NORTHWEST ARKANSAS (KNWA/KFTA) — New findings showing that the Marshallese community is disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus crisis. Executive Director of the Arkansas Coalition of Marshallese, Melisa Laelan said the study was done to see where the Marshallese community stands, how they are impacted by this pandemic and how to better address their needs.
The coalition analyzed COVID-19 state data for Pacific Islanders which includes the Marshallese people. It also assessed over 450 Marshallese households.
It found that Pacific Islanders were 4.5 times more likely to get COVID-19 and also had a 4.5 higher rate of dying from the virus compared to other racial/ethnic groups.
The results showed that the top needs of the community were housing-related expenses like paying rent and utilities. Other needs include personal protection equipment, food and health insurance.
“Now that we know that bills and rent are the top needs then we need to figure out what we are going to do about that and speak to the folks who can support us,” said Laelan.
The survey also showed that underlying health and social conditions made the Marshallese community more vulnerable during the pandemic.
“82% of respondents reporting they have essential workers in the household; 51% have household members with diabetes, obesity or high blood pressure; and 15% have household members that are 65 years or older. All of these conditions put Pacific Islanders at increased risk to getting infected and experiencing serious complications from COVID-19.“
Laelan said she is working with state leaders and community advocates to put a plan together to better serve the community.
A drive will be held to distribute masks, food and other supplies next week. She is urging legislators to expand programs like SNAP and Medicaid to include the Marshallese people and a fund has been created to give people financial relief.