As the Covid-19 pandemic swept the U.S. in early March, and Philadelphia and South Jersey became hot spots, VietLead realized our working-class, Southeast Asian immigrant communities were getting sick from coronavirus while bearing the brunt of the shutdown.
Many community members lost their jobs, and those who continued to work faced dangerous conditions and lack of information about their rights as workers.
In three months, with the help of paid canvassers and volunteers, VietLead called over 5,000 clients in Philadelphia and 800 in South Jersey, reaching elders, families with limited resources, people with disabilities, and workers who contracted Covid-19 on the job. We tackled:
- FOOD INSECURITY
- By providing information on food distribution as well as food to families of our youth who face insecurity; connecting residents with OurChive 215’s and volunteers-run food drives
- By working to develop a comprehensive food response which will include delivering food packages from our farms and purchased food to isolated elders, isolated families, and many of our community members who are COVID-19 positive having worked in a local factory.
- ECONOMIC INSECURITY AND TRANSLATION
- By providing over-the-phone, bilingual assistance completing unemployment claims, small business fund applications, and the Census;
- By providing language support at Camden City and Cooper Hospital’s testing site;
- HEALTH SUPPORT
- By helping clients in medical emergencies
- By helping them apply for Medicaid in PA, NJ Charity Care in NJ, and healthcare.gov for a life-change when newly unemployed
In addition, supported by a tight network of partners, Health Team has held 4 Vietnamese-language community webinars on a wide range of topics:
- How to apply to the Philadelphia Small Business Fund with Councilwoman Helen Gym’s Office and the Philadelphia Department of Commerce on Wednesday, April 3rd, 2020.
- 25 Vietnamese businesses attended the webinar on zoom
- 10 applications were submitted with VietLead’s assistance
- How to Apply to Unemployment and New Benefits due to Covid-19 Webinar in partnership with Julia Simon-Mishel of Philadelphia Legal Assistance on Wednesday, April 8th, 2020.
- 27 Vietnamese individuals attended the Zoom call and 400 more have watched our Facebook live video since
- Workers’ Right Webinar in partnership with Community Legal Services in Philadelphia and CATA in New Jersey on May 8, 2020
- 20 workers and community members from Philly and New Jersey attended the webinar
- COVID-19 in Philadelphia & Camden Webinar in partnership with Dr. Ruth Abaya from the Philadelphia Health Department, and My Anh Nguyen, R.N. from Cooper Hospital on Thursday, April 16th, 2020
- This webinar had over 40 people in attendance, and over 1000 views on Facebook in just the four days.
- Reopening Guidelines for Nail Salons and Restaurants in Philly and New Jersey Webinar in partnership with Ting Wang from Philadelphia Office of Commerce and Dr. Tran Huynh from Dornsife School of Public Health.
- We have a dozen workers and business owners attending the meeting. Many more sent in questions and concerns about safety guidelines’ violations that were answered on the webinar.
These webinars have been followed by our three-person Health staff patiently supporting with and/or helping submit 223 applications, such as unemployment and weekly claims, health insurance access like NJ Family Care, Emergency Medical Assistance or Medicaid, as well as support with the 2020Census and federal and state small business applications, like Paycheck Protection Program.
Besides check-in call and food drop-off, we also created Viber groups for community members in New Jersey and Philly to share information about food distribution, aid programs, rental assistance and community webinars.
The economic and health crisis of our lifetime has exposed years-long rifts in how the federal and local government view and support essential workers and communities of color. VietLead’s multi-pronged approach to building long-term infrastructure for self-determination helps us respond quickly to skyrocketed requests for immediate assistance while strengthening our communities’ mutual aid muscles in moments of crises.