child hugging older person

Advancing racial equality and economic opportunity

Together, we are addressing the underlying issues that people and communities of color face

The need for real progress on racial and economic inequality in the United States has been underlined by the impact of the coronavirus on communities of color. Predominantly African American counties have three times the infection rate and six times the death rate of predominantly white counties. In February 2020, the unemployment rate was 4.4% for Hispanics and 5.8% for African Americans, and 3.1% for whites. In contrast, by April 2020, the unemployment rate was 18.9% for Hispanics and 16.7% for African Americans, while 14.2% for white.

What’s more, the tragic killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd have laid bare the very real consequences of systemic racism that still exists in society.

A sense of true urgency has arisen across our nation, in view of the racial injustices we've seen in the communities where we work and live. We all need to do more.
Brian Moynihan  |  President and CEO of Bank of America

Taken together, the events of 2020 send a strong message to every organization and individual.

Doing more can take the form of an individual voice advocating for equality, a community coming together to feed those in need, or a business drawing on its resources and expertise to help create a better, more sustainable world for its employees, those they serve, and society at large.

We all have a role to play in helping move communities forward – an understanding that forms the foundation of Bank of America’s long-standing commitment to the people and communities it serves. And they’re at the heart of the bank’s $1.25 billion commitment over the next five years to advance racial equality and economic opportunity. This work will span across the company, and include philanthropy, sustainable finance through lending and investing, Community Development Financial and Minority Depository Institutions partnerships, our hiring practices, development of financing solutions for small businesses and more. These efforts will focus on how to drive tangible progress, along with our partners, in making systemic changes and reforms that address economic and racial disparities.

We’ve moved forward by directing nearly one third, $300 million, to four key areas across 91 U.S. markets and globally:

  • Jobs initiatives in Black and Hispanic/Latino communities: To support job training and reskilling, we’ve committed $25 million to pathways to employment for Black and Latino students. In partnership with higher education institutions, we will also work with major employers in each market to ensure these programs align with employer needs.
  • Community outreach and initiatives: A $25 million commitment to underserved and minority communities adversely impacted by the global health and humanitarian crisis
  • Direct equity investments to Minority Depository Institutions: $50 million will facilitate benefits to the communities they serve through lending, housing, neighborhood revitalization and banking services
  • Proprietary equity funding to minority entrepreneurs, businesses and funds: A $200 million commitment will help supply capital for minority businesses looking to grow, and substantial investment in programs fostering future entrepreneurs.


Addressing medical needs brought on by the coronavirus

Hospitals serving underserved communities are on the front lines in addressing the needs of those impacted by coronavirus. That’s why we’re taking action to support health care needs across the country, including providing a $1 million grant to Howard University Hospital in order to expand coronavirus testing in the Washington, D.C. area—where African Americans comprise 48% of the population and 70% of virus-related deaths. Our grant is being used for enhanced telemedicine capabilities that allow more patients to receive care at home, and for contact tracing that can slow the disease’s spread in communities of color.

In Los Angeles, AltaMed Health Services is putting a $500,000 grant from the bank to work at multiple locations, serving a patient population that is nearly 90% Latino, mainly in low- and middle-income neighborhoods. The grant supports greater staffing, drive-through testing and expanded clinic hours for urgent care, among other services.

Towards economic opportunity

Issues of racial equality and economic opportunity are deeply connected. Where there is racial injustices there is often a lack of economic mobility, and vice versa. Bank of America’s $1.25 billion commitment will deepen and extend ongoing initiatives that promote affordable housing and help workers acquire the skills they’ll need to fully participate in the new economy. “The idea is to double down, and triple down, on these programs,” Moynihan says.

That includes helping small businesses grow and enabling new ideas to flourish. A $100,000 grant to LiftFund, a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) based in San Antonio, Texas, helped establish The Dream Maker Fund, which offers revolving loans to small businesses at the crucial startup phase. As each loan is paid off, the funds go back into helping another business. Nationwide, in response to the impacts of the coronavirus, Bank of America has committed $250 million in capital to help CDFIs work with small businesses to help them navigate a challenging environment and plan for the future.

As we address systemic racism and the barriers to economic mobility, it’s also critical to examine our past and understand the lessons of history. To that end, we’ve invested in numerous partnerships, including supporting the University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education and Human Development’s work to help teachers nationwide increase racial, religious and ethnic inclusion.

Across the country, a collective voice is calling for change. Says Moynihan, “We must not let it quiet down.”

A National Conversation on Race

The Smithsonian, known for chronicling and interpreting the American experience, is undertaking a program intended to help the nation openly confront racism at a crucial time. “Our Shared Future: Reckoning with Our Racial Past,” launched through a $25 million commitment from Bank of America, will begin with a series of virtual town halls including leaders in areas such as civil rights, social justice and economic mobility.

The initiative will encompass resources from across the Smithsonian’s museum, education and research complex and frame conversations around the U.S. to seek solutions to building a more inclusive, sustainable future. Programming will be presented nationally and in local markets, engaging people in communities across the country. The ongoing conversations will come at “a key moment when all Americans need to see racism as a national issue that transcends specific communities,” says Lonnie Bunch, secretary of the Smithsonian. Among the goals, Bunch says, is “to confront our difficult history and to unite to bring healing and hope for our future.”

Originally published 7/20/2020