How Can We Highlight Inequities In State-Level CARES Act Spending To Underscore The Need For Broader Economic Justice Efforts?

Just Economy Conference – May 12, 2021


The CARES Act included numerous funding streams to support federal, state and local COVID-19 responses. A lesser known, but important source of CARES Act funding is the Coronavirus Relief Fund. Through this fund, the U.S. Treasury provided $150 billion to tribal, state and local governments to address unexpected expenses related to COVID-19. The fund is unique given the fairly high level of flexibility and discretion governments have in spending it. The Hope Policy Institute and other state advocates have been examining gaps and opportunities with these monies, both inequities and promising policy pilots. Three areas, in particular, include disparities in access to local government relief funding in the Deep South, disparities and promising models in small business relief funding, and direct cash assistance like local-level stimulus checks. Many states and local governments are also developing public dashboards to track their spending under this fund, making accountability and lessons learned possible for future reform efforts.

Without adequate attention, these state-level COVID-relief dollars are at risk of repeating the same inequities that existed pre-COVID. What are strategies for telling these stories for advancing an economic justice agenda in our own states? How can we use these findings to support the push for broader economic justice policies in other areas, particularly those aimed at closing the racial wealth gap?


  • Diane Standaert, Senior Vise President of Policy and Advocacy, HOPE
  • Charlane Oliver, Executive Director, MPA
  • Felicia Lucky, President, Black Belt Community Foundation
  • Veronica Briseno, Economic Development Director, Austin, Texas


NCRC video transcripts are produced by a third-party transcription service and may contain errors. They are lightly edited for style and clarity. 

Standaert, 00:04 

For generations. So thankfully today we have an amazing panelist of speakers who are leaders in the American South who have been confronting these inequities head-on creating and innovating to ensure that COVID relief dollars receipt reached the communities who needed it most. And we hope in advancing and showing these solutions today around addressing inequities and state-level cares expending, we hope that it will provide some lessons learned for going forward in other situations, not only in additional relief monies, but other times in which financial resources need to be deployed to the communities who’ve long been left out of them. And so the some of these key takeaways that we hope you’ll get from our session today include looking at new tools and strategies that community leaders can use to make sure their voices are at the table and making these decisions. If you’re a government leader, or a funder, or even a bank, looking to invest in communities, how to maybe some takeaways from this session include centering community voices, and building equity into the front-end decision-making of those funds. And then we have another opportunity right in front of us to not repeat some of these lessons and to do better as we deploy $1.9 trillion of money through the American rescue plan that is happening right now at the federal, state and local levels. And then finally, we will he’ll hear about today, some of the documentation of the disparities and inequities that occurred through the state level, state-level relief money. And this is important to continue lifting up and not forget our history, as we think about where targeted support is going to be needed. In the future. This is going to be particularly important as we are confronted with a narrative that the economy is returning and people that all the relief has been given out people should be on their own as a move forward in the next phase of, of recovering from COVID-19. You know, the reality is, as we move forward into the next phase, white communities will be doing so with hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars more and relief aid that they received, that black and Latino and communities of color simply could not access last year. And so I’m going into, we’re going to talk specifically about one stream of money from the cares act. And again, that’s just the context for today’s discussion. But we hope the lessons are applicable in other situations. So the many people might be familiar with the cares act, because for a number of reasons, but maybe namely the paycheck Protection Program, which provided 600 and $600 billion worth of business relief aid that primarily locked out black and Latino-owned businesses from that aid. Well, there was another stream of money from the cares act called the Coronavirus Relief Fund, which deployed $150 billion to states and large cities and counties. What was unique about this fund is that it could not be used for general revenue replacement, but had to be used for unexpected COVID-related expenses. This could be small business relief, rental assistance, pp food support, all kinds of things that communities really needed in real-time last year. And so we’ll hear from Charlene Oliver from Nashville, Tennessee in just a minute about how community-centered communities most impacted by the pandemic were at the table and making the decisions of the priority. Uses of those funds. One of the other permissible uses is that some states passed this money along to smaller local governments in their states. But many did so by using a reimbursement model of deploying this money, so the local government can only get the money, they had the money to spend in the first place. We will hear from Felicia Luckey from the Alabama black belt Foundation, about the challenges that that cause for communities in the black belt, but also how they innovated to overcome those challenges. And then the third thing that was unique was the vast amounts of public data and reporting that was required by this pot of money. And so we saw a lot of states and local governments, producing dashboards and publicly reporting how this money was spent. Of course, there is uneven amounts of data that we can talk about, but we have Veronica Brazil,  from the city of Austin as the chief economic recovery officer to talk about how the city of Austin use this data along with other equity tools to make sure as they were pursuing an equitable recovery throughout the process. And so this is the context of the discussion today and some of the things that we will be covering. So as for hope, hope, is a black-led credit union community development financial institution and policy institute that is located in the deep south, reaching Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Tennessee, and Mississippi. And we have been primarily engaged in the advocacy and accountability around two streams of money through the Coronavirus Relief Fund, one around small business relief and the other local government relief. And I just want to highlight two examples that we have encountered in our work that I think really show the extent of the disparities that we are talking about with this state-level money. So the first example I just want to show is funding from the state Tennessee small business Relief Program. Tennessee essentially set its small business relief program funded by the cares Act is a sort of essentially a stimulus check for small businesses. Unfortunately, they used a racially biased formula to determine the payment sizes for these checks, which the end result was 90% this $200 million pot of money 90% of this money went to white-owned businesses, and less than 10% going to minority-owned businesses. This is going to have a lasting impact on the health and well-being of these businesses and ultimately, the ability to close the wealth gap in the future. The next example I want to lift up is Louisiana, Louisiana, like Alabama, and many other states used a reimbursement model to deploy money to local governments last year. And you can see this is just one example of how parishes that were primarily white, were able to receive more of the money that they requested than parishes where the majority of people are people of color. And you can see that this disparity widened for parishes that were rural, and then have been in poverty for more than 30 years. For those parishes where the majority of people are people of color, they received just about a third of what they requested reflection of both the need and possibly the challenges in accessing this money. But for similarly situated white parishes, they received over 73% of the money that they requested. So these are the disparities that are going to last and have implications for a long time and they had real-time implications. At the time of COVID-19. His communities were struggling to stay open to meet the health needs of their residents, and everything else that people were trying to do stay safe and stay alive. And so this I think this underscores the importance of the solutions that we’ll hear about in the rest of the panel today that have been innovated from the ground up and also help Pat create a path forward of what we do next. So with that, I will turn it over to Charmaine Oliver from the equity alliance in Nashville, Tennessee. 

Oliver, 08:19 

Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for being here. I will run through a project that my organization spearheaded this past summer, called the Our Fair Share Nashville campaign in partnership with Mayor john Cooper and our Metro Council. We have a 40 member Metro council here in Nashville, Tennessee.  This is a little bit about At the equity Alliance, we were founded in November 2016 by six black women, including myself. It was drawn out of frustration after the inequities of our government after the presidential election of 2016. And after the uprising of Black Lives Matter, and how we do not center, black folks in our policymaking. We are a statewide grassroots organization that challenges systems of inequity and white supremacy. We are focused on building people-centered power to equip more black folks to be civically engaged, and how we’ve made a name for ourselves as championing voting rights, racial equity, and economic justice and how those issues intersect in the black community. We have been able to really be an unapologetic trusted messenger in the community, which is how we were selected to launch the Our Fair Share campaign. A little bit about how we got here, as you know, the timeline to launch the offer share initiative. As you know, Congress passed $2 trillion and COVID relief money. In April of last year, Nashville received $121 million of that care Zach funding to combat the Coronavirus. Shortly after May 18, I was asked by the mayor’s office to be a part of a task force that would help him come up with really innovative and creative ways of how to spend the cares act money. And so prior to the announcement of Task Force, I put together 24 recommendations for how to spend the money creatively that would impact and help people of color in the city. A day later, coop john Cooper convened this advisory group to explore how to spin the cover relief money. And we weren’t strategic and announcing those spinning recommendations so that the community knew that we were advocating on their behalf. Should the mayor choose to use some of those tactics. In June, we had conversations with the mayor’s office, they decided to deploy $24 million for education to purchase laptops for every student in the Metro Nashville school system. Later that month, the metro Council passed an ordinance to approve all of the cares Act funding, primarily because the power at that point rested in the hands of the mayor and our Metro council essentially did not trust him to make the right decision. Because the advisory group that I was asked to be on I was the only community-led organization that actually touched people on the panel. It was made up of lobbyists consultants, and basically his mayor’s friends that was going to be a rubber stamp. So the council said no, we’re gonna approve that money. And later they announced a nine-member COVID financial oversight committee to decide how the remaining $55 million would be spent about 55 of that 20 121 million. Several of it went got to go back into the mayor’s budget to reimburse him for what has already been spent to combat the virus. So we’re really talking about $55 million. We met with the mayor and we advocated for the equity Alliance to be the go to organization to receive some of that money to deploy it into the community. So we were essentially asking them to in partnership with other black-led organizations, and Latino-led organizations to be the hub to deploy this money into the community to make sure it got to the right people. The mayor Sophos came back and said, well, we’ll give you 500,000 to do a needs assessment. So we said okay, that’s fine. So we launched the needs assessment on July 23. We did it at the mayor’s COVID press conference. And a week later that we were asked to give good results back. So this is how the program looked in real-time. I want to show you a quick video. 


Hello, my name is Lelann Evans. I’m the project manager here natural dollars from the federal care. Well we are going with our fair share is making sure that the black and brown communities Hi, I’m Brittany community engagement director our fair share. We’re here today to hear from the brown community. our fair share national and equity Alliance. We’re with AI studio and Madison, Tennessee. People that may have been overlooked. Today, last minute. Women has paid her putting money in right hands and so we’re helping them out during this difficult time, the equity Alliance collaborate with Mayor John Cooper office to launch our fair share Nash calm a site survey alone black and brown Nashvillians to assess the issues they’re facing. We want to have some preliminary information by the end of the interview, live it and use it again in August. But this survey is going to be ongoing and we know that the needs of the COVID are going to shift as time progresses, with $121 million allocated to the city of Nashville due to Care Act organizers that are pushing hard to make sure minorities aren’t left in the dark, we want to be at the table, we want to pick up the menu. And we want to make sure that other people have an opportunity to enjoy a meal as well. There’s a lot going on right now. And I get it. But there is a way for your voice to be heard, by filling out the Our Fair Share survey by filling out your senses and registering to vote. And to take it a step further. On November 3, going to the polls to make sure your voices heard. get out and vote, fill out your census and make sure you get your fair share. 

Oliver, 16:08

So I wanted to give just a little bit of background and context around the Our Fair Share Nashville initiative. So at the time, Nashville was as most states with experienced an uptick in COVID cases, one of every three COVID deaths were black people, and one every three COVID cases were from the Hispanic community. So our infection rates were the highest in communities of color. We also made up a disproportionate share of the population in the 12 top hardest hit COVID hotspot, which is where we concentrated our survey. The poverty rate for the African American population in Nashville is 24.7% higher than any other right than any other urban city that has a high concentration of black population that includes Atlanta, St. Louis, Houston and many other places. In 2020, we just got data back earlier this week that showed during the pandemic, the black unemployment rate was astronomical at 23.9%. We made up 40% of the unemployment cases across the state. It’s very embarrassing and very dismal. When you compare that to the rights of any other ethnic demographic, we also were facing in Nashville a deadly tornado that hit us on March 3, which was super Tuesday, election day. And it hit us in North Nashville the heart of a predominantly historic black community, which we had to also rally around the pandemic hit us the same week that the tornado came so we weren’t dealing with a multitude of crises. And then later that summer of 2020, as you know, the George Floyd murder, really set off ratio and civil unrest and protests that we also participated in has to put our bodies on the line. So those are all the things that were happening in the background that really contributed to us saying, look, black folks are suffering from three pandemics, a pandemic of right supremacy, the pandemic of institutional racism, of poverty in the pandemic of 2020. The Coronavirus and the Coronavirus pandemic really exacerbating all of the issues that we already knew were impacting black and minorities disproportionately. We targeted our approach in the top 12 zip codes with COVID hotspots. If you overlay that with where particularly minorities and communities of color are living in Nashville, these are pretty much the same areas of town, South East Nashville along the inner corridor. And up north is where you sort of see those concentrated neighborhoods. population in Davidson County, just to give you an idea, we are as black folks, nearly 30% of the population are Hispanic 10%. But if you look at the population in just those top 12 zip codes, that increases to about 32%, black, and 13%, Hispanic, and Antioch to Southeast Nashville area, it is a high concentration of new Americans, we have the largest Kurdish population in the country, in Tennessee in Nashville. So we had a multitude of communities that were suffering. So how do we do it? How do we launch this arch fair share campaign that other cities can take off take with them. So we really wanted to focus on vulnerable populations, underrepresented communities, communities of color, and target those top 12 zip codes. We knew we couldn’t survey all of Nashville. So how do we strategically narrow that down, and we chose the top 12 zip codes that were had the highest cases. And then we wanted to focus and talk to directly minority-owned business owners and residents. So our rationale was that, you know, there were when we looked in the van found there were about 62,000 households in those zip codes. And our target was to get a 5% response rate, which was roughly a little over 3000 survey respondents. And mind you, we had to do this project that the mayor’s office asked for two data points. One initially when the cares that committee met a week later from when we launched and then they wanted a full report in September, which would have been about six weeks later. So we had to really rush into this project in a really rushed way. Unfortunately, some of our core strategies one, we are a trusted messenger in our community. The equity Alliance is trusted in the black community. And just in general, we are seen as a political powerhouse. And so our voice carries a lot of weight. So we as a black-led organization had deep connections in the community. We wanted to hire unconventional talent. Black talent, Leland, as you saw in the video was a young black leader. We hired him as the project manager, grassroots organizing we wanted to go with the people are using a color coalition collective impact model, we wanted to get buy-in from the community, as well as use a multitude of data collection points. Some of the core strategies that you saw in the video, we were able to hire a project team in 13 days, we launched a website, our fair share national calm and four days, we were able to hire over 112 community canvassers to go out to local businesses and places to capture surveys. We also used community partners to pay we paid them a stipend of about $1,000 a month to share the officer Sharpe survey with their networks and on social media. And we also were in the community we we did media interviews, and that resulted in 8500 survey responses in just under six weeks. Some of the ways that we were able to capture that data, obviously we utilize a research polling company to capture the initial 1000 surveys that we could give to the mayor’s office for their initial report. But then we also did door-to-door canvassing, we had an open-access survey online on our website. And we also had in-depth interviews with small business owners and we hosted focus groups at local businesses to capture their voices as well. One of the questions that we asked and I say right was how do you want the city to use the funds use your taxpayer dollars. And so we pitched this as a way to say we have a direct line to the mayor’s ear and in the metro Council, fill out this survey so that you can get your voice heard 35% of respondents said they wanted mortgage and rent relief. 23% said they need small business grants 16% said use it on food and nutrition and utilities. And then 12% said use it for COVID testing and contact tracing. As a result, the mayors, the metro council care the committee listened and their initial allocation was resulted in 13 point 8 million being deployed for mortgage rent utility assistance. And I put an asterisk by that about 3.8 million and about 3.8 million of that was later released. And then 5.7 million for small business grant of that 30% had to be allocated for small businesses. So lastly, key lessons learned we have a community engagement problem in Nashville. Over 60 to 84% of respondents didn’t even know how to access the resources. We the money was given to United Way. And we said, Look, how does people even know that United Way has more mortgage and rent relief money. And so we really need to think about how we do service delivery. And making sure that funds distribute distribution is equitable trust any black leadership and not making assumptions that we cannot handle large sums of money, federal money to distribute resources. So I’ll leave it at that. And you can if you want to read the full report, go to our fair share. nashville.com. Thank you. 

Standaert, 24:30 

Thank you, Charlane. Amazing, so many questions, I am sure. And thank you for the work and for sharing that story with us. I’m going to go ahead and turn it over to Felicia lucky but if you have questions for Charlane, please drop them in the chat. And we’ll hopefully get to them at the end or follow up in a minute. But thank you so much. And with this, I will turn it over to Felicia from Black Belt committee foundation. 

Lucky, 24:54 

Great Well, good afternoon, everyone. And thank you so much for the opportunity to share a little bit about the Black Belt Community Foundation. I just want to say kudos to Charlane and I am in the efforts of Our Fair Share. And I saw in the chat where others are interested in doing that in Alabama. And I was like if we could only be so fortunate to move in that direction. But thank you for a chance to talk a little bit about the Black Belt community Foundation’s recoverable grants program. As you see this map of Alabama, if you look at the places with the most deeply red or Maroon colors on the map, that pretty much look like a belt around the waist of the state of Alabama, most of those counties represent the black belt area. So this black belt is an area that is really noted as one of the most historically significant regions in the United States. Most folks think black belt with reference to martial arts. But it’s not it’s because of the black topsoil that is very fertile. And it was that topsoil that made cotton King and additionally continued to feed into many of the systems that continue to hold our region down. So a lot of the work that we’re doing is was initially established through the black ball Community Foundation in 12, of the of the counties of Alabama, 67 counties, and the work that we were doing during COVID, we expanded our reach to cover a total of 16 counties. And all 16 of those counties are right in the middle of the state of Alabama, and are the darkest red colors. Now those 16 counties represent 1/5 of the state’s total population of a little over 264,000 individuals. So very similar to what we heard from Charlene, the black folk Community Foundation was established and has unapologetically as well become a trusted and helpful connector in our community. And we were established very similar to what we just heard earlier is that while many funders or resources often don’t make it to areas, because of as Charlene mentioned, because saying that a lot of blacks in positions cannot afford, will cannot manage those resources. We’ve had very similar conversations because we’re rural, and we are a black-led organization, that there’s not capacity to handle the resources. So that in itself does not that in itself is not the case at all. But as we continue to move on. And if you will advance this, Diane, if you’ll continue to move on, we’ll see that through the cares act, that the state of Alabama had actually been allocated a total. I mean, just an in total that was that made us extremely excited. We had $1.9 billion through the relief fund that was allocated to the state of Alabama, very excited to hear about that and the state and region that needed resources. But then there was a catch. These dollars would be available, but only on a reimbursement basis as we just heard Diane talk about Louisiana, doing very similar. So the state of Alabama decided to take that 1.9 billion and have that 1.9 billion to allocate 250 million for cities and counties with each of those receiving $125 million. Now as a result of hearing this, I am a proud Daughter of Alabama’s black belt. I was born and raised in Sumter County, and I have the privilege of serving at bbcs headquarters in Selma, but spanning those now 16 counties that we cover, and in doing this work, the one thing that I knew with certainty is that many of the communities that we would work that we are working with would not have the resources to spend an allocation and then receive an allocation back So then BB CF jumped in to say, How can we come a connector? Now I want to just explain a little bit of why the connector the connector needed to be in place? Well, it was because the state provided this historic amount of money, remarkable amount of money on a reimbursement basis. So when you’re dealing with some community, some municipalities that have populations of 300 or 500 people, some cities and towns whose allocation from the cares Act funds were larger than the actual budgets. You know, when I think about random, Burke had a budget of about $25,000, and friend and burgers and Wilcox County, which is one of the persistently poor counties in the state of Alabama in the nation. But they have a $25,000 budget, but the allocation was around $38,000. So how will this community then be able to spend 38,000, and then wait to be reimbursed for that. So this is where bbcs saw the opportunity to really step in to be a connector. Now we are smaller Foundation, especially compared to many of those throughout the state. How can we actually do this work, we cannot do this work alone. But we had the fortune of connecting with hope credit union. And through this connection, we were able to then establish a recoverable grants program. But before we were able to establish this grants program, if you will move to the let’s see, next slide. Yes, as we were working, I’m sorry, you had the correct place. As we were working to establish the COVID-19 Access Program, what we did is we pulled together many of our mayors, our commissioners, city council folks and informed some of them who had no knowledge and an allocation was even made to them. Now, I know that many of us know quite a bit about broadband or lack thereof in many areas, and the black belt of Alabama is an area that is really strained because of the lack of broadband. So for many of our mayors, they did not know they had an allocation, we first informed them. And then we said how this is how we want to help you access these dollars if you can. And they said we need to help thank you for stepping into this space. And so with that, we were able to then join forces with hope and establish and then to establish a guarantee loan loss pool and through this pool, part of what we did is we actually worked to establish a line of credit with hope. But it took some, as my grandma always was say there’s more than one way to skin a cat. But it took some effort to really pull this together. And it was just some, I guess a little bit of ingenuity to say how can we make this happen? How can we make these resources available. And instead of an outright grant program, we were able to do a recoverable grant because we didn’t just have over 18 I think it was $18 million that was allocated to our 16 counties, we didn’t have $18.5 million to grant out to come back. So we had to be smart, we joined forces with hope we actually secure we raised the dollars through a Guaranteed Loan loss pool to secure enough resources to secure a $1 million line of credit through hope. And we had partners from the state of Alabama’s philanthropic community, from the corporate community, and even other foundations from other spaces who stepped in, and then hope stepped in to not just give us the line of credit, but to also be willing to take some risk to allow us to make sure our communities could be served. So part of what is very frustrating when you live in an area such as a black belt, is when you feel that your community is made to feel that you should not have access to these resources, as we’ve seen, and it is unfortunate, it’s an unfortunate system that we must dismantle and change. But it basically said because of our zip code, we did not have to worry about mitigating the spread of COVID in our areas, and nothing could be farther from the truth. Every life and the black belt is equally as important in lives in any other areas that we have. So we established this recoverable grant program. We connected with our mayor’s with our city with our commissioners, and we actually did loans of up to $50,000. They were purchased what they needed, we would give a grant to the city or municipality, they would purchase what they would need from our grant. And now this is a long process and I want to remind you this was in a very short window of time, they would purchase what they need, then submit their reimbursement to the state of Alabama, who had been repaid the entity, the entity within repay the blackball Community Foundation, the foundation within reimburse the line of credit so bear long process in a short window of time, when you’re working in increments of $50,000, there were some exceptions, we had a local university, Selman University, who was one of our partners that we were able to provide funding to do that with. But the biggest piece of what I like to leave from this story and the actions that we had to take is that it required a non-traditional way of doing business. And so oftentimes, most folks think that you have to have someone from the outside coming in to solve the problems at the byteball Community Foundation, we believe very strongly, that those who are proximate to the problems are also proximate to the solutions. So we believe in being on the ground working with the residents of the black belt, and talking about what the problems are identifying those and also in crafting solutions together. So the COVID 19 access program that was offered through the black belt Community Foundation could not have been done through the Community Foundation alone, it could not have been done with hope alone. But we were able to come together to say this is what we need to do to make sure that we can bring over a million dollars into our community in a very short window of time. One of the lessons that we learned very early on is that many of the residents in the area, many of the leaders in the in our communities, were very skeptical about accessing the dollars. And I do believe it is because we oftentimes operate from such a point of scarcity, that is very difficult to accept that when resources are made available. And so there was a lot of time that had gone by and the foundation made a stance to take out ads in local papers to say, Hey, folks, these dollars are out here for your communities, how will you be protected from your from COVID? How is your community protecting you. And because of that, then we saw a little bit of push a movement for many of the local leaders and was very unfortunate that we had to take that step and spend those resources that otherwise could have been spent on something else. But that was what was needed in order for us to get movement. And we were excited because we were able to do that and serve, you know, make loans to serve a population of over 60,000 of if communities that we knew we were helping and to be able to put nearly a million dollars back into our communities. Next slide, Diane. And this isn’t just me saying how excited we were. But this is Mayor Walter Porter, who’s the mayor of EFS, Alabama, which is located in in Sumpter County, and Walter is actually a native of Epps, Alabama, he’s a small business person there. But they had a grant of $23,000, which was nearly half of their operating budget. And they bought PP and those items that were approved by the state. So when you look at his testimony says that it was a blessing to receive this funding. And we know that we were because we were able to do this, we talked with several mayors such as mayor Porter, who said, we would likely only been able to access maybe 1/3 of this a 1/4 of these dollars, had this recoverable grant program not been in place. So at the end of the day, we’ve come to the conclusion that rural matters, black-led organizations matter and actually have the capacity to do the work that needs to be done. What I love about our fair share was that there were not prescribed solutions to what needed to happen. But community came together to work to make it happen. And you will see that resonating very well and what happened through the black belt community Foundation’s recoverable COVID-19 access program for our communities. So thank you so much for allowing us to time to share our story. Oftentimes, we say the black belt of Alabama, which we know that Selma is, the heart of it is where are we located, where we are located. We know that much of the history of Selma has actually also dictated what happens in the world. So thank you so much for the opportunity. With that. I’m going to turn it over to Diane. 

Standaert, 37:55 

Thank you. Thank you, Felicia, what incredible work. And you know, wish there wasn’t a need to create such a program should have just gotten the money directly. But think that doing so has shown that all the power and strength that you all have every day in the communities in the black belt. And so we’ll look for again, if you have questions for Felicia, please drop them in the chat and look forward to getting to them in just a minute. So with that, I’m going to go ahead and turn it over to Veronica from the city of Austin to give us a different perspective as someone who is in charge of administering the funds and the steps they took to build equity into the front end of their decisions. 

Briseno, 38:37 

Good afternoon. I’m happy to be here with you today and talk a little bit about what we have done in the city of Austin. I am the chief economic recovery officer for the city of Boston and I have been responsible for our economic recovery efforts in Austin. Know the next slide. So just a timeline of our response to COVID. And we did try to move swiftly in Austin, March 2020, our mayor declared it a local emergency. Our city manager assigned me in this role in mind. When we’re not going through a pandemic. I’m the economic development director for the city of Austin. In April, we launched our first set of local economic support grant and loan programs for Austin businesses. And then June 2020, our City Council adopted our COVID 19 spending framework, which included cares act allocations, as well as other allocations. Excellent. We really built our recovery response on four main elements or pillars. We looked at economic recovery for residents and businesses. We quickly established a one-stop-shop, we realized that because we had multiple departments working in recovery, we needed to have a landing page for folks to find resources. We also provided real-time and interactive dashboards, and I have the links on there later in this presentation. But we thought it was really important to show to be transparent and just show in real-time where those dollars were, were being distributed in our community. And then we created diverse economic recovery focus groups. For every focus group, we took a lot of time looking at The racial makeup of the group gender makeup, as well as, for example, or food and restaurant group, making sure we had the small restaurants, family on type restaurants, as well as the more well known or larger restaurants. Next slide. So as I mentioned, Council passed the economic recovery spending framework in June, they dedicated 103 point 2 million for economic support. These programs were allocated through many programs and helped multiple stakeholders, including individuals and households, small businesses, nonprofit organizations. And when we’re looking at nonprofits, we were looking at nonprofits from the perspective of a nonprofit as a employer, and then the city of Austin, we because we are the state capitol, we have quite a few. A lot of nonprofits located here, we provided assistance to our creative sector workers and businesses, childcare providers, and as well as worker and customer safety and workforce development and utility bills assistance. Next slide. So this is a look at these programs. I won’t read each one. But this is a calendar of the past year, and how we, how we went out how we implemented these programs. We had a variation of programs. And as you can see, some of them were released two rounds of funding so that if an individual continued to have that need, we were able to continue to meet those needs. Next slide. So overall, there was 12 programs that we administered, we distributed $115 million. Through these programs, we served over 200,000 households and 1600 businesses. We also assist 1000 of austinites through additional support services and programs, such as we created an Austin Civilian Conservation Corps. This was modeled after the Great Depression and the workers program that resulted from that, but looking at how can we employ austinites and things like public art, and different projects that we have in our community, the Austin mental wellness support line, we realized very quickly the need for mental support for folks that are in these industries that were so hard hit. So we provided that assistance, health care access, again, we realize the need when fighting the pandemic. And so many of these industries are areas where folks do not have health insurance. And so we wanted to make sure that we’re doing what we can to provide access. We provided business coaching virtually at no cost to help businesses look at what was what the reality was for their business and help give advice on steps to take to stay just to succeed through this. We looked at deferred city property tenant payments, we were able to allow a put into place in an anti eviction ordinance so that folks would not be removed from their properties. And we also had a utility discontent, connection moratorium so that folks didn’t lose their utilities as well. So some of the things that we did to provide programs equitably. First, we made sure that we translated everything into multiple languages, not only Spanish but Chinese, Arabic and Vietnamese. We partnered with our mobile Ethnic chambers of commerce, we’ve made sure that we worked with them as an ombudsman or arm of our city to really get the word out and help folks receive assistance. We funded community-based organizations to advertise programs and offer technical assistance. We call these organizations, our community champions. So we wanted to work with nonprofits that really could have a far reach in our community and let folks know about what the what programs were available. We published application questions and required documentation several days before the grants open. So we’re really looking at the populations that we wanted to reach, we made sure that folks had time to get their materials prepared and respond to the information requested. We promoted grant programs via community-specific media outlets, we worked with our media outlets that we know are prominent in our communities of color, so that we are we weren’t getting the word out there the far reach. And then finally, we partnered with our equity office, the city of Austin has an equity office that was integral and reviewing our guidelines and making sure that we weren’t just disproportionately you not providing a fair opportunity across the board. So some of the examples of what we did within the programs for our Austin live music venue preservation fund this is about this is $5 million. When we looked at this particular fund, Austin prides ourselves we pride ourselves on being the live music capital of the world. Live music venues themselves, though, they’re just not that many owned by people of color. So we knowing that that was a factor and a concern. We worked with any are required any applicant to attend three racial equity workshops and create an equity strategic plan before they received their grant. We did this to really get like music venues to think outside the box of how could they be more welcoming to communities of color, and how could they have a far reach in our community, and the Austin nonprofit relief grant, which was $6 million, we scored applicants using a matrix that include criteria for need vulnerability and equity. As a result of this approach, most funded nonprofit search communities of color, and people of color compromise more than two thirds of the awards of the board’s membership. So we really wanted to make sure that we were creative about how to provide an equitable playing field there. In the Austin small business relief grant, which is 18 point 6 million. We also used a matrix that included criteria for need building equity, half of the program, funding that was distributed, the applicants that received this funding was scored higher, our score the highest according to this matrix, the remaining 50% of the fun was awarded by a random lottery. So we wanted to try to give folks a heads an extra advantage if they if the business was owned by a person of color. So as a result of this, more than 50% of the applicants were nonwhite and more than 50% of the applicants. I’m sorry, I can’t read that. I think it says we’re women, maybe but that’s okay. Oh, there you go. And most grantees were women. Thanks. So the dashboards I mentioned early on. And all of these are available on at x recovers Comm. But you can see each of these programs, not only has this information dissected by demographic, we also have it available by council district So Cal members could see how that informs how the funding was distributed. And just it’s layers and layers of information. I’m very proud of the work my our team did on this. And this is something that we intend to carry into everything we do as an economic development department. Slide and this is the website that I just mentioned. So if for any additional information, please visit at x recovery COMM And this is the One Stop landing page was talking about where we really wanted to make it easy for folks to come. We also thought it was important to have what I learned is called a vanity name. But at xx recovery calm as with many city organizations, our normal websites are very clunky and long, and it’s hard for people to remember so we thought this was easy. It’s easy for me to communicate when speaking and it’s easy to remember. Next slide and record For our focus groups. So as I mentioned, we were very thoughtful and intentional about how the focus groups were created. We broke them down by industry, the, the industries we chose were ones that were hard, the hardest impacted by the pandemic, with the exception of manufacturing, we included manufacturing, because we really wanted to look at some of the successes they had and being able to stay afloat. We also had a cross-sector industry. So we included organizations that represented workers rights, as well as our chambers of commerce, and really looked at across the board, how can we make How can we provide relief and have a guiding principle moving forward. As a result of all this work, the group’s identified 45 opportunities, we turn this into an economic recovery framework. And we really, we really, were impressed by the work the hard work groups did. But it was also interesting to see that there was a lot of common themes, even though they were in different industries. So it was a great opportunity to see some things come out of that as a result. And that concludes my presentation. I’m happy to answer any questions. Thank you. 

Standaert, 50:09 

Thank you so much, Veronica. And for all the work that you and your team did, I think just really showing some concrete examples of what is possible when what community what other local governments can do and what community leaders can be asking for as well as lessons to keep in mind for distribution of funds. So I think if we’re all able to come back onto the screen and answer, we have a good few minutes to answer any questions that might have come into the chat. So I can’t see the chat. So I don’t know if I’m Kaylee will let us know if there’s any questions that have come in. I know there’s some great, okay, so I do know, there’s some questions that come in, and Felicia mentioned just around connecting on some of this work. And that is the goal of this panel of replicating some of these amazing models. I think so often we talk about the disparities and the challenges and the problems, but really wanted to focus on like, these are some real concrete, you know, solutions that can be lifted up by others. And, and, and more. So I guess maybe while we wait for some additional questions, I’m actually wondering, you know, is the question for any of you around how you’re thinking about the lessons learned from this incredible work that you all just did, and how you’re trying to extend that with the money that’s now coming down through the American rescue plan. And making sure it gets to the communities in a way that it that it needs to? So I’ll open with that, if anyone has initial thoughts to share. 

Oliver, 51:48 

Yeah, thanks, Diane, um, one of the sort of revelations that came out of the work that we were doing, especially with working with some of our minority businesses. And Felicia, I think you touched on this a little bit where the money had to be reimbursable. And so we have a challenge with making sure that our black-owned businesses are self employed, entrepreneurs are in a position to compete for these dollars that are coming down the pipeline, we know that it came with some very short deadlines that you had to get back the documentation that the state needed, and some of those things and accounting is, you know, something that all businesses don’t necessarily have in house or an operations person. So having to turn around these applications and grant applications to get some of this money is a challenge when you’re all things in your business, especially for minority business. So that’s something that I just noticed that was an equitable from the jump that a lot of our black-owned businesses get shut out of PPP loans. I had a good friend, he is a formerly incarcerated business owner, he, you know, started about five years in prison. And he is one of our premier business owners in the city. And he got the nod alone, because it was written into the code that formerly incarcerated folks did not receive p2p loans, which is just, you know, we’re continuing to punish people for things that admit mistakes that they made. And so it’s just, it’s just terrible. And I think we need to do a better job of building up our nonprofits making sure that we are in positions to be strong and sustainable, so that we can weather another crisis like this in the future. 

Standaert, 53:49 

Thank you. 

Briseno, 53:52

One thing that I learned the hard way is that this is a marathon, not a sprint. And I’m trying to keep that in mind as we’re going through the AARP funds and looking at allocations there. So really taking our time and being thoughtful about how we’re allocating, I think is important, important. And then I think Charlie is absolutely right, the, this pandemic really revealed how fragile our small business community, especially our businesses owned by people of color is. And so I really moving forward, we’re looking at how can we help build that resiliency, and so that you can succeed, one of the things that we saw, we have a legacy business program that we’re administering. And we’re learning that most of the recipients if not all, do not have a continuity plan in place. And that’s so key and so important. And so we’re working as part of there, in order to receive the funds, we’re working with them to build those plans, because we want to make sure that we see them in the long term, and survive as a business. 

Lucky, 55:00 

That’s great. I wanted to jump in, I think it definitely showed how friendly all small businesses are, and then also show the resilience of nonprofits, I think, you know, who’ve shown themselves to be stronger, and a vital part of the ecosystem of our country completely, even though they’ve been completely under invested in and oftentimes challenged to do the most work with the least amount of resources. So I, that’s definitely a learning for us. And I think when you look at who’s actually reaching individuals, and thinking of creative ways to make sure that we can tear down these walls to access the dollars that we’ve seen in the nonprofit community to step into that space. And I think equally so to be able to address it initially, right where we are to make sure folks can access dollars, then to be able to begin that policy and advocacy work, to go after the system to say we’re going to make this available to you on a reimbursable basis. That just, which was not mandated did not have to be done. So that says we’re going to exclude you without saying we’re going to exclude you. So that cannot happen in the morning. I think that’s a lot of where our efforts have to be to meet the now and then to also serve the future. 

Standaert, 56:12 

Well, I think I’m just thinking about all these comments, some things to, you know, very common themes, were talking about small businesses or local governments, you know, the reimbursement model, you know, that’s something that Treasury is in a position to address right now, as it’s finalizing regulations for how states will have to pass money on to non entitlement jurisdictions through the American rescue plan. So you know, make sure that it’s clear that in this next round, that states are not, you know, Treasury to provide that directive to not provide it on a reimbursement basis to local government. So that’s an opportunity right in front of us right now, on small businesses, for all of us and anyone listening, every state is getting money to the state small business credit initiative, $10 billion is coming down to states, your state right now is working on plans of how they’re going to get access to this money. This is a six-fold increase of this pot of money than when it previously existed. Just to get a sense of the scale in the deep south, it’s $308 million. That’s coming down. So these are all lessons learned from the PPP, terms of application requirements, business support, who’s eligible, working with trust organizations should be integrated now into this? billions of dollars that’s coming down through the state small business credit initiative. And so just, you know, I think lifting up what many common themes around the value of working with trusted partners and, you know, the tension of speed and a disaster, and pausing to make sure we get it right. And I think we’ll have that time in front of us with some of the funds coming down with the American rescue plan. And for people administrating funds that are not going out the door right now, hopefully, you’ll take these lessons now and start integrating them for whatever is coming next. So I really just appreciate everybody tuning in today and to Felicia, and to Charlene and Veronica for sharing the brilliant work that they have done over the last year in a really trying time. And hopefully, we’ll be able to carry that forward on a number of fronts. So thank you all. 

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