Black Voices

COVID-19 Recovery: Initiative Aims to Equitably Rebuild Chicago


COVID-19 Recovery: Initiative Aims to Equitably Rebuild Chicago

The coronavirus pandemic has disproportionately affected Black and Brown residents not just in Chicago, but across the country.

Earlier this month, The Chicago Community Trust, along with the mayor’s office, businesses and philanthropies, launched Together We Rise — an initiative that aims to center equity in the recovery process by investing in Black and Latino neighborhoods

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“We cannot expect to hold back two-thirds of our population and think that the rest of the community is going to move forward,” said Dr. Helene Gayle, president and CEO of The Chicago Community Trust who recently wrote an opinion piece about equitable economic recovery in Crain’s Chicago Business. “It really is about how do we move forward together as a region, as a city, and how do we do it equitably. Because unless we do it equitably, we’re not going to do it at all.”

According to data from the Chicago Department of Public Health, of the 3,018 coronavirus-related deaths reported as of Tuesday, 2,274 were Black and Latino residents — roughly 75%. While those residents have experienced a disparate health impact, they also have been impacted economically, said Gayle, who spent 17 years at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention working on infectious diseases.

“Black and Brown communities went into this epidemic and economic crisis much more financially insecure and unstable and it has had the hardest hit on those same communities,” Gayle said. “If we are going to recover, as a city, and as a region, we have to make sure that those communities that were already financially insecure are given the economic focus to make sure that those communities will recover.”

The coalition’s plan is threefold. First: develop a fund. The new fund replaces the Chicago Community COVID-19 Response Fund, which raised nearly $35 million at the beginning of the pandemic for immediate needs. The new fund launched with $25 million, Gayle said. 

Second: improve business practices. This means looking at how businesses can use their resources to make an impact. For instance, using vendors from the hardest hit communities or making flexible lending available. 

Third: making policies more equitable that could build financial security. This could include extending the income tax credit, Gayle said. 
“If we pull together the different sectors and look at how the philanthropic sector can join with the private sector, we can also catalyze some of the kinds of investment in some of the disinvested neighborhoods that can start to spark economic recovery and economic growth,” Gayle said.  


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