The South Asian Americans Left Behind

The U.S. CARES Act left many non-citizens ineligible for stimulus checks. The HEROES Act could change the conversation.

Kiran Misra

May 19, 2020

The South Asian Americans Left Behind
Chicago’s Devon Avenue corridor has long been the Midwestern city’s South Asian hub. (Steve Browne & John Verkleir)

Ten miles north of Chicago landmarks such as “The Bean,” Michigan Avenue, and Navy Pier is Devon Avenue, the city’s South Asian American hub. It’s the best place within a couple hundred miles to sample sugar cane juice, snack on mithai sold by the pound, stock up on namkeen and frozen parathas, and buy a lehenga — all in the span of one block. It is Chicago’s most diverse neighborhood, where you’re as likely to have conversations with eyebrow-threading aunties or Patel Brothers shopkeepers in Urdu, Hindi, Nepali, Bengali, or Gujarati, as you are to speak with someone in English.

As coronavirus cases escalated across the city, West Ridge — the neighborhood that encompasses Devon Avenue — had residents testing positive for COVID-19 faster than any other in Illinois. As hundreds fell sick and restaurants and stores shuttered, many families were unable to pay the bills.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill President Donald Trump signed into law at the end of March, aimed to alleviate some of the economic impact by offering a rebate of $1,200 per eligible taxpayer with an additional $500 per child. The checks phase out for those earning over $75,000 annually (or $150,000 for married filers) and fully cut off for single earners making $99,000 or more (or $198,000 for married couples).