Local groups are using relief funds to help Hispanic and Latinx households impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Southwest Washington League of Latin American Citizens council has raised more than $300,000 and distributed $240,000 to local families in need.
Ed Hamilton, president of the local LULAC council, has found people’s needs are greater than they initially indicate. Households may ask for $500 but actually need $1,000 to cover rent, utilities and food.
Often, people’s needs are multilayered, and LULAC will refer families to other organizations. For instance, LULAC sent locals who have been threatened with eviction to the Clark County Volunteer Lawyers Program.
People also may not be aware of relief packages for the self-employed or about the state Food Assistance Program for legal immigrants or federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (called Basic Food in Washington).
Due to language barriers or not knowing how to navigate the system, people can miss opportunities for help, he said.
“There’s a lot of misinformation out there, and if you think it’s not available to you, you’re not going to look,” Hamilton said.
Elizabeth Najera, executive director of Latino Community Resource Group, said that, culturally, it’s oftentimes hard to come out of the shadows and ask for assistance.
“It’s a big hurdle for a lot of families,” she said.
Hamilton believes families will continue to need financial help throughout the year, and mental health challenges will increase among the Latino community, which is disproportionately impacted by the novel coronavirus. As of Wednesday, people of Hispanic descent represent 37 percent of COVID-19 cases in Washington but 13 percent of the overall population, according to the state Department of Health.
A recent survey of 1,800 Latinos done by political research firm Latino Decisions and care provider network Somos found about one-quarter of Latinos know someone who became ill from the virus.
Many have been heavily hit financially by the virus. Thirty-one percent of U.S.-born Latinos surveyed and 45 percent of immigrants said they did not receive a stimulus check. About half of Latino entrepreneurs whose businesses shut down or lost revenue said they had trouble getting a loan under the initial stimulus bill.
Both LULAC and Latino Community Resource Group said they will keep campaigning for equality and availability of resources to everyone regardless of status. When we come out on the other side of this, it will bring light to the disparities we see now, Najera said.
Latino Community Resource Group is still getting a lot of requests for money to cover rent, utilities and food; it’s using grants from the Community Foundation for Southwest Washington and money raised online. As of last week, the fund had helped 202 families.
While there’s still great need in Clark County, Latino Community Resource Group is also establishing relationships in neighboring Cowlitz and Skamania counties, more rural areas where it can be harder to reach minority communities.
“There’s still so much to overcome,” Najera said. “This is going to be a long-term task at hand.”
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