Statement on the American Rescue Plan’s Disparities

Coronavirus, Racial Justice

Lawyers for Civil Rights (LCR) is deeply concerned to see that, under the much-lauded American Rescue Plan of 2021 (ARP), low-income communities of color like Chelsea, Massachusetts, will receive far less federal funding than whiter, wealthier communities. As the Boston Globe recently reported, Chelsea, “with a reported population of just under 40,000” will receive less than $12 million; by contrast, Newtonhome to around 88,000, will receive over $65 million — more than 5.5 times the federal aid flowing to Chelsea. 

The ARP’s funding allocation, based on decennial census population counts, fails to account for the horrific impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on cities such as Chelsea. 

As Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) noted last fall, infections in Chelsea in Spring 2020 were “on par with New York City and much higher than neighboring Boston.” The economic and social effects of the pandemic were no less devastating. Unemployment in October 2020 was 24%, “one of the highest . . . in the country” and community members are grappling with food insecurity and housing instability. Because of the sizeable immigrant and undocumented population, there was a significant lack of access to life-saving public benefits. 

The gap in federal funding is yet another reminder that we must ensure that historically under-represented communities, including immigrants, renters, children, and people of color, are counted in the decennial census. The importance of the census cannot be understated. Even now, in 2021, the ARP allocation reveals the impact of a profound undercount in 2010. We are mindful that the Trump Administration’s continual attempts to weaponize Census 2020 will produce an undercount over the next decade. We encourage Chelsea and immigrant communities to file administrative challenges to any counts they know do not reflect the actual population of their city. 

Without sufficient aid to support hungry families, unemployed workers, and shuttered businesses, Chelsea’s recovery from this unprecedented health and financial crisis will be stalled. We cannot abandon our frontline communities. These residents — who became sick earliest and most often, who delivered food, provided home health care, and sanitized buildings — deserve sustained support as they rebuild their lives and economies. We call upon the federal and state government to allocate additional resources for low-income communities of color and immigrant communities whose historically undercounted populations have left them without the financial support they need to survive and thrive.