Mayor Brandon M. Scott Announces Initiative to Mitigate Disproportionate Impact of COVID-19 on Latinx Community
Prevention, Control, and Support (Prevención, Control y Respaldo) Initiative Will Expand Education, Outreach and Direct Support for the Latinx Community
BALTIMORE, MD (Friday, December 18, 2020) – Today, Mayor Brandon M. Scott, Health Commissioner Dr. Letitia Dzirasa and Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs (MIMA) Director Catalina Rodriguez Lima announced the COVID-19: Prevención, Control y Respaldo (COVID-19: Prevention, Control, and Support) strategy to mitigate the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 in the Latino community.
COVID-19 continues to have an outsized impact on communities of color locally and nationwide, including the Latinx community. While Latinx Baltimoreans make up just over 5% of the population, they currently represent 15% of total cases.
Starting January 2021, the City of Baltimore will increase its educational and outreach efforts in the Latinx community, where COVID-19 rates are disproportionately high, in partnership with CASA of Maryland. The City, through the Health Department, will also work directly with the Esperanza Center to develop a cadre of linguistically and culturally competent contact tracers. These contact tracers will work to connect residents testing positive for COVID-19 with limited access to public benefits to Resource Navigators, who will connect residents with financial assistance from the Emergency Relief for Immigrant Families (ERIF) fund.
“I want to thank Director Rodriguez Lima, Health Commissioner Dr. Dzirasa, and all of the community-based partners who have worked together on this initiative,” Mayor Brandon M. Scott said. “The collaboration fostered by deep, community-based partnerships will allow us to better provide services for Latino residents disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.”
The partnership builds on existing efforts by the Health Department and MIMA around community testing, bilingual contact tracing, isolation support, bilingual and bicultural messaging and communications, and support for families with limited access to public benefits.
“Over the last nine months, MIMA refocused its efforts to prioritize and respond to the immediate needs of immigrants impacted by COVID-19,” said Catalina Rodriguez Lima, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs. “Our work would not have been possible without the partnership and support of city and state agencies, the philanthropic community, immigrant serving organizations, faith based groups and community stakeholders assisting our most vulnerable families. The Prevention, Control and Support initiative will allow us to increase our capacity to better serve Latinos impacted by the pandemic over the next year. I am grateful for the leadership and support of Mayor Scott and Dr. Dzirasa. They have taken important measures to protect the health and safety of our residents impacted by the pandemic.”
Beginning this summer, the Baltimore City Health Department and the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs regularly convened governmental agencies, non-profit organizations, religious leaders, and community stakeholders to increase coordination of resources when responding to the needs of Latinos impacted by the pandemic. The workgroup has included regular meetings of representatives of the following organizations:
Catholic Charities Esperanza Center
JHU Centro Sol
Southeast Community Development Corporation
Johns Hopkins Hospital
Friends of Patterson Park
Breath of God Lutheran Church
Sacred Heart of Jesus
Iglesia de la Resurrección
Healthcare Access Maryland
Maryland Department of Health
The workgroup’s overall goal is to reduce the impact of COVID-19 on the Latinx community living in Baltimore by implementing a coordinated, multipronged strategy that is culturally and linguistically appropriate. The COVID-19: Prevención, Control y Respaldo (COVID-19: Prevention, Control, and Support) strategy includes the following:
Prevention: The City of Baltimore will partner with CASA to enhance bilingual and bicultural public messaging and in-person outreach to educate Limited English Proficient Latinos about how to prevent the virus, where to get tested, and where to isolate, while debunking myths that prevent this community from seeking help. Furthermore, community messengers will educate residents about the importance of getting vaccinated when a vaccine becomes available. Under this phase of the initiative, CASA will recruit trusted community members who live in the community to serve as credible community messengers, or Promotores/as. Their role as Promotores/as will be to educate the neighborhoods hardest hit by COVID-19 to prevent the spread, while guiding community members to trusted sources of information and resources.
Control: The Health Department will support the initiative through a collaborative effort to ensure community COVID testing remains accessible to the Latino community. The Health Department is also partnering to make available a cadre of linguistically and culturally competent contact tracers as part of the Baltimore Health Corps program. Bilingual contact tracers will refer residents to Resource Navigators to increase the ability to engage people who have tested positive or are contacts of known cases, and offer existing resources to ensure effective quarantine or isolation. Effective contract tracing will help reduce the spread of infection. Finally, the Health Department will continue to promote the city’s Tri Center to ensure Latino residents regardless of immigrant status can safely isolate.
Support: The City of Baltimore will partner with Catholic Charities Esperanza Center to staff a set of Resource Navigators to help residents excluded from public benefits and with a positive test locate services and resources to help them and their families through the isolation process and beyond. Resource Navigators will be trained in navigating different government systems and will be knowledgeable about eligibility criteria based on immigrant status. Finally, Resource Navigators will be able to apply to MIMA’s Emergency Relief for Immigrant Families (ERIF) program on behalf of eligible families to minimize financial pressure to continue working despite health risks.
“This initiative helps us target interventions that will control and prevent the spread of COVID-19, improving the health outcomes of Latino residents affected by the disease,” Dr. Dzirasa said.
The overall management and direction of the initiative will be the responsibility of the Baltimore City Health Department and the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, with each community-based partner providing guidance and implementation oversight.
“Our Latinx, Black, and immigrant community has been suffering a pandemic of systemic oppression long before the COVID-19 virus struck. And as a consequence, the COVID-19 pandemic has heightened the existing gaps of service and trust faced by our Black and Brown families, during such devastating times. We are grateful to see Baltimore City leadership continue to step up and support the extraordinary work that is needed to provide inclusive outreach and services to our Latinx and immigrant families; particularly during a time when our community has felt abandoned and betrayed by federal programs and humanitarian relief efforts,” Lydia Walther-Rodriguez, CASA Baltimore and Central Maryland Region Director said.
“Esperanza Center is grateful to the Mayor’s Office and to MIMA for its vision and efforts to launch the COVID-19 Prevention, Control, and Support strategy. This initiative is saving lives,” said Matthew Dolamore, Director of the Catholic Charities Esperanza Center. “It is Esperanza’s privilege to join this partnership to ensure our immigrant sisters and brothers have necessary access to health care, information, and appropriate resources to keep children, adults, and families safe.”
“The City of Baltimore is committed to providing resources to residents critically impacted by the health and economic devastation of COVID-19,” Mayor Scott said. “The coordination and resource navigation provided through this collaboration will help us better direct aid, and will help us save lives.”
The COVID-19: Prevención, Control y Respaldo (COVID-19: Prevention, Control, and Support) initiative is one of many efforts by the City of Baltimore to respond to the immediate needs of immigrants and refugees impacted by COVID-19. Since the beginning of the pandemic, MIMA has focused on the following four areas:
- Language access and messaging: MIMA staff have evaluated materials for translation and worked with a professional translation company to produce translated materials. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, MIMA has provided translations of hundreds of documents.
- Source of multilingual information and information dissemination: During the response period to COVID-19, MIMA established a series of communication channels to provide weekly updates and information related to public services and resources available for communities in multiple languages. To this date, MIMA has provided over 200 community updates via Facebook, GovDelivery, and videoconferences in various languages.
- Technical assistance for City agencies to overcome barriers related to language, immigrant status, and the digital divide: As health and economic relief resources were made available to residents, MIMA has worked closely with multiple agencies to ensure programs were inclusive of immigrant communities regardless of language, immigrant status, or the ability to access technology.
- Supporting immigrant families excluded by the CARES Act: To meet the immediate needs of these families during the pandemic, MIMA established the Emergency Relief for Immigrant Families (ERIF) program. This initiative raised public and private funds to provide housing stability for Baltimore City families that cannot work or access unemployment benefits and/or other forms of federal relief. To date, ERIF has provided assistance to over 2,000 families and 250 individuals. The initiative is possible thanks to the support of Baltimore City and more than 15 foundations and individuals.
About the Emergency Relief for Immigrant Families
The Emergency Relief for Immigrant Families (ERIF) was established by the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs with the support of the Baltimore Civic Fund and the Straus Foundation to assist immigrant families impacted by the pandemic with limited access to public benefits. To date, ERIF has raised over $2 million dollars and supported over 2,000 families and 250 individuals. The initiative is possible thanks to the support of public and private partners such as: The City of Baltimore, Abell Foundation, Diaz Family, Clayton Baker Trust, France-Merrick Foundation, Goldseker Foundation, Leonard & Helen Stulman Foundation, Lockhart Vaughan Foundation, Morton and Jane Blaustein Foundation, OSI Baltimore, The Annie E. Casey Foundation, The Straus Foundation, The Jacob and Hilda Blaustein Foundation, The Rauch Foundation, The Zanvyl and Isabelle Krieger Fund – The Fund for Change, Robert E. Meyerhoff and Rheda Becker, and individual donors. For more information or to support ERIF, please visit https://mima.baltimorecity.gov/erif
About the COVID-19 Latinx Hispanic Workgroup
Co-facilitated by the Mayor’s Office for Immigrant Affairs (MIMA) and the Baltimore City Health Department (BCHD), the COVID-19 Latinx Hispanic Workgroup meets on a weekly basis and is comprised of representatives from the following groups: Catholic Charities Esperanza Center, CASA, JHU Centro Sol, Southeast Community Development Corporation, Johns Hopkins Hospital, Friends of Patterson Park, Breath of God Lutheran Church, Sacred Heart of Jesus, Iglesia de la Resurrección, Healthcare Access Maryland, TRI Center, Baltimore Corps, and the Maryland Department of Health.
With over 100,000 members across the states of Maryland, Virginia, and South Central Pennsylvania, CASA is the largest member-based Latino and immigrant organization in the mid-Atlantic region. CASA organizes with and litigates on behalf of low-wage immigrants.
About Catholic Charities Esperanza Center
A program of Catholic Charities of Baltimore, the Esperanza Center welcomes immigrants by offering hope, compassionate services, and the power to improve their lives. Since 1963, immigrants from all over the world have trusted the Esperanza Center to help them navigate life in a new country. The dedicated staff and volunteers provide services related to education, healthcare, immigration legal matters, family reunification for unaccompanied immigrant minors, survivors of crime and domestic violence, and general community support to thousands of immigrants each year.