Latinos projected to bear economic brunt of coronavirus

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Latinos are projected to be disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus pandemic as governments impose shutdowns on non-essential businesses and healthcare resources run scarce.

A Pew Research Center survey found 83 percent of Latinos saw the coronavirus as a threat to their personal finances, with half saying they saw it as a “major” threat, compared to 77 percent of the overall U.S. population who saw the virus as a threat to their finances.

According to an earlier study by Pew, nearly two-thirds of employed Hispanic adults say they would not get paid if the coronavirus caused them to miss work for more than two weeks, including about half who say it would be difficult to meet expenses in such a situation. By comparison, 54 percent of employed U.S. adults overall say they wouldn’t get paid if they missed two weeks of work or more, including 33 percent who say it would be difficult to meet expenses.

Other studies have shown a stark divide between Republicans and Democrats regarding how concerned they are about the virus and whether or not they approve of the administration’s response, with Democrats far more likely to be critical of the Trump administration. 

Another reason the coronavirus could hit Latinos harder is that more are employed in jobs where they cannot work remotely.

According to a study by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), only 30 percent of the U.S. workforce is able to work remotely, with less than 20 percent of black and Latino workers able to.

The study, which compiled data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, found that a little more than 16 percent of Latinos are able to work from home and less than 20 percent of black Americans are able to. Asian Americans and whites were the most likely to be able to work from home, with about 37 and 30 percent, respectively, able to do so. 

“If just 16% of Latinos are able to work from home, that means that the vast majority of Latino workers are either being forced to risk their health and keep working through the crisis, or have lost their income or their job,” Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas), chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, told The Hill in an email.

The study found the black and Latino workers are more likely to be employed in service and hospitality industries, which have been forced to close as the government enforces self isolation measures. 

“Congress has begun to address the crisis with passage of the Family First Coronavirus Response Act, which provides, among other things, limited increases to paid sick leave coverage, nutrition assistance, and unemployment insurance,” EPI, a left-leaning think tank, wrote in the study.

“But it’s not nearly enough. There are substantial loopholes in the paid sick coverage provided, and it will do little to help the estimated 3 million workers, including 900,000 leisure and hospitality workers, who will lose their jobs by this summer,” the study continued.

Immigration advocacy groups, such as United We Dream, have called on Congress to include undocumented Americans in the stimulus bill. 

“Some of these families — because of their immigration status — may not qualify for relief under the upcoming federal stimulus packages,” Castro said. “In total, our communities of color may bear the brunt of the economic impact of this crisis and will lose any sense of financial security for years. The way the federal government responds now could determine wealth disparities for the next generation of Americans. That’s why we must ensure all families receive the assistance they need to get through this crisis and get back on their feet as soon as possible.”

Latinos in the U.S. who are noncitizens but hold legal status do qualify for stimulus checks, but some lawmakers have also noted concerns that they might be hesitant to accept federally-funded health care that could mark them in violation of the “public charge” rule the administration enacted this year.

This could make them more vulnerable to the coronavirus, and could make it more likely that they spread the virus.

“COVID-19 makes no distinction between citizens, permanent residents, visa holders and people who are undocumented,” said Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum, wrote in a Medium post. “That’s why local, state and national leaders need to prioritize the health and safety of all community members — including immigrants and refugees.”

—Updated at 6:54 p.m.

Tags Coronavirus Joaquin Castro Pew
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