New America Weekly

Groundswell: How Communities Are Rising to Meet the Pandemic Head-On

Weekly Article
April 2, 2020

The COVID-19 crisis has the New America Local team thinking harder about the communities we belong to—Indianapolis, California, Phoenix, and Chicago—and how the outbreak may forever change them. It’s also shown us how average residents are rising to the occasion to help their neighbors, even in the face of increasing economic and social insecurity.

Their efforts have inspired us to launch Groundswell, New America Local's roundup of COVID-19 initiatives taking off in our own communities. Here are just a few examples from the ground:

In Chicago, the Chicago Community Trust and the United Way of Metro Chicago have partnered with the city to launch a Chicago Community COVID-19 Response Fund, which supports local health and human service organizations facing increased demand in light of COVID-19. They raised $14 million in a little over a week. The Trust is also coordinating a similar effort statewide with state officials and the United Way of Illinois.

In California, former CA Fellow Rey Faustino saw increased need for services in already-vulnerable groups. His non-profit One Degree has created a bilingual Bay Area COVID-19 resource guide updated Monday through Friday with resources for food support, financial support, health support, and more.

In Arizona, Wildfire, a local non-profit that combats poverty, has partnered with Amazon Web Services to build a rent/evictions technology solution for people who are no longer able to pay rent or utilities as a result of the pandemic. With a goal of developing a workable prototype in 90 to 120 days in high-eviction areas, this partnership includes Arizona State University, Garcia Family Foundation, and a number of other local philanthropies, non-profits, governments, and businesses. Ultimately, they plan to develop a long-term, people-centered solution for utility and rental assistance designed to more easily and effectively deliver information, decision making, and funding.

Meanwhile, in Indianapolis, residents are aiding service industry workers who are among those hit hardest by social isolation guidelines. Grassroots solutions like the Indy Tip List allow supporters to connect to and tip local service workers via Google forms and Venmo, while larger institutions like the United Way of Central Indiana have rallied local philanthropy around a Community Economic Relief Fund.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be highlighting other examples of resilience and innovation in our communities. We hope Groundswell can both celebrate and advance new ways of tackling endemic problems, and we’d love to hear about great things happening in your own community—please reach out to us at