EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) — More than 28,000 people have lost their jobs in the past two months in Far West Texas, as business closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic ravage the economy.
7 0, a civil rights organization says.
Local communities are stepping in to provide small-business loans to keep people employed — the City and County of El Paso recently contributed to a $2 million emergency fund — and the federal government is sending $1,200 checks to those with Social Security numbers.
However, the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) worries those efforts will not be enough nor cover millions of working-class Hispanic families across the country, including those with members that may lack a Social Security card. It also says many Latino residents suffer disproportionately from health conditions like diabetes, hypertension and asthma that make them more vulnerable to COVID-19 and need help now.
That’s why the organization, the oldest and largest Latino rights group in the country, is pushing a legislative agenda inclusive of those who’ve been left out of benefits so far.
“This crisis will have a dramatic impact on the most vulnerable, especially isolated seniors, immigrant communities, working-class families and single-parent households, those who are living paycheck to paycheck and small Latino-owned businesses,” said Domingo Garcia, national president of LULAC.
The Dallas-based lawyer and activist says the organization is working with lawmakers to ensure any future relief package or federal emergency rules don’t ignore those who’ve been left out so far.
“Legislation working its way through Congress right now will change the landscape of our economy,” he said. “We know that our safety net of vital programs and services will see a dramatic rise in demand in the days and weeks ahead and that the need will be greater than the available resources.”
The actions the group is pushing include:
- Expanding the healthcare system to provide for communities in need (Medicaid) and having pharmaceutical and insurance companies waive or lower costs and suspend co-pays for essential prescription drugs.
- Ensure that children sent home after schools suspended classes continue receiving free or discounted school lunches.
- Offer bailouts to small businesses the same way big banks were bailed out during the financial crisis.
- Enact a moratorium on moratorium on mortgage, rent, student loads, and foreclosures
- Give undocumented immigrants who are working as essential labor in medical fields during this crisis temporary protected status and a pathway to citizenship by the end of the year.
The group previously called for the release through parole of nonviolent detainees at U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement holding facilities.
“We’re working with the Hispanic Caucus to make sure all qualify for medical care and COVID-19 tests and other support and stimulus,” Garcia said. “Jose and Maria are out there picking tomatoes and lettuce to put on our table, they working at the meat plan cutting our steaks; if you take them out of the equation, there goes our food supply. We need to make sure we’re taking care of them whether they’re documented or not.”
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