Across the country, grantees are identifying strategies to reach communities where residents were disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Most grantees have incorporated Spanish language translation services into their application processes, with some grantees offering support in multiple languages. Most grantees also have expanded the availability of their ERA application by supporting multiple channels for residents to apply. Many grantees have complemented an online application with access to a call center application support through 211 partnerships and/or access to phone-based housing counselors.
Some grantees have achieved significant benefits by partnering with trusted community organizations with high levels of cultural and linguistic competencies. Intentional partnerships with trusted organizations can especially help support outreach efforts to serve harder to reach populations that face technological, cultural, and linguistic barriers to ERA participation. These partnerships can be especially critical when working with immigrant populations, the elderly, survivors of domestic violence or human trafficking, and other marginalized communities. In some cases, these organizations have provided in-person application support while maintaining social distancing protocols.
Many grantees have reported that these partnerships occur through sub-contracts and engagement with smaller nonprofits that work with specific vulnerable populations disproportionally affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The city of San Antonio, TX
The city of San Antonio, TX has been intentional in contracting with community organizations to reach target populations. They have started contracting with a collaborative of local healthcare organizations, which in turn works with 20 nonprofit grassroots organizations who have deep ties to the community. For instance, one of these partners is an organization that provides various support services to domestic workers and has strong ties to the local Spanish-speaking community. Administrators have noted that nonprofits trained to conduct in-person outreach (while maintaining social distancing health standards) are particularly helpful partners, such as those who have contracted to do census outreach.
The State of Maine
The State of Maine has translated their application and program materials into eight languages, and program administrators have found that building partnerships with cultural brokers are critical to engagement with local immigrant populations. For instance, partnerships with local organizations focused on Somali immigrants have helped the program identify more specific services that can help these households successfully navigate the ERA program while also providing a bridge to other relevant health and human services programs offered by the state.
The State of Illinois
The State of Illinois has started working on program outreach efforts using grassroots networks and trusted local businesses. Outreach partners have included small grocery stores, laundromats, local faith-based organizations, and the Latino consulates, and have resulted in greater ERA visibility in the community and through ethnic media.
The State of North Carolina
The State of North Carolina has noted that partnering with communities of trust is a critical part of their outreach efforts. These partners include networks of faith-based organizations in predominately African American communities, as well as coordination with school systems serving high need areas to help identify families who may be in crisis and in need of ERA program support.
Richland County, SC
Richland County, SC has found strong partnerships opportunities with county’s thirteen libraries spread out across the county. In addition to providing convenient centers of support to residents, the library system also has a preexisting relationship with local social workers. This network has provided the ERA program administrators an opportunity to train the existing network professionals to educate residents about the ERA program. This effort has led to increased accessibility of professional and holistic support for households in need of ERA services, while also providing applicants to the free online access and other resources.