Northern Virginia Uses New Research to Inform Immigrant-inclusive COVID-19 Relief Measures

New Research from New American Economy shows that immigrants in Northern Virginia play an outsize role in critical industries, making up over 60 percent of all construction workers and 50 percent of all food service workers.

Fairfax, VA– New research from New American Economy (NAE) released today in partnership with the Northern Virginia Regional Commission (NVRC) and the Community Foundation for Northern Virginia highlights how immigrants are both essential to the region’s rapid response efforts and especially vulnerable due to gaps in federal relief packages, language access barriers, and increased risks of infection associated with frontline and essential work.

The report will be released today at NVRC’s Immigrant Community of Northern Virginia: Economic Impact and COVID-19 webinar from 2:30-4:00pm EDT. The virtual event will highlight findings from the report and will feature remarks from both NAE and the Community Foundation for Northern Virginia.  The report and its associated dashboard will be posted on NVRC’s NOVA Regional Dashboard during the webinar.

Key findings from this report include:

  • Immigrants serve in essential industries and carry out vital roles that keep Northern Virginia functioning but put them at higher risk of infection. Despite making up 27.6 percent of the county’s residents in 2018, immigrants comprise 60.1 percent of all construction workers, 56.9 percent of all essential services workers, 51.2 percent of all transportation and warehousing workers, and 50.2 percent of all food service workers in the region.
  • Immigrants play an important role in Northern Virginia as job creators but are concentrated in industries that are especially vulnerable to the economic recession caused by COVID-19. Immigrants make up 59.3 percent of business owners in personal services, like laundry, barber, and repair shops, and over 41 percent of business owners in retail trade.
  • Culturally sensitive and language accessible emergency materials are in demand. In 2018, 18.3 percent of immigrants, or 124,700, living in Northern Virginia had limited English language proficiency. The top language spoken at home other than English was Spanish (31.2 percent), followed by Korean (5.5 percent).
  • Access to healthcare and medical services remains critical during this pandemic. Over 21 percent of immigrants, or 143,800 people, were living in Northern Virginia without health insurance in 2018.

“I cannot overstate the importance of data in understanding the economic power and contribution of recent immigrants on the GDP of Northern Virginia,” said Eileen Ellsworth, President and CEO of the Community Foundation for Northern Virginia. “Investing in their economic success is tantamount to investing in the economic success of the entire region.”

“The immigrant population is essential to keeping Northern Virginia’s frontline industries running, yet especially vulnerable to gaps in our social safety nets,” said Mo Kantner, Director of State and Local Initiatives at New American Economy. “This supplemental NAE research will support efforts in the region to work quickly and innovatively to fill critical gaps in federal programs and ensure that response and recovery efforts reach all residents in the Northern Virginia region.”

“Northern Virginia is a critical element in the economic prosperity of our Commonwealth,” said Robert W. Lazaro, Jr., Executive Director of the Northern Virginia Regional Commission. “Immigrants play a vital role in our region and economy; and, we are witnessing COVID19 having an outsized negative impact in those communities. Our local governments, the Commonwealth and NGOs are working hard to work with our neighbors to help them through these difficult times.”

Read the full research report here.

About Northern Virginia Regional Commission

NVRC is a regional council of thirteen local governments in the Northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C. NVRC has provided services to its local government members and citizens for more than 50 years in a wide variety of areas including environmental, health, demography, workforce, community/military relations and energy. Northern Virginia is the economic engine of the Commonwealth of Virginia generating nearly 40% of State GDP. Visit to learn more.

About Community Foundation for Northern Virginia

The Community Foundation for Northern Virginia grows philanthropy to respond to critical need, seed innovation and lead and convene the community. Comprised of donor advised funds, permanent funds, giving circles, and other charitable endowments, the Community Foundation connects donors to community and promotes a more equitable and inclusive prosperity that marries our economic strength with the full breadth of our diverse community. In 2020 the Community Foundation awarded more than $13 million in grants and scholarships and reported $70.5 million in managed philanthropic assets.  For more information please visit us at, follow up on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.

About New American Economy

New American Economy (NAE) is a bipartisan research and advocacy organization founded to educate, empower and support policymakers, influencers, and citizens across the country that see the economic and social benefits of a smart approach to immigration reform. NAE has created a coalition of civic, business, and cultural leaders who span the political spectrum and represent all 50 states. NAE makes the case for smart immigration reform in four ways: 1) we use powerful research to demonstrate how immigration impacts our economy, 2) we organize champions at the grassroots and influencer levels to build support for immigration, 3) we partner with state and local leaders to advocate for policies that recognize the value immigrants add locally, and 4) we show immigrant contributions to American culture through film, food, art, sports, comedy, and more.

Visit to learn more.

About NAE

New American Economy is a bipartisan research and advocacy organization fighting for smart federal, state, and local immigration policies that help grow our economy and create jobs for all Americans. More…