling,” said Cleaver. “We all agree that we have to responsibly reduce the deficit, but not on the backs of hard-working American families while protecting special interest and the wealthiest Americans. African-American seniors and children heavily rely on vital programs like Medicare, Medicaid and Social security. Deep cuts to these critical programs would put the well-being of our families and loved ones at risk.”

Cleaver added, “Now is the time for real work to be done, jobs to be created and to protect and uplift our citizens’ quality of life. It is not the time for ideological wars. It is time to cut the political games, instead of critical programs that protect hard-working American families, and get Americans back to work.”


Ashley Crawford

Special to the AFRO