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?

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Redlining and Neighborhood Health

Before the pandemic devastated minority communities, banks and government officials starved them of capital.

Lower-income and minority neighborhoods that were intentionally cut off from lending and investment decades ago today suffer not only from reduced wealth and greater poverty, but from lower life expectancy and higher prevalence of chronic diseases that are risk factors for poor outcomes from COVID-19, a new study shows.

The new study, from the National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC) with researchers from the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee Joseph J. Zilber School of Public Health and the University of Richmond’s Digital Scholarship Lab, compared 1930’s maps of government-sanctioned lending discrimination zones with current census and public health data.

Table of Content

  • Executive Summary
  • Introduction
  • Redlining, the HOLC Maps and Segregation
  • Segregation, Public Health and COVID-19
  • Methods
  • Results
  • Discussion
  • Conclusion and Policy Recommendations
  • Citations
  • Appendix

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