Pandemic relief efforts did not reach immigrant families

Originally posted on CIDRAP.

Immigrant families living in the United States took some of the hardest economic hits during the COVID-19 pandemic, but benefited less from government assistance and relief programs than families with US-born caregivers.

The findings come from a group of researchers at Drexel University and were published today in JAMA Health Forum. The researchers looked at who exactly accessed the pandemic relief packages passed by Congress between March 2020 and March 2021 that offered assistance for food and mortgage and rent payments.

The study built on data collected as part of the ongoing repeat cross-sectional Children’s HealthWatch (CHW) study.

The researchers surveyed 1,396 caregivers in Boston, Baltimore, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, and Little Rock. Families with children aged 4 and younger were surveyed before the pandemic, and followed-up once between September of 2020 and June of 2021, during which time they were questioned about food insecurity, housing payments, and whether they partook in economic impact payments (EIP) in the form of stimulus checks and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

SNAP enrollment increased from 36 million people in 2019 to 44 million in 2020 to help families facing food insecurity. Similarly, the Internal Revenue Service sent out three rounds of  EIPs to over 92% of US households over the course of first year of the pandemic—in amounts ranging from $600 to $1,400 per adult and $500 to $1,400 per child—in an effort to address basic needs, including housing.

Of the study participants, 417 (30.0%) children had an immigrant mother. A total of 1,086 caregivers (80.8%) were renters. Among 1,393 responses, 716 caregivers (51.4%) had no education beyond high school, and nearly all children (1238 of 1388 responses; 89.2%) were publicly insured, the authors said.