The city of Sacramento has launched a COVID-19 resource website as part of a new effort to link underserved populations up with financial assistance and other pandemic-related information.
The new website will pool all of its COVID-19-related resources, including information on food and housing assistance, in one place. The web resources will be available in a number of different languages, including Spanish and Hmong. The city also plans to partner with community organizations to disseminate the information.
“We’re trying to reach all Sacramentans, every single person who lives in Sacramento who can benefit from these resources,” City spokesperson Tim Swanson said. “That’s a lot of people, and Sacramento as you know is a very diverse place.”
The website has been created with $89.7 million in federal CARES Act funding that the city received earlier in the year.
Sacramento officials say part of their new federal funding will be used for community outreach, in part because not all of the area’s diverse populations benefited equally from previous COVID relief programs.
The city’s small business loan program, which gave out $1 million in forgivable loans earlier in the pandemic, struggled to reach North and South Sacramento neighborhoods. Critics say this was because the loans were offered on a tight timeline and the information wasn’t always translated.
“As more programs were added to the list, it just became a common sense response,” Swanson said about creating a website hub so anyone can see all of the available resources. “We want to reach literally every person in Sacramento that needs assistance from the pandemic.”
Cathy Rodgriguez Aguirre of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce said she was glad the city put the website together, because the Latino community, namely business-owners, have received a disproportionately lower share of assistance. For example, in the city’s most recent round of small business loans, Latino business owners made up just 11 percent of the recipients.
“We do email blasts, we do websites, but I also know there’s a lot of [Latino] people in small businesses who leave the radio on the whole time and get messaging that way, ” Rodriguez Aguirre said. She added that texting campaigns, as well as community-based organizations, could help get the word out.
Spokespeople from other groups, like Hmong Innovating Politics, say the city needs to do more than just have translated information on a website in order to reach underserved populations.
“A lot of time, city governments often do a word-to-word translation, not really thinking about the cultural context of it,” said Nancy Xiong, director of development and communications for Hmong Innovating Politics.
Xiong says Sacramento’s Hmong community has felt left out public information about how to stay safe from the virus since the pandemic began.
For example, her community couldn’t find city or county information in their language about hand washing or virus prevention during the earliest weeks of the pandemic.
“That was really rough,” she said, adding that her group filled in the void by creating Facebook videos and making phone calls to residents.
Xiong says she wished the city had done more in-person or direct outreach to her community sooner. And she’s worried their outreach efforts come a little too late.
“Our communities already have a lack of trust in the government. COVID happened and in some ways the city affirmed it,” she said. “That trust was so critical and now that it’s six months later, it’s really about building that trust again and saying we have your back.”
Rodriguez Aguirre of the Hispanic Chamber agreed that the city’s outreach is coming later than some may like. But she commends the city for making an effort.
“My hope is that this is something that continues past COVID,” Rodriguez Aguirre said, adding that she would like the website to be a permanent place where all kinds of information on city assistance related to housing or loans can be found.
The city will be announcing a number of grants and loans to small businesses in the coming weeks on their website, including a new grant for artists, the arts and tourism-related businesses which will be posted to their site this Wednesday.
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