This article was written by Abigail Scott, Graduate Assistant for the Davenport Institute and student in MPP at School of Public Policy at Pepperdine University. Connect with Abigail on LinkedIn, email, or Facebook.
April marks the beginning of the National Month of Hope: a timely reminder of the power that comes from building relationships, community, and systems of support. Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, local governments have taken great steps to restore hope within their communities. Cities have demonstrated the remarkable potential for communities to thrive, be resilient, and be strengthened.
The City of Surprise, Arizona, has served as a mighty beacon of hope to its residents, particularly in the way it has supported its most vulnerable populations. At the onset of the global pandemic, the City was able to employ its robust Surprise Resource Center, which used its funding from the C.A.R.E.S. Act to provide over 31,000 nutritional meals for seniors and individuals with a disability. In addition, the city targeted its resources to provide rent, mortgage, and utility assistance to its residents as a way to alleviate the financial pressures imposed by the global pandemic.
Not only did the City invest resources into these targeted programs, but it also closely monitored the use of these funds, and used this insight to create “city-funded programs to address the unmet community needs that were not funded by existing sources, or had funding gaps.” This direct investment into the community has provided a path for families to remain in their homes, and for workers to have additional job security they would have otherwise not had.
The City of Surprise has also served its residents beyond allocating finances and monitoring the areas of greatest need. The City has also been recognized for its official COVID resource webpages, which have connected “residents and businesses to support services and information.”
The City of Syracuse, New York, also serves as an illustration of spreading hope even in the midst of financial uncertainty. The City’s Department of Neighborhood and Business Development has been pivotal in supporting local residents and small businesses, made possible by renting metered parking spots from the city which allowed restaurants to expand their outdoor seating to the community even more. The city’s efforts to use outdoor space and accommodate local businesses serve as a tremendous source of hope and innovation for localities across the nation to consider in their own, unique context.
These two case studies demonstrate the tremendous potential to find hope, even though our nation is still confronting the devastation brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. As local governments look ahead to the upcoming Month of Hope, the lessons shared by these cities serve as a powerful reminder that there is power in the way we build relationships, community, and systems of support.