Federal government needs to do more for small businesses, undocumented immigrants
On March 27, President Donald Trump signed the “Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act” (CARES Act) into law in an effort to mitigate the severe economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The legislation offers financial relief for businesses and a baseline cash payment of $1,200 for individual Americans earning less than $75,000, among other provisions. The CARES Act provides some much-welcomed assistance to those who are struggling to make ends meet during this unprecedented time, but not everyone who is in need of help will receive it.
Many small businesses were left out of the relief package, and instead million and billion-dollar enterprises have received hundreds of millions of the loan money meant for small businesses. In less than two weeks, the CARES Act’s Paycheck Protection Program ran out of the $349 billion in small business loan funding allocated. Although the average loan amount totaled about $250,000, several companies, including national restaurant chains Potbelly and Shake Shack, received loans of $10 million. To incentivize keeping Americans employed, the repayments on these loans are forgiven if a business retains or rehires its workers — something that’s far easier for multi-million dollar firms to do than it is for the multitude of smaller businesses most impacted by the shutdown.
With many small businesses left unable to pay their employees, people are being laid off or furloughed from their jobs daily, including millions of undocumented immigrants who are ineligible for unemployment insurance or the individual cash payments from the government — even if they pay taxes. It’s not just those without Social Security numbers who are affected; American citizens who file taxes jointly with an undocumented spouse or are dependents of undocumented parents are similarly unable to get help. Without this needed insurance, undocumented workers and their families are forced to continue working or looking for work, further putting them and others at risk of exposure to the virus.
The CARES Act also set aside several billions of dollars for emergency student financial aid, but the Department of Education has expressed that this funding is only available for students who qualify for federal financial aid. This means that the nation’s hundreds of thousands of undocumented college students cannot receive the help they need to cover housing and living costs while getting an education.
Fortunately, for undocumented immigrants living in California, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that the state will partner with philanthropists to provide $125 million to support the state’s roughly 2.5 million residents without legal status. California has chosen to do the right thing, but the fund’s $500 per adult and $1,000 per household maximum payouts pale in comparison to the size of the CARES Act payments. Millions of undocumented immigrants who live in other states are still left with nothing.
It is unconscionable that, in the midst of a severe recession brought on by a life-threatening pandemic, the federal government has chosen to spend millions of tax-payer dollars on low-interest loans for wealthy, publicly-traded companies at the expense of small businesses, as well as bar tax-paying immigrants and its own citizens from getting the financial assistance they so desperately need.
Although Congress is expected to consider authorizing additional financial relief packages soon, the federal government’s failure to provide proper assistance to small businesses and willful exclusion of undocumented immigrants and their families from cash payments is a disgrace. During a pandemic that affects everyone, the government made a conscious decision to pick and choose who is worth its help.
For those of us who are fortunate enough to remain safely in our homes, maintain our source of income and enjoy the “blessings” of a relaxed lifestyle that this pandemic has brought, it is important to keep in mind those who have lost loved ones or are struggling to keep their homes and livelihoods. The Editorial Board implores Congress and the Trump administration to expand relief for small businesses that truly need it, and to make all U.S. residents, regardless of legal status, eligible for financial relief.
Written by: The Editorial Board