The Coronavirus outbreak has disproportionately impacted and devastated communities already grappling with long-standing legacies of racial injustice and economic disenfranchisement. As we continue to track the pandemic’s long-term implications, it is imperative to account for how our most vulnerable organizations and communities will recover from the unprecedented damage caused by this global pandemic.
After several weeks of convening members and community partners to learn about their rapid-response efforts, we would like to elevate several strategies that center equity as a foundational value of funders' current work. As a sector, we must explicitly acknowledge why specific populations are hurt more than others by this virus and fortify our commitment to racial equity to create a world where everyone has resources and opportunities for recovery.
Following up on last week’s SCG Emerging Trends in COVID-19 Responses, this blog offers a high-level snapshot of how SCG's members have adapted to support our hardest-hit organizations serving people of color and low-income communities. We do not consider this list comprehensive of all equity practices and responses and plan to update it regularly as we see trends emerge. If you have a strategy you would like to share with us, reach out to us directly.
Prioritizing the Hardest Hit Communities
It is imperative to utilize a racial equity framework to design response efforts that address vulnerable communities’ current and long-standing challenges. At the moment, low-income communities and communities of color are experiencing amplified effects of the outbreak, such as lack of available coronavirus test kits, limited access to healthcare supports, not having basic needs met because of school closures, already high mortality and morbidity rates, and many other challenges. Not only that, but the organizations that support these populations are often the first to shut down due to the magnified financial strain brought on by unprecedented emergencies. These organizations, usually led by people of color, can swiftly adapt their missions to become critical providers of essential services to communities during extraordinary moments. One way for grantmakers to practice equity is by directing resources to organizations that predominantly operate within communities of color or low-income communities and supporting those that don’t have the same financial backing as larger institutions or are in danger of not surviving this pandemic. Funders can also apply other equity grantmaking strategies and implement a racial justice lens to their giving.
Supporting Marginalized Populations
It is also vital to support communities who do not qualify for or are excluded from federal coronavirus assistance. These groups include immigrants, refugees, asylum seekers, Native Americans, tribal communities, and incarcerated people. Not only do these populations already experience increased levels of racism and are at the receiving end of punitive policies, but now they are being denied access to essential support services and relief efforts. For example, various immigrants, especially undocumented individuals, are currently afraid to ask for assistance because of recent changes to the public charge rule. Additionally, SCG’s members are advocating for incarcerated communities asking for compassionate relief in the face of potential mass transmission in detention centers and homeless populations who have great difficulty in accessing available resources. Grantmakers can support by actively looking for populations frequently left out and adjusting their funding priorities to reach these communities.
Adapting Resources for People with Disabilities
Adult dependents, including adults with disabilities that rely on their family members’ care, are excluded from the federal stimulus package. Available supports are not always fully accessible to a variety of different needs. It is critical to adapt coronavirus resources to accommodate people with disabilities. Organizations can start by ensuring that websites, emails, and documents are accessible to screen readers and other technologies, add image descriptions to all visual social media content and embed captions to recorded webinars and video content. You can find various tools and tactics to make your communications more accessible by visiting SCG’s Resource Page from our 2019 Disability Inclusion Conference. Additionally, as organizations continue to implement and refine their remote work systems and technologies, it is critical to reflect on how organizations have not offered these same accommodations to people with disabilities who have historically faced staggering unemployment rates. As we rebuild in the coming months, we have an opportunity to reflect on how to build a more inclusive work culture.
Denouncing Xenophobia and Racism
Implementing an equity framework requires funders to explicitly name systemic inequities in our response efforts or risk being compliant in maintaining the status quo. Grantmakers have an opportunity to acknowledge systemic injustices in their external communications or directly in their grant applications. SCG is proud to join over 130 foundations and philanthropic organizations in signing Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy's (AAPIP) letter asking our colleagues in philanthropy to take decisive action against the racism targeting Asian Americans in the U.S. amid the COVID-19 outbreak. You can sign the letter here.
Providing In-Language Resources and Funding Ethnic Media
As you continue to create and curate coronavirus-related resources, these items must be translated into multiple languages to reach diverse populations. SCG's members are working with the Los Angeles Department of Public Health to provide in-language guides for updates and safety recommendations. It is also crucial to support ethnic media outlets in amplifying their reach as trusted partners in various communities. Ethnic media, like many other small businesses, are facing financial hardship. In funding ethnic media, grantmakers are helping to maintain vital sources of information for vulnerable populations.
Elevating the Voices of Grantees and Communities
In the spirit of true partnership, many grantmakers are intentionally getting input from grantees and organizations working at the front lines. Numerous SCG members are hosting frequent conversations with their grantees and partners to learn more about their current experiences, elevate the most pressing needs directly from the community, and plan for their unique, emerging challenges.
Trusting Nonprofits and Supporting Their Wellbeing
As we continue to see the rise of racial hostility in this pandemic, it is essential to monitor nonprofit partners’ wellbeing. More than ever, staff members and individuals on the ground carry the weight of intolerance through micro-aggressions in the workplace or blatant hatred in external environments. It is necessary to be proactive in leading with equity, offering support outside of funding, and creating space for partners to feel supported. Funders are increasingly testing Trust-Based Philanthropy principles as they rapidly learn and apply these practices to their relationships with nonprofits.
Amplifying Census Outreach in the Age of Coronavirus
The 2020 Census has faced many challenges — the attempt to include an untested citizenship question, delays in funding, and now the untold impact of Coronavirus. It is more important than ever to reach out to hard-to-count populations and continue to support a robust movement infrastructure to improve opportunities for historically marginalized Californians. While in-person, door-to-door outreach strategies are no longer viable, philanthropy can support the 2020 Census by relaxing grant requirements, providing emergency funding for Census outreach, encouraging digital organizing, and sharing resources from other Census leads.
Planning for the Long-Term
As funders continue rapidly responding to immediate needs, it is increasingly important to prepare for the outbreak’s peak and the potential long-term impacts on our most vulnerable communities. While community members have received temporary relief through local eviction moratoriums or delayed payments on utility bills, many individuals will likely struggle to pay the accumulated debt or meet their payment plans after the crisis. These already vulnerable communities will also face a new host of post-crisis challenges, including potential medical debts, students falling further behind because of education disruptions, staggering unemployment, and various other obstacles that will prevent them from bouncing back quickly. Grantmakers have begun thinking about their funding through a staged approach to ensure that they can allocate the right amount of resources at every stage of the coronavirus pandemic. Additionally, funders must begin discussing the policy solutions that will address the multitude of systemic problems that the coronavirus outbreak has exacerbated.