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Aid During the COVID-19 Pandemic 



photo by cnn

Three pieces of key federal legislation were recently enacted to help individuals, hospitals, businesses, and local governments manage the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic fallout.


This crisis will exact a toll on the poor, the undocumented, asylum seekers and those living in the shadows of our society. While these legislative packages contain critical aid, they don’t go far enough. With these packages, the government has left undocumented persons and tax-paying families with mixed-status behind by denying them access to critical relief. The needs of the vulnerable and those on the margins should be prioritized and we must ensure that they are not left behind when it comes to testing, treatment and economic relief. 


Read more to find out what’s in the aid packages and how they might help you.


Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act

  • Provides $8.3 billion in emergency funding to federal agencies for the COVID-19 response

    • $6.2 billion for the Department of Health and Human Services for research and development into vaccines, treatments and state and local responses 

    • $20 million for the Small Business Administration disaster loan program 

  • $1.6 billion for the US government’s international response, including funding to support humanitarian assistance, global detection and emergency response 


What this means for you: This bill is mostly aimed at increasing federal agencies’ capacity to contain the pandemic.


Families First Coronavirus Response Act 

  • Free coronavirus testing for all individuals (not subject to insurance copay or deductible) 

  • Paid sick leave for employees unable to go to work because of coronavirus (applies to businesses with 500 or fewer employees) 

  • Up to 10 weeks of paid family medical leave (applies to businesses with 500 or fewer employees) 

  • Additional funding to states for unemployment insurance; eases requirements to receive unemployment (like the active work search requirement)

  • Emergency funding to combat food insecurity and provide food assistance to families 


What this means for you: You won’t have to pay to get a test for the virus (though that doesn’t guarantee a test is available) and you may be eligible for paid sick leave and paid family medical leave from your job. This could also help if you’re food-insecure.



At a cost of more than $2 trillion, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act is the largest stimulus bill passed in US history. The law includes: 

  • Direct payments of $1200 to every American adult earning up to $75,000 (plus $500 per child under 17)

  • $150 billion relief fund for state and local governments (El Paso will receive about $5.7 million in aid to fund coronavirus-related projects and improvements)

  • Expanded unemployment benefits for those who lose their jobs due to coronavirus (including larger payments and expansion of benefits to independent contractors and self-employed workers)

  • Disaster loan programs for small businesses so they can keep employees on the payroll and cover expenses 

  • Forbearance for federal student loans and federally-backed mortgages 

  • $500 billion in loans for affected businesses, like the airline industry 

  • $127 billion to reimburse hospitals for coronavirus-related expenses, develop a vaccine, expand tele-medicine and improve supply chains for protective equipment like masks  

  • Internet connectivity for students learning from home, tele-health providers and rural communities


What this means for you: If you are an American citizen or have a Social Security number and pay taxes, you will likely receive a direct payment for yourself and your children. If you own a small business, you can apply to receive a loan. If you have a federal student loan or a mortgage, you are eligible for forbearance. If you’ve lost your job, you’re likely eligible for expanded unemployment benefits.



While federal aid is an important step in addressing the pandemic and advances progressive policies like family medical leave, too many members of our border community will be left out. Undocumented immigrants and Dreamers, many of whom work in essential industries like healthcare, are not eligible for direct aid payments and unemployment expansion even as they shoulder the burden of keeping themselves and their families healthy and fed. While coronavirus testing is free for all, there remains a critical scarcity of tests--and treatment is not covered, creating a heavy burden for the uninsured. And the partial border closure will have a severe impact on local businesses that depend on binational business to survive.


As heavy and as difficult as the pandemic is for so many, it is also an opportunity for all of us to create a better world, one where every person can live in peace and dignity. It has never been clearer that access to healthcare, food, clean water, shelter and economic security are human rights. With the clarity that often emerges from crisis, we can work together to create transformative change and come out of this a stronger and more just society.


Please call your local, state and federal elected officials and ask that future aid bills give priority to the undocumented and those living on the margins. Write an op-ed in your local paper emphasizing how important it is that we prioritize the most vulnerable in this crisis. If you receive money from the recent stimulus bill, you can also give $1 to a cause that supports our local community, like El Pasoans Fighting Hunger or Hope Border Institute


Keep up to date on everything social justice at the border with HOPE's Frontera Facts. You can read every Frontera Facts by clicking the button below.

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