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?