New Latino Policy Institute plan highlights inequities, calls for action

PROVIDENCE – A new plan unveiled by the Latino Policy Institute at Roger Williams University on Oct. 13 examines the inequities and barriers that the Latino community across Rhode Island has faced both prior to and during the COVID-19 pandemic and outlines recommendations to respond to the situation.

The plan was commissioned by a board comprised of 24 elected officials to develop strategic suggestions to understand the unique barriers and opportunities local Latinos face due to the pandemic. The full plan can be seen here.

According to the plan, while the Latino workforce has grown by 40% in the last decade, Latinos have disproportionately represented Rhode Island’s unemployment rate, with 20% unemployment during the Great Recession. Early estimates noted in the report show a similar trend as the pandemic continues in which only 12% of Black- and Latino-owned small businesses received loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program. Furthermore, since June, 41% of Black-owned businesses and 32% of Latino-owned businesses were forced to close.

Regarding health care access, the uninsured rate for Latinos stood at 24% before the pandemic, four times Rhode Island’s overall rate, the report states.

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Latino Policy Institute Executive Director Marcela Betancur said in a statement that the barriers Latinos face have been known “for decades,” but the pandemic has made the need for change “immediate.”

“Our community has continued to advocate for these supports, the research has shown why it’s important,” Betancur said, “and now it’s on each and every one of us to implement the supports needed so that every Rhode Islanders has equal opportunity to thrive within their community.”

The report also looks at systemic inequities in the state’s education system, which are impacting low-income families and were exacerbated by the transition to online learning when the state moved to close all schools to in-person learning last spring. Among the problems were limited access to technology, underfunded districts struggling to offer teachers and administrators support, and parents being more burdened to support their child’s learning.

Seven recommendations were noted in the report to address the inequities. It calls for strengthening workers protections, continuing to inject capital for all small businesses, rent and mortgage assistance, health care coverage for all children, equitable funding for distressed school districts, generating new revenue, and inclusive statewide communications and engagement.

James Bessette is the PBN special projects editor, and also covers the nonprofit and education sectors. You may reach him at You may also follow him on Twitter at @James_Bessette.