On The Money: Black workers may face disproportionate COVID-19 risk | Trump pick for pandemic response watchdog vows independence | Stocks inch higher as oil prices rise

On The Money: Black workers may face disproportionate COVID-19 risk | Trump pick for pandemic response watchdog vows independence | Stocks inch higher as oil prices rise
© Getty Images

Happy Tuesday and welcome back to On The Money. I’m Sylvan Lane, and here’s your nightly guide to everything affecting your bills, bank account and bottom line.

See something I missed? Let me know at slane@thehill.com or tweet me @SylvanLane. And if you like your newsletter, you can subscribe to it here: http://bit.ly/1NxxW2N.

Write us with tips, suggestions and news: slane@thehill.com, njagoda@thehill.com and nelis@thehill.com. Follow us on Twitter: @SylvanLane, @NJagoda and @NivElis.


THE BIG DEAL—Openings may put black workers at disproportionate COVID-19 risk: 

African Americans have been hit disproportionately by COVID-19, a trend likely to continue or even rise as states begin to reopen for business.

Black Americans are more likely than their white counterparts to work in the service industries that have been shuttered for the past several weeks, and they are also more likely to suffer from some health conditions that make people vulnerable to the novel coronavirus.

Advocates say black workers may also feel they have little choice but to return to work given their economic situations.

“The reality is people who will continue to get COVID are low-wage workers, people of color, who feel they must go back to work and don’t have the flexibility to stay at home,” said Jocelyn Frye, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress.

The Hill’s Jessie Hellman has more here

  • While African Americans make up just 13 percent of the population, they account for 30 percent of COVID-19 cases, according to data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. White Americans make up 76.5 percent of the U.S. population and 52 percent of COVID-19 cases.
  • As openings are likely to increase the spread of the disease as people come into more contact with one another, experts fear black communities will again be hit disproportionately.

“Because they’re both more likely to be in service industries, and more likely to be in low-income jobs, they’re facing significant financial pressure to return to work,” said Samantha Artiga, director of the Disparities Policy Project at the Kaiser Family Foundation. 


Trump pick for pandemic response watchdog pledges independence amid Democratic skepticism: The former White House lawyer nominated to oversee the federal government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic defended his independence Tuesday as Senate Democrats raised concerns about President TrumpDonald John TrumpSecret Service members who helped organize Pence Arizona trip test positive for COVID-19: report Trump administration planning pandemic office at the State Department: report Iran releases photo of damaged nuclear fuel production site: report MORE’s past battles against watchdogs.

Brian Miller, Trump’s nominee to be special inspector general for pandemic recovery (SIGPR), pledged during a Tuesday confirmation hearing that he would not be influenced by the president if confirmed to oversee how the federal government spends and lends trillions of dollars to fight COVID-19 and the economic destruction it's caused. 

  • Democrats have expressed deep skepticism that Miller, a White House lawyer since 2018, could be trusted to hold Trump accountable after the president purged several inspectors general (IGs) and dismissed two whistleblowers from their positions in his administration.
  • Trump’s track record with IGs, particularly those critical of his actions, prompts concerns from Democrats that he picked a watchdog inclined to give him or his allies a pass. The Trump administration has faced increasing criticism over its response to the pandemic, while the president himself has blamed China’s lack of transparency for the crisis.

“The fact is, I have no doubt that if you go against the president, he's gonna remove you because he's done it time and time and time again,” said Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterBipartisan Senate group offers bill to strengthen watchdog law after Trump firings Senate confirms Trump's watchdog for coronavirus funds Montana barrels toward blockbuster Senate fight MORE (D-Mont.) during a hearing before the Senate Banking Committee.

“I will be independent. If the president removes me, he removes me. If I am unable to do my job, I will resign. But I will do my job faithfully and independently,” Miller responded.

I take you to the hearing here

Historic hearing: The Banking Committee also vetted Dana Wade to be assistant secretary of the Department Housing and Urban Development in what is believed to be the first Senate hearing conducted with some senators joining remotely. 

While Miller, Wade, a handful of GOP senators and committee staff attended the hearing in person, several senators from both parties called in from their home states via videoconferencing.

The hearing ran remarkably smoothly despite the technological and logistical obstacles spurred by the pandemic, but not without small reminders of the challenges facing many Americans now forced to work from home.

Fed should be 'flexible' in response to coronavirus crisis, says oversight commission member: The Federal Reserve and Treasury Department should be “flexible” as they deploy $500 billion to protect businesses and local governments facing financial peril because of the coronavirus, said a member of the oversight committee charged with monitoring their efforts.

Rep. French HillJames (French) French HillPPP application deadline should be extended and fixes made to program to keep recovery going Financial firms facing serious hacking threat in COVID-19 era How lawmaker ties helped shape Fed chairman's COVID-19 response MORE (R-Ark.), who was appointed last month to the Congressional Oversight Commission for the $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief bill, said the Fed should not be inhibited by the stigmas of past crises as the central bank tries to soften the economic blow of the pandemic.

“This is a very different situation than we faced before, at least in modern times, in the sense that the government has taken the decision to shut down economic activity in order to fight a public health crisis,” Hill said in an interview.

“This was not something thrust on a weak economy by weakened market players,” Hill continued, saying the Fed’s response “has to reflect today's crisis, not some crisis in 1934 or 2008.” I have more here.