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In Louisiana, COVID-19 Relief Funds Reached Rural Black and Low-Income Communities at Lower Rates than White Communities

April 8th, 2021

New Report Highlights Racial Inequities within the State’s COVID Relief Funding, Demands Policymakers Address in Future Relief Efforts

NEW ORLEANS, LA – In pure dollar amounts, majority people of color parishes received just over half the amount of funding received by majority white parishes, a new report from the Hope Policy Institute and Power Coalition for Equity & Justice finds. In “Racial Inequities in the Distribution of Louisiana’s Coronavirus Relief Funds: A Report for Community Leaders,” the authors investigate the dissemination of COVID-19 relief funding for Louisiana. They found that the parishes already struggling to access resources before the pandemic, particularly majority people of color, rural and persistent poverty parishes, had trouble accessing their allocated portion of the $511 million made available through the Coronavirus Relief Fund. By not supporting communities of color and rural areas equitably, recovery policy is widening gaps between resource-rich communities and those with less, as the state moves beyond the pandemic.

“The government’s ability to respond efficiently in times of disaster can make all the difference for a faster recovery and more resilient future. It’s very likely that the very communities that would have benefited the most from relief funds are the ones most left behind and will feel the economic burden longest and hardest,” said Calandra Davis, Policy Analyst, Hope Policy Institute. “We hope that this research will allow us to work towards a better, more equitable future in the Deep South and were honored to partner with the Power Coalition in their efforts to right-size relief efforts in Louisiana.”

Other key findings from the report include:

  • Persistent poverty, rural, majority people of color parishes received only a third (31%) of their total allocation of funding. They requested and received over $2 million of the $8 million available, indicating there were barriers to accessing the money. In contrast, persistent poverty, rural, white counties received 74% of their allocated funding.
  • In dollar amounts, persistent poverty, rural, majority people of color parishes only received 6.9% of what persistent poverty, rural, white parishes received.
  • By the end of the program, local governments submitted over $1 billion in claims to cover COVID-19 related expenses. Allocations totaled $524,873,918; however, $1,109,204,500 was requested, showing the needs far exceeded the amounts available.

“The way that the CARES Act funding was distributed in 2020 perpetuated the inequities already built into recovery systems,” said Georgia Barlow, Executive Research Analyst of Power Coalition for Equity and Justice. “As more funds are slated to come to the state through the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, policy makers must intentionally create systems and policies that support equity and justice so that all people, especially those most in need, are not left behind.”

With hurricanes increasing in frequency and intensity, aging infrastructure, and now battling a pandemic, Louisiana needs to create avenues to ensure that resources are allocated equitably and in a just manner. The report outlines recommendations that policymakers should consider once more funding is distributed through the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. These suggestions include prioritizing areas that have historically been underfunded, prioritizing funding based on need and creating mechanisms to support the applications from all areas of Louisiana, including rural communities.

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