Agents of change

Are Black communities beneficiaries of insurance investments?

Akin Wally Smith | 10/31/2013, midnight

Outside of Sacramento, Black business leaders are also taking a close look at the industry’s contributions to the African American community.

“I think the industry is a very good partner with our local communities,” said Mike Stewart, who serves on the board of the Carson Chamber of Commerce. “I’ve been very impressed with Kaiser Permanente’s work with local chambers. They just opened a new 1,000-square-foot facility in Carson. I know that State Farm is moving into our area and Allianz is doing a lot of annuities, which provide long-term care for our elderly.”

Armen Ross, who this year was elected president of the Crenshaw Chamber of Commerce in historically Black South Los Angeles, disagreed. “I don’t think the industry is doing enough in our community,” he said. “[For instance] we are still faced with restrictions when we want to get car insurance,” he said. “When I moved from San Bernardino to the Crenshaw District, my rate doubled. I recently bought my grandson a car. He couldn’t get insurance; he had to go with one of the smaller companies, and he’s paying over $2,000 a year for liability coverage.”

However, Ross did commend the industry for its charitable giving to some of the more high-profile nonprofits in the community, but urged them to do more. “There are many groups that do the same or even more defined work that are not aware of the grants that are out there. I think the industry could do a better job in getting the word out.”