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Photo: Axios screenshot

Equal access to banking and financial services should be protected under the Civil Rights Act, Sen. Tina Smith (D-Minn.) said on Thursday in an Axios virtual event.

Why it matters: People of color, particularly Black people, risk being racially profiled in visits to banks, yet the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not identify financial institutions as businesses that must not treat black customers differently. "That loophole makes it hard for victims of racial profiling to win in court," a New York Times investigation found.

The big picture: Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), along with Smith and other Democratic senators, in October introduced a bill that looks to outlaw discrimination by banks and other financial institutions, ensuring that this type of discrimination is covered by the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

  • The bill needs to be reintroduced to the new Congress in order to be considered.

What she's saying: Smith addressed a case in which a black woman tried to cash a check from her bank, but was denied from doing so, saying, "it's hard not to see that as anything but racial profiling — I'm holding her back, keeping her from exercising the same kind of banking that we white people honestly take for granted."

  • "What the bill that Sherrod Brown has that I'm co-leading with him would do is it would bring under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 banking and financial services, prohibiting discrimination in banking and financial services."

Worth noting: Smith also addressed wealth inequality and Senate Democrats' effort to raise the minimum wage to $15 by 2025.

  • "[R]aising the minimum wage to $15 an hour —raises over time so it gets to $15 an hour by 2025 — is one of the biggest things that we can do to address the wage inequality and savings potential for people of color in this country," Smith said.

Go deeper: Watch the full Axios event.

Go deeper

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
Jan 29, 2021 - Economy & Business

Making sense of the GameStop circus

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

It's probably fair to say that Thursday was one of the crazier days in the history of financial news.

What happened: Robinhood, which has become synonymous with retail trading and the parabolic rise of stocks like GameStop and Tesla, shut down the ability of its users to buy (but not to sell) some of the platform's most popular names.

Ina Fried, author of Login
4 mins ago - Technology

Epic's long game against Apple

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Epic's Apple lawsuit is costing the company dearly, but the game developer has its eye on a valuable long-term goal: prying tomorrow's virtual worlds loose from the grip of app store proprietors like Apple.

Between the lines: Epic isn't spending a fortune in legal fees and foregoing a ton of revenue just to shave some costs off in-app purchases on today's phones. Rather, it's planning for a future of creating virtual universes via augmented and virtual reality — without having to send a big chunk of their economies to Apple or Google.

Updated 9 mins ago - Health

The race to avoid a possible "monster" COVID variant

Illustration: Rae Cook/Axios

Slow global COVID-19 vaccination rates are raising concerns that worse variants of the coronavirus could be percolating, ready to rip into the world before herd immunity can diminish their impact.

Why it matters: The U.S. aims to at least partially vaccinate 70% of adults by July 4, a move expected to accelerate the current drop of new infections here. But variants are the wild card, and in a global pandemic where only about 8% of all people have received one dose, the virus will continue mutating unabated.