Similar Yet Different: COVID-19 in Greater Chattanooga's Latinx Community

Q&A with La Paz Chattanooga

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All people of all ethnicities are vulnerable to the physical symptoms of COVID-19.

However, COVID-19 has not dealt equally amongst all people in Greater Chattanooga. Infection and the negative economic impact has been felt more keenly in the Latinx community in the Scenic City.

“The pandemic has hit all of the economy hard, and service jobs that many in the Latinx community work in have taken the brunt of it,” Vivian Lozano-Sterchi, director of social impact at La Paz, said. “So now many working families are struggling because they lost income, and a lot of the families La Paz works with do not qualify for state or federal relief.”

Vivian focuses on helping the Latinx community access services available to residents throughout the Chattanooga area. And United Way of Greater Chattanooga’s Restore Hope Fund provides a strong tool to help the most vulnerable who have lost work.

“By partnering with La Paz and other agencies and clinics, United Way is helping in such a way that makes our clients feel better and more secure,” Vivian explained. “It is a relief for our clients and families to know they can go somewhere to connect with people they already trust and get what they need. It has eased reservations.”

Luis Perez is one such client of La Paz. Vivian connected with Luis for a brief Q&A so he could share about the pandemic’s effects on him and his family.

1.  How long have you lived in Chattanooga?

I’ve lived in Chattanooga since 2013. 

2.  Tell me a little about your work.  What is your favorite aspect of your job?

I remodel home interiors and exteriors, though my work usually falls into more interior work. I love working on houses - every part of it is a part that I enjoy. I like being able to work to make things better and allow people to enjoy [the results]. 

3.  Can you share how COVID-19 has affected your work?

It affected everything in the beginning. People were really scared to let people into their homes because we needed to social distance and to take precautions. Unfortunately, all of my work dried up during those first two and a half months. Work is slowly starting to pick up again, but I am still recovering from losing my income for that time.

4.  How has the Restore Hope Fund helped your family?

The Restore Hope Fund really helped our family out a lot. At that time, I didn't have anything and felt scared, but I knew that the Lord would provide. I also knew that there were organizations that could help during this time. It really helped my family survive a tough time. 

5.  What would you share with a neighbor who was on the fence about reaching out to La Paz for assistance?

Without a doubt, I would tell them to contact La Paz. I told a lot of my friends who were struggling financially to reach out to La Paz. People can be shy sometimes about reaching out, but I knew that they would help. 

Even as society begins to slowly reopen, the damage from the pandemic continues. Economic aftershocks will reverberate across communities in Greater Chattanooga.

“Our concern moving forward is that when things reopen, people will face a mounting wall of debt,” Vivian said. “That is really scary.”

Uncertainty is still on the horizon, but you can be a part of making sure the most vulnerable are taken care of. 

We're thankful for Restore Hope Partners like La Paz and a network of donors who are helping to serve all members of our community in need. If you want to help restore hope for your neighbors, you can start today by donating and sharing this story. 

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