(Updated Feb. 18, 2021)
As cities grapple with the impact of COVID-19 on their local communities, cities may wonder how to address race equity. The state and other cities have created helpful resources that may benefit your community.
The League will continue to compile race equity resources, so check here for updates.
Q2. Are there racial disparities in Minnesota related to COVID-19? (Updated Feb. 5, 2021)
Q5. We hear there may be acts of racial bias or discrimination happening related to COVID-19, but they are not getting reported to our police department. What can the city do to address this issue? (Updated Feb. 5, 2021)
Q7. What are Minnesota cities doing to address race equity during this health pandemic? (Updated Aug. 19, 2020)
Q9. How do we address COVID-19-related housing issues? (Added Dec. 18, 2020)
A1. Yes. The National League of Cities (NLC) explains in a recent article, Disparate Impacts of COVID-19 on Communities of Color, that “local leaders must account for the systemic and institutional racism that make black people and other people of color particularly vulnerable to both the virus itself, complications from the disease, and the societal and economic insecurity created by the pandemic.”
NLC provides steps city leaders can take to address these disparities:
- Partner with health care providers to collect accurate demographic data and disaggregate by race.
- Target resources to address disparities.
- Integrate equity into emergency command center operations.
- Ensure that reducing discrimination and stigma stemming from racism are addressed as part of city COVID-19 response.
- Invest in local businesses of color.
A2. Unfortunately, yes. Gov. Tim Walz launched a Community Resiliency and Recovery Work Group. In the Community Resiliency and Recovery Overview, it states:
“We know that systemic disparities impact communities of color and indigenous communities, including immigrants and refugees, making these groups more vulnerable to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. People of color, indigenous people, immigrants, and refugees are more susceptible to get infected, and more susceptible to die from COVID-19. These groups have increased exposure to the virus because of higher rates of work in low-paying jobs, now considered essential. People of color and indigenous people also have a substantially higher rate of health inequities and underlying health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, severe asthma, and obesity.
“Additionally, we see evidence that communities of color and indigenous communities will be more deeply impacted financially due to COVID-19. The unemployment rate for people of color and indigenous people is more than double that of white Minnesotans, and the unemployment rate for black Minnesotans is the highest it’s ever been in history. We are carefully monitoring these impacts and taking action to protect the lives and livelihoods of vulnerable communities in Minnesota.”
As of Nov. 18, 2020, 9% of the confirmed cases are Black Minnesotans, even though they only represent 7% of the state. Also, 72% of the confirmed cases are white Minnesotans, which make up 80% of the state. According to a Star Tribune study of Minnesota death records, people of color are dying of COVID-19 at disproportionately high rates. They account for 63% of the deaths among adults under age 64, though they are just 16% of that population.
A3. Cities may wish to include a racial equity lens to the actions being taken by the city during the COVID-19 pandemic. This may include examination of policy and procedural decisions, which could have a disparate impact on communities of color. This may also include sharing information with residents on how to report discrimination, where to access language resources on staying safe, and sharing reliable information from sources such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Minnesota Department of Health (MDH).
Q4. If city residents are looking for multilingual COVID-19 resources, where can the city find them?
A4. There are many resources available through the Governor’s Office, MDH, Minnesota Department of Human Rights, CDC, along with city-specific websites.
Governor’s Office. Gov. Tim Walz has Stay-at-Home Materials that have been translated into Amharic, Hmong, Karen, Oromo, Russian, Somali, and Spanish.
Health resources — MDH Hotline. MDH has a number of health resources in multiple languages. MDH also has a COVID-19 hotline, where interpreters are available:
(651) 201-3920 or (800) 657-3903
7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Schools and child care questions:
(651) 297-1304 or (800) 657-3504
7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Health resources — MDH materials and resources. MDH has translated materials and resources for Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) response, including flyers, into Amharic, Chinese, Hmong, Karen, Lao, Oromo, Russian, Somali, Spanish, Vietnamese.
Health resources — MDH Instructional videos. MDH’s “Videos for Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Response” page has videos and transcripts translated into Amharic, Arabic, Chinese, Hmong, Karen, Lao, Oromo, Pashto, Russian, Somali, Spanish, and Vietnamese.
The CDC’s COVID-19 recommendations print resources have been translated into Amharic, Arabic, Burmese, Chuukese, Dari, English, Farsi, French, Haitian Creole, Karen, Kinyarwanda, Korean, Marshallese, Maylay, Nepali, Pashto, Portuguese, Russian, Simplified Chinese, Somali, Spanish, Swahili, Tagalog, Thai, Tongan, Tigrinya, Ukrainian, Vietnamese.
City resources. Some cities are also providing city-specific information in different languages:
- Brooklyn Park: The city website has COVID-19 information translated into multiple languages.
- Faribault: The city partnered with Rice County to translate coronavirus basics into Spanish and Somali. The city website also includes links to MDH’s translated resources.
- Lakeville: Language interpreters are available to answer questions about COVID-19 via Dakota County’s COVID-19 hotline number, which is (952) 891-7834. It is open Monday–Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
- Richfield: The city website includes a Google Translate button that translates the contents of the page into over 100 languages. This is included on Richfield’s COVID-19 Response page and Resources page. The Google Translate button says “Select language” and is located in the navigation at the very top of each page.
- St. James: The city translated its get tested for covid-19 page into Spanish.
- St. Paul: Translators are available to answer questions about COVID-19 via phone or email in Hmong, Karen, Oromo, Somali, and Spanish. Contact: (651) 266-6000 or LanguageResources@ci.stpaul.mn.us.
Q5. We hear there may be acts of racial bias or discrimination happening related to COVID-19, but they are not getting reported to our police department. What can the city do to address this issue?
A5. There are several resources available for this.
Presidential Memorandum. In response to the rising reports of discrimination against the Asian American and Pacific Islander community and also recognizing the role the federal government played in furthering the xenophobic sentiments, President Biden signed a Presidential Memorandum condemning and combating the racism and xenophobia against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the United States.
The memorandum includes directions to:
- The Department of Health and Human Services and the COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force to issue guidance on cultural competency, language access, and sensitivity. The idea is to ensure best practices when it comes to sensitivity and language access.
- The Department of Justice to engage with the community on issues related to hate crimes, hate incidents, and harassment.
State discrimination reporting website. With rising reports of discrimination against the Asian American and Pacific Islander community, Gov. Tim Walz launched a Discrimination Helpline to reinforce the state’s efforts to protect the civil rights of Minnesotans during the COVID-19 pandemic. Gov. Walz said, “As Asian Americans in Minnesota report heightened cases of discrimination amid COVID-19, my message is clear: ‘Viruses don’t discriminate, and neither do we.’”
- MDH Flyer: “Viruses Don’t Discriminate and Neither Should We”
Minnesotans who experience or witness discrimination should report incidents directly to the Minnesota Department of Human Rights’ Discrimination Helpline:
Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Reports can also be submitted through this online form. Translation services are available.
Multilingual information on the Discrimination Helpline has been translated into Amharic, Bhutanese, Cambodian, Chinese (Simplified), Chinese (Traditional), Hmong, Karen, Laotian, Nepali, Oromo, Russian, Somali, Spanish, Thai, and Vietnamese.
A6. The National League of Cities published an article, Prioritize Equity in COVID-19 Response. This article includes sample language that city leaders could use, including: “Our city is committed to centering racial equity in our community’s responses to the COVID-19 global pandemic.” (NOTE: One of the authors was Minnesota’s own St. Louis Park Mayor Jake Spano.)
Cities have also passed COVID-related resolutions that include race equity.
For example, Minneapolis’ Resolution No. 2020R-076 declaring a local emergency includes:
“The Mayor is hereby requested to center race equity in all aspects of the city’s COVID-19 response and mitigation efforts, and to analyze the implications of actions taken during this Local Public Health Emergency through a Racial Equity Impact Analysis.
“Prioritization of culturally and linguistically appropriate outreach materials for non-English speaking residents and businesses.”
Examples of other city resolutions:
A7. Several cities are including race equity as part of their COVID-19 response. Here are a few examples.
- The city’s Racial Equity Coordinator provides city leaders and emergency management team with a racial equity framework to analyze COVID-19 response policies and decisions, addressing how this pandemic may exacerbate existing racial inequities.
- The city provides culturally relevant and linguistically appropriate COVID-19 messages and resources to Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) using accessible mediums and are connected to employment, business, rental, and income assistance programs.
- The Community Outreach and Engagement Division connects with BIPOC communities through the city’s faith communities, multi-unit housing with priority to subsidized and NOAH properties, community leaders, seniors and congregate living facilities, non-profit service providers, school district, Normandale Community College, and Chamber of Commerce.
- The city’s Public Health, Public Works, Public Safety, and Parks and Recreation departments worked together to launch the Parks Response Team, which monitors parks and trail use and responds to resident questions about their use.
- City staff volunteer at a local food bank that helps low-income individuals and families regardless of citizenship status.
- Community impact survey results shared with City Council and community.
- City granted funds to five nonprofit organizations for emergency assistance.
- Youth outreach workers reactivated in Zane corridor for education rather than enforcement on social distancing.
- Mailing to all renters with information on resources and how to connect with the city/other agencies.
- Continuing to provide more updates, resources, city info, etc. on the city’s COVID-19 web page.
- Park ambassadors are located at different facilities to help promote stay-at-home orders and social distancing best practices.
- City signs and mailing are designed and printed with focus on icons/graphics with language translations. With the city’s translation services in mailings, there are QR code offerings for Somali and Spanish, since those are the two most spoken languages in the city other than English.
- Better Together Edina and City of Edina website is platform to provide information to community about COVID-19 and links to CDC, MDH, and various organizations that can be a resource.
- A Resource Hotline has been established where people can call in with COVID-19 related questions and get assistance. City staff who are intaking the calls are tracking patterns of language translation needs.
- The city has a Conoravirus Update website that includes a link to the information in Spanish, Somali, and Hmong.
- Acknowledging how COVID-19 can exacerbate existing racial disparities, Minneapolis created a COVID-19 Rapid Response Tool to assist the city’s proposed actions or decisions.
- Weekly email updates with community-based organizations and neighborhood organizations regarding funding opportunities, community resources, and links to communication materials.
- Connection with the city’s cultural radio shows. The city has weekly programs on KMOJ 89.9 FM (English); La Raza 95.7 FM (Spanish); KALY 101.7 FM (Somali); and WIXK AM 1590 (Hmong).
- Human Rights and Equal Economic Opportunities (HREEO) has been working with partners in the Asian community and the City Council to put out anti-discrimination statements and has asked residents to report potential discrimination.
- The city also has a Multilingual Health Information Section on its COVID-19 Resource page and updated resource information on the Immigrant Resources page with specific COVID-19 issues.
- St. Paul has formed a Racial Equity Work Group, led by the City’s Chief Equity Officer, which is housed within the city’s Emergency Operation Center. The focus areas of this group include economic justice, community engagement and partnership, communications, discrimination and xenophobia, data, and intergovernmental relations.
- The Saint Paul Bridge Fund is an emergency relief program for families with children and small businesses impacted by the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. The $3.85 million fund will be distributed to qualifying St. Paul families with children as a flat-rate $1,000 grant and to qualifying small businesses as a flat-rate $7,500 grant.
A8. Ramsey County has created two new teams to respond to the COVID-19 emergency: Racial Equity and Community Engagement Response Team and Compliance and Oversight Team, which report directly to the county manager for the duration of the COVID-19 emergency.
The Ramsey County Racial Equity and Community Engagement Response Team will focus on:
- Data collection and sharing that is focused on measurement of race and ethnic-based disparities during the public health and economic crises.
- Effective, focused communication into racial and ethnic communities that otherwise may be missed during a COVID-19 response.
- Program design and implementation with community collaboration that ensures effective service to racial and ethnic communities that may otherwise see significant disparities in outcomes.
- Building trust through engagement, transparency, and accountability throughout Ramsey County’s response to the COVID-19 crisis.
The Ramsey County Oversight Team will focus on:
- Compliance and oversight to ensure accountability, transparency, and effectiveness of COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 programmatic efforts, including hiring and spending during the duration of the emergency response.
- Partnering with the Racial Equity Response Team to ensure that goals and efforts around racial equity are reflected in Ramsey County’s public health and economic responses, including purchasing and contracting.
- Data collection and information sharing that is focused on organizational spend, hiring, contract issuance, and program compliance.
For more information on efforts by Minneapolis, St. Paul, Hennepin County, and Ramsey County, read: WCCO Investigates: Which Neighborhood Are At High Risk for COVID-19
A9: The National League of Cities published an article, Long-Term Approaches to Preventing Evictions Now and Beyond COVID-19. It is estimated that roughly one out of every five people living in a renter household (19 million to 23 million people) were at risk of eviction by Sept. 30, 2020. The article acknowledges that this problem isn’t a new one, but the current scale is unprecedented following a spike in mass unemployment and a pandemic-driven economic slowdown. This will be happening amid a shortage of 7 million affordable rental homes and following decades of discriminatory housing practices such as redlining, predatory lending, and racialized urban renewal and exclusion efforts. The pandemic in many ways has put vulnerable renters, specifically people of color, under the spotlight.
City, county, and state governments have passed short-term, targeted, and equitable strategies to keep families housed.
For example, 42 states and the District of Columbia had statewide eviction moratoriums in place at the peak of the pandemic, supplementing the temporary federal moratorium on evictions for most federally subsidized homes and properties with federally backed mortgages. In Minnesota, Gov. Walz passed Exececutive Order 20-14 which suspended evictions and writs of recovery until the end of the COVID-19 peacetime emergency.
However, NLC also recommends that cities consider the long-term impacts of mass evictions on their communities, and implement and institutionalize effective policies or programs.
Another NLC article, Housing, Hazards and Health: Considerations and Approaches in Light of COVID-19, highlights the importance of having a healthy house, especially during this public health crisis with a lot of children and families spending more time inside their residences due to COVID-19. Unfortunately, due to discriminatory laws like segregation, more families of color reside in communities with higher concentrations of poverty and lower housing quality than their white counterparts.
Some recommendations for cities to consider include:
- Deploying an equity-centered, code enforcement response.
- Supporting financing approaches to support healthy housing interventions.
- Fostering stronger partnerships between the housing and health sectors.
Some cities have been coming up with creative ways to deal with this issue. For example, Brooklyn Center’s performance-based licensing system, requires more frequent inspections for units that performed poorly on previous inspections and less frequent inspections for units that perform well (inspections every six months versus every few years.) The city also halted all inspections that were not critical to life and safety and carried out virtual inspections as needed. All rental license expiration dates were pushed back 90 days to account for the paused inspections. As the city has begun to reopen, rental inspection has resumed with property personal protective equipment guidelines in place.
Q10. How can local governments provide greater access to state and federal business grants for businesses owned by people of color?
The economic fallout due to the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted several small businesses across the country, including those in Minnesota. There are some ways cities can ensure that businesses owned by people of color within their community are aware of and can apply for the state business grant programs funded by federal Coronavirus Relief Funds and potential additional federal resources for local governments.
One thing cities can do is translate their business grant programs into other languages.
For example, the City of Worthington is providing a Spanish version of the information and application to use as a guide for filling out the application for their small business assistance grant program.
The City of Bloomington has also translated it’s COVID-19 Business Resources into Chinese, Spanish, Somali, and Vietnamese.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been getting worse, with more people being hospitalized. The development of various vaccines brings hope that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Since communities of color have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important that governments bear this in mind when considering their vaccine roll out and distribution.
President Biden’s National Strategy for the COVID-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness states that the federal government will drive equity in vaccinations by using demographic data to identify communities hit hardest by the virus and supporting them, ensuring no out-of-pocket costs for vaccinations, and making sure vaccines reach those communities.
Understanding the history behind the deep-seated distrust of the health care system within communities of color, and how to build that trust, is a necessary step needed to ensure that communities of color have access to the vaccine. This can be done through community engagement within communities of color.
PBS TPT now provides COVID-19 Vaccine information to African American (Black), Hmong, LatinX, Indigenous and Somali communities. They will be partnering with five cultural media partners, the Minnesota Department of Health, and Wellshare International to produce five culturally specific “top questions/answers” and 30-minute broadcast programs.
Ramsey County also has public health messaging around COVID vaccines, organizing a series of culturally and linguistically specific messaging/conversations, with trusted messengers.
Ramsey County Public Health and the COVID-19 Racial Equity and Community Engagement Response Team (RECERT) recently had a virtual community conversation about the COVID-19 vaccine.