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Latinx Community Overrepresented in Local COVID-19 Cases

Centro Latino Americano


Across the country, racial and ethnic disparities have led to minorities being more likely to contract coronavirus. Lane County is no exception, with Latinx community members disproportionately affected by COVID-19.


According to Lane County Public Health, Latinx community members make up 21% of COVID-19 cases, even though they’re only 9% of the county’s  total population. This information is based on 48 COVID-19 cases.

But Centro Latino Americano Executive Director David Sáez said these disparities aren’t new, but a magnification of health and economic disparities.

“Community members that come from the Latinx population and immigrant families, tend to come from [a] economically marginalized kind of position socially,” said Sáez. “And they also, you know, are disproportionately impacted by health issues.”

Credit Centro Latino Americano
Centro Latino Americano
Centro Latino Americano holds a leadership workshop at Buenavista Elementary School in February, before the COVID-19 outbreak.

Sáez said the lack of a standard Spanish-language newspaper has also made it difficult for community members to stay informed.

Now, Centro Latino Americano is working with Lane County Public Health and the Oregon Health Authority to provide COVID-19 information in Spanish. The group is also providing updates on Facebook and looking at incorporating text message or WhatsApp updates in order to provide information to people.

Sáez said Centro Latino Americano, Huerto de la Familia, and Downtown Languages have called over 200 Latinx community members to ask what is included in their immediate needs to determine how their living situations are impacting their health and current concerns.

“71% said [their] job situation was really their immediate need,” said Sáez. “And after that it was rent. So we're really looking at kind of the social determinants of health issues. You know, the housing, the economic security—these are things that impact people's health.”

Sáez said 42% of surveyors responded with food being their third highest need. But when asked about their future concerns for May, needs increased more than 10% as households experience more financial hardships due to stay-home orders and public closures.

“Being able to bring income in jumped to like 80% of the people that we called,” said Sáez. “And then having rent money was up to 74% and food up to 61%.”

Credit PEW Research Center
PEW Research Center

These numbers also align with national projections surveying concerns regarding employment and the ability to afford essential items.

According to data released in early-April from the PEW Research Center, “about 49% of Hispanics say they or someone in their household has taken a pay cut or lost a job—or both—during the outbreak.” This is more than 33% of all U.S. adults.

Now, Centro Latino Americano is raising funds to help households with partial payment of rent for community members who have lost their jobs during the COVID-19 outbreak. So far, they have received contributions from United Way, through online Facebook fundraising, and other foundations and private sources. But Sáez said resources are limited.

“It's about $500 per household for rent that we're trying to provide,” said Sáez. “And that money, essentially, it feels like we spend it faster than we've raised it. And we're hoping to serve about 100 households, but that's not really gonna cut it.”

On Thursday, the Oregon Emergency Board approved $10 million in funding for the Oregon Worker Relief Fundto help people who are unable to access unemployment payments for various reasons, including their immigration status.

Sáez said the group supports the state implementing a relief fund to help offset decreases in income.

“And that's really exciting,” said Sáez. “I feel like that is going to be a big help. [But] definitely not enough cause when they did analysis of how much is actually needed for the community that is ineligible for unemployment benefits or will not be receiving federal stimulus dollars, the need is actually about $124 million for [an] estimated 74,000 Oregonians.”

And since a large number of Oregonians live in the Portland area, Sáez is concerned whether enough Oregon Worker Relief Fund aid will be provided to people in smaller cities. He hopes Lane County—or even the City of Eugene and Springfield—will invest in a rent assistance program or their own worker relief fund.

“There's limits to $10 million,” said Sáez. “So making sure that we also raise some funds locally to make sure that people here are supported and it's not just ‘[let’s] leave it up to the state,’ cause that's not gonna solve the issue.”

In spite of the situation, Sáez said he has seen a lot of local support and appreciates the assistance to help Latinx and immigrant community members.

Elizabeth Gabriel is a former KLCC Public Radio Foundation Journalism Fellow. She is an education reporter at WFYI in Indianapolis.
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