Community Perspectives on COVID-19 Recovery

A Report on 2021 Community Conversations
Policy Paper
March 21, 2022

As Chicago works to come back from the pandemic, years of disinvestment and structural racism have made economic recovery harder for some communities than others. To have a truly equitable recovery, it's important to understand the on-going impact the pandemic has had on Black and Latinx communities hit hard by job loss, sickness, and death. In collaboration with The Chicago Community Trust and We Rise Together: For an Equitable and Just Recovery, New America Chicago commissioned a report from BECOME to learn more about how these communities were recovering and what is still needed from local and federal policymakers for these communities to not just recover but thrive.

We Rise Together is a coalition of corporate and philanthropic funders working with the community to accelerate equitable economic recovery in the Chicago region. Housed at The Chicago Community Trust, We Rise Together is increasing employment opportunities for Black and Latinx workers, strengthening businesses of color, and spurring investment in disinvested neighborhoods. Because We Rise Together is committed to grounding the initiative’s efforts in the lived experiences of Chicago’s most marginalized communities, the decision was made to host Community Conversations across Chicago neighborhoods that have been hardest hit by the pandemic.  

A team from BECOME worked with New America Chicago, The Trust, and We Rise Together to plan seven Community Conversations in collaboration with nonprofits from each neighborhood. Participants had strong recommendations for support and resources to help their neighborhoods recover economically from the pandemic. Consistently, across all neighborhoods, we heard that people struggled and continue to struggle economically and emotionally as a result of the pandemic. Still, most found unexpected positives in the midst of the pandemic. The main findings include:

  1. The COVID-19 pandemic profoundly affected the emotional and mental well-being of participants across all neighborhoods. In particular, participants expressed worrying about physical safety, emotional stability, the well-being of loved ones and neighbors, finances, the ability to provide for the family, and changes to their employment that significantly impacted their way of living.  
  2. The COVID-19 pandemic significantly impacted the employment status of participants. In particular, participants talked about experiencing a high level of anxiety due to job loss, reduction in work hours or work status, and their exploration for ways to supplement their income to make ends meet during the ongoing pandemic. 
  3. Participants acknowledge some positives from living through the COVID-19 pandemic. In particular, participants reflected on the importance of being united, capitalizing on opportunities from the expansion of technology platforms, and reconnecting or bonding with family or neighbors.
  4. Basic needs of participants, such as housing and food security, were and continue to be impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. 
  5. The COVID-19 pandemic severely impacted local businesses, as well as neighborhoods’ sense of safety. 
  6. Being an undocumented immigrant in the United States intensified the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in the neighborhoods of Cicero and South Lawndale.

Read a short three-page summary of community recommendations and findings:

View the full report for quotes and more detailed community recommendations on equitable recovery: