During Coronavirus Economic Crash, Large Majorities of Latinos Can’t Get Unemployment Insurance

Vital lifeline for Hispanics now means a stronger recovery later

WASHINGTON, DC—Large majorities of Latinos in Arizona, Florida and Texas reported struggling to pay for food, utilities and rent despite receiving the now-expired $600 federal unemployment supplement provided under the CARES Act, according to a three-state poll released today by UnidosUS and Latino Decisions.

Roughly half of respondents in the three states (48–54 percent) applied for unemployment benefits, and even with the federal $600 per week, a majority of households (51–58 percent) said the benefits do not make up for a lot of their lost income, and that they still do not have enough money for necessities.

“The data makes it clear that the $600 weekly supplement payments have provided a vital financial cushion to Hispanic unemployed workers at a moment when returning to work is still not an option for many Latino workers,” says Latino Decisions Principal Sylvia Manzano, PhD.

The poll was conducted July 14–24, 2020, with 400 respondents (1,200 total) from each state. Full results are available at http://publications.unidosus.org/handle/123456789/2075.

According to the poll, between 74 and 77 percent of Hispanic workers suffered a pay cut, 48–54 percent lost gig or contract work, 45–47 percent lost a job, and 30–39 percent closed their own business.

Most Latino households have taken a hit to their income. A Somos/UnidosUS survey conducted in May found 60 percent of Latino households had either taken a pay cut or lost a job. The Pew Research Center shows that Latinos were disproportionately absorbing the economic hits even at the earliest stages of the pandemic. Their March survey found 51 percent of Latino households had absorbed a pay cut or job loss, compared to 33 percent among White non-Latino households.

Despite these hardships, many Hispanics in the three states didn’t even file for unemployment because they did not think they were eligible (39–44 percent), did not know how (25–28 percent), or found the process too complicated (20–26 percent). In fact, antiquated state-level unemployment systems made the issues worse, with fewer than half (44 percent in Arizona and Texas) and less than a quarter in Florida (23 percent) reporting they were successful in their first try at submitting their claim.

“Latinos are suffering more than others and are now staring at an economic cliff. Unless Congress acts to reauthorize the $600 per week federal unemployment supplement and provide funds for states to modernize their outdated systems, a significant and vital number of essential workers are not going to be able to take part in helping the economy recover,” says Orson Aguilar, Principal of Policy and Advocacy at UnidosUS. “There are more than 60 million Hispanics in the United States; we’re the second-largest ethnic group. You can’t have a complete economic recovery if such a large number of people are impoverished. Any recovery will be less robust than it could be.”