Pilipino Workers Center receives LA County grant to help reduce impact of COVID-19 in HiFi, Fil-Am community 

THE Pilipino Workers Center (PWC) in Historic Filipinotown is among the local organizations that have been selected as part of Los Angeles County’s Community Equity Fund to help slow the spread of COVID-19 in communities disproportionately impacted by the virus.

Through the fund, announced in December, the 51 organizations — which include health care centers, immigrant rights groups and churches —  are tasked with raising awareness in their communities in culturally relevant ways on how to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and connect residents to health care, social services and testing.

“For our community, this is really critical since we’ve had such high numbers of cases. Having someone who’s also Filipino communicate the information can do it effectively and help prevent the spread,” Aquilina Soriano Versoza, executive director of PWC, told the Asian Journal.

This includes training trusted messengers that community members can turn to for verified information and where to go for services.

By the end of December, LA County recorded 746,089 positive cases of COVID-19 and a total of 9,782 deaths since the start of the pandemic. Of the death toll, about 14% occurred among residents of Asian descent.

Though the Asian data is not disaggregated, numerous reports have shown how the Filipino American community has been affected since the start of the pandemic — from working in health care and other frontline jobs that can’t be done from home to living in multigenerational households.

Historic Filipinotown has experienced 9,135 cases to date, according to the LA County Public Health Department.

“The capacit[ies] of hospitals and the ICUs are very minimal right now so that impacts our community, not just those who have COVID, but we have so many other health issues as a community,” Soriano Versoza said.

Organizations like PWC will also conduct case investigation and contact tracing to inform people who have been exposed to or are infected with COVID-19 about their risks and the need to isolate and quarantine, respectively.

But in addition to the direct health impact of the virus, other issues reported by community members include the need for childcare, feelings of isolation, mental health concerns, job loss, and access to food and other resources.
“They’re feeling like a crunch in all different ways. We’ve heard a  lot of stories of seniors in our community who are really feeling this pandemic financially as well as emotionally,” Soriano Versoza said.

Once the vaccine is rolled out for public use, PWC anticipates having a campaign to encourage the Fil-Am community to get vaccinated.

“Even with the vaccine, the financial impacts are going to go on longer. Those who were already more vulnerable, even before the pandemic, are especially being hurt now. So that’s why the Community Equity Fund is really finding those who are in the most need,” Soriano Versoza said.

In addition to the fund, PWC has mobilized its team to provide working families with supplies and other resources through its own Community Care Program — which includes the care box deliveries, care fund, care meals, COVID-19 relief fund, virtual town halls, temporary shelter and emergency assistance.

Christina M. Oriel

Christina M. Oriel is an award-winning editor and communications strategist based in Los Angeles with experience in content, strategy and branding for media ecosystems, inclusive fintech startups, small businesses and direct-to-consumer products.

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