In the COVID-19 response, partnerships are essential to reach refugee, immigrant, and migrant (RIM) communities, maximize resources, reduce duplicating efforts, and improve the delivery of services and resources.
Reaching Communities Through Employer Partnerships
Local businesses that employ RIM community members can be great partners in COVID-19 testing initiatives, distributing appropriate health education materials, creating a safe work environment, and supporting public health interventions such as vaccination and case investigation and contact tracing (CICT) efforts. Collaboration allows limited resources to be targeted and allocated to areas that need the resources most. Likewise, it is also essential to provide information and services via channels that community members actively use and trust.
Health departments are taking part in program partnerships with employers in industries that rely on RIM communities for employment, including farms and factories. Together, these partnerships successfully implement multilingual education to prepare community members for COVID-19 testing and CICT efforts and help identify social support needs. CARES Act and grant funding can be utilized to create pop-up testing sites, implement mitigation strategies, provide access to resource coordinators, community-based interpreters, and CICT staff, and offer worker isolation space. Two ways for identifying employers for partnerships are:
- Identify local businesses that serve or are owned by RIM community members and engage with local business leaders; consider companies that are frequented regularly by community members such as grocery stores, restaurants, salons, or coffee shops
- Explore partnerships with industries that employ RIM community members; recognize there may be sensitivities around COVID-19 and employment; consult with community-based organizations (CBOs) or resettlement agencies to help navigate these dynamics
Partnering with Employers in New York
In New York, a state program that serves refugee communities, including a local health department and resettlement agencies, collaborated with a refugee-owned company, Chobani. Chobani distributed health messaging to its employees, encouraged them to attend testing events, and helped sponsor a pop-up testing clinic in a church parking lot. The company showed up at the testing sites with a truck of products which encouraged participation. Chobani has supported residents with their Chobani Backpack initiative, where they distribute bags of nutritious food to schools for children. The company is also offering their employees paid time for receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.
Partnering with Employers in Pennsylvania
To better serve their RIM populations, Lancaster Health Center in Pennsylvania reached out to form relationships with local businesses and companies known for employing RIM community members. They recognized that the employment setting could be a vulnerable place regarding COVID-19 due to PPE shortages, exposures to essential workers, and lack of health messaging. Lancaster Health helped provide masks, sanitation support, temperature screening equipment, and more through their community liaisons. The center was also able to streamline Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), disability, and COVID-19 paperwork requested by the employers; this process was facilitated by using Lancaster Health’s documentation and letters. The team of social workers, nurses, and case managers provide extensive social support ranging from isolation support, including food and other resources, to communicating with employers regarding employee rights to paid leave or COVID-19 sick time leave. “I know that’s really helped our refugee community, especially because they don’t have the ability to have that kind of voice with their employer,” says Erica Lehman, a nurse with the center.
Partnering with Agricultural Employers in Washington
When COVID-19 affected the migrant food worker community in Washington, Chelan-Douglas Health Department and Columbia Valley Community Health collaborated with three major fruit companies. In addition to developing testing and screening protocols, they formed a mobile outreach team comprised of medical assistants, nurses, and providers to offer testing and education in the migrant work camps. The partnership allows public health to communicate COVID-19 responses between the health department, the clinic, and employers so the outreach team can mobilize quickly and go on-site for testing or CICT.