We need bold economic recovery
Voces Unidas joined more than 50 Latino organizations across the country in calling on Congress to enact bold economic recovery policies to advance justice for communities on the frontlines of climate change and pollution; address historic wrongs by investing in healthcare, education, and water infrastructure in rural, tribal, low income, and communities of color; create union jobs that sustain families and communities while caring for our climate and our neighbors; and enable a transition to a clean energy economy that supports a sustainable future for generations to come.
As we move from COVID relief toward economic recovery, this moment offers a once-in-a-generation opportunity to invest in a clean, resilient energy future that transitions us away from polluting fossil fuels while addressing past injustices and advancing equity. Climate action and justice cannot be sacrificed at this pivotal time.
Latino communities are on the frontlines of climate change. We live in geographies with high exposure to climate hazards and are overrepresented in industries that make us susceptible to their impact, such as the agricultural and construction sectors—both vulnerable to increasing incidence of extreme heat days and wildfire smoke. Latinos are exposed to disproportionate levels of air, water, and soil pollution, which may be compounded by extreme temperatures. Our communities also live in communities more vulnerable to flooding, wildfires, drought and other climate-driven events. These factors are connected to and may worsen existing economic and health disparities, which is especially worrisome because Latinos have unequal access to quality healthcare services.
We are urging Congress to support historic levels of investment that will safeguard our environment and livelihoods, address the impacts of climate change and pollution from fossil fuel extraction and related industries, and fulfill our moral obligation to leave a habitable world for future generations. Latino, Black and Indigenous people, alongside low-income communities, have been hit the hardest by a trifecta of health, economic, and environmental crises. The needs of these disproportionately burdened communities must be represented in any infrastructure package.
Invest with justice
COVID-19 and centuries of investment in fossil fuel industries have disproportionately harmed communities of color and low-income communities. Justice demands that these communities be prioritized in infrastructure investments going forward. Specifically, we call for these communities, which have been forced to bear an unequal burden of pollution and the fallout of the pandemic, to receive at least 40% of the investments. Vehicles such as the $27 Billion Clean Energy and Sustainability Accelerator, framed with a particular focus on disadvantaged communities that have not yet benefited from clean energy investments, can advance equity and support community resilience. Investing with justice also means avoiding false solutions that may perpetuate existing inequities and inadvertently exacerbate carbon pollution, like increased plastics production to address infrastructure needs that further prop up oil and gas production while polluting frontline communities. Investments that support harmful industries like natural gas, nuclear, biomass, carbon capture and storage (CCS), and biofuels will only fuel the climate crisis and exacerbate inequities. Investment in good-paying, union jobs will empower the Latino community to secure a just recovery from the COVID-19 crisis while ensuring fair labor practices and collective bargaining rights, immigrants’ rights, LGBTQ+ rights, and disability rights.
Expand clean, renewable energy and modernizing our electric grid in an equitable manner
We can accelerate the transition to clean energy by passing a national Clean Energy Standard (CES) that aims to achieve 100% renewable, pollution-free electricity—without false solutions like biomass, CCS, incineration, and gasification, among others that may lead to increased carbon pollution—2035 while expanding wind and solar power investments and energy efficiency. In developing a CES, making clean energy affordable to low- and middle-income (LMI) communities must be intentionally addressed to ensure benefits are experienced by those who need it the most. Low-income families—among whom Latinxs are overrepresented—spend 8.8% of their income on electricity, compared to 2.9% for the average American. Investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency should be accessible through programs that expand community and residential solar to reduce costs, for example. Finally, with the clean energy transition comes new jobs. Investing in equitable workforce development and jobs training programs is key. Close to half of construction laborers are Latino, which means the community only stands to benefit from this. Many communities both hurt by and dependent on the fossil fuel industry are Latino, so ensuring a just transition to a green economy will require incentives and investments localized in those communities where jobs and tax revenue will be lost.
Electrify transportation and expand public transit
Latino workers commute by public transit nearly three times more often than their counterparts. Latinos also live farther away from their jobs due to housing costs and many report that their transit routes are unreliable and infrequent. For example, a 20 minute commute by car might take 2 hours by bus. Workers of color are overrepresented among public transit commuters with “long commutes” of 60 minutes or longer each way. This time costs money, reducing opportunity for economic upward mobility and capacity for investment in social capital, including spending time with family, participating with local community events and organizations, and civic engagement. To address this, we must connect our communities and reduce pollution by electrifying and expanding public transit. This is particularly important for school buses, which transport 25 million children to school in the US. Most of these buses run on dirty diesel engines, spewing pollution that causes cancer, triggers asthma attacks, and makes climate change worse. Transitioning school buses to 100% electric power will help clean up the air we all breathe. Now is the time to invest in American-made electric vehicles, build charging stations and electric infrastructure in underrepresented communities—where local communities deem this to be appropriate—to enable widespread adoption and equitable access to EV technology, and ensure that EVs are affordable to all through incentives that equitably benefit and incentivize lower and middle-income buyers.
Expand clean water infrastructure for all communities
Too many communities, especially low-income urban neighborhoods, rural communities and Indigenous enclaves, lack access to clean and affordable water. America’s worst public water systems serve more than 25 million Americans, among which an estimated 5.8 million are Latinx. We must invest in lead pipe remediation as well as programs that provide clean and efficient water infrastructure to all communities while prioritizing investment to the communities that are disproportionately impacted.
Address pollution from abandoned oil and gas wells and remediate environmental hazards
At least 1.81 million Latinos in the U.S. live within half a mile of an oil and gas facility. These facilities, already harmful to the environmental and physical health of neighboring communities, exacerbate pollution when companies abandon wells and do not clean them up. Unplugged and orphaned wells release methane, a potent greenhouse gas and pollutant that contaminates groundwater and our air. Supporting the health of communities of color means advancing legislation that invests in remediating wells and other fossil fuel facilities, such as coal ash plants, while strengthening regulatory safeguards to ensure that the financial and health costs of this pollution are not paid by communities who cannot continue bearing these disproportionate impacts. Investments are also critical for jumpstarting remediation of toxic Superfund and brownfield sites, which are most often located near communities of color and low-income communities long considered to be “sacrifice zones”.
Protect and expand essential services and infrastructure needed to safeguard vulnerable communities
Recent data underscores that Latinos in Western states are twice as likely to live in areas affected by wildfires than the rest of the population. Latinos and other communities of color are also particularly vulnerable to flooding, alongside other climate-driven disasters, while being among the least resourced when it comes to preparing for and accessing emergency funds available following climate-driven extreme weather. Safeguarding critical infrastructure that supports vulnerable communities is crucial to strengthening resilience to climate change. Such investments should respond to specific areas of vulnerability that are unique to each community, from the electricity grid in places like Puerto Rico to resilient food systems in rural communities across the country. Programs that support pre-disaster adaptation and resilience like FEMA’s Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) program should be supported but restructured with an equity lens to ensure they reduce barriers to access for the low-to-middle income communities who need them most.
Provide oversight to ensure FEMA’s policies do not perpetuate inequity
There is growing evidence that FEMA often helps white disaster victims more than people of color, even when encountering the same level of damage—that is not meeting its legal requirement to provide aid without discrimination on racial or other grounds, and that aid is not targeted to those most in need. Not only do individual white Americans often receive more aid from FEMA, so do the communities in which they live, according to several recent studies based on federal data. This must be addressed immediately for equity reasons, but also because of the disproportionate impact of disasters on marginalized communities. FEMA should create an "equity standard” by which to judge whether grants increase or decrease equity over time. Some means by which to achieve this include: identifying and incorporating equity-based performance measures into the process, disaggregating data by race, ethnicity, and income, and incorporating social and physical determinants of health—as defined by CDC and Healthy People 2030—into funding decision-making matrices. FEMA should also assess the current process of distributing mitigation and preparedness funds to determine which policies, regulations, and legislation need to be revised so the outcomes are more equitable.
Protect the workers most vulnerable to extreme heat
Whether it’s agriculture, construction, manufacturing or food processing, millions of outdoor and indoor workers across the country don’t have the luxury of working in climate-controlled settings and lack any safeguards to protect them from heat-related illness, injury or death. Among them, farmworkers are particularly vulnerable. Compared to all other civilian occupations, crop workers are 35 times more likely to die due to heat-related causes, and the majority of these deaths are among immigrant workers. Consistent with the calls of frontline workers and the recommendations of the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, Congress must support S.1068/H.R.2193 – the Asuncion Valdivia Heat Illness and Fatality Prevention Act of 2021, a bill that would require the Department of Labor (DOL) to establish a heat illness standard to ensure workers are provided with training, access to potable and cool water, shade, paid rest breaks, and protocols for emergency response, among other protections.
Prioritize nature-based solutions to address infrastructure needs and resilience
Natural infrastructure that supports resilience while providing ecosystem services requires federal investment in the same way that hard infrastructure does. Nature distribution is unequal in America: Latinos and other communities of color have less access to green spaces in their communities, which means inequitable access to the mental and physical wellbeing it offers. This is reflected particularly in large cities, where low-income and communities of color have less tree coverage than white neighborhoods, resulting in heat deserts that may only worsen with increasing temperatures. Nature-based solutions are an important component of climate-resilient infrastructure—from protecting forest and public lands that capture carbon dioxide to restoring coastal mangroves that reduce risk of erosion and expanding green-gray infrastructure in cities that improves community resilience.
List of Organizations (not complete):
Hispanic Access Foundation
National Hispanic Medical Association
Defiende Nuestra Tierra
MANA, A National Latina Organization
Earth Ethics, Inc.
The CLEO Institute
National Latino Farmers & Ranchers Trade Association
Nuestra Tierra Conservation Project
Latino Community Foundation
Latinxs in Sustainability
Society of Native Nations
Community Nature Connection
Defensores de la Cuenca
Earth Ethics, Inc.
Black Millennials 4 Flint
GA Familias Unidas
Keep Sedona Beautiful
Justice for Migrant Women
Colorado Latino Forum
Rep GA Institute, Inc
GA Familias Unidas
Migrant Equity Southeast (MESE)
Latino Community Fund Inc. (LCF Georgia)
National Association of Hispanic Nurses (NAHN)
New Georgia Project
Fuerte Arts Movement
League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC)
Represent GA Action Network Inc
Climate Innovation at Movement Strategy Center
Dialogue on Diversity
Poder in Action
Arizona Students' Association
Arizona Dream Act Coalition
Mi Familia Vota
Make the Road Nevada
Voces Unidas de las Montañas