Members of the Latino task force packed Friday morning’s budget and finance committee meeting demanding that the city restore funding to community resource centers.
The group, one of many who have pledged additional funding as this year’s budget process draws to a close, wrapped around the legislative chamber in black and orange shirts that read “SF Latin Task Force”.
“I’ve been sitting here in this room all this week and last week I heard from the departments telling you that the Latino task force is a model, that the Latino task force is a best practice,” said the director of the LTF, Ivan Corado-Vega. “I bring you our best practitioners because we continue to be essential.”
The crowd erupted in applause after Corado-Vega’s speech.
At least 40 members of the Latino Task Force showed up for the meeting. Speakers of all ages spoke passionately about the work they did for the task force and pleaded with supervisors Hilary Ronen, Asha Safaí, Gordon Mar, Shamann Walton and Connie Chan on Friday morning to restore the funding that had been drained. of the budget for the coming year.
“I’m here to let you know that pulling us out of funding is just an insult,” Alma Castellanos, coordinator of the Excelsior resource center, told supervisors. “It’s an insult to myself, my co-workers and everyone else who spent countless long hours when everyone was told we had to be safe and stay home.”
The commission will hold its final deliberations on Monday, July 27 before transmitting the finance order to the full supervisory board.
After two years of funding resource centers in the neighborhoods of Mission, Bayview and Excelsior, the Mayor reduced funding for these centers in the 2022-23 budget. The centers operated with small, one-time grants: the Mission center received $771,000, while the Excelsior center received $1.2 million last year. The centers have provided a range of services to Latinos and other communities of color during the pandemic, including vaccinating tens of thousands of people and reportedly testing nearly 100,000 people last month, in addition to rent, l economic aid and food supply.
City officials, including Mayor London Breed, have praised the resource centers for their strong response to community needs throughout the pandemic. The initial resource center at 701 Alabama Street in the Mission District operated for nearly a year without city funding. For much of the testing in the Mission and elsewhere, the Latino task force collaborated with doctors and researchers at UCSF.
Slowly, the city decided to support low-barrier community testing developed by the LTF and UCSF.
“When needed, we stepped up,” Castellanos said in an interview with Mission Local. The funding cuts come at a time when covid is on the rise again in the Bay Area and as the Center for Disease Control rolls out vaccines for children ages six months to five years old.
“We are currently experiencing a 35% positivity rate at one of our community sites, almost half of which are Latinos,” said Joshua Jacobo, health program manager at Latino Task Force. “I came here to remind you all of San Francisco’s promise to fight inequality.”
The mayor’s office told Mission Local in early June that “funding for much of the community covid and workforce support came from federal sources and is no longer.”
Although the hubs were created in response to the pandemic, members of the Latin American task force argued that the hubs were desperately needed even before 2020. Jennifer Robles, who is responsible for the employment team’s workforce from LTF, noted that before the pandemic, there were still many undocumented immigrants in the community who needed help finding work permits. The LTF was able to meet this need throughout the pandemic and Robles hoped to continue this work.
“If my department is cut, we won’t be able to support our community as we would like,” Robles said. “LTF is recovery and answer – I think the city forgot about that.
“The way we responded to the pandemic has created a successful model of community and city collaboration that not only serves the most vulnerable, but enhances and maximizes city resources, which makes the city thrive,” Susana Rojas, co-chair of the LTF Small Business Committee, told Mission Local. Rojas called it a “criminal” decision to cut essential services for a community that “sacrificed its life and health”.
Several commentators also noted the importance of hubs in providing culturally competent health care and services to other Latinos, especially those who have had bad experiences in other medical settings or are suspicious of government agencies.
“Our teams are heroes,” Castellanos told Mission Local.