Now that Hispanic Heritage Month has come to a close, it’s important that we reflect on the incredible contributions our Latinx community has made to Maryland and to the country as a whole. From advancing the arts and sciences, to serving in our armed forces, to starting millions of small businesses, our country is indebted to the hard work and activism of generations of Latinx Americans.
Hispanic Heritage Month felt different this year, though. As our nation struggles to combat the coronavirus, the Latinx community is being left behind.
We know that the Latinx community has been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. A new report from the Joint Economic Committee reveals that the Latinx population is five times more likely to be hospitalized for COVID-19, while Latinx children represent nearly half of all COVID-19 deaths among children.
Additionally, Black and Latinx workers are historically overrepresented in industries that have been affected by social distancing orders, such as in restaurants, retail and construction. As a result, three of five Latinx households have experienced a reduction in income, many have lost employer-sponsored health insurance, and food insecurity has skyrocketed.
The effects of this pandemic on our Black and Brown communities will not be solved with a vaccine. Instead, as our economy begins to recover, income and wealth gaps will continue to grow.
Undocumented families have been hit even harder. Undocumented workers were among the first to be laid off, while many are still working in frontline, high-risk positions. As essential workers, these employees stock our grocery store shelves, provide agricultural labor, work in poultry plants, and support our health care system. In many cases, they have not been provided with the appropriate personal protective equipment. Once infected, undocumented workers often do not have health insurance or housing arrangements that allow for social distancing or permit quarantining.
Even though the undocumented community is keeping our country afloat, they have been left out of financial relief packages and have been unable to receive unemployment insurance.
Many undocumented workers pay their taxes using an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number. Roughly $139 million in state, local and sales taxes were paid by these workers in Maryland in 2018 alone. The IRS estimated that ITIN tax filers pay an estimated $9 billion in payroll taxes annually. These tax-paying families need help just as much as any other Marylander.
That’s why on May 13, the Maryland Legislative Latino Caucus wrote to Gov. Larry Hogan, asking for assistance for the state’s sizable Latinx population, who have been routinely and systematically left out of COVID-19 relief measures. They received no response.
On July 1, the caucus again wrote to Gov. Hogan and laid out a detailed plan for providing assistance to Maryland’s immigrant community. Individual counties and nonprofits have worked tirelessly to alleviate some of the financial burdens of the pandemic, but they have begun to deplete their already limited resources. Again, the caucus received no response.
So now, we again call on Gov. Hogan to develop a plan to help our Latinx neighbors and to focus state funds on providing individuals in the Latinx community with financial relief. We have to provide assistance to all tax-paying Marylanders, not just a select few.
It’s clear that the coronavirus pandemic is far from over. How much longer must families struggle, uncertain if they can pay their rent or put food on the table?
In the seven months since the pandemic began, our Latinx neighbors have been on the frontlines each and every day. If we want to recover from the devastating impacts of this pandemic, we can’t let anyone get left behind. That means supporting our Latinx and immigrant communities and doing so as soon as possible.
— REP. DAVID TRONE AND DEL. DAVID FRASER-HIDALGO
The writers, both Democrats, are, respectively, the congressman representing Maryland 6th congressional district and a member of the Maryland House of Delegates representing District 15 in Montgomery County and chair of the executive board of the Maryland Legislative Latino Caucus.
(Disclosure: The David and June Trone Family Foundation is a financial supporter of Maryland Matters.)