By: Hamel Haile, Time for 9 Toolkit Campaign Lead
The necessity for proper and careful allocations for resources in socioeconomically disadvantaged communities, and how they can be implemented.
It’s no secret that minority populations including Black, Hispanic, and Indeginous folks have higher risks of dying from COVID-19. But exactly how drastic these disparities are may be surprising to some. In fact compared to white Americans, Black Americans are 1.9X more likely to die from COVID while Hispanic and Indeginous individuals are 2.3X more likely to pass from the virus1. The answer to this disproportionate impact, that has come as a result of years of racism in the healthcare industry, is not simple. However there are still ways that the spread of COVID-19 can be mitigated in order to protect minority communities. In the Time for 9 Toolkit, these concerns are addressed through the “additional resources” section of the plan which highlights three specific recommendations regarding issues such as food stamp programs during COVID, city based rental assistance, and COVID safe sheltering options for those experiencing houselessness.
Recommendation 1: Ensure that residents of low income minority communities still have access to adequate food supplies without having to put themselves at risk of infection by physically going to a grocery store. Prior to the pandemic online grocery shopping occurred but was not nearly as popular as it is today. Due to this, adequate online grocery systems were not in place for those utilizing Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) before March 2020. In this recommendation, the Time for 9 Toolkit calls for all 50 states to “ensure that minority groups, especially those who rely on SNAP, are fully able to shop for groceries via online purchase”. Taking this step will allow those who rely on the opportunity to order necessary groceries from the comfort of their own homes. This will also limit the amount of times SNAP beneficiaries may need to leave their home which is essential when attempting to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
Recommendation 2: Create state and city-based rental assistance programs for renters who are ineligible to receive direct rental assistance from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. A second area of focus in the additional resources section of the Time for 9 Toolkit is city based rental assistance. The affordable housing crisis has been plaguing Americans for years. In 2016 almost half of those renting were defined as “cost-burdened” (spending 30 or more percent of income on rent)2. These effects are only amplified for minority renters in city areas due to America’s history of racist, redlining housing policies. In the aftermath of COVID-19, one study involving 7,379 renters reported that 53.5% of renters had recently lost their job due to COVID-193. Since minority populations are much more likely to rent than their whitecounterparts, recent financial hardships that have come as a result of the pandemic are also more likely to affect minority renters on unprecedented levels. The Time for 9 Toolkit calls for states and cities to consider successful rental assistance models that most effectively respond to the needs of renters in the localities they serve. The toolkit seeks for minority and socioeconomically disadvantaged groups to be placed at the forefront of rental assistance policies and provides examples of several state and local rental models that already do this. The toolkit includes models for small towns, middle sized communities including those in southern Nevada, and large cities including Chicago and Los Angeles.
Recommendation 3: Prioritize the allocation of safe sheltering alternatives and COVID-19-preventative resources for homeless communities. The final recommendation in the Time for 9 Toolkit’s additional resources section centers on COVID friendly shelter alternatives for those experiencing houselessness. One may recall the infamous “stay at home” orders that most state and local governments implemented at the start of the pandemic. However 568,000 homeless Americans were still left on the streets4. Although it may be difficult to implement, socially distanced shelters have helped limit the spread of COVID-19 amongst homeless populations and have proven to be an effective short term solution. However such solutions should also be implemented alongside projects to ensure stability for houseless folk. The Time for 9 toolkit encourages state and local governments to implement acquisition programs. Acquisition programs seek to ensure that socioeconomically disadvantaged individuals reach stable conditions through “attainment, rehabilitation, and allocation of affordable, existing housing, often expediting the process of securing public housing in comparison with new construction”. The toolkit then gives several examples of existing acquisition programs that could potentially be used as models for state and local governments to follow.
Aiding minorities harshly affected by COVID-19 is no walk in the park, however through a series of calculated recommendations that attack the problem from various angles, the Time for 9 Toolkit provides a framework for which state and local governments can utilize and begin to mend the issue at hand.
“COVID-19 Hospitalization and Death by Race/Ethnicity.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 12 Feb. 2021, www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/covid-data/investigations-discovery/hospitalization-death-by-race-ethnicity.html.
Sisson, Patrick, et al. “The U.S. Has an Affordable Housing Crisis. Here's Why.” Curbed, Curbed, 2 Mar. 2020, archive.curbed.com/2019/5/15/18617763/affordable-housing-policy-rent-real-estate-apartment.
“Time For 9 Toolkit: Addressing the Disproportionate Impact of COVID-19 on Minority and Low-Income Communities.” Google Docs, Google, docs.google.com/document/d/1YtHz0xk_2rENliPr0gRvLwS3YouE9zXOMDg_qvaXSsI/edit#.
Press, Associated. “COVID-19 Is 'a Crisis within a Crisis' for Homeless People.” Modern Healthcare, 24 Aug. 2020, www.modernhealthcare.com/safety-quality/covid-19-crisis-within-crisis-homeless-people.