For Latinos across the country, the congressionally approved aid packages to combat the effects of the coronavirus pandemic are simply not enough.
Despite being one of the country’s most thriving demographics, Latinos are still considered “foreigners” in their own country, and this is reflected in the government benefits aimed at mitigating the effect of public health and economic crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
With an order to stay home and a phased shutdown of the economy, immigrants have been hit on all fronts — including massive raids, lack of access to health care, and job cuts.
To help citizens deal with the effect of the crisis, Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act, signed by President Trump on March 27.
The proposal calls for a $2 trillion package aimed at combating the economic damage from the coronavirus pandemic.
Among provisions for unemployment insurance, recovery funding and reimbursement, refundable tax credits, and some measures to counteract the impact of student loans, the government has put in place an economic mechanism that, while laudable in many respects, leaves out the most vulnerable.
In a letter to Congress, UnidosUS thanked the Democratic and Republican leaders for what they have achieved with the CARES Act, but stressed the risk that communities like the Hispanic community in the country will be left out.
“As more of our neighbors fall ill and the death toll rises, the pain and hardship caused by the pandemic will unfortunately grow,” they wrote. “The brunt of the impact will fall primarily on the shoulders of our nation’s working-class families, including the nation’s 58 million Latinos.”
“Despite their significant contributions to our nation’s economy and prosperity, Latinos have faced longstanding socioeconomic disparities that the crisis, if we fail to act, will surely exacerbate,” they added.
The organization highlighted how a troubling 18 percent of Latinos in the country are uninsured, how the community represents “the highest labor force participation rate” in the country while being one of the populations most at risk of unemployment because of its concentration in industries affected by closures.
“Nearly half of Hispanics (49%) already report that someone in their household lost their job or experienced a pay cut due to the virus outbreak,” they explained, concatenating this reality with the fact that economic inequalities mean that a quarter of the Latino population spends more than 40 percent of their monthly income on housing costs.
And when it comes to a predominantly immigrant community, UnidosUS reminds Congress how much of the country’s workforce is undocumented, with no possibility of accessing CARES Act benefits.
“The COVID-19 health and economic crises have exposed the harm caused by our failure to enact immigration reform and the recklessness of the administration’s cruel immigration agenda, leaving many individuals at risk and the communities they support in a weaker position to recover from this crisis,” they added.
That is why the organization recommends a series of proposals to be incorporated into the upcoming packages to be discussed on the floor of Congress, including to guarantee coverage of treatment for COVID-19, remove Medicaid and CHIP eligibility barriers, ensure access to emergency economic supports for all workers, support Latino-owned businesses through the Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) program, and more.