Syracuse Faith Communities Could be Essential Partners in COVID-19 Communication, Recovery

May 19, 2020

Members of the ACTS Clergy Caucus gathered for a virtual town hall to share how COVID-19 has impacted vulnerable communities. Panelists from local government joined the discussion.
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The Syracuse-area’s most vulnerable residents are feeling the impact of COVID-19 the most, and faith leaders are trying to ensure people don’t fall through the cracks.  

Members of the clergy caucus with the Alliance of Communities Transforming Syracuse, or ACTS, gathered for a recent virtual town hall meeting to express their concerns about those with disabilities, in poverty, and the elderly.  They were joined by panelists from local government, including county legislator Vernon Williams.  He said there’s a lot of information about testing, for example, but it might not be getting to everyone.

"That's one thing, especially with minority communities, the lack of information and communication to the minority communities.  Especially getting the proper information to faith communities so you can then communicate that to your congregants, your parishioners."  

Syracuse City School District Education Commissioner Tamica Barnett says that’s especially true of the elderly who are generally engaged with their faith communities but not technology.

"They're not online.  They're not texting.  They're not on zoom meetings or webinars.  It's going to take a phone call.  It might take snail mail.  We can use the faith community to get resources out there, to connect with their congregants and let them know what's available.  That will be helpful because there are a lot of resources."

Others expressed concern for the area’s younger residents who’ve already been struggling to learn remotely.  ACTS community organizer Linda Malik says the months after school aren’t promising due to what will likely be a restricted economy.

"We anticipate vast summer youth unemployment, dislocation, and a rise in violence as opportunities decrease and a sense of hopelessness increases."

Panelists also wanted to ensure that minority and women-owned businesses get their rightful share the Paycheck Protection Program funds.  Many complained they were passed over in the first round.  The Small Business Administration has said they’re making a concerted effort to ensure access in the second round.  More than $135 billion remains available in the program for small business and non-profits.