The legislature’s Latino Caucus is calling on Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) to help undocumented Marylanders weather the twin crises that have hit the state this year — the COVID-19 pandemic and the sharp downturn in the economy.
In a July 1 letter, publicly disclosed here for the first time, the lawmakers note that Langley Park, in Prince George’s County, has consistently had the highest coronavirus infection rate in the state. But because of restrictions on federal aid, those who need help the most are often finding it out of reach.
“The major effects of this pandemic are interconnected for these families,” the lawmakers wrote.
“Many have lost their employment, have fallen behind on rent for the first time ever, and are desperately searching for free food distribution sites. Other community members are essential workers that have risked their health.”
Legislators and Latinx advocates note communities like Langley Park have been slammed by a confluence of factors:
- Many are front-line workers and face more risk of exposure to COVID-19 than white collar personnel who can work from home
- Many recent immigrants live in multi-generational homes, often small apartments, where it’s difficult for COVID-positive people to isolate from others
- Many Latinx people delay getting care because of immigration or cost concerns
- Federal rules prohibit states from using CARES Act funds to help undocumented persons
The lawmakers note that immigrant workers have played a significant role during the pandemic, allowing restaurants to function, keeping store shelves full, working construction jobs, and so on.
“There are hundreds of thousands of Maryland immigrants who have filed taxes with an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number that have not received federal aid,” Caucus members wrote. “This includes jointly filed taxes where one individual has a Social Security Number and the other has an ITIN.”
Using data from the comptroller’s office, the lawmakers estimate that undocumented residents contribute roughly $139 million in state and local income taxes and sales tax revenue.
“The State can and should supplement federal funds for undocumented workers who have paid their taxes,” they wrote.
The caucus letter also warns Hogan of an impending homeless crisis if a ban on evictions ends while families are still facing health crises and/or joblessness.
“The issues surrounding the virus are exasperating for undocumented families and it is immoral to look away and ignore their pain,” the Latino Caucus wrote.
“We cannot accept their suffering to continue and worsen during this extraordinary time. Maryland should go down in history as one of the few who did the right thing during the COVID-19 health crisis. As Governor, we are asking you to do right by Marylanders who need your help.”
Hogan’s office did not respond to a request for comment Monday.
On May 13, the Latino Caucus told Hogan in a letter that “families across Maryland are in dire need of help to stay afloat.”
“It is at this time that we show how much we care for one another,” they added. “If ‘We will get through this together’ is more than mere words, the time is now to provide relief for every Marylander,” they added.
Lawmakers requested in their first letter that the state “create a fund to help the families of tax-paying Marylanders that are excluded from receiving aid under the CARES Act. Local jurisdictions and non-profits are doing their best to support immigrant and undocumented families. However, we need the State to lead by funding assistance that reaches our marginalized communities.”
The letter from the chairman of the Latino Caucus, Del. David Fraser-Hidalgo (D-Montgomery), was co-signed by the executive director of Catholic Charities of Baltimore; the head of the Esperanza Center Health Clinic; CASA de Maryland; the head of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; the founder of the Spanish-Speaking Health Leaders of Maryland, business leader; and several “concerned citizens.”
According to Del. Joseline Peña-Melnyk (D-Prince George’s), Hogan did not reply to that letter.