WASHINGTON – Juliet K. Choi, executive vice president of the Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum, issued the following statement on the enacted Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), the third aid package from the federal government to provide aid to state and local governments, health systems, businesses and individuals during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The $2 trillion dollar CARES Act provides urgently needed temporary aid and assistance to many Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, as one of the largest stimulus packages in our nation’s history, the CARES Act still leaves vulnerable immigrant populations at-risk. Much more must be done to protect immigrant families from the worst impacts of the virus. We must take a whole of community approach to ensuring that all Americans have the peace of mind that they can get the care they need when they need it.
Critical programs to expand access to health care and lift restrictions on Medicaid for immigrants covered with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, Temporary Protected Status or who received their green cards in the past five years were not included in the final bill. Additionally, a provision was removed from the final bill that would have fixed an earlier legislative error to provide access to Medicaid for individuals living in the U.S. under the Compacts of Free Association with the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia and Republic of Palau. These individuals all pay federal taxes and contribute greatly to our economy. To leave COFA communities out of the stimulus bill will not only leave part of our population vulnerable to COVID-19 and its financial repercussions but is purposefully neglectful to dismiss their contributions. Any expansion of coverage for testing and treatment of COVID-19 must include all immigrants and residents, regardless of status.
The legislation failed to include any assurances that materials will be developed for people who are Limited English Proficient (LEP) about COVID-19 or that interpretation services will be available to those seeking testing or treatment. Existing federal law and regulations require protections for LEP communities which is critical for the 25 million Americans, including over 6 million Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders who speak English less than very well. It is consequentially important to get clear, accurate, and easy to follow information and instructions to our communities, as well as to our frontline health care providers and first responders.
The resiliency of our nation requires and invites us to make that commitment of working together in safeguarding the well-being and health of every family and all our communities.”
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The Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum (APIAHF) influences policy, mobilizes communities, and strengthens programs and organizations to improve the health of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders.