Biden’s call for gas tax holiday would provide economic relief, but some say Black Americans need more

President Joe Biden's latest effort to bring down gas prices is a short-term fix. Experts say Black communities need greater economic, and even environmental, support.

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Leaders and experts say they generally support President Joe Biden’s recent call on Congress to enact a “gas tax holiday” to alleviate rising gas prices – with no end in sight – for consumers across the country. However, there is a caution for the commander in chief to look beyond the present moment and consider more long-term energy cost reduction. 

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks about gas prices in the South Court Auditorium at the White House campus on June 22, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Marc Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League, told theGrio that he backs President Biden’s congressional request for a three-month-long gas tax holiday. The move would temporarily eliminate a federal gas tax. However, the gas tax holiday would only minimally bring relief to consumers.

Morial said the pause on federal gas tax would “provide modest but significant relief for low- and moderate-income families who are struggling to recover from the pandemic-induced recession.” 

President Biden hopes that the move by the federal government would also encourage states to follow his lead by cutting state taxes on gasoline. Maryland, Georgia, Connecticut and New York have already paused their gas taxes and more than a dozen states are considering the same.

As a concerned White House reaches into its toolbox for a host of options to respond to what has become an economic nightmare, Biden has also urged oil companies to produce more gasoline to drive down costs at the pump.  

The anticipated savings for drivers on the federal and state gas tax holiday, separately and combined, are literally nickels, dimes and quarters per gallon. Computing the economics of the temporary federal tax cut, for example, would equate to about 18 cents per gallon. 

In an interview with theGrio, Cecilia Rouse, chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, argued that the Biden administration is tackling this “choppy period from a position of relative strength.”

Cecilia Rouse, chair of the Council of Economic Advisors delivers remarks at a daily press briefing on March 28, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

On Wednesday, the day of the president’s tax holiday announcement, AAA’s national average on regular gasoline was $4.95. A year ago, the median for regular gasoline was $3.69. However, across the country there are drivers facing record prices at the pump as high as $6 and above.

Rouse explained that gas prices are hitting everyone yet, “there is a particular impact on the Black community.” Black households, she said, may not have as much money left over at the end of the month in order to withstand the price increases. 

“There’s a disproportionate impact there, especially for those who are dependent on cars,” Rouse. Driving home the importance of tackling the rising cost of gas, she also noted that increases in energy prices also have an impact on other goods. 

“When goods are delivered, somebody has to transport them and they have to pay for energy costs to transport them,” she said. Rouse also added that “food fertilizers often need sources of energy in order to be produced. So energy price increases find their way into many goods.”

Jessica Fulton, vice president of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, told theGrio that Congress needs to act to prevent these dire circumstances when crises hit. Fulton said lawmakers can further relieve Americans’ pocketbooks ”by passing legislation like expanding the Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit to ensure people are able to make ends meet, especially as gas prices continue to rise.”

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., speaks during Biden Child Tax Credit news conference, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, July 20, 2021. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

While the gas tax holiday may provide some relief for American consumers, Morial of the National Urban League cautioned that the administration must also look ahead, beyond the short-term economic and energy issues. 

One of those long-term solutions, he said, is reducing the use of fossil fuels. Phasing out fossil fuels will ease energy costs, said Morial. “[It] also will save the lives of tens of thousands – disproportionately people of color – who die prematurely from air pollution each year,” he noted. 

The civil rights leader added, “President Biden’s proposal can provide both figurative and literal breathing room as we work toward stable energy costs and a cleaner environment.”

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