Organizations Working In California’s Communities Of Color Partner With RACE COUNTS To Address COVID-19 Disparities 

In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, a harmful narrative emerged that the virus was a "great equalizer," affecting all communities equally. This narrative flew in the face of reality on the ground where communities of color were particularly impacted by the pandemic

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, community-based organizations working in California’s communities of color were stepping up to support vulnerable residents at risk of and impacted by COVID-19. From distributing food and personal protective equipment to providing rental assistance – organizations in communities of color quickly mobilized in response to the pandemic. Unfortunately, California’s public systems were slower to support vulnerable Californians of color and address pandemic inequities.  

In an effort to spark public system action and to uplift the inequities they were seeing on the ground, CBOs collaborated with RACE COUNTS to conduct timely research on COVID-19 disparities. This research resulted in two reports, How Race, Class, and Place Fuel a Pandemic and Prioritizing an Equitable COVID-19 Recovery for Our Highest-Need Communities.

Originally presented to the Committee for Greater LA in 2020 near the beginning of the pandemic, How Race, Class, and Place Fuel a Pandemic showed that decades of discriminatory housing, banking, and economic policy decisions by corporations and public institutions thrust Black, American Indian/Alaska Native, and Latinx residents in Los Angeles onto the front lines of exposure to the virus. It also offered recommendations focused on short-term needs to get through the worst of the crisis.  

In addition to utilizing RACE COUNTS data and research, community-based organizations (CBOs) in L.A. County also partnered with RACE COUNTS to help convene a cross-sector workgroup made up of County departments, labor groups, philanthropy, community clinic advocates, and community leaders. Together, the workgroup developed a set of recommendations for how the county could address COVID-19 disparities. You can learn more about the workgroup and see their recommendations by reading the workgroup’s Race and COVID-19: Community-Based Rapid Response System report.  

The Prioritizing an Equitable COVID-19 Recovery for our Highest Need Communities report, produced nearly a year after the COVID-19 outbreak, showed the true cost of reopening California too soon for communities of color that continued to be disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. A statewide COVID-19 Vulnerability and Recovery Index produced in conjunction with the report provided policymakers, advocates, and other Californians with a tool to inform equity-based resource allocations and a means to target services equitably. 

All three reports relied on extensive data on COVID-19 cases, demographics, and socioeconomic factors, and findings presented after careful analysis and partner review ensuring the credibility and accuracy of the information.  

Following the release of these transformative reports, several significant developments  occurred: 

  • L.A. County worked with CBOs to distribute much needed personal protective equipment to high need communities.
  • L.A. County policymakers took note of the reports’ findings, and implemented measures to address racial disparities, including establishing a $16.1M County COVID-19 Community Equity Fund to provide resources to small grassroots organizations working on the frontlines to address COVID inequities.
  • L.A. County developed a COVID-19 index modeled after the RACE COUNTS Vulnerability and Recovery Index to guide distribution of American Rescue Plan Act funds to communities most impacted by the pandemic. 

The reports’ impact transcended raising awareness, prompting action and policy changes that addressed racial disparities in COVID-19 outcomes. They laid the foundation for a more equitable response to the pandemic and highlighted the vital role of community-based organizations in supporting communities of color during times of crisis.