Any talk of a recovery from the coronavirus pandemic — such as returning to in-person classes and workplaces, social gatherings, and traveling for the upcoming holidays; in other words, returning to some kind of “normal” is largely leaving out one key sector of the population: Latinos.

Before the pandemic, Latinos were important and very significant contributors to overall
economic stability and growth in Illinois, helping not only themselves and their families but the communities where they live. But unfortunately, COVID was like a set of brakes stalling and slowing those contributions. The Latino community, the state of Illinois, and the nation can ill afford that.

Estimates are that one in four Latino families has someone suffering from “long COVID.”
Although improving, Latino employment rates have not yet returned to their pre-COVID levels. Latino workers are still overrepresented in low-wage essential jobs that pose the highest risk of exposure to the virus. These data show potentially serious economic consequences for the Latino community and other communities, the state, and the nation.

To better understand the social and economic impacts of COVID on Latinos, look at a new report from The Latino Policy Forum. “Long-Term Socioeconomic Consequences of COVID in the Latino Community: Creating a Path Forward” paints a vivid picture of the long-standing inequities confronting Latinos that the pandemic has exposed and worsened.

Those inequities magnified by COVID pose a significant threat to the vibrant role played by Latinos in all aspects of life on the local, state, and national levels. The report focuses on several factors, including jobs, housing, and education. It lays out specific policy directions for framing the conversations and decisions about programs and resources to address and alleviate the economic damage done by COVID.

This report is a call to action and recommends prioritizing the following:
● Development of long-term, safe, good-paying jobs
● Access to affordable, stable housing
● Access to mental health resources and services
● Access to disability benefits for all impacted by COVID

All our policy directives start with the notion that every initiative, outreach, education, and
training opportunity must be appropriate for a particular community. That means, for instance, offering assistance in Spanish and working with local organizations that best understand the needs of local residents. This way, not only can communities be better served, but there is an opportunity to expand on services when there is a clear understanding of communities and their needs. \

Additionally, all policies and initiatives must ensure that the actual experiences of Latinos
are taken into account. Nowhere is this need more evident than in housing.

Housing policies that address and redress homelessness do not consider “doubling up,” a
common occurrence among Latinos. It refers to individuals and families who face homelessness being taken in by friends and relatives The people being taken in is, in fact, homeless save for the generosity of others. But that generosity is just a short-term Band-Aid that underestimates the housing needs of Latinos.

For example, if someone is sleeping in a home, they are officially not homeless. That means that Latinos who are “doubled up” are left out of receiving services and support that would help prevent or eliminate their homelessness. Official definitions of homelessness and the Latino experiences of homelessness do not align.

With such misalignment, alleviating long-term homelessness among some Latinos is a goal that feels hard to reach. While many of our government, civic, and philanthropic partners have been responsive to the COVID crisis, COVID is not done with us.

Prioritizing the policy directives in this report is a necessary initial step for making sure that an overall recovery from COVID by the Latino community is not only attainable but equitable. And that is possible only if implementing policies comes with an explicit commitment to ensuring that Latinos receive their fair share of all the resources they need.


Sylvia Puente is the President and CEO of the Latino Policy Forum, a nonprofit that works for equity, justice, and economic prosperity on behalf of Latinos in Chicago and Illinois through public-policy advocacy and analysis on issues including education, housing, and immigration.

Adding to her many accolades, Puente was appointed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker to the University of Illinois Board of Trustees on August 8, 2022.

Puente is frequently cited as an expert on Latino issues and has published numerous reports and articles that articulate the vital role they play in society. She is a recipient of the Ohtli Award, Mexico’s highest recognition of those serving the Mexican community outside of Mexico, and received an honorary Ph.D. for her social justice work from Roosevelt University in 2021. She has been recognized by Hispanic Business Magazine as one of the “100 Most Influential Hispanics in the U.S.”


Cover Photo by Laura James.

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