Rutgers panel: Lack of access to aid is disproportionately hurting immigrant women of color

The COVID-19 pandemic’s disproportionate impact on communities of color have been well documented. A recent roundtable of Rutgers University experts and advocates said the difficulties women of color — particularly immigrants — experience in getting care and financial aid is having a devastating impact on their communities.

Vineeta Kapahi, a policy analyst at New Jersey Policy Perspective, said immigrants have a history of proving to be critical to the economic and social fabric of New Jersey.

“During a global pandemic, access to public programs is more important than ever, yet over half a million New Jersey immigrants and their families continue to face barriers to economic relief as a result of their immigration status,” she said. “To ensure a strong recovery from the current crisis, it’s critical that no New Jerseyans are left behind — regardless of their documentation status or where they were born.”

The panel, sponsored by the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, Make the Road New Jersey, Center for Women and Work at Rutgers University and New Jersey Policy Perspective, aimed to show the economic and health impacts of the exclusion of immigrant women from most safety net programs and aid.

Yana Rodgers, the faculty director of the Center for Women and Work at Rutgers, said the state needs to prioritize a care-led and human-centered recovery from the pandemic that involves meaningful allocation of resources to sustain and nurture all residents, including undocumented workers and their families.

Andrea Hertling, a chancellor scholar and director of the public policy program at the Bloustein School, said the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has been uneven across the state.

“Certain groups (are experiencing worse economic and health outcomes),” she said. “The severe negative impact of the pandemic on immigrant women is made worse by barriers to accessing financial support — support needed to make healthy choices for both their families and their communities.”