Nonprofit helps Latina ladies tackle racial and gender variations between Covid

Maria Rangel came to Los Angeles from Colombia five years ago with her young son and $ 500 in hopes of making the American dream come true.

And she did.

“We didn’t have much and now we have a home,” said Rangel, who bought an apartment two years ago.

The 35-year-old single mom credits LA-based nonprofit New Economics for Women with providing the resources she needs to get on her feet and eventually become a homeowner.

“When I got involved, I heard they were giving away kids clothes and diapers,” she said. She then sought advice on affordable housing to rent an apartment and later attended workshops and programs for first-time buyers.

“We want to ensure that families can thrive from generation to generation,” said Bea Stotzer, co-founder of New Economics for Women. “You can only do that if you leave a legacy of assets behind. We see home ownership as a key to that.”

Maria Rangel came to Los Angeles from Colombia five years ago with her young son and $ 500 in hopes of making the American dream come true.

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Founded in 1985 in Latina, the organization has served more than 17,000 individuals and families in Los Angeles County in the past year alone.

“For Latinas in particular, they were hit by this incredible pandemic to an extent that nobody really understands,” said Stotzer.

Job loss and lower wages have created a cascading housing, nutrition and economic stability crisis for many women and families during the coronavirus pandemic, particularly in the Latino community. Latinas are working on the front lines of the Covid crisis and are disproportionately represented among health care and childcare workers and offer essential services.

Wage gap

“They are in what we now call ‘essential’, but a year ago we referred to them as wage laborers, or the ‘working poor,'” said Jacob William Faber, Associate Professor of Sociology and Public Service at New York University.

And a long-standing pay gap between blacks and whites has contributed to an even wider wealth gap, particularly among Latina women.

Research by the National Women’s Law Center shows that Latinas typically only get 55 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Spanish men. This pay gap means many cannot save enough to pay a down payment on a home, start a business, or save up for retirement. As a result, data shows that individual Latinas only own $ 100 in net worth for every $ 28,900 that individual white men have.

“We often see assets as something that comes from careful planning, saving and investing,” said Faber. “But there is a lot more going on, income inequality, inheritance, discrimination.”

“What is now amazing because of Covid is almost faster,” said Stotzer of this wealth gap. Not having the right wages is a factor. Other obstacles are lack of access to capital and access to credit, she said.

Badly Affected Companies

Many Latinas also own or run businesses in industries particularly hard hit by the pandemic, including restaurants, personal care services such as hair and nail salons, and retail and apparel. Many of these companies have closed.

But Rangel, a freelance fashion designer, just got a job on a new program. She gives back to those who seek help from the same nonprofit that helped her.

“It’s like the knowledge I have, I’m pouring out,” said Rangel. “We do webinars about fashion. So we have pattern making and sewing techniques. We need to know how to start a business.”

According to Stotzer, this is the organization’s mission, which enables women, especially Latin Americans and their families, to enjoy economic mobility to create their own opportunities.

TURN ON: Tonight at 8 p.m. ET, watch CNBC’s The Way Forward: Races And Opportunities In America, which shares ideas from experts and executives on how to fill the void for Latinos in America.

Disclosure: NBCUniversal and Comcast Ventures are investors in Acorns.

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