Fil-Am officials address pandemic at virtual town hall
LOS ANGELES–Filipino American elected officials across California have been addressing the needs of their constituents and the Asian American community as the coronavirus pandemic continues.
During a recent virtual town hall hosted by the Pilipino American Los Angeles Democrats to mark the start of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, Filipino American politicians shared how federal and local governments have been responding to the crisis.
The event was moderated by the organization’s president, Jessica Caloza, a Commissioner on the Board of Public Works in the City of Los Angeles.
California Assemblymember Rob Bonta, who became California’s first Filipino American state legislator, detailed multiple Covid-19 measures in progress and ones that have been implemented. Among those include a $125 million fund to help undocumented Californians who don’t qualify for federal stimulus funds, the release of certain inmates in prisons and immigration detention centers where physical distancing is difficult or impossible, and a farmworker Covid-19 relief package.
“[Farmworkers are] absolutely critical contributors to our food supply chain, making sure that while we all shelter in place, we also can do that essential activity of going to our stores, making sure we and our families are fed,” he said.
Bonta also addressed the rise in hate crimes against Asian Americans linked to the pandemic.
“The numbers are really incredibly disturbing in terms of how high the numbers of hate crimes against Californians and others of Asian descent throughout the country have been,” he said.
He added that President Donald Trump and his administration’s use of terms such as the Wuhan virus, Chinese virus and kung flu have contributed to those numbers.
“It’s just incredibly xenophobic and dangerous and we’re working on ways in the state legislature to provide support, and the governor has been very helpful and sympathetic.”
Also present at the town hall was Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), who expressed gratitude toward the Filipino American community, many of whom constitute a significant percentage of the state’s healthcare workers. According to the 2016 Survey of California Registered Nurses, Filipinos accounted for 17.6 percent of the state’s registered nurse workforce.
“So many in the Filipino community in particular are on the frontline of this pandemic and showing just extraordinary courage and compassion; going to work, risking their own health, coming home and at times having to risk or worry about the health of their family,” Schiff said.
“And so I think a lot of the very important work in Congress right now is to make sure that those on the frontline get the support that they need, that we solve this persistent problem of not enough protective gear for those that are working in our hospitals, working in our skilled nursing facilities,” he added.
Rep. TJ Cox (D-Calif.), the first Filipino American to represent California in Congress, shared that he introduced two bills to combat misinformation about the pandemic. He has also held multiple webinars to educate his constituents about Covid-19, about resources available for small businesses and how to access unemployment benefits.
The congressman also said he wanted to see data on individuals who have tested positive for the disease made available in disaggregate to see what populations are being most heavily affected. He added that once testing is made widely available in the state that farmworkers and essential workers in health care and the food supply are tested as well.
With the next coronavirus relief package ahead, Schiff expressed support for prioritizing frontline workers and providing them with necessary protective gear, and providing hazard pay for frontline workers – including healthcare workers and grocery store workers – who are at greater risk of the coronavirus due to the nature of their jobs. He is also supporting a bill by Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) that would guarantee payroll for all businesses, regardless of their size.
“I would like to see us go big in the next package and have the federal government guarantee … payroll until we get through this so people don’t lose their jobs and don’t have to overwhelm the unemployment system, and when this is all over, don’t have to look for work because they were able to retain their job,” Schiff said.