By Pat Barcas
BATAVIA — The impact on minorities during the current recession was the focus of Friday’s march in front of a Bank of America branch in Batavia, drawing a crowd of about 25 that rallied with signs.
Andy Williams, the chairman of housing for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) spoke to the crowd at Randall Road and Fabyan Parkway on the difficulties the housing crash has had on African-Americans and Hispanic-Americans.
“Before the foreclosure crisis, there was already a disparity with African-Americans and Hispanics: Their unemployment rate was higher,” said Williams. “Now it’s even worse. But we’re still part of the 99 percent, part of everyone that’s being affected.”
In December, Bank of America Corp. agreed to pay a record $335 million settlement to resolve a government claim that its Countrywide Financial unit discriminated against minority home-buyers during the frenzied days of the mortgage boom.
“$335 million is just lunch money for these CEOs of the big banks. That’s just an operating expense for them,” said Mary Shesgreen of Northern Illinois Jobs with Justice.
The Justice Department alleged that Countrywide charged higher interest rates and fees to African-American and Latino home-buyers than to Caucasian applicants with similar income levels and credit scores. It marks the largest residential fair-lending settlement in history.
Williams said the only color the big banks is seeing is green, and encouraged people to take their money out of the big banks, go to credit unions, and show up at rallies in support.
“They are only after the money. We need to change what happens from Wall Street,” he said.
Shesgreen presented the December national unemployment report, which shows a rate of 8.5 percent down from the 8.7 percent adjusted rate of the November report.
She said at the current rate of descent for unemployment, it would take six years to get back to the 4.8 percent unemployment rate of 2007.
“The future doesn’t look bright at the current rate of improvement,” said Shesgreen.
She offered up three things to turn the situation around: Have Obama and Congress pass and implement a serious federal jobs program, force banks to stop foreclosing on people’s homes where layoffs have caused inability to make mortgage payments, and extend unemployment compensation beyond the current two months.
“When you dig into the unemployment numbers, you see 50,000 more people that have dropped off unemployment,” said protester Toni Boughner. “That’s 50,000 that don’t know how to feed their kids or pay their bills. Unemployment should be extended.”
By Pat Barcas