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We Must Act Now to End the Devastating Impacts of Covid-19

No family should lose their home, especially during a pandemic - but Latino renters are disproportionately likely to report having little to no confidence they can make their next housing payment.
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Latinx individuals are overrepresented in essential jobs. Crédito: Eric Gay/AP

When the big banks and mortgage companies crashed our economy in 2008, Wall Street CEOs got taxpayer bail-outs from the federal government, while working people got stuck with the bill.

And for already vulnerable communities of color, the recession hit even worse. Latino communities were some of the hardest hit, with a Pew Research Center study finding that the median wealth of these households fell by 66% from 2005-2009. If the federal government doesn’t act, the COVID-19 pandemic will have a similarly catastrophic and enduring effect on the Latino community.

As we continue to learn more about COVID-19, new data is shedding light on the devastating and disproportionate impact of the coronavirus on communities of color, including Latino communities.This pandemic hasn’t just exposed the disparities that exist for communities of color; it’s making them worse.

Recent data show s that Black and Latinx individuals are at higher risk for contracting the virus - not only because they are more likely to suffer from existing underlying conditions, but also due to structural injustices like the lack of health care, economic opportunities, and additional systemic racist policies that have plagued our country for generations. Latinx individuals are four times more likely to be hospitalized from COVID-19 than white individuals. And more than 60% of Latino households have lost income since March 13, and 50% anticipate losing employment income in the near future.

Our response to COVID-19 must stop the virus dead in its tracks, address existing structural inequities, and ensure that Latino families' wellbeing aren’t left out of the conversation. We can start by surging our testing capacity overall to slow the spread of the virus, putting in place my nationwide contact tracing plan to contain the virus, and mobilizing resources towards communities most deeply impacted, including Latino households.

Latinx individuals are overrepresented in essential jobs - both nationally, and in Massachusetts, risking their health and their lives every day, without enforceable safety protections, to keep our country running. The next coronavirus relief package must include my Essential Workers Bill of Rights with Representative Ro Khanna to provide the full suite of protections, rights, and benefits essential workers need and deserve - and that’s for every essential worker, from doctors, nurses, and home care workers to domestic workers, food service workers, farm workers, and child care workers.

We need to act quickly to expand public programs to make health care free for those who are under or uninsured. Immigration status should not bar anyone from receiving COVID-19 testing, treatment, and vaccines, and the Coronavirus Immigrant Families Protection Act that I cosponsored would ensure that’s the case.

We should give direct relief to families by suspending consumer debt collections, cancelling student loan debt, and increasing social security and disability checks. Our child care system is in danger of collapse. We need a $50 billion bailout for child care providers, which is why I introduced the Child Care is Essential Act.

Finally, we need to provide a lifeline for the small businesses that employ so many Americans, expediting assistance and guaranteeing that any qualified small business that needs help will receive it. A recent survey found that only 97 out of more than 500 Latino small-business owners who applied for a federal relief loan received one, while others “never heard back” on their applications.

No family should lose their home, especially during a pandemic - but Latino renters are disproportionately likely to report having little to no confidence they can make their next housing payment. This week, I introduced legislation to extend the federal moratorium on evictions and expand it to cover substantially all renters, not just those living in properties with federally-backed mortgages.

My bill will prohibit fees, fines, and extra charges due to nonpayment of rent. We also need to pass a $100 billion rental assistance fund, so families who have lost income and need help to cover a few months of rent are able to make those payments and maintain their housing when the moratorium expires.

And this time around, we must ensure that taxpayer money goes to workers, families, and state, local and tribal governments - not toward rewarding corporate misbehavior and CEOs like it did in 2008. We have a chance to come back from this pandemic stronger than before - but only if we make the needed investments that lift up all of our communities.

Latino families are still paying the price for those decisions made over a decade ago. Now America confronts a new crisis, one unlike anything we’ve faced in our lifetimes, that is once again hitting the Latino community hard.

We need to act fast and boldly to survive this crisis. But as we do so, we must make certain that we center vulnerable communities and remediate historic injustices.