Reopenings: Study To Help Shape San Jose’s COVID-19 Response To Aid Immigrants

 A study released by the nonprofit organization New American Economy, in partnership with the city of San Jose, will help shape immigrant-inclusive COVID-19 relief measures. 

The report highlights how immigrants in San Jose are both essential to rapid response efforts but also especially vulnerable because of gaps in federal relief packages, language barriers and increased risks of infection because of frontline and essential work, according to the city’s Office of Immigrant Affairs. 

The study found that while immigrants made up 38.5 percent of city residents, they “make outsized contributions to several essential industries,” making up 68 percent of agriculture workers, more than 62 percent of all food processing workers, 50 percent of restaurant and food service employees and 43.5 percent of healthcare workers in San Jose. 

“The immigrant population is essential to keeping San Jose running, yet especially vulnerable to gaps in our social safety nets,” said
Mo Kantner, director of state and local initiatives at New American Economy. 

“This new NAE research will support efforts by the City of San Jose to work quickly and innovatively to fill critical gaps in federal programs and ensure that response and recovery efforts reach all residents.”

Despite San Jose immigrants being over-represented in the essential workforce population, they still face significant economic challenges because of COVID-19. The study found that immigrants make up 67 percent of business owners in hospitality and 58.3 percent of business owners in general services like laundry, salons and repair shops, which have been hit hard because of shelter-in-place orders.

Of the city’s immigrant population, nearly 56 percent also lacked health insurance, according to the study. 

Immigrants also struggle with language accessibility, with over 21 percent of San Jose residents are living with limited English languageproficiency, according to the study. 

This pandemic has highlighted the urgency to center equity in decision-making today so that our immigrant and refugee communities are
resilient tomorrow,” said Zulma Maciel, Director of San Jose’s Office of Immigrant Affairs. “This report… will inform our approach to a more inclusive emergency response, as well as community engagement strategies and community and economic recovery efforts. By investing in and empowering ourmost vulnerable community members we are seeking to improve outcomes for everyone in San Jose.”

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