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  • Melissa Jones, MPA

BARHII’s Strategy for an Equitable COVID-19 Response and Recovery: A Moment 20 Years in the Making

A Message from the Executive Director - August 12, 2021

How do you recognize a historic moment when you’re living it? Or are all moments historic and only some of their stories get told? I’ve come to believe that history is crafted in the decisions we make every day. Each decision, building on the next, plants the seeds to new beginnings and transformations. And today, we find ourselves in a moment that can suddenly and powerfully transform us—if we each act boldly and in coalition.

A Generational Moment of OpportunityHow We Respond and Recover at the Same Time

These are complex times. In recent weeks, the Delta variant has driven health departments across our region into a challenging new response phase. Wildfires loom on the horizon, threatening to plunge us back into periods of concurrent, overlapping emergencies. At the same time, massive new federal funds for COVID-19 recovery and a historic state budget surplus have opened the door for transformative investments in community health, racial justice, and economic well-being for all.

Because of the fluid nature of the pandemic, our communities will be responding to disaster and allocating recovery dollars simultaneously. BARHII is working with you to do both. Now, our task is to ensure that the communities hit hardest by the pandemic receive the resources they need to react and rebuild—and in the process, forge a more equitable society.

This is a difficult moment—and it’s also a culminating moment for health equity. BARHII was formed nearly twenty years ago, when we still needed to convince people that inequity causes disease and death. Today, there’s never been greater awareness of the deeply entrenched inequalities that shape our health or the resources to enact solutions at the scale of the problem.

We know from past crises that this opportunity won’t last long. Consider the Great Recession of 2008. In a few short months, government leaders designed and approved trillion-dollar bail-out programs. And then, as quickly as it began, the response was over. The government moved on to new issues.

In 2008, communities—especially Black communities—experienced the largest loss of wealth in modern U.S. history. COVID-19 has substantially worsened existing health inequities, especially for Black, Latinx, and Pacific Islander communities. The potential for inequity in recovery is huge, if we don’t harness recovery resources for racial equity.

In addition to supporting equitable COVID response, BARHII is undertaking several major initiatives to shape recovery investments:

Serving in leadership roles in two major advocacy efforts to move recovery funds to BIPOC families and the organizations that serve them.

  • Expanding our partnerships with grassroots community organizations to help them access relief funds.

  • Convening Black leaders across the Bay Area so that Black health is at the forefront of recovery planning.

  • Providing tools and trainings to support local governments and community partners allocating recovery funds—including today’s launch of a new COVID-19 Investment Guide and training series.

This is the moment for which we were created. We appreciate all you’re doing in response—and we’ll be working hard to make sure our region seizes this moment for an equitable recovery. We hope you’ll join us.

Melissa Jones

Executive Director

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