Local organization outlines six areas COVID-19 relief efforts should address

Business and civic leaders that are a part of Campaign for Equity: New Orleans (CENO) are calling on elected officials, business leaders and both city and statewide task forces to center racial equity as the focus of its work given the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on African Americans.

“If COVID-19 teaches us anything, it’s that an injury to one is an injury to all: public health is economic health,” said Emily Madero, CENO co-founder.  “An equitable recovery is the first step but we must use this as an opportunity to recover to equity.” 

CENO is working to shine a light on the economic disparities that existed across our city before COVID-19 but are now evermore apparent. CENO continues to engage its 1,200-person coalition through a series of “Virtual Naked Lunches” and the participation has been overwhelming.  It is a testament to the willingness of this group of diverse leaders to come together to put racial equity at the forefront of this pandemic. 

Led by a small advisory group of organizers, the Campaign works to educate, connect, and mobilize leadership throughout the city in order to address areas of systematic racism and build a more equitable future for New Orleans. CENO has engaged over 1,200 leaders in New Orleans since its inception in 2016.

Citing a recent report by The Data Center shows that people of color are overly represented in essential retail, transportation, and health care, CENO asserts that a legacy of discrimination in labor markets that has kept African-Americans at the bottom of the socio-economic order. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic has affected all of us, but its reach and devastation have been far greater among African Americans in our region” said Andy Kopplin, President and CEO of the Greater New Orleans Foundation and an alumnus of CENO’s two-day Racial Equity Institute training.  “That’s why we must recognize these racial disparities from the outset and then work intentionally in our recovery to eliminate them.”

CENO has provided the following guidelines to ensure the City’s economic recovery efforts are fair and equal for African Americans and other marginalized communities who have been more susceptible to the detrimental impact of COVID-19. COVID-19 relief efforts must:

1.     Create long-term policy and system reform that will improve conditions in Black communities beyond emergency response efforts, given deep-seated, historical inequities.

2.     Engage black leaders and communities in the development of short and long-term solutions to ensure that well-intentioned “helping” efforts do not exacerbate existing disparities.

3.     Increase investments in Black-led organizations and businesses that address the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on Black communities.

4.     Collect, track, and make publicly available data that reports public investments by race.

5.     Offer vulnerable essential workers opportunities to advance their education and their careers through fast-track training, skill development, direct job placements, and long-term support.

6.     Expand vote by mail efforts. 

Jason Williams, New Orleans City Council member and alum of CENO’s two-day Racial Equity Institute training commented on the need for these guidelines, “We have an incredible opportunity ahead of us – to seize this moment to address systemic challenges so that we are a more equal and more prosperous city in the future.” 

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