Equitable Recovery in the Federal Stimulus

Equitable Recovery in the Federal Stimulus

Happening Hour Series – Part 3

By Bobby Cochran and Emily Irish


There has been a lot of momentum over the past six weeks in the Happening Hours. As these conversations have developed, the theme of equitable recovery has emerged as a critical topic for moving forward from this pandemic. For our May 20th Happening Hour, we decided to review past crises to see if there were lessons learned and successful equitable recovery examples to draw from as we think of our own recovery from COVID-19. 

Bobby Cochran presented some lessons from the past on equitable recovery. Reviewing the 2008 Financial Crisis, the 2003 SARS pandemic, and how other countries have responded thus far to COVID-19. 

Key principles for equitable recovery include – 

  • That the effort is driven by community priorities and the needs of the most impacted; 
  • To put capital into the hands of community-led coalitions;
  • To not recreate the system that broke in the first place;
  • To invest in social infrastructure, not just construction; and
  • To invest in projects that match a vision of the future – multi-generational, multi-benefit, and just.

A crucial part of the Happening Hours is including everyone in the conversation. We asked what participants thought of equitable recovery and the federal stimulus. Where should Oregon be looking for lessons on recovery? Who needs to be involved in recovery discussions? Where are these conversations happening around the state? And, what might we do to advance these conversations?


What was discussed?

Three breakout groups discussed these posed questions. They noted other organizations involved in equitable recovery conversations include the Statewide Climate Adaptation Group, Portland Clean Energy Fund, Beyond Toxics – NAACP, and the Teddy Roosevelt Foundation. 

Groups discussed how existing and developing equitable recovery conversations should include discussions around –  

  • direct funding for habitat restoration in stimulus funding, 
  • funding for community programs building resiliency, 
  • financial support for water and utility bills, 
  • investment in water infrastructure, and 
  • that we should be looking for intermediaries who already have relationships and the awareness of the operating context to not burden and add noise to recovery. 

Our response to this pandemic should be rapid and sustained. But it should be understood that the results or return on investment in this effort might not be realized as quickly or seen as immediately. If we’re going to engage groups and offer them support, we should not be a burden to those organizations. Start identifying specifically what we are able to offer so those organizations can make easy decisions about their engagement. Note where support already exists and ask why there is traction around those movements and how to continue that momentum. For example, there has been solid support for community food-based organizations like Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste, what motivates and drives that support and how can we harness this more broadly in recovery? 


What can we do moving forward? 

The groups discussed developing new and innovative metrics for measuring the effectiveness of equitable investment, to build a network map, to define specific and tangible offerings we can provide, to recognize our interconnectedness, and to invest in projects designed and implemented by indigenous communities, migrants, people of color, and other underserved communities. 

When looking at equitable recovery, how can we learn from nature? If we are investing in recovery, we would hope that investment would reach multiple aspects of our communities. Like a river, our investment is like its braided channels – soaking up the water and spilling over, creating a thriving system and habitat. How can we soak up and spill over that recovery to create a lasting and healthy change moving forward?

Do you know of other conversations around equitable recovery happening in Oregon, if so, where, who’s at the table, and how can we link these conversations together? 

Fill out the Google Form to tell us about the conversations you’ve heard or been a part of, what gaps you may have seen, what you’d like included in those conversations, and if there is an opportunity to connect.

Tell us about other equitable recovery conversations.

Bobby Cochran led Willamette Partnership's work around building community resilience and innovation. He is passionate about supporting community leaders to move resources from dumb stuff to better stuff - especially when that means clean water, better health, and economic inclusion. Bobby is now with the Rural Community Assistance Partnership. He received a Ph.D./M.A. in Urban Studies/Conflict Resolution from Portland State University.


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