COVID-19 is creating urgent and unprecedented challenges for the most vulnerable in our communities. Kim Parlee speaks with Andrea Barrack, Global Head, Sustainability and Corporate Citizenship, TD Bank Group, about how TD is actively supporting individuals and organizations in need.
- Hello and welcome to Money Talk's COVID-19 daily bulletin for Wednesday, April 22. I'm Anthony Okolie. In a few minutes, Kim Parlee will be speaking with Andrea Barrack, Global Head of Sustainability and Corporate Citizenship of TD Bank on how TD is supporting the most vulnerable in our communities affected by the pandemic. But first, a quick wrap of today's market news.
Canada's annual inflation rate tumbled to a near-five-year low of 0.9% in March as a COVID-19 crisis and an oil-supply war slashed gasoline prices at the pump.
The US Senate passed a max of $484B small-business aid package after the first loan program ran out of money last week. The bill now goes to the house for a vote on Thursday.
With movie theaters closed and no live sports events, video streaming is one of a few areas that has seen increased usage. Late Tuesday, Netflix reported its biggest quarter ever for new subscribers, adding nearly 16 million new members. Finally, grocery giant Metro reported higher second-quarter profits from a year ago as shoppers began stocking up on food items due to the pandemic crisis.
And that's a wrap of the news. As promised, Kim's conversation with Andrea Barrack.
- Andrea, I want to start with your thoughts on what COVID-19 has done to the most vulnerable parts of our population.
- Yeah. Unfortunately, it is a disease that we're seeing really disproportionately, I think, affect those who are at risk. And depending on where you are, that can be different populations. A lot of times it's people who are low income or living on the edges of poverty. Other times it's racialized. We're seeing that, certainly, a lot more in our US market where Hispanic and black populations have a much higher contraction of the disease but also higher mortality rates.
And then if you might imagine, those who are forced to actually live in cramped quarters and inadequate housing, obviously, the spread of the virus is so much more profound. We're seeing that in long-term care homes, but there's certainly a lot of other housing situations on indigenous communities and in homeless shelters where we're seeing that as well.
- When I’ve talked to you in the past-- and I remember when you launched the TD Ready commitment and talked about the four pillars-- the four pillars seem that much more pertinent today than they even seemed back then. How has this crisis impacted that and TD's involvement?
- Yeah. We didn't mean to be so prescient, I think, in our hypothesis of how we could have the most impact on a better future. But we did really recognize the interplay of health, financial, social, and environmental factors. And unfortunately, the COVID virus is a perfect example and a demonstration about how those things are so interconnected and how one really impacts all of the rest.
We're seeing even in our cities, in Toronto here, where there's not enough urban green space for everyone to be, and people are crowding. And so certainly that has an environmental component. We know that social isolation is something we try to avoid because it has health outcomes that are not positive. But in this instance, we're telling people they need to be socially isolated
and all of the impacts that has on people's financial security. And certainly, we're a financial institution. We see that with our individuals, with our small businesses, and many others who are really struggling.
- I know that TD has ramped up a number of initiatives-- some of the things that we've been doing in the past but also focused on some new ones. Can you tell us a little about what's happening?
- Yeah, sure. You know, I think we're trying to react to the urgent and acute needs that we're seeing in communities-- I mean, the needs have been overwhelming, as I think everyone is fully aware of-- but also understanding that this is not likely to be over anytime soon and that, in fact, even when it is over, we might expect a second wave. And so how do we try to balance the needs of right now and today with also being able to respond in the future and what that is going to look like?
And so we did go out very early with a grant across our enterprise for community health centers, which really support at-risk, vulnerable people to access health care, social and financial supports. And so we're quite proud to do that.
And then we've been looking at how do we engage our employees. So we're going to be launching a matching employee fund-raising drive that will actually allow employees to support their local communities, whether they be health care workers or health centers or community needs through United Way and others and have that be matched by the corporation.
But I think we want to balance that sort of COVID-related response with, also, what's going on in the not for profit sector. I mean, it's a huge sector in our economy. In Canada, it's, I think, 8.5% of the GDP. In the US, it's 5.4%. So that's a big number.
And so we find that, really, small and medium enterprises that are facing the same kinds of stress and, in fact, risks to their own viability that other businesses are facing. And so if we look forward and think, well, what does recovery look like? Or when this is all over, what do we need in our communities and who's going to be there for us. I really hope that we have this not-for-profit sector there. And so part of our program is to really look at how do we provide some stabilization to make sure that those organizations are going to be there when we need them.
- Yeah. I think you're absolutely bang on right. I mean, you've got the parts of society that are vulnerable and then the structure that supports them now vulnerable. So it's a bad combination in terms of where it's going.
How do you do that? How do you, from your perspective, balance the need of helping to invest right now with, I know, some front line work that's happening with the future?
- Yeah. Well, part of it is taking-- I mean, we've always looked at our corporate citizenship commitments about being more than our philanthropy. And so if we look at the not-for-profit sector as an example, we absolutely can provide some donations and grants to help the not-for-profit sector meet needs right now that are urgent, but also stabilize their operations.
But we're also a financial institution. And so we're in partnership with our business banking partners to say, how do we make sure that our not for profit partners know how they can access the government benefits that are available to them. And so it's really using our leverage and our ability to use our business, I think, that's going to have the most impact.
The other piece, too, is recognizing we can't actually meet all of the needs. So I think the decision for us, and for all corporations, has been where can we have the most impact? How can we act to meet needs of today without sacrificing our ability to meet the needs of tomorrow? That is actually the definition of sustainability, which is really what the work is all about.
- Andrea, great to talk to you. Thanks so much. Be well.
- You as well, Kim. Thanks. Take care. Bye.