On Aug. 16, President Joe Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act, which will help lower health care costs and reduce carbon emissions. Shown above (Left to right): LaTanya Brown-Robertson, Howard University and White House Climate Advisor, Gina McCarthy. (Courtesy Photos)

By Deborah Bailey,
AFRO D.C. Editor

President Biden has signed the 730-page Inflation Reduction Act into law. Your senators and congressmen are at home in their districts until Labor Day and not much in the way of legislation is predicted to happen between now and the 2022 mid-term elections in November.  

According to the House Democratic cheat sheet on the benefits of the “historic” Inflation Reduction Act, it is scheduled to make a “historic down payment on deficit reduction to fight inflation.” 

This will be done by investing in domestic energy production and manufacturing and by reducing carbon emissions by roughly 40 percent by 2030. The bill also includes major provisions for reducing health care costs and changing the tax code to raise revenue from Corporate America.   

But what does the Inflation Reduction Act mean for Black families in our everyday lives?   

The AFRO wanted the view from both the White House – and from “our house.” So, we asked White House Climate Advisor, Gina McCarthy, and LaTanya Brown-Richardson Ed.D., professor of economics and director of the Howard University Honors Program, to weigh in.  

We wanted to know if the White House and our “HBCU House” at Howard were on the same page about this major legislation doing any good for Black Americans– who are bearing the brunt of inflation, according to a recent poll by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.  

 “It’s going to save families money, it will mean more energy jobs,” said McCarthy, regarding the $369 billion dollars of climate and environmental justice provisions included in the Inflation Reduction Act.  

“This is about making clean energy affordable for families,” McCarthy said. 

Black communities are more than 1.5 times more likely to be exposed to pollutants in the air, than compared to White communities, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. These pollutants lead to costly chronic health problems from asthma and lung disease to cancer and even COVID-19.   

“This will change lives in our environmental justice communities that have been inundated with legacy pollution and heavy-duty vehicles spewing pollution into the atmosphere,” McCarthy continued.  

In an exclusive interview with the AFRO, we asked McCarthy to “get real” about what the major climate provisions mean in the Inflation Reduction Act. As well as what it will really do to put money back in the pockets of African Americans and other communities of color.  

 “This is about making (energy) affordable for families.  We have great electric appliances, terrific heat pumps, and solar systems that can be put into people’s homes,” McCarthy said. “There are significant rebates and tax credits that will make these technologies affordable to a breadth of communities that have never seen this before.”

But it’s not just about placing green energy appliances in Black homes – as healthy as that is for the environment and our own bodies. McCarthy said that the result of going green will be felt in our pocketbooks.  

“What that will mean is hundreds of dollars of savings every single year for decades. These systems will allow you to save money on your electric bill and at the pump,” she said.  

“The technologies are here. The Federal Government will be doing this in a way that allows them to bear the cost,” she said.  

The White House is supposed to get excited about legislation that it has promoted for more than a year. But we wanted to go to one of our HBCU Houses to check whether the White House press on the Inflation Reduction Act and its impact on the Black community was substance – or show. 

Professor Brown-Robinson said the key to the Inflation Reduction Act for Black America is to examine the range of the legislation’s climate and health care provisions.  

“The key components of the Inflation Reduction Act that impact Black Americans directly are the expansion in Medicare benefits, lowering of health care costs, and investment in disadvantaged communities due to environmental injustices,” Brown-Robertson said.  

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has researched health disparities in the African-American community for more than a generation and has linked higher costs for healthcare for Black Americans as a critical issue, said Brown-Robertson.   

“Regarding Medicare, research has shown that Black Medicare recipients have more healthcare costs related challenges than Whites. The act will help release some of the burdens of health care expenses, which have disproportionately affected Black recipients,” she added. There are other significant financial stressors in the Black Community, such as the cost of college and housing, which the Federal Government can and should address.  

“The Inflation Reduction Act is moving in the right direction by addressing immediate and long-term health care and environmental cost-related issues that have plagued the Black community for years,” said Brown-Robertson.  “However, more needs to be done to assist the overall financial hardships that many Black households face, such as student debt and significant housing costs.”

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