Addressing the Needs of Vulnerable Communities During COVID-19
Insights from Tulsa’s COVID-19 Community Impact Survey
Date: December 9, 2021
The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionally affected vulnerable communities across the United States, including racial and ethnic minorities and immigrant groups. Many face severe challenges in meeting the essential needs of their families and handling mental health issues, both of which have been exacerbated by the prolonged stress and isolation during the pandemic.
To better support these vulnerable communities and to ensure that Tulsa’s emergency services provide equitable access to all of its residents, New American Economy (NAE) worked with the City of Tulsa and local community organizations to survey Tulsans about their experiences during the pandemic. The COVID-19 Community Impact Survey conducted targeted outreach between February and May of 2021 to Black, Indigenous, and other people of color (BIPOC)1 and immigrant communities in Tulsa about the essential needs of their families; the impact of COVID-19 on their wellbeing; and the help they received from local organizations.
- A significant share of BIPOC and immigrant residents in Tulsa experience financial hardship. When thinking about the future, BIPOC respondents were most worried about paying utilities or other bills (58 percent), paying down debt (53 percent), and paying for emergency expenses (45 percent). Paying bills (63 percent) and paying down debt (48 percent) were also among immigrant respondents’ top concerns, followed by getting enough food (45 percent). More than 15 percent of BIPOC respondents and 16 percent of immigrant respondents reported that they were unable to pay their rent or mortgage on time, including 3 percent of BIPOC respondents and 2.5 percent of immigrant respondents who reported that they had been evicted or were facing eviction or foreclosure.
- Many immigrants with limited English proficiency (LEP) lack access to reliable information about COVID-19. At least half of immigrant respondents reported not being able to speak English well. Among LEP immigrant respondents, at least 13 percent said they did not have regular access to timely, accurate information in their preferred language. The most trusted source for COVID-19 information for LEP immigrant respondents included news media (47 percent), social media (36 percent), and the federal government (34 percent).
- Many internationally trained immigrants struggle to find or keep jobs in the fields they were trained in. For immigrants with degrees from foreign institutions and professional experience abroad, at least 18 percent lost the jobs they had before the pandemic that fully utilized their international education and training.
- Social isolation harms the mental health of BIPOC and immigrant residents, but many of them find it hard to access mental healthcare. About 40 percent of BIPOC respondents and 44 percent of immigrant respondents said they often felt isolated from family and friends during the pandemic. Nearly half of BIPOC respondents and more than two-fifths of immigrant respondents reported needing mental health care during the pandemic; of those, more than one-third of both groups said it was difficult to access mental health services.
- Local organizations are providing immigrants with much-needed assistance, yet more can be done. The majority of BIPOC respondents and immigrant respondents said there was a local organization they could turn to if they needed help getting healthcare, housing, food, or other essentials. However, 15 percent of BIPOC respondents and 12 percent of immigrant respondents reported not having a local organization they could rely on for assistance.