By Luis Granados
A sobering look at the state of Latinos under COVID-19 is presented in UnidosUS’ recently released report, The Latino Community in the Time of Coronavirus: The Case for a Broad and Inclusive Government Response. The stark fact is that our community is overrepresented nationally among the sick and dying. The same is true in California: Based on available data, Latinos in our state account for 47% of COVID-19 deaths despite representing 39.3% of the population. The situation is even more dire closer to home in San Francisco, where Latinos represent half of positive COVID-19 cases, yet are just 15% of the population. In a recent study in a small slice of San Francisco’s Mission District, the overwhelming majority of people who tested positive were Latino (95%, even though Latinos represented just 44% of those screened); almost all who tested positive were employed as “essential” workers unable to work from home and/or made under $50,000 per year.
As these inequities cause them to fall ill and perish at higher rates, Latinos are also bearing the brunt of the economic pain of the pandemic, and not just because millions of them have been denied cash payments. In California, based on calculations of Census data, 66% of the state’s Latino households reported a loss of employment or income; more than 25% of Latino renters reported not being able to pay their previous month’s rent on time. Coupled with the fact that undocumented immigrants — the highest share of whom live in our state — do not qualify for federal unemployment insurance or benefits, it is easy to see how Latino and immigrant families are a hair’s breadth away from hunger and homelessness.
The end is near for the critical aid that was supposed to see workers through the coronavirus crisis, even as the situation keeps getting worse for the state’s Latino population. The one-time cash stimulus payments of $1,200 per person and $500 per child in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act helped some families meet their basic needs as they faced reduced wages or job losses as a result of the COVID-19 crisis and lockdowns. We also know the payments helped our economy, hobbled by the virus, since people spent the cash on household essentials such as food, housing and utilities. Besides stimulus checks, one of the big issues facing the economy is the pending expiration, at the end of July, of the temporary $600 weekly federal unemployment insurance benefit created by the CARES Act.
Although the CARES Act brought necessary relief to many, it also discriminately left out many in our community. Millions of working, tax-paying people in the nation — including U.S. citizen parents and children — were denied a stimulus payment and other forms of economic relief. Fifteen million Latinos and more than 10 million immigrants call California home, meaning more than a million U.S. citizen parents and children in our state being denied the stimulus payments simply because their tax-paying spouse or parent is an undocumented worker. That translates into more than half-a-billion dollars denied to California households.
Recognizing the flaws of the CARES Act, the House acted swiftly by passing a comprehensive COVID-19 relief bill that provides support for all workers. The name is the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act. It has been nearly two months since that bill’s passage in the House — and things are getting worse. Our California Senators need to fight tooth and nail for health and economic relief for all of our Golden State’s residents: We cannot bear another flawed relief package that provides forgivable loans to corporations while families wonder how they will eat or pay the rent.
Luis Granados is the chief executive officer for the Mission Economic Development Agency (MEDA) in San Francisco.