Welcome to the Health & Welfare Council of Long Island

At the Health & Welfare Council of Long Island (HWCLI), our work is to ensure that our region is a welcoming and inclusive place for everyone to live. We can set the standard for what an equitable region looks like. That means safe communities, decent, affordable housing, healthy food, access to care and an opportunity to thrive. In our quest for improvements and systemic change, we face a unique set of obstacles. In fact, the poverty rate today is at its highest since 1959. Given the current assault on the country’s most vulnerable communities, our work is more important than ever.

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July 1, 2020

Latino advocates say COVID-19 stats don't include immigrants who avoid tests, die at home

By Jean-Paul Salamanca Read on Newsday.com

Latino advocates are worried that the toll the COVID-19 pandemic has taken on immigrants on Long Island is greater than what state statistics reveal because of their reluctance to seek hospital care due to fear of deportation, medical costs and other concerns. In Nassau County, the death toll from COVID-19 is 2,182, including 236 Hispanics, with their death rate per 100,000 people at 133.5, second-highest behind Blacks, according to the most recent data from the New York State Department of Health. In Suffolk County, 1,979 have died of the virus, 212 of them Hispanics, with a death rate of 113.8, also the second-highest behind Blacks. The Washington, D.C.-based Brookings Institution says the age-adjusted death rate from COVID-19 among Hispanics and Latinos is 2.5 times that of whites. Gil Bernardino, founder of Long Beach-based Hispanic immigrant advocacy group Circulo de La Hispanidad, said immigrant families living in the country without legal permission face tough decisions when a relative is diagnosed with COVID-19.
“The fear is real,” Bernardino said. “People in the community, when you’re working and you are facing deportation and you have your wife and children, you’re living in fear, the entire family. When you have this kind of health crisis, you’re not going to go to the hospital just because you have the virus, even though the test is free.” Cheryl Keshner, a senior paralegal and community advocate with the Empire Justice Center, a statewide nonprofit law firm advocating for low-income families, agrees. The center has an office in Central Islip. “We know that the pandemic has disproportionately affected communities of color, particularly people who are low-income,” Keshner said. “A lot of people can’t socially distance if they’re living in super-crowded conditions, which a lot of people are because we don’t have enough rent regulations on Long Island. And a lot of Black and Latino workers are essential workers.” According to data from the Brookings Institution, only 16% of Hispanic Americans can work from home. And the CDC has acknowledged in its guidance that “people living in densely populated areas and homes may find it harder to practice social distancing.” Patients with severe cases of the virus that require admission to the intensive care unit, intubation and lengthy hospital stays can have bills that exceed $300,000. The median cost of a coronavirus hospitalization is about $14,366, according to a study from The City University of New York (CUNY) Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy. The Trump administration announced in April that through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, federal aid would be given to help hospitals with costs of treating uninsured COVID-19 patients. However, additional coverage and funds for testing and treatment — such as Medicaid, pandemic unemployment assistance or direct cash payments provided under the bill — are not available for nonresidents who don’t have green cards, are not work authorized, or haven’t been physically present here long enough to establish “substantial presence."
Martha Maffei, executive director of Patchogue-based Latina immigrant advocacy group SEPA Mujer, said a woman from one family who is living in the country without legal permission said her elderly father was diagnosed with COVID-19 and they simply isolated him at home because they were concerned about potentially high hospital bills if they sought treatment. Despite the separation, the family remained worried that they could contract the virus themselves within the small apartment. “Unless they see it’s really very bad and try to go to the hospital, they are just dying at home,” Maffei said. She and other advocates said they have heard from several Latino immigrants that they have been using home remedies such as herbs, gargling salt water, special teas and natural medications to treat the virus, which are not viable. Rebecca Sanin, president and CEO of the Health and Welfare Council of Long Island, said the challenges facing not only Latino immigrants, but all other immigrant communities on Long Island during the pandemic, involve two major factors. One is that a large portion of the immigrant community works as essential workers in grocery stores and hospitals, and the other is that immigrants in certain areas tend to live together in “higher density,” or with multiple people inside a household. “What has changed is that the trajectory of this disease is so frightening that a lot of people who have been living in the shadows and who have been socially isolated aren’t coming out to get tested because they are concerned about the safety of their family and their future,” Sanin said. She noted that as a result of the Trump administration’s hard-line policies on immigration, fewer immigrants had been applying before the pandemic for services such as Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. “The fear of scrutiny and family dissolution is so severe that people are forgoing basic needs and have been for several years,” she said. “I don’t think that’s different now. I think there has been a very cruel targeting of the immigrant community, and the response to that is that people have moved further into the shadows, particularly our really low-income immigrant community that is struggling.” Maffei said her group had been doing outreach through several measures, including a Spanish-language hotline, to answer immigrants’ questions about seeking treatment. In addition, SEPA Mujer has put out a resource guide for immigrants pointing out testing sites, food drives and deliveries and unemployment and temporary assistance services available for them. SEPA Mujer also provides rent assistance to single immigrant mothers who are living in the country without legal permission and also has brought cases to Suffolk County regarding employment and worker abuse involving immigrants being forced to stay on the job despite being infected with COVID-19, Maffei said. Keshner said immigrants need to know they could qualify for certain kinds of insurance such as emergency Medicaid and other financial assistance available through hospitals that would offset the costs of being treated for the virus. Bernardino said more needs to be done across Long Island to send the message that residents who are living in the country without legal permission are welcome to take a free coronavirus test, and potentially save their lives or others. “We need to have this kind of information reaching out to communities in a very clear way, that they can get the test without any repercussions,” Bernardino said.

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June 23, 2020

Business Council webinars to focus on nonprofits, construction

Updated June 22, 2020 4:50 PM By James T. Madore james.madore@newsday.com @JamesTMadore Click here to read on Newsday.com The Long Island Business Council is launching a webinar series on Tuesday about recovering from the coronavirus-induced recession. The first one-hour webinar is scheduled for Tuesday at 5 p.m. and will feature nonprofit leaders Rebecca Sanin of the Health and Welfare Council of Long Island; Renee Flagler of Girl Scouts Inc., and Randi Shubin Dresner of Long Island Harvest. The construction industry will be the focus for Friday’s 11 a.m. webinar with Kyle Strober of the Association for a Better Long Island; Mitch Pally of the Long Island Builders Institute, and council co-chair Richard Bivone. Each webinar will be moderated by council executive director Michael Harrison. The council lobbies government on behalf of entrepreneurs. More information can be found at libcny.org.

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June 18, 2020

Census Bureau-takers get 'creative in the midst of the COVID pandemic'

Mimi Pierre Johnson, a community activist in Elmont involved in census outreach, mailed informational postcards to Elmont residents. Credit: Debbie Egan-Chin

The coronavirus pandemic put on pause Census 2020 in-person outreach efforts, with nonprofit, volunteer and government efforts shifting largely to virtual means of promoting the census, or by distributing informational flyers at food distribution sites, virus testing sites and through mailings. "We’ve had to be creative in the midst of the COVID pandemic," said Vanessa Baird-Streeter, Suffolk County's deputy county executive for community recovery. For example, Baird-Streeter said people who were tested for the coronavirus at the county's six "hot spot" testing sites in heavily populated minority communities received a resource packet. "We've tested 8,400 individuals, and they got census information," she said. George Siberon, executive director of the Hempstead Hispanic Civic Association, said he has attended all of the food distribution sites hosted by Nassau County and Island Harvest food bank to pass out flyers. As of Wednesday morning, the Census Bureau's self-response rate map showed New York's overall rate was 56.7%, below the national rate of 61.4%. There's great variation in response rates across New York's 62 counties, with Nassau having the highest: 67.5%. Suffolk's rate was 61.3%. "It is paramount that New Yorkers complete their census questionnaire so that New York is fully represented in Congress and we receive our full share of federal funding," said Kristin Devoe, spokeswoman for the Empire State Development Corp. Those involved in outreach said the census — a once-a-decade count of the nation's population — ensures that localities across Long Island get the financial resources for about 100 programs, spanning health care, education, transportation and more. The census dictates the distribution of an estimated $675 billion in federal funding annually to the states and their municipalities. The virus caused the Census Bureau to suspend field operations in April. Some operations resumed earlier this month. The bureau's counting of people who haven't filled out a census form — which can be done online, by phone or by mailing in the questionnaire — was delayed from May until Aug. 11. Jeff T. Behler, the U.S. Census Bureau’s regional director for New York, said he was encouraged by New Yorkers' response. "As things reopen, New York has, at times, been leading the nation in the growth in self-response rates. I'm amazed," he said. Mimi Pierre Johnson, a community activist in Elmont involved in census outreach, said she has printed informational postcards and mailed them to Elmont residents. "I don’t want to be called hard to count any more," Johnson said. Concerned about the disparity in resources between heavily populated minority communities, considered hard to count in the census compared with predominantly white ones, Johnson said her goal was to get residents of minority communities to understand how the census "is your opportunity to change all that … I want to be equal to the North Shore and Garden City. " Many nonprofits and county officials note the East End of Suffolk has many communities that don't receive mail delivery at their home addresses, but only at post office boxes. The Census Bureau does not deliver to post office boxes. As a result, many haven't received their Census 2020 invitation, and census self-response rates are low. Behler said staff is now dropping off census materials, including the paper questionnaire, to those East End addresses, and elsewhere on the Island. The Census Bureau only delivers census materials to home addresses, not post office boxes, to ensure accuracy, Behler said. Bureau staff had begun about two weeks ago, he said, to hand-deliver census packets to about 28,000 addresses in Suffolk, and about 1,500 in Nassau. The City University of New York Center for Urban Research Graduate Center's mapping service also provides a census self-response rates map, which showed large swaths of the East End had only a 10% self-response rate. Officials with the towns of Southampton and East Hampton said they are aware of the low response rate, which they attributed to the post office box issue, and were considering sending census postcards to residents to boost awareness. "Census data is used to fund emergency services desperately needed during this pandemic. We cannot possibly leave any dollar on the table," said Rebecca Sanin, president and chief executive of the Health and Welfare Council of Long Island, who is coordinating the Complete Count Committee effort for Nassau and Suffolk counties.

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Established in 1947, the Health and Welfare Council of Long Island (HWCLI) is a regional, nonprofit umbrella organization for health and human service providers. We are dedicated to improving the lives of Long Island’s most vulnerable residents by responding to their needs through the promotion and development of public policies and direct services.

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Fax: 516-483-4794

E-mail: connect@hwcli.com

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