Building community resiliency and addressing the causes of poverty are the cornerstones of Community Action. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in early 2020, the challenges facing people living with low incomes and persons of color were exacerbated – from unemployment to housing and food insecurity to transportation and technology barriers to healthcare deficits – the disparities were laid bare. Community Action Agencies (CAAs) and Tribal Governments were the first line of defense for so many in their communities. Being of their communities, the CAAs could see, first hand, where the growing and changing needs in services were and where gaps in other programs appeared and pivot quickly to address them. This paper highlights the many ways CAAs and Tribal Governments have, in past crises and during the current pandemic, been the primary provider of these essential services within their communities. Community Action is unique in its role within its community and connection to each community’s needs. This positions Community Action to be especially effective in managing local emergencies on the ground.
This paper also demonstrates the invaluable role that flexible funding, including the Minnesota Community Action Grant Program (MCAG), has played in giving CAAs and Tribal Governments the ability to be nimble in addressing the ever evolving needs within Minnesota’s communities being driven by COVID-19. MCAG also allows agencies to leverage additional state, federal and private funds. Finally, this paper explores how Community Action’s focus on the “whole person/whole family” – from early education to employment training to housing and food services to mental health and senior services – will be key to addressing crucial social determinants of health and racial disparities. These will be necessary steps to move Minnesota out of this health and economic crisis toward long-term recovery.