Guadalupe hasn’t worked for six weeks. Her husband has been sick at the hospital with COVID-19 for three weeks. And the family has no income to survive.
They are late on rent and rely on food pantries to get food.
“We don’t have a dollar to our name,” Guadalupe said in Spanish, crying. “We have no money, and no one wants to help us because we don’t have papers.”
We’re not using Guadalupe’s last name because she’s an undocumented immigrant and fears deportation. She lives in the West Englewood neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side and has been asking family members for help. But the problem is that her relatives are all facing similar struggles. Most of them either stopped working, had their hours cut or contracted COVID-19. Her nephew in Waukegan died of COVID-19.
Guadalupe’s situation is not unique. The results of two new polls released this week provide a deeper look at how Latino households are struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic. The coronavirus has impacted both the medical and economic health of Latinos.
Nationwide, 22% of all Latino adults know someone who is sick with coronavirus, according to the Somos — COVID-19 Crisis National Latino Survey, a national poll conducted in April. About 86% of respondents said they were concerned that their local hospitals wouldn’t have enough supplies. And about 20% said they have lost their employer-provided health insurance.
The poll also provided a closer look at the economic hardships Latinos are facing. And the situation is dire.
According to the poll, 76% of respondents said they feared that they won’t be able to pay for rent or other basic expenses as the pandemic continues. And a third of the respondents report having lost a significant portion of their savings and retirement.
The poll had a nationally representative sample of Latinos, and half of the respondents answered the poll in Spanish.
During a webinar on Wednesday, several Latino leaders said the Latino community has been destabilized by the pandemic.
“I can’t help to wonder when we have individuals living from paycheck to paycheck with limited protection, what did we expect to happen when this pandemic hit,” said Illinois congressman Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, who participated in the webinar on Wednesday. “Half say they have $500 or less to deal with an emergency.”
For Latino workers who are still employed, the situation is still difficult, according to the poll. About 36% of Latinos work in critical or “essential” jobs in produce, food and restaurant, or health care sectors. And more than a third of those working outside the home report feeling “unsafe” in their work environment because of the lack of personal protective equipment, according to the poll.
Maricela Garcia, director of the Gads Hill Center in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood, said she’s been collecting data from the families they serve.
Gads Hill provides early childhood education to about 1,000 Latino families living in the city’s Southwest Side neighborhoods.
“The first challenge was to deal with the digital divide,” Garcia said. “ Half of our families reported not having a computer or internet.”
About 37% of Latino households in the survey reported not having internet or only having access through cell phones. And 32% of Latino families don’t have enough computers for homeschooling.
“The poll is the first step to forming a coalition,” said Henry Muñoz, co-director of Somos, which led the survey. “This survey really covers three areas, health … jobs and small businesses … and the third one is education and the digital divide. There’s an opportunity to bring thought leaders, activist and community groups and artists to really unify our voice.”
Meanwhile, a separate poll, by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, found that twice as many African Americans and Latinos report no longer earning any income compared to white Americans.
“This is not impacting families the same way,” said Angela Fontes, director of the Behavioral and Economic Analysis and Decision-Making team at NORC. “We really want to understand the long-term impact, particularly for families that are at financial risk already. What is this going to do to families that are already struggling?”
Fontes said many families don’t have savings, or even a 401(k) plan, they might use for emergencies. The poll found that one in every five respondents with no college education said they did not believe their income would ever return to what it was before the pandemic.
María Ines Zamudio is a reporter for WBEZ’s Race, Class and Communities desk. Follow her @mizamudio.