State leaders announce Just Recovery for Racial Equity initiative to address disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on communities of color

A coronavirus graphic

MADISON, Wis. — State leaders and health experts are partnering to create a new program that plans to partner with local organizations to address the disproportionate impact COVID-19 has had on communities of color throughout Wisconsin.

The Just Recovery for Racial Equity initiative was announced Wednesday by Gov. Tony Ever, Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services and the Population Health Institute at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

“COVID-19 has had a devastating and disproportionate impact on communities of color across the state of Wisconsin,” Evers said. “We must take urgent and meaningful action to change that, and the Just Recovery initiative gives us the opportunity to mobilize community-based organizations to partner in this important work.”

Black, Latinx and Indigenous populations throughout the state are over-represented among COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths.

According to data from DHS, Latinx Wisconsinites have 3.3 times the case rate compared to white Wisconsinites. Black Wisconsinites have a death rate 3.5 times higher than that of white Wisconsinites.

“We have been grappling with significant health and economic inequities in our state for years, and COVID-19’s disproportionate impact on Black, Latinx, and Indigenous communities have only made the situation more dire,” Barnes said. “It’s critical that our recovery from this crisis is inclusive and equitable, so we must start by supporting the work that community-based organizations are already doing to address these systemic inequities and connect the dots in their own communities.”

Officials said the initiative will work with community-based organizations to identify support strategies for responding to COVID-19, recovery and building resilience in communities of color.

The initiative will receive $2.6 million in funding that will be used to provide grants for local organizations, staffing and translation services, among other things.