During emergencies, vulnerable community members are often left out of response plans. Assistant News Director, Adia White, asked the founder of Equity First Consulting, Ana Lugo, about how everyone in our community can be supported equitably during the novel coronavirus outbreak.
What does an equitable emergency response look like?
Equity in practice is really about accounting for the most vulnerable populations in our community and making sure that we are providing for them. I think that our county is definitely trying to do that, through policies like the eviction defense policy. I think that we are going to have to place a focus, especially on our undocumented population and make sure that we are providing protection for them that they will not otherwise have. Especially because it is no secret that they are in many ways the backbone of our economy here in Sonoma County and in many other places in California. When we talk about equity we really have to look at the different populations, the points of vulnerability and figure out how to better serve them in ways that can really account for that vulnerability to make sure that we have a community that can recover and I think that the more that we look at how to protect the most vulnerable in our community, the easier it will be for our community to recover.
What kind of additional measures does our government need to fill these gaps?
I think this is a moment where our county government is going to have a huge responsibility. As you know, our federal government is not going to be supportive of the undocumented population. As for our State government, I think that is where we have the biggest opportunity as a local government to push for support and protections for populations that are not eligible for aid under the federal guidelines. Our local government also has to figure out how to work with our local philanthropy partners, our local nonprofits and regional and state sources to be able to fill in these gaps.
You’ve been fielding a lot of phone calls with questions and concerns, what do people want to know right now?
In terms of community members, the number one question I’m getting and I know other community leaders are getting is rental assistance. A lot of people are losing their jobs or haven’t been able to work. As you mentioned earlier, some of them are not eligible for unemployment and will not be eligible for anything in the stimulus package. The biggest concern, and I think the thing that threatens people the most, is ‘am I going to get kicked out of my home?’ That has been a huge strain in communities, I think, across cultural backgrounds. People have a real sense that their safety net may not be as sturdy as they thought it was because across the board everyone is feeling like their job is not stable, and certainly within the service industry.
Do you have any resources you can share with people?
The number one resource people have at this point is Undocufund. I also think the county has the most reliable information so people should definitely be looking at socoemergency.org. Also, just making a call to our philanthropic community to look at organizations who are doing work on the ground, who have leaders of color, because those are the organizations that are going to help the most vulnerable in our community. This is also a good time to start thinking about how our systems are failing our communities, how we can transform those systems, and how we can hold our institutions accountable. We need to look at those fractures within the system and change them because this will certainly not be the last emergency we face. We’ve been facing emergencies pretty much every year.