During the COVID-19 pandemic, The Puerto Rican Agenda of Chicago (Agenda) is activating partnerships and mobilizing resources to meet the needs of our community—especially those at greater risk of isolation and of contracting the deadly virus. As a population disproportionately affected by chronic diseases such as diabetes, asthma, high blood pressure, HIV/AIDS, and PTSD, many Puerto Ricans are in a tenuous position according to reports issued by the Sinai Urban Health Institute (https://www.chicagohealthatlas.org/sinaisurvey).
The CDC has warned that older adults and people who have underlying chronic medical conditions — such as immunocompromising conditions — are particularly at risk of devastating outcomes from COVID-19. The Agenda has taken steps to ensure that community members—including older adults, people with disabilities, and climate refugees from Puerto Rico—have the tools and resources to remain healthy.
Compounded by chronic health conditions, Puerto Rican families are also suffering financially; many being laid off from work, unable to pay rent, and on the brink of economic instability. For many Puerto Ricans, this deadly global pandemic is a re-traumatization, given the devastation of Hurricane Maria in 2017 and the incessant earthquakes that rocked the island in 2019. It should not go unnoticed that displaced climate refugees from Puerto Rico have endured three major catastrophic events in less than three years.
In the midst of this crisis, Puerto Ricans have demonstrated immeasurable resilience and resourcefulness as community leaders organize to uplift the collective wellbeing. With a $25,000 grant from the Chicago Community COVID-19 Response Fund, The Agenda is confronting this crisis through a lens of solidarity — not charity, and activating a mutual aid campaign including:
• La Cocina Mutua—A partnership with The Puerto Rican Cultural Center and with a local eatery, Nellie’s Restaurant, to provide delivery of delicious daily hot lunches, from March 30 to April 30, 2020, for elders, people with disabilities, and climate refugees from Puerto Rico
• $250 cash transfers for 60 households to cover costs related to rent/mortgage, groceries/household supplies, medical attention, or other expense brought on by the impact of COVID-19
• Advocating for the suspension of rent/mortgage and resources for small businesses on Paseo Boricua
The Agenda continues its commitment to solidarity with Puerto Rican climate refugees, families across the diaspora and here in Chicago. For more information about how to help, go to: www.PuertoRicanChicago.org
The Puerto Rican Agenda of Chicago is non-profit organization comprised of local Puerto Rican leaders that informs policy leading to self-determination of Puerto Rican Chicago, the diaspora, and Puerto Rico.
By Cristina Pacione-Zayas, co-chair Puerto Rican Agenda