As the Dallas area navigates through the coronavirus pandemic, we’ve all embraced the rallying cry “We’re in this together.” But when we get out of this, will we fall back into old patterns, where issues of health, income and education remain unchanged?
For years, city and community leaders, organizations and corporations have been polite about these discussions. Progress has been slow because the work is heavy, hard and painful. Our community has developed many plans, partnerships and projects to address pressing issues. Now is the time to stop examining the challenges and move to action.
COVID-19 showed us that there are significant health disparities in our communities. Racial and economic inequities cause some individuals to be more vulnerable to this epidemic. Every resident of the region deserves the resources to live their most healthy lives.
Many people lost their jobs during this pandemic. Some of those jobs won’t return. We need to understand the jobs of the future, and re-skill or up-skill individuals so they can assume new jobs that pay a livable wage.
By the time schools reopen in the fall, students will have been out of school for six months. In the short term, we need to provide education remediation and support. Longer term, we need to ensure more students graduate and are ready to succeed in college or in jobs that North Texas will need in the future.
To start, civic, philanthropic, education, nonprofit and business leaders should come together on key long-term community goals, progress indicators and metrics, and commit to coordinate. Then we need to agree on a common scorecard to track annual progress as a guide for future funding.
If there’s one thing this crisis has taught us, it’s that we can do really hard things and we can do them quickly. But it also showed us there are many unrecognized grassroots organizations serving isolated pockets of our community. In under-resourced neighborhoods, these are the most trusted resources, but they’re often least able to compete for funding, so we need to connect them to the greater system.
We know that some of our citizens have greater needs than others, but North Texas is an amazingly generous community, and the epidemic has magnified that generosity. Corporations here invest where their employees live and work. Along with the city and region, we can seize this opportunity to transform the community. By recognizing where the need is greatest and applying our resources, we can identify and build the interventions that give people the opportunity for mobility, education and health care that’s excellent, regardless of ZIP code.
The pandemic is a once-in-a-generation health crisis, but it’s also a once-in-a-generation opportunity to fold in solutions to problems that we’ve put off for too long. Now is the time for Dallas to prove that we’re all in this together.
Jennifer Sampson is chief executive of United Way of Metropolitan Dallas.
This article was published on: May 4, 2020