August 6, 2021

Recovery Starts and Ends With Community-Based Organizations

This blog post is part of a series highlighting the work of community-based organizations supported through our Covid-19 response work in New York State. Read our first, second and third blog posts in the series as well.

Community-based organizations (CBOs) play a critical role when a disaster strikes. They can respond quickly, allocate resources equitably, and are highly sensitive to local community needs.

This part of their role is only the beginning. Not only are CBOs first responders in a crisis, but they continue to play an ongoing and essential role in providing services, supporting residents in applying for government aid, and responding to rapidly changing conditions.

Most importantly, they maintain lasting relationships with those in need, relationships that extend far beyond the scope of a single government intervention, like a rental assistance payment.

Disasters will happen again, and these lasting relationships are key to community resiliency and security. Neighborhoods that are best equipped to mobilize quickly have deep social networks with strong community groups ready to step up when needed. The services that CBOs provide, from ensuring that housing is safe and stable to connecting residents to services, are often the primary support that residents can access.

However, CBOs, who historically operate on thin margins under the best economic circumstances, are struggling to address the fallout from Covid-19. They continue to face unpaid housing and commercial rents, and higher-than-usual operating expenses to provide Covid-safe services, all of which have led to budgetary shortfalls that will make it harder to continue their critical operations.

Meanwhile, CBOs have spent the past 18 months elbow-deep in emergency responses, from transitioning to working remotely to addressing tenant and community needs. Many organizations have not had time to pause to think about what long term recovery will look like as they shift away from focusing so heavily on emergency needs.

Over the past several months, Enterprise has been in close contact with grantees of our national and local Covid-19 response programs to understand their challenges and needs. Several trends have surfaced across organizations:

  • Low or volatile cash flows that threaten the organization’s financial viability.
  • Real estate portfolios that may need to downsize.
  • Compliance issues.
  • Physical distress.
  • The ongoing health and safety of residents, clients and staff.
  • Providing remote services to people with low incomes who may not have access to internet or digital devices.
  • Navigating new programs, policies, and regulations at the federal, state and local levels.

Our goal is to help CBOs not only recover, but to more effectively serve their communities by providing the resources to ensure their work is meeting the needs of their residents. Data shows that Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) communities were hit harder by Covid-19 due to underlying health, social and economic inequality and injustice.

Based on historic trends, the resulting financial crisis is also likely to be most pronounced and longest lasting in our most vulnerable and underserved neighborhoods.  As we continue to learn the extent of the impacts of the current crisis and begin the transition from emergency response to recovery, we can support communities in centering racial and economic equity as the foundation for recovery.

Continuing to support CBOs through this recovery period is critically important. While the economy continues to open up, the impact of the pandemic on communities and organizations will be long lasting. We have the opportunity to move beyond returning to “normal.”

By acknowledging, supporting, and strengthening the important role community-based organizations play in recovery after a crisis, we can move toward a brighter, stronger, and more equitable future. Let’s not pass it up.

Enterprise New York would like to thank the following partners for supporting our Covid-19 response work: New York State Attorney General, JPMorgan Chase, Deutsche Bank, Wells Fargo and Enterprise New York’s Gotham Society.

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