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Seven in 10 Latinos worried about keeping up with rent, food, utilities during the pandemic, poll finds

“For many politicians, even well-intentioned ones, the Latino community is still a blindspot,” said Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus .

The Chicago Transit Authority’s Kedzie station on the Orange Line is in Gage Park, a neighborhood with one of the largest Latino populations in the city.
The Chicago Transit Authority’s Kedzie station on the Orange Line is in Gage Park, a neighborhood with one of the largest Latino populations in the city.
Associated Press

Latino households in Illinois and across the country are struggling to make ends meet during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a poll released Wednesday.

Around 60% of Latinos polled nationwide said they or someone in their household had either lost their job, taken a pay cut or were furloughed due to the pandemic.

That loss of income has translated into anxieties about keeping up with the bills: Nearly 70% of Latinos in the national poll said they soon won’t be able to afford basic expenses like rent, food, utilities and mortgage payments. For Latinos polled in Illinois, it’s closer to 80%.

Almost a third of Latinos said they hadn’t received a coronavirus stimulus check and half of Latino business owners said they found it difficult to access small business loans offered by the federal government.

A quarter of Latinos also reported they or a family member had contracted COVID-19; 27% said they knew someone who presented symptoms of the disease but was unable to get tested.

Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus said Wednesday the poll highlights how Latinos are disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus and the economic crisis it created.

“For many politicians, even well-intentioned ones, the Latino community is still a blindspot, and so this [poll] is important in shedding light on the impact of this pandemic, which has been both a public health emergency and a health emergency for many Americans, and most especially for Latino Americans,” Castro said.

The poll was conducted May 10-16, in both English and Spanish, by Latino Decisions, a Seattle-based pollster. Just over 1,800 Latino adults nationwide were interviewed, including 235 from Illinois. The margin of error for national results is plus or minus 2.3 percentage points; for Illinois results, the margin of error is plus or minus 6.4 percentage points .

UnidosUS, the largest Latino civil rights and advocacy organization in the country, funded Wednesday’s poll, as did SOMOS Health Care, a network of nearly 2,500 Medicaid providers in New York City, and MoveOn, a social justice political group.

Though the pandemic’s economic impact falls disproportionately on Latinos, 81% of those polled said governors should reopen businesses on a schedule that works for their specific states, based on advice from scientists and health experts.

But as Gov. J.B. Pritzker plans to gradually reopen Illinois after his stay-at-home order expires at the end of the month, COVID-19 cases and deaths among Latinos in the state continue to climb.

Confirmed coronavirus cases among Latinos in Illinois more than doubled since May 1 to 30,000 as of Wednesday. Deaths from COVID-19 among Latinos have also more than doubled, from 351 to 828, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Latinos are 17% of the state population but make up 30% of positive coronavirus cases in Illinois.

Carlos Ballesteros is a corps member of Report for America, a not-for-profit journalism program that aims to bolster Sun-Times coverage of Chicago’s South Side and West Side.