The City emergency response does not follow the outdated emergency management directive of “doing the greatest good for the greatest number.”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
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
Ethiopian and Eritrean Cultural and Resource Center
Familias en Accion
First Church of the Apostolic Faith
HAKI Community Organization
Historic Parkrose NPN
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
LCS - Arabic speakers
Lutheran Community Services NW
Madrona Park Homeless Camp
Matt Dishman Community Center
Metropolitan Family Services - Belmont
Mother & Child Education Center
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
Real Choice 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)
Vietnamese Community of Oregon
Voz Workers' Rights
Weno Piis Fonoton Oregon Organization
Yellow Brick Road