NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) - It’s safe to say everyone has felt the impact of COVID-19. But what Stand Up Nashville wants to point out is that for every person feeling the ripple effect of COVID-19, our minority communities are impacted even harder. It’s why they’re pushing local leaders to support them now more than ever.

“Our country historically has caused these gaps, whether it be a wealth gap, whether it be a racial gap, whatever gap of ism and inequity, and this is how we start to bridge that,” Odessa Kelly, Executive Director of Stand Up Nashville, said.

The COVID-19 pandemic and recent protest in Nashville and across the nation have reawakened the conversation that African American and Latin X communities have known and talked about for a very long time: racial and economic disparities.

It’s why Kelly said the CARES Act funds distributed to Nashville should reflect, address and center on uplifting people in our city struggling right now.

“I think that the numbers have shown Latin X and Hispanic people are a third of the COVID cases that are popping up now and African Americans are dying at twice the rate of our White counterparts in the city. That shows that there’s a clear racial disparity in COVID,” Kelly said.

Stand Up Nashville created a detailed list of how they would like to see funds distributed in Black and Brown communities impacted by COVID-19, primarily focusing on housing assistance, small business support, workforce development and worker safety.

When it comes to housing, Kelly said the city should find ways to assist those directly impacted by the pandemic. One way to do that is to work with residents and prevent evictions.

“You have homeowners whom are not able to pay their mortgages. Right and those who are mostly impacted are those of us who are - Nashville is one of the most expensive cities to live in. If you make under $70,000 in Nashville, you’re probably in need of some type of workforce or affordable housing,” Kelly said.

When it comes to small businesses, Kelly said establishing a grant program for under-served neighborhoods and minority owned businesses could help them stay afloat. She also believes many of these workers are underpaid.

“Unions have a history of building pathways out of poverty. Right? They have been beneficial to African Americans, uplifting their way out of whatever ills and social traps that we have been pushed into, and the same thing for immigrants, undocumented people. Documented people who were here, who are doing this hard work, they need the dignity and the pay for the work that they do,” Kelly said.

News4 reached out to Mayor John Cooper’s office about Stand Up Nashville’s ideas. They replied in a statement:

“We are engaged in active dialogue with our community partners, including leaders from Nashville’s Black community, in determining the dispersal of these funds.”

Dialogue is good, but what Kelly wants to see is action.

“I think we’re in a time right now where it’s OK to acknowledge that there is a lack of inequality built into the systems and the procedures of who we do things-especially when it comes to giving out loans and businesses right? It’s something that we really need to review and change from the bottom to the top in all of our systems,” Kelly said.

Kelly hopes that when the announcement comes out as to how those funds will be distributed, we truly see it in minority communities, helping to bridge the wealth and economic gap.


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