May 9, 2020

Immigrants make up nearly a third of Florida’s ‘essential’ workforce, new study finds [Miami Herald]

This post was last updated on December 8, 2021. As new policies are announced, FPI will update this page.

As Florida’s response to COVID-19 takes front and center, concern grows for low-income families who struggle to take precautions against the spread of the virus. Although Congress has passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act to address, at least in part,  the public health crisis and economic fallout from COVID-19, many barriers continue to keep struggling families from accessing the assistance they need during the pandemic. As Florida initiates policies implementing the Act and addressing other barriers to the safety net, FPI will update this form. When available, hyperlinks are provided to agency documents or statements that provide greater detail  about the new policy.

On March 22, 2020, FPI and 44 other organizations sent a letter to Governor DeSantis, leadership in the Legislature and agency heads to urge action on 47 specific policy changes to reduce unnecessary barriers for Florida’s safety net programs in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. See the letter here.

Lautaro Grinspan writes:

"Essential workers were recently feted in South Florida with a thunderous flyover by the Navy’s Blue Angels.

But who makes up the state’s essential workforce? A new report out of the Florida Policy Institute (FPI) [emphasis added] strives to provide some answers.

Among the key findings: Nearly a third of all the workers on the front lines of Florida’s coronavirus pandemic are immigrants — a group that includes those both with and without legal status. Nationwide, that figure stands at just 17%.

Women and African Americans are also over-represented in the state’s essential workforce, the study found.


“I was noticing a lot of praise and appreciation for essential workers but without any context of who they are and what their needs might be,” said Alexis Davis, FPI policy analyst and report author [emphasis added].

Based on a recent analysis of Census data by the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), Davis’ report also highlights that women represent 63% of Florida’s essential workers. Black Floridians are also over-represented, making up 22% of all essential workers in the state but just 16% of the total workforce.

Davis said she was not surprised by the findings.

“It generally makes sense to us that roles that are higher-risk and with lower wages are going to be dominated by immigrants and other vulnerable groups like women and people of color,” she said.


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