Treasury’s Yellen sees ‘a lot more work’ to bridge the racial divide

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen speaks during a virtual roundtable with participants from local black chambers of commerce across the country to discuss the US bailout at the White House in Washington, US, February 5, 2021. REUTERS / Kevin Lamarque

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WASHINGTON, Jan 17 (Reuters) – The U.S. Treasury has taken key steps over the past year to address longstanding economic injustices facing Americans of color, but it still has “a lot of work” to do. do to bridge the racial divide, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said. Monday.

Yellen told a meeting hosted by the Reverend Al Sharpton and his National Action Network advocacy group that the Treasury was working to right the economic wrongs exposed by slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr in his “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963.

“He knew that economic injustice was tied to the larger injustice he was fighting against. From Reconstruction to Jim Crow, to the present day, our economy has never worked fairly for black Americans – or, really, for any American of color,” Yellen recounted a breakfast honoring King.

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Jim Crow refers to laws put in place in Southern states in the decades following the American Civil War of 1861-1865 to legalize racial segregation and disenfranchise black citizens.

In the past year, she said, the Treasury completed its first equity review, hired its most diverse leadership team ever and appointed its first racial equity adviser, while developing a COVID-19 rescue plan to better serve communities of color.

In addition, the Treasury has also injected $9 billion into Community Development Financial Institutions and Minority Depository Institutions, while trying to engage businesses more in these institutions and underserved communities.

“Of course, no program and no administration can fulfill the hopes and aspirations that Dr. King had for our country,” Yellen said. “There is still a lot of work the Treasury needs to do to bridge the racial wealth divide.”

Federal Reserve data shows white households owned 85.5% of US wealth in 2019, despite making up 60% of the population, while black households owned 4.2% and Latino households owned 3.1%. Those numbers have changed little in 30 years, according to USAFacts.org, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization.

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Reporting by Andrea Shalal Editing by Nick Zieminski

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