No one is being spared from COVID-19’s wrath. For the Latino community, the numbers are sobering.
According to a recent survey, nearly 5 in 10 Latinos in New York City reported that either they or a household member lost their job because of the coronavirus. Latinos are more likely to be employed in some of the industries being hardest hit by government-ordered closures, including hospitality and service. A recent Pew study drove this point, finding that nearly two-thirds of employed Hispanics say they would not get paid if the coronavirus caused them to miss two weeks or more of work.
The Latino community is desperately looking for economic relief and options for increased access to quality health care, especially during this pandemic. To do that, policymakers should consider focusing on providing immediate economic relief to those most in need while removing unnecessary barriers between patients and providers.
Unfortunately, some of the policies being enacted lose sight of both objectives, threatening to make things worse.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act recently signed into law, included provisions that had little to do with meeting the crisis, including $25 million for the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. But it also includes important relief. Most notably, there is critical financial assistance for small business owners who employ a significant portion of our country’s workforce—including Latinos who are the primary breadwinners of their household.
Additionally, the legislation includes direct cash payments to millions of individuals and families to compensate for income lost because of government-mandated shutdowns.
Federal agencies and states are also taking action.
The Health and Human Services Department issued a ruling that will allow doctors and other medical professionals to practice across state lines.
In some states, including Virginia, lawmakers moved quickly to ease some restrictions on telemedicine. That makes it easier for patients dealing with stay-at-home orders to communicate with providers online, to diagnose symptoms and decide whether an in-person consultation is necessary.
In other states such as Florida, which has a significant Latino population, lawmakers recently repealed some certificate-of-need laws, making it easier for certain clinics and hospitals to add new facilities and expand services for patients. Before this, local hospitals were required to comply with a lengthy and bureaucratic approval process that could slow down the ability for patients to receive care.
Additionally, states could consider renewing all expired state-administered health licenses, permits, certifications, and registrations for the duration of the health emergency. This is needed because many health care professionals have expired licenses and registrations that are required to legally deliver health care. States should immediately renew these licenses, without, so all qualified
To be sure, there is much more that policymakers will need to do to ensure that all Americans —including Latinos— are able to recover from a battered economy and a health care system being tested in unimaginable ways.
If policymakers can focus their efforts on helping those most in need while removing unnecessary barriers in our health care system, the American people will come out of this national crisis stronger than ever.
Israel Ortega is a national spokesperson for the Libre Initiative, an organization committed to empowering the Hispanic community.