Monday, June 17, 2024

De la Isla: Latinos find many benefits in stimulus

In the most recent edition of Hispanic Link, Jose de la Isla explores the details of the stimulus package passed by Congress and examines how it potentially could have a positive impact on Hispanics families and businesses.

The landmark $789 billion legislation to jump-start economic activity throughout the nation, if fairly distributed, will have a significant impact on Hispanic households and small businesses. The measure passed its final hurdle in the U.S. Senate Feb. 13 by a vote of 60-38.

With nearly one in ten of the nation’s 22 million Latino workers (9.7 percent) unemployed, the legislation represents hope at a moment of great national economic uncertainty. The national unemployment rate is 7.6 percent.

The Economic Policy Institute projects that without a recovery package, Latino unemployment could reach 13.1 percent by 2010.

How effectively the legislation is implemented may well be the crucible for Latino workers and their families. This concern is emphasized by National Council of La Raza President Janet Murguia, who singles out for praise expanded tax credits for families with children.

The legislation lowers the income threshold needed to qualify for the Child Tax Credit from $8,500 to $3,000. It allows more needy families to receive a larger credit, which could reach 13 million children. About 2.9 million children live in families eligible for the first time.

The stimulus plan also expands the Earned Income Tax Credit for larger families. EITC provides better access to unemployment insurance and boosts Medicaid and nutritional assistance as “essential to helping families weather the economic storm,” she says.

The legislation provides $2 billion for the Neighborhood Stabilization Program that helps governments and nonprofit groups buy and rehabilitate foreclosed and vacant properties. It also encourages states to expand unemployment insurance eligibility for part-time and low-wage workers. A significant number of Latinos is in this portion of the labor force.

The final package, however, did not include the proposals championed by Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Sen. Robert Mennndez (D-N.J.) for adult education and training targeting limited-English-proficient workers.

Other portions of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act — popularly referred to as the “economic recovery plan” and the “stimulus bill” — will rebuild deteriorating roads, bridges and schools (as infrastructure) and invest in the economy. In turn, people go back on payrolls and build savings, as businesses create some new jobs and restore others.

Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-N.Y.), who chairs the House Small Business Committee, hails the legislation as a “victory for struggling entrepreneurs.” She points to the $21 billion for small business, intending to keep or create 634,000 jobs.

For business owners using the Small Business Administration, it means increases in affordable credit and reduction to zero fees for some SBA-backed loans, while the portion on the amount guaranteed by the government is increased. There is relief for loans already in secondary markets.

New funds are being made available for investment corporations in growth areas. An infusion of $30 million has also been made to the SBA’s micro-loan program.

Hispanic wage earners may also benefit from the $720 million for the border trade infrastructure upgrading it should produce as a result of the economic stimulus. Funds go to respond to trade and security demands for the nation’s ports. This infusion is slated to create or save 4 million jobs next year.

Updating border ports’ infrastructure will help sustain jobs and mitigate massive output losses resulting from nationwide border congestion, which in 2007 cost 55,675 jobs at California land ports alone. Cross-border trade at U.S. land ports in 2007 supported three-quarters of a trillion dollars in North American economic activity and contributed more than $363 billion, over 2.5 percent of the Gross Domestic Product, directly to the national economy.

Some 34 non-border states list Canada, Mexico or both as their top two export markets.

“Sound implementation will determine whether this package will deliver good jobs for Latino workers,” Murguía concludes.

(Text and details of the legislation are found at

(Jose de la Isla writes a weekly commentary for Hispanic Link News Service. Email him at

(Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service,

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