The City's Response to COVID-19

Blog Post
Graphic includes headline: "The City's Response to COVID-19" and photos of the Portlandia statue and City staff at the Emergency Coordination Center.
Activated in March, 2020, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Portland Emergency Coordination Center (ECC) is tasked with the essential role of coordinating the City’s COVID-19 response and recovery activities. The Portland ECC is staffed by over 80 City employees from many bureaus. 

The City emergency response does not follow the outdated emergency management directive of “doing the greatest good for the greatest number.” That would mean providing a one-size-fits-all approach that does not effectively help those most in need. The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately impacted Black and Indigenous communities, people of color, low-income workers, people experiencing houselessness, the elderly, and people with disabilities or underlying health conditions. The ECC’s approach focuses on communities who experience institutional barriers and systemic oppression and have been hit the hardest by the pandemic. It also creates a greater understanding of the varying needs of the communities.

Throughout the past 12 months, the ECC has found itself responding to several concurrent emergencies: the COVID-19 pandemic, nationally-recognized racial justice protests, and severe weather events. The ECC team recognized that the government cannot fill community needs alone. Portland’s residents of color, immigrant and refugee groups, and people with disabilities often find support through community-based organizations. Over the past year, new and smaller community-based organizations and informal grassroots mutual aid groups have emerged. The ECC team has tirelessly found ways to partner and invest in these kinds of organizations.

Using both City General Fund dollars as well as one-time CARES Act funds, the ECC uses an equity lens to allocate funding towards community aid initiatives. Through the delivery of 7,717 pre-loaded debit cards, the ECC has supported the food security initiatives of at least 45 Community Based Organizations (CBOs), eight grass roots organizations, and 24 SUN Schools whose missions range from offering multiple days’ worth of food to students and families of students, to helping underserved youth realize their full potential. One essential component to this work is the JVIC, or Joint Volunteer Information Center, a partnership between the City of Portland and Multnomah County established to distribute essential resources and support emerging and grassroots organizations and leaders in communities that are typically underserved by government. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the JVIC has coordinated weekly deliveries of household supplies like toilet paper, masks, and hand sanitizer to over 80 CBOs. The ECC has also contracted with the grassroots organization Equitable Giving Circle to deliver produce from Black, Indigenous and Latinx farmers to communities of color and homebound residents. Over the past year, our food box delivery program adapted boxes to meet cultural or dietary needs.

The City continues to support underserved populations by helping to bridge the digital divide. In Multnomah County alone, there are at least 32,000 households without internet access, and at least 16,000 households without access to computing devices of any kind. In response to such glaring inequities and the technological needs of the community, the City of Portland launched the COVID-19 Response Digital Divide Work Group whose work includes delivering up to 5,000 technology kits/devices to frontline communities, as well as offering digital training resources to assist with technological literacy. In addition to this work, the ECC has distributed CARES Internet Assistance Cards to at least 23 community-based organizations. 

Though cash assistance is crucial, there are other ways to support organizations. Over the past year, the ECC has been supplying free paper products to the community group Free Hot Soup whose mission is to provide food to those that need it. The ECC also pays for storage space for the group Fires Igniting the Spirit, a grassroots group that supplies Native families with food and household supplies. These efforts reflect the City’s on-going commitment to center equity and work towards building community trust. 

Embedding equity practitioners in the City’s COVID-19 response from day one of the ECC’s activation has helped address health and safety disparities for our currently and historically disenfranchised communities. Many multicultural and multilingual communities primarily share information verbally and on social media platforms. The ECC used this knowledge to partner with community leaders and organizations to produce informational videos with key COVID-19 health and safety messages. The videos were produced in more than 35 languages. A second round of videos was produced in response to community input and distributed to culturally specific media outlets, including Slavic Family Media, Univision, and KGW’s culturally specific web channels. 

One example of this work is the “Do Your Part” posters with pandemic health and safety measure messaging. Staff and Neighborhood Emergency Team (NET) volunteers distributed more than 15,000 posters throughout the city, including to 60 culturally specific grocers, numerous community-based organizations, and gathering places. Employing language access and universal design best practices, the posters included simple graphics, plain language, and were translated into more than 20 languages. Early in the pandemic, the ECC’s Joint Information Center (JIC) produced a video guide for all City communicators that shared steps to make all City social media posts more accessible to community members with disabilities. The JIC also worked with the Mayor Wheeler’s communications team to ensure all press conferences included both live captioning and American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation.

Addressing a need for more culturally targeted messaging, Portland Bureau of Transportation partnered with the JIC and Multnomah County Public Health Department to develop and deploy a COVID-19 public health multimedia campaign centering on Black and Latinx communities.

As the City of Portland continues the fight against COVID-19 and any other emergencies that should arise, the Portland ECC is proudly committed to continuing long-term support of community-based organizations across the city by providing them with resources, assistance with contract completion, and helping them achieve institutional stability. 

More information about the Portland ECC's efforts can be found in the ECC’s Situation Status Reports, published twice weekly, and our Six Month Progress Report. For City and regional resources to support our communities, visit the City’s COVID-19 Resources page.

List of Community Based Organizations Served by the ECC:

African Family Holistic Health Organization

African Refugee Immigrant Organization

African Women's Coalition

African Youth and Community Organization (AYCO)

Asian Family Center - IRCO

Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon (APANO)

Beyond Black CDC

Bhutanese Refugees

Bienestar de la Familia

Black Community of Portland

Black Parent Initiative

Black Resilience Fund

Bradley Angle House

Caregiving Program (JVIC/ECC)

Central City Concern

Coalitions Communities of Color

Community Alliance of Tenants

De Rose Community Bridge and Holistic Wellness

Disabled Refugee Alliance

Division Midway Alliance

Ebony Collective

Ethiopian and Eritrean Cultural and Resource Center

FACT Oregon

Familias en Accion

First Church of the Apostolic Faith

Guerreras Latinas

Hacienda CDC

HAKI Community Organization

Historic Parkrose NPN

HOLLA Mentors

Home Forward

Human Solutions

Impact NW

Independent Living Resources

Interfaith Movement for Immigrant Justice

Iraqi Society of Oregon

IRCO - All Programs

Iu Mien Association of Oregon

Karen and Zomi Refugees

Kirkland Union Manor

Latino Network

LCS - Arabic speakers

Lutheran Community Services NW

Madrona Park Homeless Camp

Matt Dishman Community Center

Mercy Connections

Metropolitan Family Services - Belmont

Mingala Grocery

Mother & Child Education Center


NAMI Multnomah

Native American Youth & Family Center (NAYA)


Nepali Bhutanese Community

New Avenues for Youth (NAFY)

Ngoc Chau Temple

Northwest Association of Sierra Leone

NW Somali Community Organization of Oregon


Oregon Food Bank

Oregon Latino Health Coalition

Oregon Public Health Institute (OPHI)

Pacific Islander Community through AFC

Play Grow Learn

Portland Community Reinvestment Initiative (PCRI)

Portland Disability Justice Collective

Portland Opportunities Industrialization Center

PP&R managed SUN Schools

PP&R Teens Program

Project Dart PDX

Pueblo Unido

Reach CDC

Real Choice Initiative



Rose CDC

Rosewood Initiative

Russian and Eastern European Communities

Rohingya Youth Assoc of PDX (RYAP)

Samoan/Chuukese Community (North Portland)

Self Enhancement Inc (SEI)

Slavic Community Center of NW

Solution Women International Foundation

Somali American Council of Oregon

Somali Bantu Citizen Group

Somali Empowerment Circle

St. Johns Food Share

SW Somali Community


United Congolese Community Organization of Oregon (UCCO)

Urban League

Utopia PDX


Vietnamese Community of Oregon

Village Gardens

Voz Workers' Rights

Weno Piis Fonoton Oregon Organization

Yellow Brick Road