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Home > News > Nevada Senator joins conversation about disparities in Latino communities during pandemic

Nevada Senator joins conversation about disparities in Latino communities during pandemic

By Bianca Wright
A drive-through COVID-19 testing site at Reed High School in Sparks. Image: Lucia Starbuck

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On July 16, Senator Catherine Cortez Masto, representatives from UnidosUS—the United States’s largest Latino non-profit advocacy organization—and Congressman Joaquin Castro gathered on a conference call to discuss the latest report from UnidosUS, a document that describes how Latino people in the U.S. have been disproportionately affected by the coronavirus pandemic. 

During the pandemic, UnidosUS has released multiple publications with research and data concerning how COVID-19 has negatively impacted the Latino community. 

The most recent July report, discusses how Latino people have fared during the first 120 days of the pandemic. The document also describes “how enacted recovery legislation to date has not fully addressed the needs of the [Latino] community,” and outlines what action is needed to amend this issue. 

Sen. Cortez Masto said this kind of information is important, especially in states like Nevada with a larger Latino population. 

“I know, particularly in Nevada, how hard hit the Latino community is because we see it here,” she said. “What we know from the report and what we see on the ground here is that COVID-19 has really impacted our communities, and they’re suffering disproportionately from the underlying conditions of the pandemic.”

One of the “underlying conditions” she brought up was lack of health insurance among the Latino community. She said that according to a 2017 Census Bureau report, Latino people had the highest uninsured rates. This, in addition to language and cultural barriers, have been one of the many factors leading to the community’s  higher rates of COVID-19 infections.

Nevada Senator Catherine Cortez Masto joined Latino leaders for “The Latino Community in the Time of Coronavirus” town hall.
Nevada Senator Catherine Cortez Masto joined Latino leaders for “The Latino Community in the Time of Coronavirus” town hall.

Janet Murguía, the president and CEO of UnidosUS, expanded on Sen. Cortez Masto’s statements using findings from the report. Murguía explained how the Latino community is an especially vulnerable population. 

Since they are overrepresented in “essential” job sectors like the agriculture and food manufacturing industry, many cannot work remotely and are more likely to be exposed to COVID-19. Without health insurance, some  may choose to avoid expensive hospital bills and not get medical treatment, which could lead to more health complications.

Unemployment rates were also higher among Latino people, largely because they are overrepresented in other economic sectors as well. For example, the retail and leisure industry was among one of the “hardest hit in the early months of the pandemic.” 

The report states that the combination of job loss and school closures have also contributed to increased food insecurity in Latino families. 

Carlos Guevara, Associate Director of Immigration Initiatives at UnidosUS, added that many more issues like these have come to the forefront themselves due to the pandemic, and they have shown how Latino people are more at risk for economic and health problems. 

Although things like unemployment insurance and eviction moratoriums have been steps in the right direction for assisting the Latino community, Guevara said that more action from Congress is necessary.

“What remains clear to us is that the COVID-19 pandemic has nonetheless exposed existing structural inequities, including [accessing] vital social safety net programs,” he said. “Many of those remain unchanged in the recent recovery packages.”

Guevara also mentioned that it is critical that future government aid include solutions for the existing problems in the Latino community.

Congressman Castro, who is also the Chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, shared this sentiment, saying that “inclusive” legislation like the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act is important for underserved populations.

“That piece of legislation, or something significantly similar to it, is going to be required to deal with the effects described in the Unidos report, and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus has been working very hard to make sure that certain things are included in whatever the final legislation looks like,” he said. 

The congressman then went into detail about some specific assistance he felt would be “crucial” in upcoming recovery packages. He mentioned economic relief for mixed status families, Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) users and essential workers, all of which are groups that were left out of previous assistance packages.

He also brought up extending programs like the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Temporary Protected Status (TPS). He said this would provide some relief for DACA and TPS recipients, who “still feel like they’re living in limbo” after the recent Supreme Court decision. 

He added that despite having uncertain futures, many DACA recipients have been in the frontlines the past few months

“A lot of those DACA recipients have also been essential workers in the healthcare field…or in education, now teaching our kids through America’s schools,” he said.  

Murguía said that until the many concerns, included in the report, are addressed on the federal level, it will be more difficult for the country to fully recover from the current crisis.

“We cannot have a real recovery on the health and economic front without solutions that meaningfully include all of us,” she said. “We need intentionality behind [the government’s] response.”

Read more news about COVID-19 in Reno

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