2020 was a year unlike any other, and (we hope) will not be replicated any time soon. The human cost of the COVID-19 pandemic has been catastrophic, with more than 3 million people dying worldwide, and well over half a million deaths in the United States. The economic fallout from the pandemic has been no less severe. In Massachusetts, the unemployment rate jumped from 2.9% in March 2020 to over 16% the following month; one year later, it still stands at 6.8%, with many more uncounted.
Sadly, but not surprisingly, the health and economic toll of the pandemic has fallen disproportionately on Communities of Color, starting with the first wave of the pandemic, where an analysis cited in the Boston Globe showed that the mortality rate surged higher in MA cities, towns, and ZIP codes with larger concentrations of poverty, economic segregation, People of Color, and crowded housing. The disproportionate economic disparities persist.
While CDCs responded quickly and creatively to meet the pandemic-related needs of their communities, it is unsurprising that many regular CDC activities were significantly disrupted in 2020. Many CDC construction projects were delayed by construction bans and other disruptions, so much so that 54% of the homes originally projected to come online in 2020 were delayed until 2021. The result is lower than usual housing production totals in this year’s report, and a corresponding reduction in construction jobs and investment dollars. Many regular CDC programs were also disrupted by public health restrictions.
CDCs found new ways to serve the needs of their community’s most vulnerable residents. Forty-four CDCs conducted wellness calls and other efforts to ensure resident and community health and safety, and 42 CDCs assisted with food delivery.
Twenty-six CDCs continued long-standing efforts to support small business entrepreneurs, in old and new ways, helping these entrepreneurs access almost $12 million in Paycheck Protection Program loans and close to $10 million in grants, providing an essential lifeline to these small business owners. To help community residents struggling to pay rent for apartments in the private market, CDCs provided cash assistance totaling $28.2 million in 2020, an increase of $10 million from 2019.
CDCs redoubled their efforts to make their organizations reflective of the communities they serve. In 2020, 36% of senior staff at CDCs were People of Color, up from 29% in 2019, and the number of CDCs hiring racial equity consultants increased by almost 50%.
Some have called CDCs “second responders” to reflect the role they play during a crisis as they help people survive, recover, heal, and rebuild. Never has that been truer than in 2020. While the numbers and stories in this short report cannot tell the full story, we hope they give our readers a sense of how CDCs rose to the occasion during this most difficult and trying of times.