SAN DIEGO — Calling on community leaders to step up in San Diego County's South Bay, County Supervisor Vice Chair Nora Vargas and Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez hosted a virtual meeting to launch the South Bay Equity and Economic Recovery Task Force.
“Government can't do it alone, this is something that we're going to be able to have to do together,” Vargas said.
Gonzalez said the pandemic has hit the South Bay hardest with communities suffering the health consequences of Covid.
"We can complain about these agencies and what we are not getting, or we as elected officials and community leaders can take it in our own hands and decide that we are also going to take care of our own,” said Gonzalez, who represents California’s 80th district.
The Task Force will take ideas from its binational partners, local businesses and educators.
Humberto Gurmilan, a San Ysidro school district board member said the schools are excited, “but we obviously need a lot of help still, we need a lot of support."
Sweetwater Education Association vice president Cesar Fernandez said he lives in a ZIP Code that has been hit hard and personally felt the effects of Covid-19.
"Prioritizing us, hopefully by ZIP code is going to be key to making sure that we can open up our South Bay schools as quickly and safely as possible,” Fernandez said.
Vargas assured the educators that those in the most impacted ZIP Codes will be prioritized in the vaccine rollout.
"I think that's a big win for the South Bay and a big piece of what economic recovery it's going to look like,” Vargas said.
Labor union leader Rodney Fowler, Sr. asked if more help could come from our local military bases.
"That would be a benefit to get the military involved because they constantly train,” said Fowler, the senior president of AFSCME Local 127.
As for San Diegans without an appointment being turned away from vaccination superstations, Vargas said for those who “just show up, how do we manage that? So we are looking at alternatives."
The group highlighted the successes from food drives to rental assistance.
"Really, key people in the community are the promotoras, all of the promotoras son criticas,” said Lisa Cuestas of Casa Familiar.
Vargas said she thinks it's time to start shifting to the South Bay region a little bit more, as it pertains to homeless outreach.
“We can do more, I know that Chula Vista firefighters have already been prioritizing that,” Vargas said.
Rachel Morineau of the South Bay Community Services said, “We have those appointments set aside so that we can make those really difficult appointments for that particular population, whether they are homeless or just unavailable to have access to computer technology.”
In identifying the challenges of the digital divide, distanced learning, lack of Covid testing and health disparities to helping with unemployment benefits, the task force hopes to bring real change.
"Committed to ensuring that our black and brown communities South of the 8, are being provided for and that we are working hard," Gonzalez said.