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Public Employee Press: PEP Talk

Latino Heritage Committee gives help during crises


June is usually a time of celebration for New Yorkers with graduations, and on the second Sunday in June, the annual Puerto Rican Day Parade. The national parade is a New York City’s grand party on Fifth Avenue to celebrate the music and vibrant culture of the beautiful island and its people.

Carmen Flores, chair of DC 37’s Latino Heritage Committee, said this year is different. The coronavirus may have canceled this year’s event, but committee members are busy working on three important issues affecting the community: the 2020 census, food scarcity, and mental health services during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are focused on getting people, especially our Latino sisters and brothers, to respond to the 2020 census, helping them take the time to answer census questions online or on the phone,” Flores said. “So much funding is tied to the census and if we want to get the schools, hospitals, and other services we need, it’s vital that we participate.”

The committee is also helping Latinos connect by phone and social media with vital services during the pandemic in New York and Puerto Rico. The island’s 3.2 million residents are struggling to rebuild after Hurricane Maria, severe earthquakes in recent months, and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Flores is letting New Yorkers know they can get free meals at more than 400 public schools across the city by visiting, texting “NYC FOOD” to 877-877, or calling 311 and saying “Get Food.” “Those essential workers are DC 37 members feeding our city during this crisis,” she said.

To help union members cope with feelings of stress, isolation, and grief over losing family and friends to the deadly coronavirus, Flores suggests members contact PSU, the union’s Personal Service Unit, at 212.815.1250, to speak with a Social Worker or mental health professional.

Flores added, “This union benefit is especially helpful during the pandemic. DC 37 is here for us and reminds us we’re in this together.”