WILMINGTON — The Covid-19 pandemic is a disaster like no other in recent history. For local organizations tasked with supporting at-risk and in-need members of the community, Covid-19 put a spotlight on the weak links in the region’s safety net — and created entirely new challenges as well.
This virtual roundtable tackles some of those issues. Featuring:
- Tommy Taylor – United Way
- Audrey Hart – New Hanover Disaster Coalition
- Will Rikard – StepUp Wilmington
- Steve McCrossan – NourishNC
- Moderator – Port City Daily Editor Benjamin Schachtman
Sledgehammer and spotlight
Organizations like United Way, New Hanover Disaster Coalition, StepUp Wilmington, and NourishNC spent most of the last two years dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Florence (and, to a lesser extend, Dorian). Among the hardest hit were those who were already vulnerable, including those struggling with housing, food, and income insecurity.
Covid-19 put a renewed emphasis on those issues, but it also created new issues.
Government-mandated shutdowns forced layoffs for hundreds of low-paying service industry employees. As the state’s unemployment system ground to a halt and Congress and the IRS struggled to get stimulus checks out, rent loomed for out-of-work employees who already had a hard time making rent. Abusive relationships got bottled up by stay-at-home orders. Families that rely on school lunches got left in the lurch as school districts scramble to figure out a distribution system.
Covid-19 also created new challenges for non-profits, including fund-raising. Like hurricanes, many organizations saw a surge in donations that then dropped off — but unlike a hurricane Covid-19 has lasted months, not days. At the same time, traditional fundraising events were suddenly no longer feasible as even small events were prohibited by public health orders.
But it’s not all bleak: while Covid-19 has had a disastrous financial impact, it’s also increased public awareness of how important some of the region’s lowest-paid employees are to the economy — and created a renewed appreciation for the service industry. It’s also driven home how precarious cost-burdened residents (nearly half of New Hanover County) are when it comes to housing. If nothing else, it’s the first step towards increasing efforts to tackle those issues.