Special Appropriation Introduced to Address Fight Against COVID-19 Spread Within Latino Communities

Montgomery County Councilmembers Gabe Albornoz and Nancy Navarro are planning to introduce a special appropriation on July 21 to create Por Nuestra Salud y Bienestar (For Our Health and Wellbeing), an initiative to provide health and social services related to COVID-19 that are tailored to the needs of the county’s Latino residents.

Across the country and within Montgomery County, Latino communities have been some of the hardest hit by COVID-19. A press release from the County Council states that data from the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services demonstrates that the virus has disproportionately impacted the Latino population. “While Montgomery County has made great strides in flattening the curve for white, Black and Asian communities, COVID-19 cases continue to grow among the Latino population,” states the council.

Albornoz and Navarro’s special appropriation is aimed at mitigating the overwhelming impact of the virus on the area’s Latino population. The special appropriation will “provide a strategic, culturally component, community focused approach to public health to help contain the spread of COVID-19 in the areas of the County hardest hit by the virus,” states the council’s press release. The funding for this appropriation will used to create Por Nuestra Salud y Bienestar, which will establish “an integrated, one-stop-shop model with wrap-around health and social service supports for Latino residents.”

Por Nuestra Salud y Bienestar’s services will include: “increasing the dissemination of culturally competent, linguistically appropriate and timely information about COVID-19 to mobilize the Latino community around prevention, treatment and testing; increasing COVID-19 testing rates in the Latino community; increasing case management and navigation to essential services to address social determinants of health; performing effective contract tracing for those who test positive; and providing social service supports.” The Latino Health Initiative and the Department of Health and Human Services will work together to manage and execute the project. Various partner, faith-based and community-based organizations will also participate in the initiative.

Since the pandemic’s onset, Councilmember Navarro has been working to fight against the worsening disparities in healthcare access amongst the area’s communities of color. “I have worked to mitigate this impact by providing the Elrich administration with strategies and solutions, so that vulnerable constituents received access to healthcare services and other resources in a culturally and linguistically proficient manner,” said Navarro, who is also the chair of the Government Operations and Fiscal Policy Committee. She believes her and Albornoz’s work to create Por Nuestra Salud y Bienestar “will adequately serve and save the lives of those most impacted by COVID-19.”

Councilmember Albornoz, chair of the Health and Human Services Committee, felt that swift action had to be taken to address the increasing number of COVID-19 cases within the Latino community. “As public servants, it is our moral responsibility to safeguard County residents, particularly our most vulnerable, from the lethal impacts of this pandemic,” said Albornoz. He also believes that the “moral document” created by the special appropriation may be helpful in working to protect the county’s Black and Asian communities against the virus.

Overall, the County Council views the disproportionate impacts of COVID-19 on the nation’s communities of color as byproducts of “institutional racism and socioeconomic barriers.” “County leaders are committed to providing the resources necessary to break down these obstacles because the health of each community member impacts the health of the entire County. These efforts are essential to ensuring that Montgomery County is adequately serving our most vulnerable populations,” stated the council in its press release.

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