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Hope for 2021 and Beyond: Letter from the President and CEO

Friends and neighbors,

In January, I was honored and privileged to receive the COVID-19 vaccine alongside Mayor Lori Lightfoot at a hospital in Englewood, Chicago, one of the city neighborhoods most impacted by the pandemic. It was a blessing to know that in that moment, my life, and my family and loved ones’ lives, were safe.

First and foremost, if you are hesitant about getting vaccinated, my message to you is this: This vaccine is safe, and it saves lives. COVID is dangerous, and it kills.

You may know that the Forum and Illinois Unidos are working tirelessly to make sure that everyone has this same opportunity that I had, the same access to the COVID vaccine and to testing. Our essential workers especially need this opportunity. They are the ones who keep our economy running and who have the highest rates of COVID, and who do not have the luxury of working from home. They are taking care of our children, working in factories, preparing and serving our food, and doing the cleanup and disinfecting that COVID requires.

Unfortunately, not all have equal access. Arranging for a vaccine appointment has presented complicated barriers for those without computer or internet access, or free time, or who don’t live near vaccine sites. It has been a messy process that’s even more frustrating for those who don’t speak English. As our own research director Noreen Sugrue puts it in her blog about these barriers: “The premise that a vaccine being available means that it is equally available to everyone is simply wrong.”

To that end, we at the Forum appreciate the City’s Protect Chicago Plus plan, which prioritizes its most impacted zip codes. In February, we hosted a bilingual town hall with our Illinois Unidos colleague Dra. Geraldine Luna, who shared critical vaccine facts in English and Spanish and explained priority groups and how the plan is designed.

The vaccine has not been the only beacon of hope that we’ve witnessed already one quarter into 2021. In March, we were overjoyed to hear about the permanent blockage of the Public Charge rule, which instilled fear throughout the immigrant community and discouraged them from enrolling in public-benefit programs like SNAP, public housing, Section 8 housing assistance, and Medicaid.

And just yesterday, we were pleased to see the final report from the Illinois Equitable Early Childhood Education committee, which identifies several opportunities to rebuild our early care system and pave the way toward a promising future. You can read our response here.

I hope that this sense of hope has reached your homes as well, that you remain in good health, and that you feel a new sense of energy, gratitude, and purpose as we continue towards a more just and equitable society in 2021 and beyond.