The United States faces an irrefutable and uncomfortable truth: The federal government has long neglected, underinvested in, and intentionally underserved communities of color. The policy choices of the past have at times caused more harm than good, displacing entire communities; excluding people of color from homeownership; and underinvesting in the health care and education of Black, Latino, and other people of color. However, the Biden administration has upheld its promise to confront the nation’s ugly past, redressing consequential harms with actions that are improving the lives of Latinos across America.
Within the first two years of his administration, President Joe Biden signed two executive orders dedicated to advancing racial equity and doubled down on equity commitments by signing the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), the CHIPS and Science Act, and the Inflation Reduction Act. Together, these laws injected trillions of dollars into the economy, creating more equity and opportunities for communities of color. The Biden administration is giving Latinos a fairer shot with these historic investments: Latinos are leveraging equitable deployment of these funds to fully integrate into the clean energy future, address health care disparities, and revitalize their communities.
Advancing clean energy
The data are clear: Latinos are disproportionately affected by the climate crisis because of where they live and work. Recognizing the years of deficit and inequity, many programs in the Inflation Reduction Act support communities transitioning to a clean energy economy through key investments and technical assistance for households, community groups, and small businesses. Furthermore, a majority of new clean energy projects and jobs are located in communities of color. In Latino communities alone, there are already “43 new clean energy projects, spurring $28.5 billion in investment and 35,105 new clean energy jobs.” While Latinos remain severely underrepresented in the STEM education-to-workforce pipeline, the Biden administration is helping to address the racial and ethnic disparities that have existed for far too long by taking a holistic approach—providing education, training, and career services—designed to directly benefit communities of color.
The Inflation Reduction Act is bringing the clean energy economy to Latino communities
New clean energy projects
New clean energy jobs
Latino households will soon feel the impacts of the clean energy tax credits that went into effect this year, which will yield household savings of up to $14,000 per year and help reduce the Latino community’s disproportionate energy burden. Latinos are more likely to live in areas where building infrastructure is older and less updated, pollution is higher, and there is less tree coverage—all of which lead to more energy use and higher costs. As a result, the cost of updating home infrastructure is acutely felt in these areas, but the financial incentives in the Inflation Reduction Act reduce the upfront cost of climate-friendly upgrades such as heat pumps and solar panels, which lead to consistently lower energy bills and fuel costs. Importantly, even households who do not opt for the credits will benefit, as these investments are expected to reduce electricity rates, natural gas prices, and gasoline prices—ultimately lowering costs for everyone. And by lowering the cost of energy while making homes stronger, this legislation allows Latino families to stretch their dollars much further—improving home resilience to climate impacts and bolstering economic resilience.
The administration also set a goal to direct 40 percent of its climate and clean energy investment benefits to disadvantaged communities—an effort to remedy the high levels of pollution and chronic disinvestment they have faced. For example, Connecticut is supporting flood mitigation improvements in historically Black and Latino immigrant communities. Texas will invest in electric buses and charging infrastructure, eliminating nearly 18,000 tons of greenhouse gasses in the next 20 years and improving health outcomes in Latino communities. And San José, California, will receive technical assistance to electrify its buildings and help transition its low-income, energy-burdened communities into the clean energy workforce. And while communities of color might not immediately feel the full effects of the Biden administration’s policies, the administration is making intentional policy choices in concert with these communities to address the impacts of years of chronic disinvestment. These are first-of-their-kind investments that will allow communities to hear, see, and feel the long-term benefits of these funding streams.
Improving health care affordability
Latinos have long suffered health inequities—a reality exacerbated by having the highest uninsured rates of any racial or ethnic group in the United States. In 2020, more than 18 percent of the Hispanic population was uninsured. However, the Biden administration has made strides to expand access to quality, affordable coverage. The Inflation Reduction Act extended financial assistance that lowered monthly premiums for Affordable Care Act plans. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that Latino marketplace enrollment increased by 900,000—53 percent—in two years, more than any other group. However, access to medical insurance was not the only barrier Latinos faced: The growing cost of prescription drugs also trapped many in a corner of inaccessibility.
Latinos have the highest uninsured rates of any racial or ethnic group in the United States.
In fact, Latinos ages 65 and older are 1 1/2 to 2 times more likely than their white peers to report prescription drug affordability challenges. With the Inflation Reduction Act, Medicare can now negotiate prescription drug prices for seniors for the first time, making prescription drugs more affordable. This is especially impactful for Latinos, who often have to ration drugs and delay filling prescriptions. Moreover, the 10 drugs announced for the first round of negotiations are disproportionately taken by Latinos.
(Re)building communities with new reliable infrastructure
A throughline in the Biden administration’s landmark legislation has been reversing decades of infrastructure disinvestment and redressing harms to communities of color. The administration and Congress have allocated $4 billion for reconnecting communities that were previously cut off by transportation infrastructure and advancing transportation projects in disadvantaged communities. More than $90 billion has also been committed to maintaining and modernizing the public transit system. This funding extensively affects Latinos, who are twice as likely as their white counterparts to depend on public transportation to travel to work.
Today, infrastructure is more than bridges and public transit; other instruments are needed to foster and build stronger communities, including access to broadband internet for education, job applications, and telehealth access. In another push for equity, the IIJA includes $65 billion to close the digital divide, which will have an enormous impact on Latinos, only 65 percent of whom have access to broadband at home. The coronavirus pandemic highlighted this disparity, and these investments are helping mitigate the lasting effects of that access barrier.
Keeping with the thread of equity and recognizing that education also has its barriers, the CHIPS and Science Act includes partnerships with Hispanic-serving institutions and includes requirements for recipients to ensure that semiconductor incentives support equitable economic growth and development. Additionally, the Biden administration has prioritized expanding apprenticeship programs and labor unions, which keep with the Biden administration’s commitment to making sure good-paying jobs are accessible for everyone and to advance equity and racial justice throughout the federal government. These commitments toward investing in education could propel Latinos into the middle class and further diversify the American workforce.
By taking a whole-of-government approach to racial equity, the Biden administration has shown it does not have to choose between tackling systemic racism and investing in people’s economic security. It can do both, and this is the hallmark of how this administration plans to build a more equitable future. President Biden recognized that America’s deeply embedded systemic inequalities have put Latinos on unequal footing. Taken together, the CHIPS and Science Act, the IIJA, and the Inflation Reduction Act have the potential to be incredibly transformative, but only if they can continue to chip away at all forms of systematic racism. With the equitable deployment of these investments, the Biden administration has charted a path for Latinos to achieve more equitable outcomes.