FACT SHEET: The Biden-Harris Administration Advances Equity and Opportunity for Latino Communities Across the Country
The Biden-Harris Administration continues to deliver for the Latino Community by expanding access to health care, lowering drug prices for seniors, providing student debt relief, creating well-paid jobs and lowering Hispanic unemployment to its lowest rate in history.
President Biden is leading the charge to ensure that all Latino families and communities can live with dignity, respect, and achieve greater economic opportunity. Hardworking Latino families and businesses commit every day to strengthening communities throughout America and far too often, their sacrifices and contributions as leaders in the community, business, academia, labor and government go unrecognized. The Biden-Harris Administration is working to protect and advance civil rights, voter protections, racial equity, and economic opportunity for all Latino communities.
During National Hispanic Heritage Month, the Biden-Harris Administration celebrates the progress made to advance opportunity in Latino communities and recommits to delivering on the promise of equity for all Latino families and communities.
Economic Opportunity for Latino Families and Communities. President Biden signed into law three historic pieces of legislation – Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), American Rescue Plan (ARP), and Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) – to deliver on the promise to ensure greater opportunity for all, including every Latino family and community.
The American Rescue Plan powered a historically strong economic recovery that ensured that Latino workers and families are not left behind. That has meant record drops in unemployment for Latino workers, historically low credit card delinquency rates – which hit Black and Latino borrowers hardest, historically low foreclosures and evictions, and historically low Latino child poverty.
In past, weaker labor market recoveries, Latino workers faced high joblessness rates for years. Thanks to the American Rescue Plan, Latino unemployment saw its largest calendar year drop on record in 2021 – and has continued falling in 2022. In 2021, the expanded Child Tax Credit and other policies in the American Rescue Plan led to a 43% reduction in Latino child poverty to record lows.
The Biden-Harris Administration’s vital policies and programs include:
Building an Economy that Works for Latino People and Families. The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) lowers prescription drug costs, health care costs, and energy costs. President Biden and Congressional Democrats successfully fought to pass this historic legislation to help all Americans, including Latinos, who have been at the frontline of climate change, by lowering costs, advancing environmental justice while building a cleaner future, and growing the economy from the bottom up and the middle out by creating good-paying, union jobs across the country. The IRA will also lower the deficit and ask the ultra-wealthy and corporations to pay their fair share. No one earning under $400,000 per year will pay a penny more in taxes.
Combatting Climate Change and Lowering Energy Costs. The IRA will bring down energy costs for Latino families and create thousands of good jobs, all while reducing climate pollution and ensuring that we have a clean, secure future energy supply:
- Make Home Efficiency Upgrades More Affordable. Households can save up to 30% with tax credits for efficient heating and cooling equipment that will save them hundreds of dollars on utility bills. Households can also save up to 30% with tax credits for home construction projects on windows, doors, insulation, or other weatherization measures that prevent energy from escaping homes. When families need to replace or upgrade stoves, ovens, or other home appliances, they can receive direct rebates when buying more energy efficient and electric appliances that can lower future utility bills by at least $350 per year. Families in affordable housing units will benefit from resources to support projects that boost efficiency, improve indoor air quality, make clean energy or electrification upgrades, or strengthen their climate resilience.
- Create Economic Opportunities and Good Paying Jobs. The IRA spurs solar project development in environmental justice communities by providing a 20% bonus credit for solar projects on federally-subsidized affordable housing projects and a 10% bonus credit for solar projects in low-income communities. It also creates a new Clean Energy and Sustainability Accelerator that will seed state and local clean energy financing institutions, support the deployment of distributed zero-emission technologies like heat-pumps and community solar and EV charging, while prioritizing over 50% of its investments in disadvantaged communities. The IRA expands clean energy tax credits for wind, solar, nuclear, clean hydrogen, clean fuels, and carbon capture including a bonus credit for businesses that pay workers a prevailing wage and hire using registered apprenticeship programs – so that the clean energy we use creates good paying jobs.
Making the Tax Code Fairer. President Trump and Congressional Republicans’ 2017 tax law only made an unfair tax system worse.
- Inflation Reduction Act: The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 is a critical step forward in making our tax code fairer. It will raise revenue by:
- Ensuring that high-income people and large corporations pay the taxes they already owe.
- Cracking down on large, profitable corporations that currently get away with paying no federal income tax.
- Imposing a 1% surcharge on corporate stock buybacks that will encourage businesses to invest.
- The legislation’s tax reforms won’t just raise revenue to finance critically needed investments to lower costs and combat climate change, they are also an important component of building an economy that rewards work rather than wealth and doesn’t let the rich and powerful get away with playing by a separate set of rules.
Critical Investments in Latino Families & Communities in the American Rescue Plan. When President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan (ARP) into law, it provided a lifeline to millions of families who were struggling from the economic fallout of the pandemic.
- Historic Expansion of the Child Tax Credit (CTC) – cutting child poverty to record lows for Latino children: The American Rescue Plan (ARP) expanded the 2021 Child Tax Credit to help families with the costs of raising their kids and provided the first ever monthly payments for a major tax credit. Before the ARP, half of all Latino children lived in families with too little in income to qualify for the full Child Tax Credit. The American Rescue Plan’s expansion of the 2021 Child Tax Credit helped drive a 43% reduction in Latino Child Poverty in 2021, cutting Latino child poverty to record lows. President Biden is committed to fighting child poverty by pushing for Congress to permanently extend the expanded CTC.
- The American Rescue Plan tripled the EITC for 17 million workers without dependent children: The American Rescue Plan nearly tripled the Earned Income Tax Credit for workers without dependent children for 2021 from $540 to $1,500 and extended the credit to younger and older workers. This was the first increase in the credit in real terms since 1993. This expansion greatly helped Latino workers – 26% of all workers expected to benefit are Latino.
- Historic investments to keep families in their homes. Latino families have disproportionately faced foreclosures and evictions in the past – with Latino neighborhoods facing roughly twice the share of foreclosures as their share of all homes in the aftermath of the Great Recession. Biden Administration policies have kept evictions and foreclosures historically low during the pandemic.
- Facing historic levels of housing instability, President Biden took significant action, extending the CDC’s eviction moratorium three times – and standing up the $46 billion first-of-its kind Emergency Rental Assistance program to stop evictions across the nation.
- The program has helped 7 million renters and their families, and kept eviction filings 23% below historic averages over the last year. Over 80 percent of assistance went to low-income renters – and a disproportionate share went to Latino households, according to Treasury data.
Advancing Equity and Economic Opportunity for Latinos Through Historic Infrastructure Investments. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law addresses economic disparities in our economy and the consequences of decades of disinvestment in America’s infrastructure that have disproportionately burdened communities of color. Through critical investments, the legislation increases access to good-paying jobs, affordable high-speed internet, reliable public transit, clean drinking water and other resources, to ensure that all communities – including Latino communities – get a fair shot at the American dream.
Ensuring Latino Homeowners Get Full Value for their Homes. In March 2022, the Biden-Harris Administration’s Interagency Task Force on Property Appraisal and Valuation Equity (PAVE) released the PAVE Action Plan, which represents the most wide-ranging set of reforms ever put forward to advance equity in the home appraisal process. The Action Plan details a set of more than 20 commitments and actions across all stages of the valuation process, including: making the appraisal industry more accountable; empowering consumers with critical information and assistance if they receive a valuation that is lower than expected; preventing algorithmic bias in home valuation; cultivating an appraiser profession that is well-trained and looks like the communities it serves; and leveraging federal data and expertise to inform policy, practice, and research on appraisal bias.
Providing Resources to Help Latino Owned Small Businesses Grow and Thrive. By January 2021, millions of small businesses had been forced to shutter their doors due to the combined impact of the pandemic and the obstacles many businesses faced in accessing pandemic relief programs. Minority-owned businesses were hit the hardest, with one study finding that the number of Latino business owners declined by nearly one-third during the first two months of the pandemic. In response, the Biden-Harris Administration delivered over $450 billion in emergency relief to more than six million small businesses in 2021 alone. These actions have helped drive an unprecedented surge in entrepreneurship.
- In 2021, Hispanic entrepreneurs started new businesses at the fastest rate in more than a decade and 23 percent faster than pre-pandemic levels. The Administration is committed to continuing to help small businesses grow and create jobs for the long-haul, expanding access to capital by improving the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) flagship loan guarantee programs to expand the availability of small dollar loans and working with states, territories, and tribal governments to establish loan and equity investment programs through the Treasury Department’s State Small Business Credit Initiative. These efforts will allow the federal government to offer more than $300 billion in loans and equity investments through the end of the decade. And the Biden-Harris Administration has made important investments at SBA, Treasury, and the Minority Business Development Agency to help entrepreneurs access the support resources they need to succeed, including technical expertise, accountants, and lawyers.
- Additionally, the Administration has made over $8 billion in investments through Treasury’s Emergency Capital Investment Program (ECIP) to support eligible community development financial institutions (CDFIs) and minority depository institutions (MDIs) in lending to financially underserved borrowers and communities, including minority communities. For example, Latino Community Credit Union, based in North Carolina, received a more than $99 million ECIP investment.
Leveraging Federal Procurement to Narrow the Racial Wealth Gap for Latino Entrepreneurs and Families. Federal procurement is one of our most powerful tools to advance equity and build wealth in underserved communities, but only around 10 percent of federal agencies’ total eligible contracting dollars typically go to small disadvantaged businesses, a category under federal law for which Latino-owned businesses are presumed to qualify. Recognizing the importance of using the government’s purchasing power to advance opportunity and equity, the Biden-Harris Administration has launched an all-of-government effort to expand contracting opportunities for underserved small businesses, setting a new goal of increasing the share of contracts going to small disadvantaged businesses to 15 percent by 2025. This effort is projected to translate to an additional $100 billion to minority-owned businesses, helping more Americans realize their entrepreneurial dreams.
Protecting and Empowering Latino Workers. The Department of Labor (DOL) has taken a number of steps to promote safe working environments and empower Latino workers all across the country, including:
- Boosting farmworker wages. Boosting the national average wage for farmworkers to $13.99 per hour, a 4.5 percent pay increase over the prior year, and reversing a harmful 2-year “wage freeze” policy put in place by the prior administration.
- Expanding workers’ outreach. Launching an initiative that provides outreach and education to protect front-line, essential workers during and after the pandemic.
- Protecting Latino workers from heat exposure. Combating hazards associated with extreme heat exposure – both indoors and outdoors – through enhanced OSHA measures that better protect workers. This initiative will disproportionately benefit Latino workers who are more likely to face weather exposure. OSHA is implementing an enforcement initiative on heat-related hazards, developed a National Emphasis Program on heat inspections, and launching a rulemaking process to develop a workplace heat standard. In addition, the agency has formed a National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health Heat Injury and Illness Prevention Work Group to provide better understanding of challenges and to identify and share best practices to protect workers.
- Expanding high-quality job training opportunities, including for migrant and seasonal farmworkers. The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to ensuring that Latino workers have equitable access to good jobs in in-demand sectors – including those required to implement the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, CHIPS and Science Act, and the Inflation Reduction Act. This includes by supporting worker-centered sector strategies to better recruit, train, and retain a diverse, local, and skilled workforce; and strengthening community colleges, Registered Apprenticeships, and other high-quality education and training that leads to good jobs. Additionally, the Administration is using the National Farmworkers Job Training Program (NFJP), a nationally-directed, locally-administered program, to provide services for migrant and seasonal farmworkers and their dependents. As part of this program, Career Services and Training grant recipients help farmworkers and their dependents acquire necessary skills to either stabilize or advance in their agricultural jobs or obtain employment in new industries. For Program Year 2022, the Employment and Training Administration has committed to providing more than $88 million through the NFJP, where more than 75 percent of participants identify as Hispanic or Latino.
- Expanding Workforce Development through $40 billion in American Rescue Plan Funds Committed to Workforce: Since passage of the law, states, localities, community colleges, and local organizations have leveraged American Rescue Plan resources to deliver training, expand career paths, encourage more Registered Apprenticeships, provide retention and hiring bonuses in critical industries, and power efforts to help underserved Americans and those who face barriers to employment secure good jobs. These investments in the workforce – along with the American Rescue Plan’s direct payroll support that has saved or restored jobs across a broad set of industries – have contributed to record job growth since President Biden took office.
- For example: $40 million Build Back Better Regional Challenge Award for the West Texas Aerospace & Defense Manufacturing Coalition @ UT El Paso: The West Texas Aerospace and Defense Manufacturing coalition, led by the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP), received approximately $40 million to strengthen America’s aerospace and defense manufacturing capabilities by integrating legacy manufacturers in West Texas into the aerospace and defense (A&D) supply chain. While UTEP is a national leader in aerospace training with highly diverse engineering talent, the region loses these skilled workers to more established clusters with greater job opportunities. The West Texas Aerospace and Defense Manufacturing coalition has demonstrated the ability to train and educate a diverse STEM workforce in a region that includes a large rural population and is 82 percent Latino; this strategy will give those skilled workers the chance to build their careers and their businesses in West Texas.
Ensuring Equitable Educational Opportunity in K-12 Schools and an Education Beyond High School for Latino Students. President Biden has delivered the support necessary to enable every school to return to full-time, in-person instruction; accelerate academic achievement; address the mental health needs of students; and build school communities where all students feel they belong. At the same time, President Biden has worked to ensure equitable access to high-quality education for Latino students. These policies and programs include:
- Ensuring Educational Opportunity for Latino Students Through Student Loan Relief. President Biden believes that a post-high school education should be a ticket to a middle-class life, but for too many Latino students, the cost of borrowing for college is a lifelong burden that deprives them of that opportunity. President Biden released a three-part plan to provide more breathing room to America’s working families as they continue to recover from the strains associated with the COVID-19 pandemic:
- Providing targeted debt relief to address the financial harms of the pandemic, fulfilling the President’s campaign commitment. The Department of Education will provide up to $20,000 in debt cancellation to Pell Grant recipients with loans held by the Department of Education, and up to $10,000 in debt cancellation to non-Pell Grant recipients. 65% of Latino undergraduate borrowers are Pell Grant recipients. Borrowers are eligible for this relief if their individual income is less than $125,000 ($250,000 for married couples). No high-income individual or high-income household – in the top 5% of incomes – will benefit from this action. By targeting relief to borrowers with the highest economic need, the Administration’s actions are also likely to help narrow the racial wealth gap.
- Making the student loan system more manageable for current and future borrowers by:
- Cutting monthly payments in half for undergraduate loans. The Department of Education is proposing a new income-driven repayment plan that protects more low-income borrowers from making any payments and caps monthly payments for undergraduate loans at 5% of a borrower’s discretionary income—half of the rate that borrowers must pay now under most existing plans. This means that the average annual student loan payment will be lowered by more than $1,000 for both current and future borrowers.
- Fixing the broken Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program by proposing a rule that borrowers who have worked at a nonprofit, in the military, or in federal, state, tribal, or local government, receive appropriate credit toward loan forgiveness. These improvements will build on temporary changes the Department of Education has already made to PSLF, under which more than 175,000 public servants have already had more than $10 billion in loan forgiveness approved.
- Protecting future students and taxpayers by reducing the cost of college and holding schools accountable when they hike up prices. The President championed the largest increase to Pell Grants in the last decade – a $400 increase in the maximum award for students in the 2022-2023 school year. The FY23 budget also proposed doubling the maximum Pell Grant by 2029 to nearly $13,000. To further reduce the cost of college, the President will continue to fight to make community college free. Meanwhile, colleges have an obligation to keep prices reasonable and ensure borrowers get value for their investments, not debt they cannot afford. This Administration has already taken key steps to strengthen accountability, including in areas where the previous Administration weakened rules such as holding career colleges accountable for leaving their students with mountains of debt that they cannot repay.
- Supporting College Students and Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs). The ARP provided nearly $40 billion in support to institutions of higher education to serve students and ensure learning continues during the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes approximately $11 billion for HSIs. All students, regardless of citizenship, who met the appropriate criteria were eligible to receive financial aid from the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF). Furthermore, as part of the Administration’s commitment to help HSIs provide a pathway to opportunity for their students, the FY23 Budget requested increased funding to help HSIs and other Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs), Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), and Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs) expand their research and development infrastructure.
- Safely Reopening Schools. The American Rescue Plan has provided more than $122 billion to help K-12 schools continue to reopen safely. Nearly 14 million students in our Nation’s public elementary and secondary school system and nearly 4 million students in post-secondary education are Latino. Latino students constitute more than 27 percent of all pre-kindergarten through 12th grade students and nearly 20 percent of college students.
- Re-Establishing the White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity for Hispanics. In September 2021, President Biden signed a Executive Order re-establishing the White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity for Hispanics. The Executive Order helps to ensure that from early childhood to entering the workforce, Latino students, including DREAMers, can reach their highest potential. The Initiative will address the systemic inequities Latino students continue to face in our nation’s public education system, which have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis; will help to build capacity at institutions serving Latino students, including Hispanic Serving Institutions; and will advance educational equity and economic opportunity for Latino students, families, and communities.
Improving Health Outcomes for Latino Communities. Access to quality healthcare is integral to addressing health disparities in Latino communities. President Biden is committed to ensuring equitable health outcomes for communities, while ensuring that we keep costs down for individuals and families. These policies and programs include:
- Lower Prescription Drug Costs for Latino Seniors Through the Inflation Reduction Act: Americans pay 2-3 times more for their prescription drugs than people in other wealthy countries. High prices contribute to racial and ethnic health inequities. Among adults 65 and older, Latino Medicare beneficiaries were roughly 1.5 times as likely as white beneficiaries to have trouble affording medications, and about 2 times as likely to not fill needed prescriptions due to cost. The Inflation Reduction Act will help close the gap in access to medication by improving prescription drug coverage and lowering drug prices in Medicare. The law:
- Caps the amount that seniors will have to pay for prescription drugs they buy at the pharmacy at $2,000 a year, giving peace of mind to seniors who no longer have to worry about spending thousands and thousands more on prescription drugs.
- Caps the amount that seniors will have to pay for insulin at $35 for a month’s supply.
- Provides access to a number of additional free vaccines, including the shingles vaccine, for Medicare beneficiaries.
- Will further lower prescription drug costs for seniors by allowing Medicare to negotiate the price of high-cost drugs and requiring drug manufacturers to pay Medicare a rebate when they raise prices faster than inflation.
- Lower Health Insurance Premiums and Expand Coverage: Since the implementation of the Affordable Care Act’s coverage expansions, the uninsured rate among Latinos decreased by 11 percentage points, from 30 percent in 2013 to a low of 19 percent in 2017. Despite that progress, almost 10.9 million Hispanic people were uninsured in 2019 before President Biden took office and 640,000 Latinos fell into the “coverage gap” and were locked out of coverage because their state refused to expand Medicaid. Since President Biden took office, the uninsured rate has reached a new historic law: 8% and 5.2 million of Americans have gained health insurance coverage. The Inflation Reduction Act continues the American Rescue Plan’s more generous Affordable Care Act premium tax credits.
- The Inflation Reduction Act locks in lower monthly premiums – 80 percent of uninsured Latinos had access to a plan for $50 or less each month and 69 percent could find a plan for $0 a month in 2021.
- By continuing the improvements made through ARP, the Inflation Reduction Act will help keep free or low-cost health insurance available. Nearly 700,000 Latinos will have health insurance coverage next year, compared to without the IRA.
- Protects Public Health. Climate change disproportionately impacts low-income communities and communities of color. Through the Inflation Reduction Act, the law will create Environmental Justice Block Grants, and a dedicated program to tackle pollution in port communities – where air pollution is especially dense and deadly. It will also fund programs to reduce air pollution, including for fenceline monitoring and screening near industrial facilities, air quality sensors in disadvantaged communities, new and upgraded multipollutant monitoring sites, and monitoring and mitigation of methane and wood heater emissions. These grants will also help protect our children with investments to monitor and reduce pollution at public schools in disadvantaged communities.
- Expanding Access to Health Care for Latino Individuals and Families through the American Rescue Plan. The ARP also allocated $7.6 billion for Community Health Centers (CHCs), which predominately serve Latino and communities of color. Through ARP investments, 69 percent of Latino uninsured adults have access to a zero-premium plan and 80 percent have access to a plan for less than $50 a month. According to the latest uninsured data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Center for Health Statistics, Exchange-based coverage was higher among Latino persons (4.2 percent) than non-Latino Caucasians (3.7 percent) and non-Latino Blacks (2.6 percent).
Safeguarding Latinos from COVID-19. Because of systemic inequities in our economy and healthcare system, Latino communities have been disproportionately burdened by the COVID-19 pandemic. Since his first day in office, President Biden has used every lever and tool to ensure every person in our country can access safe, free, and convenient vaccines; expand testing eligibility; and invest in more equitable public health infrastructure to better serve communities of color. That includes working with pharmacies to extend their hours to ensure working people have a chance to get their shot.
- Offering new, updated COVID-19 vaccines for free at tens of thousands of trusted locations, with convenient appointment and walk-in hours: The Administration has secured over 170 million doses of the updated COVID-19 vaccines, which were made available to the American people for free at tens of thousands of convenient locations nationwide, including pharmacies, doctor’s offices, health centers, and state and local health departments. Americans can visit Vaccines.gov to find locations with the new, updated vaccines near them—with more locations and appointments becoming available in the coming days and weeks.
- Engaging community organizations to reach people with trusted information on the new, updated COVID-19 vaccines. Building on the successful efforts that have gotten over 600 million shots in arms since January 2021, the Department of Health and Human Services is engaging national, regional, and local community-based organizations including those with strong reach among racial and ethnic minority communities, such as the National Hispanic Pastor Alliance to host community health expos and vaccine drives in cities. This continued collaboration will help meet people where they are, and foster conversations with trusted members of their communities.
Advancing Public Safety and Public Trust for Latino Communities. President Biden believes that the surge in gun violence that has affected communities across the country over the last year and a half is unacceptable, and his Administration is moving decisively to act with a whole-of-government approach. Black and brown Americans are disproportionately harmed by the direct and indirect consequences of gun violence, which causes lasting trauma for children, families, and communities. The President continues to call on Congress to take action to end this gun violence epidemic. But he knows we cannot afford to wait a single day while lives are being taken, which is why he has taken more action to reduce gun violence than any other President at this point in their Administration. These policies and programs include:
- Passing the First Commonsense Gun Safety Law in 30 years. In June 2022, President Biden signed the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act into law. It includes actions he has long called for and that will save lives, including funding crisis intervention, including red flag laws to keep guns out of the hands of people who are a danger to themselves and to others; finally closing what’s known as the “boyfriend loophole,” so if you assault your girlfriend or boyfriend you cannot buy or own a gun; requires young people aged 18-21 to undergo enhanced background checks; includes the first federal law that makes gun trafficking and straw purchases distinct federal crimes; clarifies who needs to register as a federally licensed gun dealer and run background checks before selling a gun; provides historic funding to address the youth mental health crisis in this country, especially the trauma experienced by survivors of gun violence; and invests in anti-violence programs to work directly with people who are most likely to commit gun crimes or become victims of gun crimes. President Biden is proposing to build on this progress, including by calling on Congress to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, calling on Congress to require background checks for all gun sales, and the repeal of gun manufacturer immunity.
- Additional Funding to Prevent and Fight Crime. The President’s FY 2023 budget and his Safer America Plan requests $17 billion to recruit, train, and hire police officers consistent with the standards in the President’s Executive Order to advance safe, effective, accountable, community policing in order to enhance public trust and public safety; and to invest in crime prevention and a fairer criminal justice, including by investing $20 billion in services that address the root causes of crime and by incentivizing the reform of laws that increase incarceration without redressing public safety.
- Reforming Federal Marijuana Laws to Promote Equity and Fairness in the Justice System. As President Biden repeatedly said during his campaign, no one should be in jail for using or possessing marijuana. Sending people to prison for possessing marijuana has upended too many lives and incarcerated people for conduct that many states no longer prohibit. In addition, although white, Black, and brown people use marijuana at similar rates, Black and brown people have been arrested, prosecuted, and convicted at disproportionate rates. The President recently took three steps to end this failed approach and to begin to right these wrongs:
- Announcing a pardon of all prior Federal offenses of simple possession of marijuana, including offenses under District of Columbia law. There are thousands of people who have prior Federal convictions for marijuana possession, who may be denied employment, housing, or educational opportunities as a result. This action will help relieve the collateral consequences arising from these convictions.
- Urging all Governors to pardon state offenses of simple marijuana possession, because just as no one should be in a Federal prison solely for possessing marijuana, no one should be in a local jail or state prison for that reason, either.
- Asking the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Attorney General to begin the administrative process to review expeditiously how marijuana is scheduled under Federal law. Marijuana is currently classified in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, the same classification as heroin and LSD and higher than fentanyl and methamphetamine, the drugs driving our overdose epidemic.
Finally, even as federal and state regulation of marijuana changes, important limitations on trafficking, marketing, and under-age sales should stay in place.
- Advancing Safe, Effective Accountable Policing. In May 2022, the President signed a historic executive order (EO) to advance effective, accountable policing and criminal justice practices that will build public trust and strengthen public safety. Police cannot fulfill their role to keep communities safe without public trust and confidence in law enforcement and the criminal justice system. Yet, there are places in America today where the bonds of trust are frayed or broken. To heal as a nation, we must acknowledge that fatal encounters with law enforcement have disproportionately involved Black and brown people. President Biden’s EO will enhance public trust by promoting accountability, transparency, and the principles of equality and dignity in policing and the larger criminal justice system. The EO mandates measures for all Federal law enforcement agencies, leveraging the President’s direct authority over the executive branch. The EO also requires the use of federal tools such as guidance on best practices, training and technical assistance, and grantmaking to support reforms at State, Tribal, local, and territorial law enforcement agencies that will strengthen public trust and improve public safety across the nation, including creating a new national database of police misconduct, ensuring timely and thorough investigations and consistent discipline, mandating the adoption of body-worn camera policies, bans the use of chokeholds and carotid restraints unless deadly force is authorized, restricts the use of no-knock entries, limits the use of force, establishes a duty to intervene to stop excessive force and render medical aid, reimagines crisis response, and implements anti-bias and de-escalation training.
- Keeping Especially Dangerous Weapons and Repeat Shooters Off Our Streets. The Justice Department issued a final rule to rein in the proliferation of ghost guns, which are un-serialized, privately made firearms that are increasingly being recovered at crime scenes. The Attorney General directed every U.S. Attorney’s Office nationwide to increase resources dedicated to district-specific violent crime strategies.
- Keeping Guns Out of the Wrong Hands. The Justice Department published model extreme risk protection order legislation to make it easier for states that want to adopt these red flag laws to do so. The Justice Department also issued a series of reforms: the first volume of its new, comprehensive report on firearms commerce and trafficking; new policy to underscore zero tolerance for willful violations of the law by federally licensed firearms dealers that put public safety at risk; and the launch of five new law enforcement strike forces focused on addressing significant firearms trafficking corridors that have diverted guns to New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, the Bay Area, and Washington, D.C.
- Making Additional Progress to Reduce Community Violence. President Biden called for cities and states to use American Rescue Plan funding to reduce gun crime and other violent crime, including by investing in community violence interventions and prevention. Through May 2022, $10 billion in American Rescue Plan funds had been committed to public safety and violence prevention – including at least $6.5 billion in State and Local funds committed by more than half of states and more than 300 communities across the country. Additionally, five federal agencies made changes to 26 different programs to direct vital support to community violence intervention programs as quickly as possible.
Improving and Reforming our Immigration System. After four years of chaos and cruelty under the previous Administration, President Biden has been focused on rebuilding our immigration system and ensuring it is more fair, humane, and orderly, including by:
- Calling on Congress to Pass Immigration Reform Legislation. On his first day in office, the President sent Congress his vision for immigration reform. The U.S. Citizenship Act – is comprehensive legislation that would create a pathway to permanent residence and eventual citizenship for nearly 11 million undocumented immigrants living in and contributing to our country. The President’s plan would modernize our immigration system and provide resources to responsibly manage our borders, while also addressing the root causes of migration. President Biden and Vice President Harris have repeatedly expressed their strong support for legislation that would protect Dreamers, Temporary Protected Status (TPS) recipients, farmworkers, and essential workers and allow long-awaited pathways to permanent residence and eventual citizenship for these populations.
- Promoting Naturalization. President Biden is committed to making the naturalization process more accessible for eligible noncitizens, directing the Attorney General, the Secretary of Homeland Security, and the Secretary of State to improve naturalization processing, identify and remove barriers to naturalization, and reduce backlogs for naturalization applications. To advance these goals, the President also established an Interagency Working Group to Promote Naturalization. In Fiscal Year (FY) 2022, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) awarded nearly $60 million in grants to 66 organizations to provide citizenship preparation resources, support, and information to immigrants and immigrant-serving organizations.
- Protecting Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Recipients and Dreamers. On his first day in office, President Biden issued a Presidential Memorandum directing the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Attorney General, to take actions to preserve and fortify the 2012 DACA policy, under which eligible undocumented immigrant youth are provided temporary protection from removal and work authorization. In response to this directive, on August 24, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently published a rule codifying the 2012 DACA policy in the USCIS regulations. The Biden-Harris Administration continues its fight to preserve DACA in the courts, while calling on Congress to enact legislation providing permanent protections for Dreamers.
- Reunifying Separated Families. Less than two weeks into office, President Biden issued an Executive Order that established an interagency initiative to reunite the families separated at the Southwest border by the previous administration under its so-called “zero-tolerance policy.” The Biden-Harris Administration has now successfully reunified more than 500 children with their families. The Family Reunification Task Force continues to identify and engage families who were separated to ensure they are aware of the reunification process and available support, including critically needed behavioral health services to address the trauma they have suffered. The Administration will continue to work tirelessly to deliver on President Biden’s commitment to reunite children separated from their families at the United States-Mexico border.
- Reinstating and Expanding the Central American Minors (CAM) Program. DHS and the Department of State (State) have reinstated and improved the Central American Minors (CAM) program, which allows parents and legal guardians of certain children who are nationals of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras to apply for refugee status or parole, and possible resettlement in the United States. As part of a phased approach, DHS and State are reopening cases that were closed when CAM was terminated in 2018 and have expanded eligibility of those who may petition for their children’s access to the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program.
- Extending TPS for El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua. DHS announced the extension of TPS designations for El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua through December 31, 2022.
- Designating Venezuela for TPS. In March 2021, DHS designated Venezuela for TPS for 18 months, and in July 2022, extended TPS for an additional 18 months, until March 2024. This enables Venezuelan nationals who have resided in the United States since March 8, 2021, to request and receive TPS if they meet the eligibility requirements.
- Supporting Immigrant Veterans. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has partnered with DHS to provide needed care and services to deported veterans, including timely and accurate information on immigration services. In addition, DHS established an online center to consolidate federal resources for immigrant veterans, which includes a portal for deported veterans requesting permission to return to the United States or accessing VA benefits to which they may be entitled.
Launching a Whole-Of-Government Initiative to Advance Equity and Justice for Underserved Communities, Including Latino Communities. On his first day in office, President Biden signed the historic Executive Order on Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government. The President’s Order emphasized the enormous human costs of systemic racism, persistent poverty, and other disparities, and directed the Federal Government to advance an ambitious whole-of-government equity agenda that matches the scale of the challenges we face as a country and the opportunities we have to build a more perfect union. Over 90 federal agencies across the federal government, including all Cabinet-level agencies as well as over 50 independent agencies, conducted equity assessments of 3-5 of their agency’s high-impact services for the American people, to uncover where systemic barriers to access may exist. Using those findings, agencies developed Equity Action Plans for addressing—and achieving—equity in their mission delivery for all Americans. Equity Action Plans were required to include accountability mechanisms and to identify success metrics and key milestones toward progress.
Advancing Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility in the Federal Government. In June 2021, President Biden signed an Executive Order on Advancing Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility in the Federal Workforce, that is helping develop a Federal workforce that looks like America where qualified people from every background and walk of life have an equal opportunity to serve our Nation.
Protecting the Integrity of the Census. After years of attempts to politicize the decennial Census count, President Biden gave career professionals at the Census Bureau the time and space they needed to deliver an accurate count of every American. The 2020 Census results reflect the historic diversity of the country, and the Census Bureau has made improvements to data collection so they’re better able to reveal the multifaceted nature of growing Latino communities.
Supporting Hurricane Fiona Response and Recovery Efforts in Puerto Rico. In response to Hurricane Fiona, President Biden approved an Emergency Declaration prior to landfall and immediately approved the Governor of Puerto Rico’s request for a Major Disaster Declaration for Individual and Public Assistance, which authorized FEMA to provide assistance for emergency measures to save lives and to protect property and public health and safety and fund emergency protective measures. More than 7 million liters of water, more than 4 million ready-to-eat meals, more than 215 generators, more than 100,000 tarps, more than 28,000 plastic covers and more than 10,300 cots and other emergency supplies were onsite and readily available for individuals and families. The President also authorized 100% Federal Cost Share for the Government of Puerto Rico to support Public Assistance for 30 days. This critical support will provide 100% Federal funding for Debris Removal and Emergency Protective Measures, and help Puerto Rico begin their recovery without adding additional financial burden to communities that are working to recover. The Biden-Harris Administration also increased Critical Needs Assistance from $500 to $700 to support displaced individuals and families with immediate or critical needs, such as water, food, medical support, infant formula, personal hygiene items, and fuel for transportation.
- The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration announced the immediate availability of $8 million in Emergency Relief funds for use by the Puerto Rico Highways and Transportation Authority. The funds will offset costs of repair work needed as a result of flooding and landslide damage to highways and bridges.
- In 2021, the Biden-Harris Administration unlocked more than $9 billion dollars in federal disaster funds for Puerto Rico that are helping to rebuild from natural disasters and strengthen the island against future storms. To make sure Puerto Ricans have the support they need to get ahead, the American Rescue Plan permanently fixed Puerto Rico’s unequal treatment under the Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit, providing workers and families with thousands of dollars in tax relief.
- In July 2021, the White House established the Federal Working Group on Puerto Rico, an all-of-government Cabinet-level initiative to partner with Puerto Rico to invest in modern and resilient infrastructure, support inclusive economic development, expand education and workforce opportunities, and set the island on a course for future prosperity. In September 2021, the Biden Administration announced that Puerto Rico would receive $3 billion per year in Medicaid funding from the federal government in perpetuity, supporting the provision of affordable, quality health care for residents of Puerto Rico.
- Investing in Long-term Climate Resilience in Puerto Rico through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the American Rescue Plan: The American Rescue Plan and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law together provide an opportunity to make a historic investment in Puerto Rico’s infrastructure to bolster resilience against future climate change and extreme weather events. To date, more than $184 million from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law has been allocated to Puerto Rico for infrastructure resilience in 2022, including $163 million in funding for the Caño Martín Peña Channel Restoration from the US Army Corps of Engineers. And Puerto Rico has invested $223 million in American Rescue Plan funds for water improvements and maintenance – with an additional $130 million for the Caño Martín Peña Channel Restoration, $28 million to improve hydraulic pumping infrastructure, and $65 million in assistance to Puerto Rico’s water and sewer authority to make improvements and maintain existing infrastructure. In addition, Puerto Rico has invested $279 million in American Rescue Plan funds to make significant repairs to school buildings damaged in past storms.
- An additional $38 million was allocated to Puerto Rico in 2022 for weatherization under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The Weatherization Assistance Program helps low-income families reduce household energy expenditures. Examples of weatherization include more efficient cooling systems, light fixtures, and household appliances, installation of solar water heaters, and measures to reduce hot water use.
- Supporting Critical Infrastructure Needs in Puerto Rico: The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is already delivering results for the people of Puerto Rico, making critical investments that will improve lives, help grow the economy, position the Island for success, and reach all communities, including rural communities and historically underserved populations. To date, more than $688 million in Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding has been announced and is headed to Puerto Rico. In 2022 alone, Puerto Rico will receive more than $380 million for transportation to invest in roads, bridges, public transit, ports and airports and over $78 million for clean water. And, as of today, more than 505,000 households across the Island are receiving affordable internet due to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
- The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law also makes significant investments to increase the resilience of Puerto Rico’s grid. The Department of Energy’s Preventing Outages and Enhancing the Resilience of the Electric Grid formula grant program allocates $3.7 million to Puerto Rico in 2022 to improve the resilience of the electric grid against disruptive events. The Department’s State Energy Program also allocates $4.7 million to Puerto Rico to enhance energy security, advance state-led clean energy initiatives, and increase energy affordability.
- Puerto Rico has made $223 million in Water Infrastructure Investments with American Rescue Plan funds:
- $130 million to make water and infrastructure investments as part of the restoration of Caño Martín Peña – a channel in the San Juan area with risks of flooding & contamination.
- $28 million to improve hydraulic pumping infrastructure to reduce flooding – to make improvements to 14 flood pump stations to increase resilience to flooding & storms.
- $65 million in assistance to Puerto Rico’s water & sewer authority for improvements & maintenance.
- In addition, Puerto Rico has invested $279 million in American Rescue Plan funds to make physical repairs to school buildings: The Improvements to Educational Institutions Program objective is to repair the school’s structural damage caused by natural disasters so that students could return to in-person instruction. Through July 2022, Puerto Rico had completed 230 schools and repaired 26,425 columns at educational institutions.
- Permanently expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit & the Child Tax Credit for Puerto Rico through the American Rescue Plan: Before the American Rescue Plan, Puerto Rico’s child poverty rate was 50+%, but only 10% of families with children were eligible for the Child Tax Credit because only those with 3 or more children qualified. ARP removed that restriction permanently and, as a result, this tax filing season, 97% of Puerto Rico’s families are eligible for the expanded credit. This comes at a time when we have at long last ensured that workers in Puerto Rico will also be treated more fairly by the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). Before this year, Puerto Rico’s locally administered EITC, when it was available, had never received federal support – and as a result, the credit was significantly smaller than the federal EITC. While Puerto Rico workers will still claim their EITC through their commonwealth government, the American Rescue Plan is helping Puerto Rico fund a dramatic expansion of the credit. The American Rescue Plan is providing $600 million in annual federal dollars on top of $200 million in Puerto Rico tax dollars, allowing Puerto Rico to more than triple available EITC benefits for workers. This expansion increased the maximum EITC for a family with two children from $1,500 to $5,500 – bringing the credit broadly in line with the maximum benefit available to a similar family living elsewhere in the United States.
- Emergency Rental Assistance for over 100,000 Puerto Rico families: Through June, Puerto Rico had distributed $179 million in Emergency Rental Assistance through 105,000 payments to Puerto Rico Renters & their families.
- Historic support for distressed union pensions in Puerto Rico: The American’s Rescue Plan’s Special Financial Assistance program to restore the solvency of distressed pension plans is providing $28 million to the GWU Local 610 pension plan based in San Juan, ensuring that the more than 2,600 hospitality workers and retirees covered by the plan will receive the benefits they have earned for decades to come.
- In addition to using its American Rescue Plan funds to invest in resiliency and water infrastructure, Puerto Rico has invested ARP funds in other critical areas:
- Over $500 million for premium pay for frontline workers: Puerto Rico has invested $436 million for premium pay to essential public sector workers & private sector frontline workers and $90 million in premium pay for hospital workers.
- $143 million for the First Responders Program – to help local governments maintain essential services & keep first responders on the job.
- $152 million for emergency assistance to municipalities, providing municipalities with assistance of last resort, for waste disposal, road maintenance, public safety & other services.
- $50 million for Low Income Housing repairs – to improve the living conditions of Puerto Rico’s families by removing health and safety hazards from housing units.
- $76 million for the Commonwealth’s Utility: This program provides funds to the Puerto Rico Power Authority to purchase additional fuel and provide maintenance of generators to meet increased demand for electricity, broadband, and water.
- $100 million for road repairs and maintenance: This program provides the Department of Transportation and Public Works (DTOP) with up to $25M per year for FY22, FY23, and FY24 for road maintenance with an additional $25M in FY22 to purchase required equipment.
Appointing a Historically Diverse Cabinet and Administration. The Biden-Harris Administration includes barrier-breaking Latino leaders. Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas is the first Latino and immigrant to serve as Secretary of Homeland Security, and Secretary Xavier Becerra is the first Latino to serve as Secretary of Health and Human Services. Administrator Isabella Guzman leads the Small Business Administration, Secretary Miguel Cardona leads the Department of Education, Julie Chavez Rodriguez is the Senior Advisor and Assistant to the President and Director of the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, Emmy Ruiz is the Assistant to the President and White House Director of Political Strategy and Outreach, and Robert Santos is first Latino and the first person of color to be Director of the United States Census Bureau.
President Biden has assembled the most diverse Administration in our nation’s history, and is proud to serve alongside the 15 percent of all appointees who identify as Latino or Hispanic, and the 32 percent of all appointees who are naturalized citizens or the children of immigrants.
Diversifying the Federal Court System. The Biden-Harris Administration is working to ensure that nominees to the judicial system reflect the growing diversity of our nation. To date, 21% of the President’s federal judicial nominees to circuit court of appeals, district courts, and the Court of Federal Claims are Latino, including many historical firsts that have been confirmed: Judge Myrna Pérez is the only active Latina serving on the Second Circuit and the second Latina ever to serve (the first was Justice Sonia Sotomayor) on the Second Circuit; Judge Salvador Mendoza is the first Hispanic judge to serve on the Ninth Circuit from Washington State; Judge Ana de Alba is the first Latina ever to serve on the Eastern District of California; Judge Nancy L. Maldonado is the first Latina to serve as a federal district court judge in Illinois; and Judge Armando Bonilla is the first Hispanic judge ever to serve on the Court of Federal Claims.