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Jointly Addressing Health Disparities in Response to COVID-19 and Other Potential Pandemics

Photo of Representative Carlos Tobón

Rep. Carlos Tobón (RI), co-sponsor

Sponsored by Rep. Carlos Tobón (RI) and Rep. Kelly Fajardo (NM)

Reported to the Caucus by the NHCSL Healthcare Task Force
Rep. Louis Ruiz (KS), Chair

Ratified by the Caucus on December 11, 2020

WHEREAS, Hispanic Americans, African Americans and other people of color have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic; and,

WHEREAS, a growing amount of data suggests that this is due to the well-known social determinants of health disproportionately affecting people of color in the United States, the socioeconomic disadvantages, like wage disparities, racial disparities in housing and decreased access to healthcare, including as a consequence of bias, that have long affected their health outcomes; and,

WHEREAS, for example, Hispanic Americans have been more likely to be exposed to COVID-19 because they are proportionally more likely to be, or to live with someone considered to be, part of the essential workforce unable to work from home; and,

WHEREAS, Latinos disproportionately lack access to paid sick leave despite their risk of exposure to COVID-19 in frontline jobs, this includes many essential workers like food-delivery workers; and,

WHEREAS, people of color are more likely to live in densely populated areas and in multigenerational housing situations, both of which create a higher risk for the spread of highly contagious diseases like COVID-19; and,

WHEREAS, many urban Latino and African American families double- and triple-up in homes when rent is unaffordable, thus making distancing in the home impossible; and,

WHEREAS, that includes caregivers, cashiers, sanitation workers, farm workers and public transit employees; and,

WHEREAS, poor housing availability and violations of residential codes for asbestos, mold and cockroaches increase the risk and prevalence of chronic respiratory and pulmonary diseases.; and,

WHEREAS, economic inequality also impacts access to healthy foods, leading to other chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease, obesity and diabetes; and,

WHEREAS, known as comorbidities, many of those chronic diseases predispose to more serious complications from COVID-19, a situation that is likely to recur in future pandemics; and,

WHEREAS, for example, the Centers for Disease Control released information that people with asthma may be at greater risk of dying from COVID-19; and,

WHEREAS, according to the American Lung Association, compared to non-Hispanic whites, Hispanics with asthma are less likely to be in the care of a regular doctor or clinic, to be prescribed appropriate medicines, or to have access to specialized care, and, more likely to end up being treated in the emergency room or hospitalized in a crisis; and,

WHEREAS, despite bearing the brunt of the front-line work, Latinos still lost jobs and income as as result of COVID-19 at a higher rate than other groups, with 61% Hispanic (and 44% African Americans) reporting they or someone in their household experienced a job or wage loss in the initial weeks of the pandemic, compared to 38% of white adults;[1] and,

WHEREAS, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, by August 2020, nearly 4 million Hispanic Americans/Latino or 10.5 percent were unemployed, compared to 13 percent for Blacks, 10.7 percent for Asians and 7.3 percent for whites;[2] and,

WHEREAS, UnidosUS, a Latino advocacy group, believes the numbers underestimate the real joblessness rate because Latinos are less likely to seek and receive unemployment benefits.[3] as shared in their May 2020 Latino job report.

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators calls on lawmakers to ensure that all Americans have access to affordable health care, portable benefits like paid sick leave and family leave, and stronger protections from workplace hazards and discrimination, during and after the pandemic; and,

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we call on our fellow Caucuses of Color to establish a Joint Task Force on Racial Disparities that will,

  • Study the root causes of health disparities based on race that lead to comorbidity issues for communities of color to address the impact of COVID-19 and recommend actions to address the social determinants that lead to health disparities.
  • Identify metrics and measurable outcomes to tackle the issues of health disparity;
    1. Wage inequality
    2. Access to care
    3. Rising rents
    4. Co-Morbidity
    5. Social determinants of health
  • Recommend actions to increase transparency in reporting data regarding the racial and ethnic impact of hypertension, cancers, asthma, COVID-19, remove barriers to accessing physical and mental health care;
  • Identify ways to reduce the impact of medical bias that lead to bias toward white patients over patients of color in all areas in the delivery of health services ie. testing and treatment;
  • Create pathways to solve the environmental and infrastructure factors contributing to increased exposure during pandemics resulting in mortality; and develop and improve systems for supporting long-term economic recovery and physical and mental health care following a pandemic;
  • Conduct virtual and if and when possible in person meetings with stakeholders who are are informed, educated, and empowered in impacted areas to identify and address solutions. Stakeholder outreach will include, but is not limited to, community leaders, partner organizations, tribal governments, local government officials, and other elected officials representing the impacted areas;
  • Perform outreach to ensure the general public is informed about racial disparities, social determinants of health are engaged and empowered in the impact of COVID-19, and the work of the Task Force;
  • Identify avenues of funding for combatting health disparities in the impact of COVID-19;
  • Recommend changes in state and federal laws relevant to combatting racial disparities in the impact of and response to pandemics;
  • Identify other issues and provide recommendations on any other matters relevant to addressing racial disparities in the impact of and response to pandemics.



[1] Pew Research Center

[2] https://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/empsit.pdf

[3] UnidosUS, Latino Jobs Report: Latino Unemployment Rate Remains the Highest at 17.6%, p. 2 (June 5, 2020). http://publications.unidosus.org/bitstream/handle/123456789/2058/unidosus_latinojobsreport_60520_v1.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y