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Biden policies have benefited Latinos but there's still a hefty to-do list, group says

Hispanics have seen direct economic and health care access gains, but "to 'build back better' will require the Biden administration to build back fairer," UnidosUS' Janet Murguía says.
President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the front lawn of the White House on April 27, 2021.
President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the front lawn of the White House on April 27, 2021.Bill O'Leary / The Washington Post via Getty Images file

The Biden administration’s first 100 days have resulted in tangible benefits for the nation's Latinos, but the national civil rights group UnidosUS says a robust “to-do” list awaits him.

The nation’s largest Latino advocacy group is praising the direct-to-the-pocket provisions to Hispanic people in President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan. 

UnidosUS President Janet Murguía said the group has begun what it calls a Latino Inclusion Tracker, something of a report card to monitor Biden's progress and fulfillment of campaign promises. The group planned to release the first installment Monday.

"After the last four years, the first 100 days has given the Latino community restored hope, a fresh start and a path to a better future," Murguía said in an email to NBC News. "But we are just at the beginning and concerns remain."

In addition to stimulus payments, the American Rescue Plan provided more money for food for Latinos. About 6.5 million Latinos were receiving help in buying food in 2018, and UnidosUS said the number likely went up during the pandemic.  

On health care, Biden’s command of the Covid-19 response and measures that extended enrollment in the Affordable Care Act — temporarily reducing "Obamacare" health care premiums for low- to moderate-income families — have been critical for Latinos disproportionately affected by the pandemic, the group said.

There are early signs that extending the Obamacare special enrollment period proved beneficial, according to the report — call centers saw an uptick in Spanish-language calls.

Increasing health care access is crucial since around 25 percent of Latinos lacked health insurance as of March, according to census figures. In 2019, 19 percent of Hispanics lacked coverage, compared to 6.3 percent of non-Hispanic whites.

It also provides more money for reopening public schools. Nationally, 28 percent of children enrolled in public school in fall 2018 were Hispanic, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. 

Biden's actions have also benefited Latino families of mixed-immigration status. The American Rescue Plan made more than 5 million Social Security number–holding spouses and children from mixed-status families eligible for cash relief, and withdrew a Trump-era housing proposal which would have put 55,000 children in mixed-status homes at risk of eviction.

Inclusion "in every part of the recovery"

Borrowing Biden's slogan for his economic recovery plan, Murguía said that for the Latino community, "to 'build back better' will require that the administration build back fairer. "We have to make sure that all Latinos are included in every part of the recovery," she said.

Before the pandemic hit, Latinos had just recovered financially to income and wealth levels they were at before the Great Recession.

There are some fears that Latinos may not tap into or get all that is available to them in the American Rescue Plan — including and beyond stimulus checks.

But UnidosUS placed high on Biden's “to-do” list the need to collect and disseminate complete and accurate Covid-19 race and ethnicity data at the national and state levels.

Throughout the pandemic, there has been incomplete information on the impact of Covid-19 on people of color. It took several months before the disproportionate deaths and hospitalizations in Black, Latino, Native American and other population groups showed up in data.

That pattern continues with race and ethnicity data collected for just over half the country’s vaccinations. 

An NBC News analysis showed at the end of April a mixed bag in the quality of state data, and at least two states not reporting race and ethnicity data at all.

"The simple fact is, because of the disproportionate role Latinos have played as essential workers, we must get Covid-19 under control or our community will be left behind," Murguía said.

Biden still needs to step up outreach and outreach funding to get more Hispanics vaccinated and enrolled in Obamacare. The administration also needs to improve enrollment of Latinos who are eligible but not participating in the federal food stamps program, Unidos said. 

The group called for more funding and work to ensure English as a second language, or ESL, students aren’t left behind in the pandemic and emergency aid to students under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, and for students without legal status.

UnidosUS wants Biden to call for doubling the the maximum federal Pell grant for college students to $12,990.

The list also calls for more action on housing, worker benefits such as paid sick leave, and strong advocacy for immigration legalization legislation.

Biden won about 65 percent of votes from Latinos in the 2020 election, including in key states such as Arizona and Nevada. But he fell short in Florida.

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