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Making up almost half of the population in Arizona, according to 2019 data from the Office of Economic Opportunity, minorities are a large part of workers in the third fastest-growing state in the United States. 

Stanford T. Prescott, of the International Rescue Committee in Glendale, said refugees have been hit hard by the pandemic’s economic consequences.

“In many cases, their first job is in hospitality or transportation or in foodservice, entry-level blue-collar jobs,” Prescott said. “The reality is that those three industries have been three of the industries that have been hardest hit by the economic impacts of the pandemic.”

The IRC works with refugee families in the Valley to help those who have been impacted by the pandemic by checking in with refugee families to evaluate their health, safety and other needs. They IRC also translates information related to COVID-19 to other languages, including Arabic, Swahili and Somali, spoken by refugees in the West Valley, said Prescott.

Refugees who have faced layoffs, lower hours and economic uncertainty due to the pandemic are among those the IRC works with. They continue to assist them by providing immediate needs, helping them find additional work and also assistance with applying for benefits. 

“We’ve delivered over 200 care packages including food and other basic household items,” Prescott said. “We’re also working to help folks apply for benefits and different government programs that have been created to help workers.”

Minorities, immigrants and refugees who are facing economic hardships due to pandemic layoffs are also finding support through their local unions. 

Danna Schneider of Unite Here Local 11, which represents hospitality and hotel workers, said members have been devastated.

“About 80%, if not more of our membership here, has been laid off,” Schneider said. “Working families, which are immigrant families, people of color, single women—they’re hit harder when a crisis like this happens, because they have less of a safety net.”

Valley of the Sun United Way COVID-19 Fund as created to support the needs of individuals, families and other nonprofit organizations serving them. 

“We are hearing from ethnic minorities who, like so many, are scared. They are not alone,” said Kelli Fawcett  of Valley of the Sun United Way. 

“Heartbreaking reports of job loss and general concern for how families basic needs will be met are coming from every direction.”

Through the Read On Avondale project, United Way leads a collective impact model grade-level reading effort in the West Valley, which they look to United Way’s leadership and guidance to help navigate through the pandemic.

“While COVID-19 has certainly presented new and unique challenges for us all, we are steadfast in our mission to be conveners, listeners and change makers, that is helping us provide the best possible support—in real time—for our nonprofit and school partners throughout Maricopa County,” Fawcett said.