Houston investor and entrepreneur Tom Castro was concerned that some Latino households might miss out on money they were entitled to from the latest pandemic relief program, so he started by helping the Ramirez family to find over $ 20,000, to begin with.
Then he helped the family, who own a restaurant, realize that they could get a loan of thousands more dollars for their employees’ payroll under the Paycheck Protection Program. It’s a loan, but it has lenient rules for canceling the loan. This put the funds at their disposal to over $ 100,000.
The news stunned the husband and wife, who have four children under the age of 18 and preferred not to be interviewed. The family and Castro met through his charter school work.
“They were skeptical. They were skeptical, ”Castro said of the Ramirez reaction when he added everything for them. “They said, ‘It’s a loan, isn’t it?’ No, it’s a gift.
The Ramirez family raised other concerns. They had not yet filed their taxes for 2020. They believed the aid was intended for people on food stamps or social assistance. There was a factor of pride and fear that their future in the country – they are legal residents and a hope of citizenship – was in jeopardy.
Many immigrant families have stopped using or moved away from public benefits, even if they were eligible for them, fearing that the Trump administration’s policy changes could jeopardize their chances of legal permanent residence or citizenship. And the first aid program left out many tax-paying immigrants.
“They are immigrants, and the rumor on the street was that immigrants weren’t eligible for ‘stimulus checks’ because Trump said they couldn’t participate,” Castro said.
A majority of American families will receive money from the latest relief program, but Castro and others fear that some Latinos may not seek everything the law offers them for reasons similar to those the Ramirez family raised.
Latinos have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic – economically and in death and disease.
Hispanics had just regained incomes and wealth to levels they experienced before the Great Recession of 2008. Not receiving aid could slow not only their recovery, but economic recovery as well.
“This could be the biggest injection of capital into the Latino community – by a factor of 10 – in history,” Castro said. If all Latinos claimed what they are entitled to under the pandemic program and the payday loan program, the total could be close to $ 60 billion, he said.
At the Hispanic American Chamber of Commerce legislative summit last week, President Joe Biden and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen praised the potential of Latin American families and business owners to contribute to the economic recovery due to the share of Latino American workers and the number of small businesses created by Latinos.
Democrats designed the stimulus payments like they didn’t because they thought everyone was running out of meals, but to stimulate the economy, Castro said.
Many Latin American families don’t have the luxury of hanging on to payments or putting the $ 1,400 in savings or 401 (k) accounts, Castro said. They’ll spend every penny because they need it, and “they’re going to pay taxes, sales taxes, and help create jobs,” he said.
Each member of the Ramirez family is entitled to a stimulus check of $ 1,400 – a total of $ 8,400 for all six family members. Married couples who file jointly and earn less than $ 150,000 each receive $ 1,400, as do their dependents aged 17 and under.
In addition, three Ramirez children are entitled to an additional $ 3,000 – paid monthly – and their child under 6 is entitled to $ 3,600. In total, this represents $ 21,000 in cash benefits.
The monthly child allowance, if that is the way it is done, would go through an overhaul of the child tax credit.
The White House has estimated that 85% of Americans will receive some kind of payment.
A difficult year
For Claudia Gonzalez, 49, who worked as Castro’s assistant before leaving for health reasons, the extra money for her children will be of great help. The family has had a difficult pandemic year.
They missed the first set of checks for $ 600 because her husband was not yet a legal resident and at the time he did not have a Social Security number. He is now a lawful permanent resident and she is a citizen, as are her children.
Gonzalez said the couple had to let three of the four employees at her husband’s “very small” commercial and residential landscaping company leave. Some hotel guests whose rooms were vacant did not pay for months of work.
When one of their business trucks broke down, they used the truck their son had bought with savings on Christmas and birthday presents. They tried to get a loan of $ 25,000 to $ 30,000 under the Payment Protection Program, but they couldn’t get through the paperwork.
Last week, Biden extended the deadline for applying for paycheck protection loans to May 31.
Gonzalez said she and her husband would reapply, expecting the worst. She, too, expressed her reluctance to take the money.
“People painted Latinos like people with their hands,” she said. “There are a lot of Latinos who will do everything in their power not to go to the document.”
Paycheck Protection Loans can make a difference in rebuilding Latin American wealth.
Juan Proaño, founder of Plus Three, a tech company that helps nonprofits, said the company lost more than 30% of its revenue in the second quarter of last year due to the pandemic.
He couldn’t get a paycheck protection loan from Bank of America, his bank, despite three attempts. He eventually got a loan through PayPal’s lender program.
“The money is available, but people have to use it”
And that’s the challenge, making Latinos know what they’re entitled to, despite cultural hesitations and ways they can disqualify themselves, Castro said.
Ramiro Cavazos, president and CEO of the Hispanic American Chamber of Commerce, said the organization has distributed grants to many Hispanic chambers across the country. The grants were then given to companies owned by Latin Americans. The chamber is also trying to help businesses get the money they have available under the paycheck protection program.
“We are a community that believes in returns,” Cavazos said. “It’s part of our DNA as a community.”
Castro suggested mobilizing students, churches, Latin American groups, and employers with large Latin American workforces to ensure Latinos get the money they are owed.
“It’s kind of like the immunization program,” Castro said. “The vaccine is out there, the money is out there, but people have to use it or it doesn’t work.”
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