It has been six months since COVID-19 first arrived in the United States and it’s clear that not all Americans have been impacted equally. Latinos make up 18.5 percent of the U.S. population, yet they account for 34 percent of all coronavirus cases. In fact, Latinos have been disproportionately impacted in just about every area touched by COVID-19 crisis—from healthcare to housing, unemployment to food insecurity.
During a conversation hosted by the Aspen Institute Latinos & Society Program, Latino Community Foundation CEO Jacqueline Martinez Garcel joined Latino leaders from across the country to discuss how Latino-led solutions can serve to aid the community in its dire moment of need, but to also correct structural inequalities that led to this health and economic crisis in the first place. Here are the key takeaways:
1. The pandemic has both uncovered and exacerbated long-standing structural and systemic inequalities.
Nationally, Latinos are less likely to have to have health coverage compared to other demographic groups. In California, the state with the largest share of Latinos in the country, half of the uninsured population is Latino. Latinos are also not as likely to be able to shelter-in-place when compared to white workers. “The people that are safeguarding American life during this unprecedented pandemic are our frontline and essential workers, who are overwhelmingly of color, and many are Latino,” said Sonja Diaz, founding director of UCLA Latino Politics & Policy Initiative (LPPI).
Further, not all Californians are experiencing the pandemic in the same way. Rural communities in the Central Valley and Inland Empire have seen infection and death rates that are significantly higher than the state average.
2. While community leaders shine a light on this long-standing inequality, they are also creating their own solutions.
The COVID-19 crisis also underscored inequity that existed before the crisis within the philanthropic sector: only 1.1 percent of all foundation dollars go to Latino-led and Latino-serving organizations. Despite this gap in funding, Latino leaders have met the moment with steadfast determination. The Latino Community Foundation, for example, has raised nearly $2 million dollars though the Love Not Fear Fund designed to support Latino-led nonprofit organizations that provide critical services to the communities they serve.
“The virus took the path of the systems that we already had in place,” said Jacqueline Martinez Garcel, LCF’s CEO, “we mobilized quickly to establish the fund for vulnerable populations, including rural communities in the Central Valley and seniors that have been locked out of the state’s health insurance program because of their immigration status.” The foundation also advocated the Governor of California to invest public dollars towards communities shut out of federal relief efforts, which helped lead to state-based disaster relief assistance for undocumented workers shut out of federal relief.
3. Latinos should not just be tapped to implement solutions; they need to be at the table helping to formulate them
Whether it’s the 2020 Census, voting in the presidential election during a pandemic, closing the digital divide, or contact tracing in hard-to-reach communities to help slow the spread of the coronavirus, Latinos are ready to be a part of the solutions that can lead to more equitable outcomes. Currently there are over 60 million Latinos living in the U.S.—by 2060 it could be 111.2 million. However, there is concern about an undercount of Latinos in the census count that ends in September, and that come October, they will not have sufficient information to make an informed decision about how to participate in the General Election. “Local government is making choices without Latinos at the table. It’s not a surprise to me why our strategies are not hitting the mark,” said Alex Sanchez, managing director of the Colorado-based Voces Unidas, “we have to be the architects to inform these decisions.”
Written by Eduardo García, Senior Policy Fellow at the Latino Community Foundation.