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Latino and Black people will suffer significant financial problems that could lead to an increase in homelessness if U.S. leaders fail to pass a COVID-19 relief bill this week, experts say.
The spring 2020 stimulus package is set to expire at the end of the week, prompting Congress to debate over a $900 Billion pandemic relief bill that will give stimulus checks, pause evictions and student loans, and provide further unemployment insurance.
Leaders hope to find a solution by the end of the week. If they don’t, Latinos and Black people could suffer the most, including a rise in homelessness.
“The pandemic has hit communities of color harder than white Americans, and the population of homeless Black Americans and Latinos will only increase if there is no emergency federal aid,” said public health expert Robert Blendon, according to Axios.
UPDATE 12/20/20: Congress passed the $900 Billion pandemic relief bill, narrowly avoiding a government shutdown, reports The New York Times.
Economic Recession from COVID-19
The economic recession from the pandemic has had wide-ranging effects.
Restaurants, small businesses, and other organizations are still struggling amid COVID-19, with many non-essential workers continuing to face widespread layoffs.
Although not as high as in the earlier months of the pandemic, many parts of the country are still struggling with high unemployment rates, with an overall rate of 6.7% in the country.
Latinos are faced with higher levels of unemployment than Americans overall, according to a Pew Research Center survey.
“Around half (49%) of Hispanics say they or someone in their household has taken a pay cut or lost a job—or both—because of the COVID-19 outbreak, compared with 33% of all U.S. adults,” according to PEW researchers. “Among both Hispanics and the wider public, more people say someone has experienced a pay cut or a reduction in work hours than say someone was laid off or lost a job (40% vs. 29% among Hispanics, 27% vs. 20% among all Americans).”
That same survey also found that another 8 million Latinos work in industries—such as food, hotel, and other service jobs—that are at high-risk for further downsizings.
Financial problems continue to affect families of color, even after government stimulus aid earlier in the pandemic.
“72% of Latinos and 60% of Black Americans said they had serious financial problems in the household despite federal aid,” said Blendon, according to Axios.
Unfortunately, as unemployment and financial problems continue to go up, as does the risk of homelessness.
Homelessness and COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic is especially difficult for the homeless population.
City officials are struggling to detect, track, and prevent COVID-19 transmission, and treat those who need care. Many homeless people are also at a higher risk of COVID-19 because of underlying health conditions and a lack of personal protective equipment.
Some economists have predicted that homelessness could rise by 45% by the end of 2020 because of unemployment in the pandemic.
Latino and Black people are at higher risk of becoming homeless and are overrepresented in the homeless population, due to poverty and discrimination.
“The disproportionality in homelessness is a by-product of systemic inequity: the lingering effects of racism continue to perpetuate disparities in critical areas that impact rates of homelessness,” according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness.
Beyond COVID-19, homelessness and poverty can have wide-ranging effects.
“Poorer quality schools, high levels of unemployment, social isolation, and a lack of positive peer influences are common in high-poverty areas,” according to a Salud America! research review.
Thankfully, government leaders are meeting this week to try to help families struggling with the financial burden from the pandemic.
Closing the Deal on the COVID-19 Relief Bill
Congressional leaders like Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House of Representatives, and Mitch McConnell, Senate Majority Leader, are nearing a deal on a $900 Billion COVID-19 relief package.
“The package is expected to include many elements of the bipartisan proposal released by a group of centrist House and Senate members earlier this week, including further federal unemployment insurance, an extended ban on evictions and a continued pause on federal student loan payments,” according to NPR.
This bill would help families struggling with unemployment, but only through the end of the year. Congress will have to meet again in January 2021 to create a bill with more long-term financial aid.
“The federal government is scheduled to run out of money on Dec. 18 so a temporary bill would avoid any brief shutdown as both chambers process the package,” according to NPR.
Despite months of partisan arguments, the bill is expected to reach a deal by the end of the week.
How Can We Help People of Color Facing Homelessness?
Poverty and homelessness will continue to be issues for Latino and Black communities, even after a relief bill is passed.
Nobody deserves to suffer from poverty and homelessness.
So how can we lift up Latino and Black people who are disproportionately at risk?
Solving homelessness is not easy, but we can start by advocating for systemic change, according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness.
“To end homelessness, a community-wide coordinated approach to delivering services, housing, and programs is needed,” says the National Alliance to End Homelessness.
By advocating for affordable housing and rental assistance programs, we can help address homelessness in the long-term.
If you want to directly help the homeless in your community, visit Homeless Shelter
Directory to find a shelter close to you that you can donate time, money, or food and clothing to.
You can also address homelessness by examining how equitable your community is.
Download a customized Salud America! Health Equity Report Card. With the report card, you can see how many of your neighbors face inequities in food access, education, income, health care, and much more.
Then you can email your Health Equity Report Card to community leaders, share on social, and build the case to address health equity issues in at-risk areas!