A long line of customers wait at Joann Fabrics and Crafts in Fletcher Hills. Some stores were busy during the pandemic, but a new study indicates the economy suffered because pandemic aid wan’t extended to undocumented workers. Photo by Chris Stone

A University of California study this week found that denying undocumented residents the $1,200 given to taxpayers during the pandemic resulted in an estimated loss of $10 billion to the economy.

The study, out of UCLA, focuses on the impacts of excluding undocumented immigrants from past and future Covid-19 economic relief packages.

It found that the economic benefits outweigh the costs and undocumented workers are essential to the U.S. and California economies.

Research showed that undocumented workers and their families contributed more than $1.6 trillion to the nation’s gross domestic product in 2018 through shopping and working.

“Their reduced purchasing power amid a looming recession is both a public health and economic crisis,” according to the report by lead author Raul Hinojosa.

“Our undocumented neighbors buy groceries, pay taxes and support local businesses in economic activity that generates $190 billion in government revenue nationwide,” explained Hinojosa, a UCLA professor of Chicano studies and the executive director of the North American Integration and Development Center. “It is cruel to deny undocumented residents financial assistance as unemployment rates skyrocket, but it’s also counterproductive fiscal policy that has negative consequences for all Americans who benefit from their economic contributions.”

Besides the potential loss of $10 billion, Hinojosa and his colleagues estimated that the action cost roughly 82,000 jobs nationally and 17,000 jobs in California.

The national unemployment rate for undocumented workers reached 29% in May, and 27% in the state.

“Undocumented workers have suffered disproportionate health and economic impacts during this global health crisis that we are just beginning to understand yet they are being excluded from critical policy relief discussions and we need to address this through a comprehensive approach to economic recovery,” said Abel Valenzuela, director of the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment and a member of the study’s research team.

The economic activity generated by undocumented immigrants spending the tax credits they would receive under the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act, or HEROES Act, currently being debated in Congress, would support 112,000 jobs nationally and produce $14 billion in economic output.

These benefits exceed the $9.5 billion price tag in recovery efforts.

The study also found that:

  • Undocumented workers contribute $1 trillion to the country’s gross domestic product and more than $263 billion to California’s GDP.
  • Mixed-status families – households with at least one undocumented immigrant and U.S. citizens – produce $1.67 trillion in national GDP and $425 billion to the state’s GDP.
  • Undocumented workers generate economic activity that supports almost 20 million jobs in the country and 3.2 million jobs in California.
  • They generate $190 billion in government revenue nationally and $63 billion in California.

– City News Service

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