When Our Heroes are Also Our Most Vulnerable

March 24, 2020

It is hard to believe how our lives, as Angelinos, have been altered in just a matter of days due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Social distancing, school and business closures, and the many safe guards issued by elected officials to limit the spread of the virus are constant reminders that we are stepping into uncharted territory. During times of crisis it is natural to feel scared and uneasy about what the future will bring, but we cannot forget that we are resilient, and our collective determination will help us overcome this challenge. We see that determination from nonprofit service providers, healthcare, grocery, retail, farm, factory and transit workers who are on the frontlines making sure our city continues to move forward amidst this crisis. They are the real unsung heroes, and in many cases belong to a vulnerable class who will be acutely impacted by COVID-19 directly and indirectly.

As we begin to look at ways to move Los Angeles forward, it is crucial to identify and bring relief to those most impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak. Individuals living on the margins and below the poverty line such as immigrants, low-income workers and the homeless are especially vulnerable, because they have limited access to healthcare and often inadequate access to hygiene resources. These individuals are less likely to seek care for a variety of reasons including: no healthcare insurance, no paid sick leave and a lack of understanding about the seriousness of COVID-19 symptoms. Lack of timely and adequate care will impact their prognosis and ultimately their survival rates. In Los Angeles we have 750,000 uninsured residents of which 500,000 are immigrants who do not qualify for coverage due to their status. Their livelihoods will be determined by our collective actions.

The long-term effects of COVID-19 are far-reaching and extend beyond health. LAUSD has among the highest concentrations of low-income students in the state, with more than 80% living at or below the poverty line. Schools closures have forced thousands of students to be homeschooled, putting a strain on low-income families who may not have the means to provide their children with computer or internet access at home. Broadband availability has been at the heart of the digital divide and the COVID-19 outbreak highlights the urgent need for internet access within low-income communities as schools struggle to substitute in-school resources with online instruction, electronic libraries, streaming videos, and other online tutorials. In addition, low-income workers live pay-check-to-pay-check with little to no savings to be able to weather a layoff. With Los Angeles’ homeless crisis at an all-time high (nearly 60,000 individuals experience homelessness on any given night) we cannot afford to have more individuals evicted and displaced. Working collaboratively with nonprofit organizations, philanthropic funders, business leaders, donors and elected officials to determine the best course of action is crucial and must be prioritized.

With the above in mind, California Community Foundation (CCF) launched the COVID-19 LA County Response Fund to address the immediate and emerging needs of our region’s most vulnerable residents. This fund will support community needs identified by our partners in health, housing, education and immigration, and will aid impacted individuals through our Pass it Along Fund. CCF is a community foundation and our community is Los Angeles County. By being responsive during times of uncertainty, we embrace our leadership role to respond to the evolving needs of our diverse residents.

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