Originally published November 15th, 2021
The COVID-19 pandemic has both strained and exposed our country’s deep under-investment and under-valuing of community-based organizations (CBOs) and workforces (CBWs) – including food banks, churches, shelters, health advocates/navigators, Promotores and others – like never before. These organizations and community members have long played a critical role in delivering services and support tailored to address the downstream impacts of systemic racism and improve living conditions for people in their local areas. While organizations like health systems and academic institutions hold more power, influence and capacity, CBO and CBW proximity to and trust with community members, understanding of local cultures, and expertise in navigating local systems launched CBOs and CBWs into the spotlight as key to our pandemic response and recovery.
New and unprecedented funding streams from national policies like the American Rescue Plan and the CARES Act, as well as many other private investments, are a step in the right direction, but administrative barriers and limited funding models mean that many of these dollars remain inaccessible to CBOs. But they have also further revealed the deep-rooted systemic racism and power imbalances that continue to strip CBOs and CBWs of their ability to effectively lead, innovate and resource in support of their local areas.