State Senator Holds Resource Town Hall Meeting

27 Apr

State Senator Lena Gonzalez, in response to the effects of  Coronavirus pandemic in southeast Los Angeles County, on Friday, April 24, held what she called a “Resource Town Hall,” according to an email she sent, which featured: Ana Figueroa, District Chief of Staff for Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard; Berenice Núñez Constant, who is AltaMed Health Services Corp.’s Vice President for Government Relations and Civic Engagement; Wilma Franco, Executive Director at Southeast Los Angeles Collaborative; and George Warner from Legal Aid at Work

Gonzalez, who represents the 33rd California Senatorial District, said in Los Angeles County there are more than 17,000 COVID-19 positive cases with more than 1,000 positive cases in southeast L.A. region.  She said, “(I)t is vital that we prioritize testing of more people, especially in the southeast (L.A.) and this is regardless of immigration status or the ability to pay.”  Gonzalez also announced she was appointed the chair of the new Senate Special Committee on Pandemic Emergency Response, which will review the state’s response on testing, lack of supplies, digital access in the schools, support for small businesses and what more can be done for the unemployed.  Another resource for the unemployed, she spoke of, is one-stop resources, OnwardCA, whose website is onwardca.org.

The state senator reported the state began a $75 million California Disaster Relief Fund for undocumented workers plus another $50 million from private donors for a total of $125 million.  She said this fund is important because the undocumented aren’t eligible for unemployment insurance because it is federally funded. Eligible individuals will be able to get $500 and families will be able to get up to $1,000.

She also reported California has the Small Business Disaster Relief Loan Guarantee Program, in which $50 million was allocated.  Small businesses may get loans up $50,000.  More information for that program and other resources are available at ibank.ca.gov.   

Ana Figueroa, District Chief of Staff for Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard, who represents the 40th Congressional District, explained the congresswoman wasn’t present because she was flying home from Washington, D.C., after signing the fourth interim funding package, known as the Paycheck Protection Program and the Health Care Enhancement Act.  Figueroa said the package adds $310 billion to the PPP, it adds $75 billion for hospitals and physicians; it also adds $25 billion for a national testing plan.

Figueroa added the congresswoman’s website has up-to-date information regarding COVID-19 resources, which may be found Roybal-Allard.house.gov; people may call her district office at 323-721-8790 or the Washington D.C. office at 202-225-1766 for any questions.  

When Figueroa introduced Berenice Nunez, who is AltaMed Health Services Corp.’s Vice President for Government Relations and Civic Engagement, Figueroa said, “AltaMed is the largest federally qualified health center in the nation and a large health care provider to our SELA (southeast Los Angeles) community.  Berenice is helping to lead AltaMed’s COVID-19 response effort, including increasing access to medical services and testing in Los Angeles and Orange counties.”

Constant, who has a Master in Public Health, said, “More than 50 years ago, we opened our doors as the East LA Barrio Free Clinic and since then we continue to provide quality health care to 300,000 patients in Los Angeles, including the residents of SELA and Orange County.  Since the beginning of this pandemic, we have been focused on representing and advocating on behalf of our communities… in Washington, D.C. and Sacramento to working with our local cities to ensure that health care services, including COVID-19 evaluation and testing his available to our patients and our community members.”

Constant added AltaMed’s evaluation and testing sites have been open since March 20 for their patients and community member is free to all regardless of immigration status and whether or not they’re AltaMed patients.  She said the evaluation and testing site in SELA is in South Gate, 8627 Atlantic Ave. at the AltaMedical and Dental Group.  It is open Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.  She added five other sites are available with services seven days each week in Los Angeles County.  She said people wishing to have their symptoms evaluated in person should call first at 888-499-9303 and people who want to evaluate themselves, AltaMed has a self-assessment tool on its website at altamed.org/coronavirus.

When Constant introduced Wilma Franco, Executive Director at Southeast Los Angeles Collaborative, she said the SELA Collaborative is “a network of organizations working together to strengthen the capacity of the region’s nonprofit sector and to increase civic engagement in southeast L.A.”

Franco addressed resources available in SELA: besides the evaluation and testing sites AltaMed has, another site in SELA is in the City of Bell at Gage Avenue and Atlantic Boulevard, in which First District Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis opened; One Family L.A., according to its website provides food, rent assistance and other basic necessities and whose website is onefamilyla.org; Communities for a Better Environment provides free legal housing clinics on Mondays from 6-8 p.m., whose phone number is 323-920-9963; Lynwood Unified School District partnering with Greater Emanuel Temple Church provides pick-up-and-go groceries with appointments, whose phone number 310-635-8837; Lynwood Unified also has a meals program at two locations;  Montebello Unified School District also provides free meals in Bell Gardens; Los Angeles Unified School District is also providing grab-in-go food at schools in SELA; the YMCA in Maywood also provides grab-and-go food; Inner City Visions provides grab-and-go food in Walnut Park, whose phone number is 323-749-7246; the cities of Bell, Cudahy, Huntington Park, Vernon, South Gate have senior wellness hotlines; Southeast Community Development Corp. is providing help for internet service and computers for students; SELA Collaborative’s website is http://selacollab.org/.

Franco introduced George Warner, who is a fellow with the Wage Protection Program at Legal Aid at Work.  Warner, who graduated from Stanford Law School in 2017, according to the Legal Aid at Work website, said for those who do not qualify for unemployment, they may qualify for the new federal program that is administered by the states, Pandemic Unemployment Assistance.  He also gave out the Legal Aid at Work website, which is https://legalaidatwork.org/unemployment/.  He encouraged people to call Legal Aid at Work at 415-404-9093 to make an appointment.

For more information on the CARES Act and a more thorough treatment of Warner’s discussion on unemployment, people may read my April 12 story on my blog.

The town hall may be heard below.

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