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The economic impact of COVID-19 pandemic on Latinas

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Unemployment among Latinas has nearly tripled since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Children of undocumented women are also feeling the fallout of the crisis. CBS News correspondent Lilia Luciano joined CBSN to explain why Latinas are struggling and if President Joe Biden's third stimulus bill will offer more aid to mixed-status families.

Video Transcript

TANYA RIVERO: Latinas are among the hardest-hit groups of the COVID-19 pandemic. New research shows unemployment among Latinas more than tripled since the pandemic began. A third of Latinas with families say they are behind on their rent.

The burden of the pandemic is also being felt by their children. Andrea is the daughter of an undocumented immigrant. She told CBS News correspondent Lilian Luciano about her struggle to provide for her family and stay in college.

ANDREA HERNANDEZ: Work, take her to the hospital, take care of my sister. I didn't expect to be responsible for every single detail within my household.

LILIA LUCIANO: No rental assistance?

ANDREA HERNANDEZ: Nothing. That's not available at all for her. So it's just, OK, how can I make ends meet? You can't afford to be poor. Being poor is the most expensive way of life.

TANYA RIVERO: Joining me now for more on her original reporting is CBS News correspondent Lilia Luciano. Hi, Lilia. Great to see you. Can you give us some insight into how the COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately impacted the Latino community? What are some of the factors that have led to more infections within this community?

LILIA LUCIANO: Good to see you, too, Tanya. There are many factors. I would say, you know, one of the biggest ones, which is-- it's an intricate, it's a complex issue, is just the health care inequities. Latinos, especially undocumented immigrant communities across the country, haven't had access. And even where there is access to health care, proper health care, there is something like a public charge rule that impacts their status or their likelihood of getting a permanent residency if they rely on public programs.

So a recent study found that a fourth of Latinos in California are undocumented. People in California, low-income Latinos in California didn't access public services for health care, and that had an impact in their COVID outcomes. Another big factor is that Latinos are overrepresented in the essential workforce. So people who work in public-facing jobs have to take public transportation. People who work in the service industry and restaurants, in housekeeping, a lot of the women that I talked to for this story work in those kinds of jobs that were kind of the first ones to go, so they were impacted financially, if not also health wise, because they were infected at higher rates.

And then another factor is crowded living conditions. You have more Latinos, especially here in California, you have more wage earners in those essential jobs per households than compared to white residents. So of course, the pandemic has-- has brought together a combination of factors that have made it lethal for a lot of people in the Latino community, but also terribly impacted financially.

TANYA RIVERO: So we heard Andrea there tell you about the fact that there's very little aid available to undocumented immigrants. Are there any options available to help families like hers? And if so, might immigrants be hesitant to apply?

LILIA LUCIANO: That's right, Tanya. There-- there is-- and there are several programs, and it depends on where you live. For instance, here in California, Governor Newsom recently signed the Golden State Stimulus package, which does give undocumented immigrants in California a stimulus check, those that were excluded from the federal aid that was available through the CARES Act. Then there's the issue of mixed families, mixed-status families. So there are-- the CARES Act did not send checks to either undocumented immigrants or people living with undocumented immigrants.

And it's estimated that about 17 million people in this country are in a mixed-status home. And those people had been excluded. In the December check, they weren't excluded. And it sounds like the new stimulus package they won't be excluded. So if you live with an undocumented person, that doesn't remove you from eligibility to get a stimulus check.

But of course, there's also the fear factor. People who are undocumented don't-- don't like to, basically, you know, poke their head out of the system, because it's a system that can target them for being undocumented. And if they are relying on public assistance of any kind, which is rental assistance, and housing vouchers, and things like that, that might consider them in the system as a public charge, and that might affect their likelihood of getting residence.

Not to mention lack of access in-language if you speak Spanish, or there's many people, at least here in California, across the country who speak other languages, other native languages from, say, Central America, and so they might not have in-language access to resources and information. So there's just many factors and lack of accessibility.

Sometimes-- COVID also impacted the-- I'm sorry-- the likelihood of getting the vaccine was also a problem for undocumented immigrants and Latino communities here, because the first systems to sign up for the vaccine you needed to have an iPhone. Things like that really do change the possibilities and affect the possibilities of getting access to health care, to any kind of assistance. And even when it is available, you might not know it's available, or you might be afraid to apply because, ultimately, you do want to become a citizen or a permanent resident, and you feel like that might impact your ability to-- to get that.

TANYA RIVERO: And you spoke with many other families and women in your reporting, specifically also about the fear of being evicted. What did you learn about the struggle to find and keep housing during the pandemic? I mean, we know that housing in the Los Angeles area is incredibly expensive to begin with. Add that to this pandemic, it must be just overwhelming for some families.

LILIA LUCIANO: That's right, Tanya. I mean, for years, I've been covering the California housing crisis, and it is ridiculously expensive. Some of the women-- one of the women I talked to for this story pays, like, $3,000 in rent for a two or three bedroom-- I believe it was a two bedroom. I mean, that is so high that is just unthinkable compared to, say-- I mean, I lived in Miami for a long time. And rent there was, like-- was a fraction of what it is here. So it's extremely expensive.

Another issue that a lot of undocumented people are facing is there is this thought, there's this belief that there is an eviction moratorium. And you can't call it, really, a moratorium, because many people are getting evicted. I've talked to tenants who are being harassed by landlords and threatened. They're told that-- the landlord will tell them I'm going to call ICE on you if you don't pay the rent.

And there's a process in place. There are protections. You can be protected from an eviction if you write a letter, and there are these steps you need to take. But of course, there's also, like I said before, you know, that in-language lack of access to information, not understanding the system. Sometimes landlords will-- you know, will play the system in a way that you don't even know that you're about to get evicted until you get the sheriff at your door.

In this case in particular, in-- in Esperanza's case, the woman and her daughter that we featured, I didn't have time to tell this on the story, but their case, they were subletting from somebody who died of COVID. And the landlord didn't know that they were subletting. And so because Esperanza or Andrea's name is not on the list, they can get evicted, because they're not protected because their name is not on the lease. And that is the case for a lot of undocumented people here in California. So you know, people are facing homelessness and are facing a lack of resources available to them.

TANYA RIVERO: Lilia Luciano, thank you so much for joining us. We so appreciate it.

LILIA LUCIANO: Thank you, Tanya.