Members of the Latino Task Force filled Friday morning’s Board of Supervisors Budget and Finance Committee meeting to demand that the city reinstate funding for community resource hubs.
The group, one of many that came forward to push for additional funding as this year’s budget process draws to a close, wrapped around the legislative chamber in black and orange shirts that read “SF Latino Task Force.”
“I sat here in this chamber all this week and last week hearing departments tell you that the Latino Task Force is a model, that the Latino Task Force is a best practice,” said LTF manager Ivan Corado-Vega. “I bring you our best practitioners, because we continue to be essential.”
The crowd erupted in applause after Corado-Vega spoke.
At least 40 members of the Latino Task Force showed up to the meeting. Speakers of all ages spoke passionately about the work they did for the task force, and pleaded with Supervisors Hilary Ronen, Asha Safaí, Gordon Mar, Shamann Walton and Connie Chan to restore the funding that had been gutted from the upcoming year’s budget.
“I am here to let you know that defunding us is just an insult,” Excelsior resource hub coordinator Alma Castellanos told the supervisors. “It’s an insult to myself, my colleagues and everyone that put in long and countless hours when everyone was told that we needed to be safe and stay home.”
The committee will hold its final deliberations on Monday, July 27, before sending the budget ordinance to the full board of supervisors.
After two years of funding the resource hubs in the Mission, Bayview and Excelsior neighborhoods, the Mayor cut funding for these centers in the 2022-23 budget. The hubs operated on small, one-time grants: the Mission hub received $771,000 last year, while the hub in Excelsior got $1.2 million. The hubs provided an array of services to Latino and other communities of color through the pandemic, including vaccinating tens of thousands of people and reportedly testing close to 100,000 people last month, in addition to rent, economic relief, and food supplies.
City officials, including Mayor London Breed, have praised the resource hubs for their strong response to community needs throughout the pandemic. The initial resource hub at 701 Alabama St. in the Mission District operated for nearly a year without city funding. For much of the testing in the Mission and elsewhere the Latino Task Force collaborated with doctors and researchers at the University of California, San Francisco.
Slowly, the city came around to supporting the community-based, low barrier testing developed by the LTF and UCSF.
“In the time of need, we stepped up,” Castellanos said in an interview with Mission Local. The funding cuts come at a time when covid is surging in the Bay Area again, and as the Center for Disease Control is rolling out vaccines for children six months to five years old.
“We are currently experiencing a 35 percent positivity rate at one of our community sites, nearly half of those being Latino,” said Joshua Jacobo, health program manager at Latino Task Force. “I came here to remind you all of San Francisco’s promise to fight inequity.”
The Mayor’s office told Mission Local in early June that “funding for much of the community covid and workforce support came from federal sources and is no more.”
Although the hubs came about in response to the pandemic, members of the Latino Task Force argued that the hubs were desperately needed even before 2020. Jennifer Robles, who serves as the workforce manager for LTF’s employment team, noted that, before the pandemic, there were still many undocumented immigrants in the community who needed help navigating work permits. The LTF was able to respond to that need throughout the pandemic and Robles was hoping to continue this work.
“If my department gets cut, we won’t be able to support our community in the way we’d like,” Robles said. “LTF is recovery and response. I think the city forgot that.”
“The way that we responded to the pandemic created a successful model for community and city collaboration that not only serves the most vulnerable but enhances and maximizes the city resources which in turn makes the city thrive,” Susana Rojas, small business committee Co-Chair of LTF, told Mission Local. Rojas called it a “criminal” move to cut essential services for a community that “sacrificed their lives and their health.”
Several commenters also noted the importance of the hubs in providing culturally competent healthcare and services for other Latinxs, especially for those who previously had bad experiences in other medical settings or distrust in government-run agencies.
“Our teams are heroes,” Castellanos told Mission Local.