I have been a successful, self-employed business owner for 12 years, but the pandemic brought challenges like never before. My business, Bethel Estate Sales, was shut down during three months of lockdown in the spring of 2020, but it wasn’t until now that I had to suggest my employees go on unemployment. I wasn’t able to access the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), intended as pandemic relief for small businesses, because of restrictions on contracted staff, and my financial cushion finally ran out.

At the end of November, a report by Public Citizen detailed the $15 billion pandemic bailout to coal, oil, and gas companies. Among the standout findings were numerous ways that the bailout benefitted fossil fuel firms “whose problems long predated the pandemic,” including receiving forgivable loans, tax cuts and refunds, bond issuances, and waived fees for drilling on public property.

Moreover, “More than 60 companies double- or triple-dipped into government programs, collecting tax refunds and subsidized or forgivable loans while paying less money to drill on public lands thanks to pandemic-related giveaways.”

While the relief funds were intended to staunch emergency bleeding caused by the coronavirus pandemic, “these companies benefited disproportionately from tax refunds and forgivable loans, despite, or even because of their weak financial footing going into the pandemic.”

We were shocked and dismayed to see that the government enabled this double dipping in what was meant to be emergency relief. The events of this year have disproportionately harmed the health and livelihoods of Latinos and other communities of color, but we have not received a proportionate amount of relief from the public purse.

Compare this oil, gas, and coal bailout to the aid that was given to Latino and Black businesses and communities. A report by UnidosUS found that small, minority-owned shops like mine were the least likely to receive PPP funds. A survey of Black and Latino workers released after the second round of PPP funding found that only 12 percent received the requested aid.

A second survey found that although 63% of black and Latino small business owners received financing, three in 10 did not receive the amount they requested. Latino business owners “were only half as likely as their white counterparts to receive the federal loans.” Other analyses have also shown other ways that Latinos have been left out of relief funds.

The issue is broader than a simple comparison of pandemic relief. A brief from Accountable summarizes the multiple ways Latinos have been left behind in the pandemic: sickening and dying at higher rates, suffering from higher unemployment rates and worse economic outcomes, inability to work from home, health care disparities and more. Immigrants, college students and disabled adults were also less likely to receive stimulus checks. And all the while, fossil fuel companies are being paid billions of dollars to pollute, lie to the public, worsen natural disasters, and continue losing money. These very same companies are the ones worsening coronavirus outcomes by increasing air pollution — often concentrated in the neighborhoods with a high proportion of black and Latino residents.

What’s more, the coronavirus pandemic is not the only crisis of 2020 that pummeled the public as a whole and communities of color in particular.

This was also a year of record-setting wildfires and overactive hurricanes, both caused by climate change fueled directly by coal, oil and gas companies. Essentially, these companies are being rewarded for their bad behavior, while Latinos and other marginalized communities are left to pick up the pieces.

It is unconscionable for the government to rescue the industry that contributed to the natural disasters of 2020 and is actively making people sicker from the pandemic, while giving only band-aids and inaccessible loans to struggling business owners like me.

We are calling on Congress and lenders to reconsider their support of the failing, destructive fossil fuel industry and instead direct aid to support the most vulnerable communities who have thus far been excluded from it.

Teresa Craig is the owner of Bethel Estate Sales in Redlands. Bethel Estate Sales has been serving the San Bernardino, Riverside and Orange county communities for several years.