Immigrants, regardless of their immigration status, play a crucial role in the U.S. economy. They represent approximately 17 percent of the labor force. More than half of immigrant workers work in major industries such as health care, social assistance, educational services, construction, agriculture, food services and retail trade. Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, many immigrants have been right at the frontlines of caring for COVID-19 patients and doing crucial work in communities so that others can shelter at home. Unfortunately, despite their significant contributions, many immigrant workers and their families won’t benefit from the COVID-19 relief packages Congress passed and the president signed into law in March.
Coronavirus Response Packages
To recap, since the outbreak of the coronavirus, Congress has passed three relief packages that aim to address the health and economic impact of the outbreak on millions of people. While the first package directs funding to federal, state and local agencies, the second and third packages provide emergency relief to individuals, families, the health sytem and businesses that are impacted by the pandemic:
- C1 – The Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act ( H.R.6074) allocated $8.3 billion in emergency funds to respond to the coronavirus outbreak – 81 percent of these funds is designated for the domestic response, including grants to federal, state and local agencies to improve health care for people who live in remote areas and are economically or medically vulnerable, and disaster loan programs for small businesses.
- C2 – The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R.6201) provides $100 billion in worker assistance (including emergency paid sick leave and unemployment insurance benefits), nutrition assistance, free COVID-19 testing and a Medicaid funding boost.
- C3 – The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act (H.R.748) builds on the 2nd package, adding a roughly $2 trillion to speed up the relief efforts to individuals, families and businesses.
The below chart highlights key provisions in the 2nd and 3rd phases (C2 and C3) of congressional relief efforts that specifically exclude many immigrants from access to COVID-19 testing and treatment, cash rebates, unemployment insurance. In addition, there is a lack of language access assistance for people with limited English proficiency.
Immigrant Eligibility for Public Programs During COVID-19