By Sergio Rodriguez & Yvette Ruiz
Originally published in the Austin American-Statesman on October 1, 2020
For Latinos, the simultaneous heath and economic crises created by the COVID-19 pandemic have laid bare the persistent inequality that many of us already live through daily. In spite of this, Latinos have been called on to show up. To construct the buildings and homes in our booming real estate market. To cook, serve, and deliver the meals that connect us to Austin’s vibrant food scene. To take care of our most vulnerable citizens—the sick and the elderly. Blue-collar Latinos have been deemed essential because we often do the work no one wants to do.
While we see the truth of these realities in our family and friends, the data is also quite clear. According to Austin Public Health, Latinos make up more than half of all COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths, despite representing a little more than a third of the city’s population. As we provide essential services in public and private spaces, we—quite literally—are paving the way for our region’s recovery.
We hear it regularly: Latinos are the future of Central Texas. Our contributions to the economy and culture in our region can be felt everywhere. But instead of discussing how Latinos can access the American dream, we find ourselves defending our fundamental right to equal access to opportunity. Our friends in the Black Lives Matter movement have shed light on the systems and barriers that impede our progress. Daily, the fight persists for even the most basic of needs: access to quality health care, safe housing, a fair education, and the promise of prosperity in exchange for hard work.
To put a finer point on it, the socioeconomic data from Prosperity Now’s Racial Wealth Divide in Austin report shows we earn on average $28,000 less than our white neighbors in Austin. And, according to the Community Advancement Network, 38% of our Latino children live in poverty compared to 6% of their white classmates. Our children are going hungry and are fighting for access to education in a virtual world with little to no resources. Today, Latinos have among the lowest levels of home ownership, business equity and education of any community in the region. If we do not make significant system-level investments in the Latino community, this divide will only widen at a faster rate.
We refuse to accept these realities as permanent, and we can change them together. The nonprofit sector has been asked to fill enormous holes left in our safety net. Supporting these hard-working, community-based organizations is what investors in the Hispanic Impact Fund, a program of Austin Community Foundation, have been focused on for the last three years. The Hispanic Impact Fund is a giving network for individuals and companies to invest in the economic security and advancement of Hispanic Central Texans. Since its founding in 2017, the Hispanic Impact Fund has awarded $430,000 to local nonprofits working to advance the health, education and economic well-being of Hispanic Central Texans.
By giving collectively, we support local Latino-led nonprofits with a focus on the health, education and economic well-being of Hispanic Central Texans. Investing in Latino-led and Latino-serving nonprofits is vital to ensuring that the opportunity gap doesn’t widen further as we weather the storm of COVID-19.
As we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, we are asking the Central Texas community to join us. Donate or become a member of the Hispanic Impact Fund. We can do more together. When we invest in the assets, strength and leadership of Latinos, it will lead to greater prosperity for all.
Rodriguez is vice president of Galo Ops, LLC and serves on Austin Community Foundation’s board of governors. Ruiz is vice president of nonprofit engagement at JPMorgan Chase. Rodriguez and Ruiz co-chair the Hispanic Impact Fund Steering Committee, a program of Austin Community Foundation.
The Hispanic Impact Fund is a giving network that supports the advancement of Hispanic Central Texans through data-informed grantmaking.