Fund President Bethia Burke contributed the following essay to a larger, two-part op-ed series from The Shared Prosperity Partnership published by Next City in which leaders in eight cities describe briefly the considerations, strategies and tactics required to advance more racially inclusive recoveries in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cleveland: Who gets the money? Equitable recoveries begin with equitable access to federal funding.
By Bethia Burke
If ever we were faced with a choice of two tomorrows, it’s now. Systems of racial exclusion – health, economic, education, criminal justice – overlap, intersect, reinforce one another, and drive unacceptable disparities in outcomes in Northeast Ohio and across the United States. Inaction is inexcusable.
The Great Recession was hard on Northeast Ohio and decade-long recovery was long, slow and uneven. Recovery for Black and white workers was starkly different. Persistent employment gaps between Black and white workers widened to a peak of 20 percentage points in Greater Cleveland during the worst of the Great Recession. White employment rates recovered to pre-recession peak levels more quickly than Black employment rates. Current national unemployment rates foreshadow that these trends will repeat themselves.
Recovery will not automatically be racially equitable and, if history is any guide, is likely to be inequitable without specific, deliberate strategies to act differently. This means that as much attention is being given to funding and policy questions concerning “how much” and “for what,” we must ask the looming question: “who will benefit?”
At the Fund for our Economic Future, a funding alliance dedicated to advancing economic growth with equitable access to opportunity, we are striving to advance job creation, preparation and access, and combat systemic racial exclusion. We recognize we must respond to the current economic and social climate. We can start with what we do well. This means offering critical data analysis, building awareness of systemic issues to raise our collective consciousness and taking decisive actions that promote equity.
For example, we aim to increase equitable access to federal funding allocated to advance economic recovery. Our approach: increase transparency of available resources, through tracking and communicating open opportunities and increase ability of under resourced organizations to apply for funding.
While the causes and pace of the Great Recession were different than today, understanding what happened and how our region fared relative to similar places can inform strategies needed now. Now is the time when systems and structures are built and reinforced. Now is the time to commit to rebuilding right.