Back to the May-Jun 2021 issue

Has Your City Considered Race Equity in Its COVID-19 Response?

Faith JacksonFAITH JACKSON
RACIAL EQUITY COORDINATOR
BLOOMINGTON (POPULATION 90,271)

While the pandemic has meant change for everyone, some people have been more affected than others. Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.

In Bloomington, the BIPOC community makes up about 28% of the total population. However, to date, nearly 40% of documented COVID-19 cases are within the BIPOC community. Understanding such, the City of Bloomington is committed to centering racial equity in our COVID-19 response efforts.

Desire to reduce inequities

In March 2020, our City Council adopted a resolution documenting its commitment to lifting up the health and social needs of the most marginalized members of our community. To assist, we provided emergency management staff with a racial equity framework. This helped them to analyze COVID-19 response policies and decisions, and address how the pandemic may exacerbate existing racial inequities.

We are also providing culturally sensitive COVID-19 messages and resources to BIPOC communities to connect them to employment, business, rental, and income assistance programs.

In addition, we partnered with the Minnesota Department of Health and other organizations to offer a free COVID-19 testing event, with a special focus on reaching BIPOC community members. Nearly half of the 1,200 attendees represented our BIPOC communities.

Offering assistance

The city, through its Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA), provided housing assistance. We gave $469,569 in HRA and federal funds to the nonprofit, Volunteers Enlisted to Assist People, for emergency rent assistance. We also assisted families receiving federal housing vouchers to ensure they could continue making their rent payments.

A city where everyone thrives

The city will continue to address the root causes of inequities impacting the health and well-being of our community. Such inequities are the result of structural racism, which has been highlighted by COVID-19. Ultimately, our goal is to be thoughtful and intentional about becoming a city where people of all races thrive.


HEIDI LEE

RACE & EQUITY COORDINATOR
EDINA (POPULATION 53,268)

As municipalities continue to respond to the needs of their communities during the COVID-19 pandemic and the civil unrest following the death of George Floyd, leaders are working to understand and make decisions through a race-and-equity lens.

Data shows that there are individuals and groups of people who are more greatly impacted by COVID-19 than others. There is clearly inequitable access to resources, depending on factors like race, age, disability, and economic status.

Reaching the most severely impacted

In Edina, we have worked to provide information and services to all during the pandemic, but we’ve been especially thoughtful of our residents who are more severely impacted. COVID-19 information has been available on the city’s website and companion engagement site, BetterTogetherEdina.org. The engagement site has specific resources for seniors and businesses.

We set up a resource hotline for residents to call with COVID-19 questions or issues, such as testing, and another hotline devoted to vaccination. The city has also established a relationship with LanguageLine to support those who could benefit from the use of interpreters, and we began offering Spanish and Somali versions of our monthly newsletter.

Providing resources to those in need

The city also bottled its own hand sanitizer at a time when it could not be easily found in stores. We were thoughtful in our approach of distributing 5,000 bottles, focusing on those living in affordable and low-income multi-family and senior housing.

The city used some of its federal Coronavirus Relief Funds to assist residents in need. Money was sent to Volunteers Enlisted to Assist People (VEAP) for emergency rental assistance. To date, more than 300 households have been assisted through VEAP. In addition, we awarded about $500,000 in grants to 52 small business owners.

Examining decisions for equity

As the pandemic continues, using a race-and-equity lens is vital to develop an understanding of how decisions impact individuals and groups of people in a community. While a decision may benefit some groups, there has to be critical examination of whether the decision also creates challenges for others.

There is no clear roadmap to achieve equity for all; however, we always need to be intentional in conversations, decision-making, implementation, and accountability.