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.

<h3><strong>Future COVID-19 Should be Inclusive of Immigrants</strong></h3>
<p>The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the many shortcomings inherent in our nation’s health care system, including the disproportionate impact of the virus on communities of color, immigrant communities and others due to unjust and discriminatory barriers to health and economic security. But viruses don’t discriminate. Immigrant communities, regardless of status, should be included in any policy proposal being discussed to stem the worst effects of the pandemic. The gaps in our health care safety net affect us all.</p>
<p>As federal policymakers work on the next relief package, it is imperative that recovery policies are inclusive. In doing so, the Trump administration must include language that ensures inclusion of <em>all immigrants </em>in coverage of testing, treatment and prevention in a way that will not negatively impact their current or future immigration status. Specifically, Congress should suspend the implementation of public charge rules issued by the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. State Department as well as stop any further action by federal agencies to alter longstanding policies on public charge. In addition, legislation must ensure that <em>all</em> immigrants are able to access food assistance and tax rebates or similar supports. Finally, Congress should allocate sufficient funding for quality translation and interpretation services to ensure that people with limited English proficiency have access to information about COVID-19 and understand their rights.</p>
<h3><strong>Additional Resources:</strong></h3>
<li>Protecting Immigrant Families Campaign: <a href=Immigrant Eligibility for Public Programs During COVID-19

  • National Immigration Law Center: Understanding the Impact of Key Provisions of COVID-19 Relief Bills on Immigrant Communities
  • Center on Budget and Policy Priorities: USDA, States Must Act Swiftly to Deliver
  • Food Assistance Allowed by Families First Act
  • National Employment Law Project: Immigrant Workers’ Eligibility for Unemployment Insurance