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Considering the Long View: Letter from the President & CEO

  ·  Sylvia Puente

Friends and neighbors,

As days of summer are upon us, and our mood and psyche hopefully lighten as we emerge from the worst of the pandemic, we cannot forget that the impact of COVID-19 on the Latino community will be long-lasting.

As I’ve stressed before, given the high prevalence of COVID among Latinos (over 10 percent of Illinois Latinos have been infected), if even a fraction of those infected show long-term symptoms, it will have a debilitating impact on our health system and on many of our families. Keep in mind that a preponderance of those cases have been to young, working Latinos. The mortality rate among Latinos between the ages of 20 and 59 is the highest among all racial/ethnic groups in the state. Many of these folks are the economic wage-earners in their families. At a minimum, the ongoing grief stemming from all this loss will continue to underscore the need for mental health support in the community.

Meanwhile, the police killings of Adam Toledo and Anthony Álvarez heightened an additional, concurrent crisis in our community. The need for police reform, and the need to have more engaging options and positions for our youth, has accelerated our urgency for equity and holistic, positive change.

Here’s the good news: All of this has brought us together with key allies to work collectively towards healing our community and mitigating the impacts of these crises. I’m so pleased to say that last month, we successfully re-launched the Illinois Latino Agenda as the ILA 2.0, which will continue to convene the CEOs and community leaders of the original coalition with a new and improved focus on strategic equity. For more information, you can contact José Marco-Paredes, our Director of Civic Engagement, here.

The Forum has not historically focused on criminal justice, and we won’t always be the issue experts on everything. But through the ILA 2.0, we will convene the criminal justice leaders and lawyers who are, and position them to work on this and other important issues. We plan to do everything in our power to shine light, whether that be through press conferences or by delivering a list of demands for investment in our diverse communities to our city’s mayor, both of which we did last month.

So while there are big challenges, there is also now big momentum. To that end, I’d like to thank our legislators for their investment in our community—most notably, nearly $150 million that will be available from the Illinois Department of Human Services to help immigrant communities adversely impacted by COVID. $30 million of that will be used for direct cash assistance and will be distributed through community-based organizations. You can find our complete analysis of the recently passed FY22 state budget here.

As we look towards the future, we will continue to hone our work around COVID, with the ILA 2.0, and with our legislature on all the Forum’s key issue areas. This trio of focuses fuels our team’s work and builds our momentum towards delivering health, wellness, safety, hope, and resources for our community. They push us beyond advocacy and into real change.

The tragedy and the grief are not over, but there is also hope and opportunity. We invite you to learn more throughout our newsletter. Please join us in our efforts.