Latino Action Network Testimony at the New Jersey ARPA Virtual Hearing II

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TESTIMONY BY
LATINO ACTION NETWORK
New Jersey ARPA Virtual Hearing II
July 28, 2021

DELIVERED BY:

Christian Estevez, President
Latino Action Network

Good Morning, my name is Christian Estevez and I am the president of the Latino Action Network.

The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately impacted New Jersey’s Latino Community, with Latinos having the highest rates of COVID infection and COVID related deaths.  For those of us in the Latino community, this is not just a statistic.  Over the past year and a half we have lost far too many family members and friends to this deadly virus.  I will not even try to list those Latinos who were close to me that perished during this pandemic because my time allotment today will not allow it.

In the coming years, we will see many studies that try to figure out why Latinos were overrepresented by the negative impacts of this pandemic.  However, those of us on the ground in the community see the causes first hand.  We know that Latinos were more likely to work in jobs that did not allow them shelter in place by working from home.  At the height of the pandemic, Latinos continued to work on the front lines providing essential services to New Jerseyans at great risk to their lives.  Too many did not survive. For those that did survive, too many ended up worse off than they already were prior to the pandemic.

As the Governor has said on many occasions, the pandemic did not create inequity in communities of color, but it has laid those inequities bare.

Latino Community based organizations have a long history of providing much needed direct outreach and social services to hard to reach Latino and immigrant communities throughout New Jersey.  However, funding to these organizations which has always been inadequate has been severely cut over the past decade.

If we are to make sure that all New Jerseyans participate in the recovery from this pandemic, we have to make additional investments in communities that were already behind prior to the pandemic and have fallen further behind during the pandemic.

The Latino Action Network asks that American Rescue Plan funds be used to:

  • Provide an additional $2 million to the Center for Hispanic Policy, Research, and Development targeted for direct services.  These services should include expanding the capacity of community based organizations to provide affordable immigration legal services and multi-service outreach in Latino communities.  These multi-service programs will help offset the gap in COVID-19 testing and vaccination among Latino immigrants, as well as identify families in need of mediation for other basic life needs.
  • Provide sufficient support for the Fund for Excluded New Jerseyans so that all people left behind from aid that are in need are able to access relief.  Each individual that was excluded from aid during the pandemic should receive a $2,000 payment. Furthermore, many workers who lost their jobs were excluded from aid and have not received a penny in unemployment insurance, despite the fact that undocumented workers have paid more than $1.3 billion into the system over the past ten years in New Jersey. The Fund for Excluded New Jerseyans should also provide unemployment-like benefits in the form of $600 per week payments to workers that lost their jobs during the pandemic, but do not qualify for unemployment insurance due to their immigration status.  The total cost of this program is approximately $989 million.
The State of New Jersey is in a unique position to make investments that will make sure that Latinos get to participate in the State’s recovery.  We ask that you do so.
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