Millions of front-line workers were deemed ‘essential’ to ensure that our communities continued to operate and that basic needs were met. These essential workers, which include grocery, retail, postal, health care and domestic workers among others, have experienced some of the highest COVID-19 infection and death rates in Los Angeles County.
The pandemic exposed the social and economic inequalities in the County. As COVID-19 vaccines became available the barriers and disparities to access were further magnified for Angelenos in our most vulnerable low-income communities, especially for low-income workers of color.
Information on how to get a vaccine wasn’t always available in the numerous languages spoken throughout Los Angeles. And many individuals experienced technology barriers to booking online appointments and transportation challenges, especially for essential workers who rely on public transportation. Throughout the pandemic, the California Community Foundation (CCF) has been working with community groups across the County to ensure essential workers and vulnerable populations have fair and equitable access to COVID-19 testing, essential protective gear and the ability to get vaccinated.
“We [knew] from the data that fewer than 10% of people in communities where essential workers live [were] receiving vaccinations, even if they [were] eligible”
— Dr. Rosemary Veniegas,
CCF’s Senior Program Officer in Health
In March of 2021, “We [knew] from the data that fewer than 10% of people in communities where essential workers live [were] receiving vaccinations, even if they [were] eligible,” said Dr. Rosemary Veniegas, CCF’s Senior Program Officer in Health.
Pilipino Workers Center (PWC), a CCF grantee, mobilized support for not only the Filipino community, but also collaborated with organizations representing Black and Latinx essential workers, many of whom are immigrants, to help these vulnerable groups get vaccinated.
“These essential workers don’t have the privilege of working from home…they are required to be out in the community,” said Aquilina Soriano Versoza, PWC’s Executive Director. So, ensuring an equitable vaccine rollout was of paramount importance to stop the disproportionate impact of the virus on essential workers.
“These essential workers don’t have the privilege of working from home…they are required to be out in the community.”
— Aquilina Soriano Versoza,
Executive Director of Pilipino Workers Center
One of the groups PWC supports are domestic workers, those employed in home healthcare, or as caregivers. Given the important role these workers play, they still had challenges getting vaccinated. Some are undocumented or not on their organization’s payroll and lacked the paperwork needed to get vaccinated.
PWC has provided medical and cash assistance to those workers who have been exposed to COVID-19 and did not have sick pay. They provide text-based trainings in multiple languages on how workers can keep themselves and the clients they care for safe from COVID-19. And when vaccines became available PWC began helping workers get vaccinated by navigating the complex appointment scheduling websites and organizing mobile vaccination vans to come into the community directly.
PWC, leading a collaborative of worker organizations, has been able to help over 1,090 essential workers and their families get vaccinated, and PWC alone has assisted 3,741 individuals with medical, cash, food or training resources. One thing PWC emphasizes amidst all the calamities thrown their way, is that when communities work together, they can truly make a difference in the lives of others. This is called the ‘Bayanihan Spirit’, a Filipino custom of communal unity, work and cooperation to achieve a particular goal.