As communities across the United States work to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and economic recession while also grappling with a surge in new cases, it's clear that the impact on Americans has been unequal. More so than previous crises, COVID-19 exposed gaps in access to basic information, services, and social safety-net support that disproportionately impacted Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color (BIPOC) and immigrant communities. These communities have shouldered a greater share of the economic and health-related consequences of the pandemic, and without targeted efforts to promote equitable disaster response and recovery, they will be more vulnerable to future emergencies.
In this report, we provide lessons and guidance for how cities can equitably respond to COVID-19 and future crises based on our five-city COVID-19 Community Impact Survey, a year-long effort to document best practices generated by the Cities Index Working Group and other leading municipalities across the country, and findings from Year 3 of the NAE Cities Index. Our findings shed new light on the ways in which COVID-19 affected communities of color and immigrant communities, including challenges they faced in accessing timely information, health care, utility and rental assistance, and other crucial services during some of the most difficult months of the pandemic. Data gathered in 17 languages by community partners also reveals the difficulties many residents will face as the recovery continues in the months ahead. Finally, this report highlights the varied and often creative ways cities have stepped in to fill gaps in the federal response, and includes recommendations for how local governments and community leaders can help promote a more equitable, inclusive response to future disasters and emergencies.