US lawmakers introduce legislation to help ‘vulnerable communities’ access COVID-19 resources

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U.S. Sens. Kamala Harris, D-California and Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, along with U.S. Reps. Judy Chu, D-California, Raúl Grijalva, D-Arizona and Lou Correa, D-California, have ushered legislation to ensure that “vulnerable communities” have access to health care and resources during the COVID-19, or the novel coronavirus, pandemic.

The bill, titled the “Coronavirus Immigrant Families Protection Act,” would ensure that all communities have access to COVID-19 testing and treatment, according to a press release. Additionally, the legislation would provide funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, to conduct public outreaches in multiple languages to ensure that vulnerable communities have access to relief measures and public health information.

“This virus impacts everyone – it does not care about your race, your ethnicity, your gender, your age, or your immigration status,” Harris said in the press release. “No one should fear going to the grocery store or receiving care from the hospital.

Specifically, the legislation would ensure that anyone would have access to COVID-19 testing, treatment and vaccines by providing everyone Medicaid coverage regardless of their immigrant status. The bill would also prohibit discrimination based on a person’s perceived or actual immigration status for COVID-19-related services.

The legislation would also provide $100 million for the CDC to provide outreaches to “hard-to-reach” populations that include minorities, those with limited English proficiency and the disabled.

A broad number of organizations have expressed their support for the bill, including the Center for Law and Social Policy, or CLASP, National Immigration Law Center, Immigrant Legal Resource Center and the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights, among others.

According to CLASP executive director Olivia Golden, the center is proud to endorse the legislation.

“We applaud Senator Hirono for recognizing that our ability to overcome this crisis will depend on the ability of everyone to access the help they need, including the millions of immigrant workers who are on the frontlines of fighting this public health emergency,” Golden said in an email.

The legislation also aims to provide immigrant taxpayers who have an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, or ITIN, access to cash relief benefits. While Congress provided cash relief for lower-income Americans through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security, or CARES, Act, it did not include immigrant taxpayers who filed taxes with an ITIN, according to the press release.

ASUC Senator Melvin Tangonan said in an email that students and their families should have access to “necessary” resources during the pandemic and that Congress needs to continue the momentum in providing these resources to all.

“We must all come together to ensure that everyone in our communities, particularly the most vulnerable among us, have the support they need,” Hirono said in the press release. “That is how we are going to get through this pandemic. Together.”

Contact Marc Escobar at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @mescobar_dc.