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Congressional Hispanic Caucus Speaks Up for U.S. Territories

A letter from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi asks that the particular needs of Hispanic Americans be considered in upcoming legislation in response to the coronavirus.

The letter began by pointing out that minority communities are being affected disproportionately by the pandemic the whole country is facing. Not only have Latino communities seen more severe infections because of longstanding income and health inequities, but, the letter said, Latinos are more likely to be among the essential workers who continue to have close contact with others.

“During this critical moment, Latinos, including approximately 200,000 DACA recipients, are on the frontlines in occupations and industry groups that continue to propel our country forward in the midst of this pandemic. Latinos are the health care professionals caring for COVID-19 patients, the farm workers in the fields providing food for our families, the grocery store employees restocking our shelves, the transportation employees keeping our nation moving, and the professional custodial staff ensuring our hospitals and other public spaces are safe for everyone. As our communities continue to show up and continue to risk their own personal health on the frontlines, Congress must show up to be take care of these individuals and families.”

Further, the letter shared data showing that Latinos may be severely affected by the economic as well as health consequences of the pandemic. “As the economy shifts to teleworking, data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics demonstrates that working from home is a luxury for many and that only 16.2% of Hispanics can work from home during the COVID-19 pandemic,” the letter said. “Additional Pew Research data show that 49% of Hispanics are already reporting that someone in their household has lost their job or taken a pay cut as a consequence of the crisis. Moreover, during the Great Recession, Hispanic communities saw a 66% drop in median household wealth—the largest percentage drop among all racial and ethnic groups. Any forthcoming legislation must include stringent oversight provisions to ensure that history does not repeat itself and that Latino families don’t suffer the same fate.”

The letter includes a wide range of actions Congress could take to improve outcomes for the United States Latino community.

Read the full letter.

Among the suggestions are some specifically relevant to the U.S. Territories:

  • Ensure parity for U.S. territories under any legislation signed into law, which will result in a stronger recovery for our entire country;
  • Include a minimum of $1.27 billion for nutritional assistance for Puerto Rico, the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands, and American Samoa;
  • Eliminate the Medicaid cap for all U.S. territories and extend the terms of the Medicaid FMAP for U.S. territories in 42 U.S.C. 1396d(ff)(1) for an additional 7 quarters;
  • Include the House-passed Emergency Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Relief and Puerto Rico Disaster Tax Relief Act, H.R. 5687;
  • Expand block grants and tax credit programs to all U.S. territories;
  • Provide salaries for all teaching staff in the insular areas through the end of fiscal year 2020.
  • Treat U.S. territories as states in direct payments for local governments under the Coronavirus Relief Fund.

The letter was signed by Joaquin Castro (D-TX), Chair of the CHC; Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), First Vice Chair; Nannette Diaz Barragan (D-AZ), Second Vice Chair; Adriano Espaillat, Whip; and Veronica Escobar (D-TX), Freshman Representative.

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