Opinion: COVID-19 affecting some more than others.

COVID-19 has devastated the entire world. In the past few months, it’s grown from a harrowing health crisis to an economic crisis.

However, as you have probably seen in the news, this pandemic is having disproportionate effects on certain demographics in the United States.

A recent analysis by McKinsey & Co. revealed that Black Americans were two times as likely as their white counterparts to live in counties at highest risk of economic and health disruption; occupied 39 percent of jobs at risk of being reduced in hours; and were 30 percent likelier to have health conditions that exacerbated the effects of COVID-19.

For those of us working in the nonprofit sector, this discovery is unfortunately not surprising.

Years of disinvestment and systemic barriers have exposed families with low incomes and communities of color to the worst effects of the crisis we are in today.

It is well documented that Atlanta is home to some of the lowest economic mobility rates in the country. The Atlanta Regional Commission’s 2019 Metro Atlanta Speaks Survey revealed that 46 percent of families in metro Atlanta do not have $400 on hand in case of an emergency.

This type of information is what led our organization to better understand the economic, social, political and health factors that contribute to a family’s well-being and give insight to the role that philanthropy plays on changing the odds for children and families. For the past five years, we have collected data on 14 different measures related to those factors in our Child Well-Being Index.

In 2017, the data in our Child Well-Being Index revealed that nearly 500,000 children live in communities lacking the fundamental opportunities and resources that all children need to thrive. These areas are largely communities of color, where 24% to 84 % of families of four have an income that is at or below 250 percent of the poverty line for the state of Georgia.

According to a Pew Research Center analysis of 2015 Census Bureau data, 35% of households making under $30,000 per year with children ages 6-17 do not have a high-speed internet connection. For Black families, that figure jumps to 41%.

The sudden shift to virtual learning has exposed the impact of our nation’s digital divide and has the potential to further widen the achievement gap between low-income and middle-income students. With unprecedented job and income loss, Black Americans and Latino families, undocumented and immigrant communities disproportionately belong to part of the workforce that does not have the luxury of working from home. That places them at high risk for contracting the highly infectious disease while in transit or at work and without the necessary resources to support their children.

The reality is that COVID-19 has shed light on the structural inequities that have existed in our society for decades, and now, these inequities are growing.

A month ago, we formed a partnership with the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta to create the Greater Atlanta COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund. The Fund provides flexible resources to organizations working with communities that have been the most negatively affected by the pandemic.

With the support of over 1,600 individual donors, foundations and corporations, our organizations successfully raised more than $25 million for this Fund, and distributed over $17 million to more than 320 organizations in just a matter of weeks.

Recognizing the disproportionate impact this pandemic would have on communities, we paid special attention to funding organizations serving communities of color like the Atlanta Wealth Building Initiative.

This organization supports Black-owned small businesses, more than half of which have zero to 10 days of working capital. The economic losses facing businesses of color will have exponential financial impacts on families and communities throughout the city.

The Fund is also supporting Ser Familia which is providing support to Latino families who work in the restaurant industry and have been impacted by furloughs and layoffs. The 100 Black Men of America is providing mobile devices and internet access to students in Clayton County. Other grantee partners are providing resources to individuals released from Fulton County jails, legal services to families facing eviction and covering the costs of housing, food, and therapy for students experiencing homelessness, living in foster care or living in motels.

You can read more about the work of these nonprofits on our website.

Our community has displayed incredible resiliency and strength in the face of crippling circumstances.

Moving forward, we must invest in solutions that directly address the structural inequities that have left so many without the ability to care for themselves and their families.

We must advocate for policies that ensure that communities most in need have adequate services and resources to thrive even in the midst of a pandemic.

We must ensure that history does not repeat itself.

We will support greater Atlanta, as we always have, and do our part to respond to our region’s ever-changing needs, no matter what they might be. The decisions and actions we make today will significantly shape the future.

We will strategically invest in communities of color. We will invest in solutions that make sure that all children and families have what they need to thrive. We will collaborate with our philanthropic partners to catalyze effective, long-lasting change.

But as you look around and see the damage this crisis has caused, take a moment to recognize the remarkable commitment to service our community has shown. When crisis struck, thousands of you took up the call to support one another.

Whether you’re a first responder, a childcare provider, a grocery store clerk, or a teacher, you are the hero that our community so desperately needed. And you did not even hesitate. Thank you for being a community that prioritized hope, healing, and care during an unprecedented time.

Learn more about the Child Well-Being Movement today and help us build a “next normal” that is far better than the last at unitedwayatlanta.org.

Katrina D. Mitchell is United Way of Greater Atlanta’s chief community impact officer.