As the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in the United States in 2020, New Orleans became an early epicenter in an unprecedented public health and economic crisis.
With limited accessible community care options and no reliable social safety net, BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, people of color) and poor communities were on the frontlines of the devastating impacts of the COVID-19. In Orleans Parish alone, Black populations have experienced 73% of COVID-19 related deaths, while accounting for just under 60% of the population.
In response, Resilience Force, harnessing learnings from climate disaster response and recovery in the region, partnered with the City of New Orleans to develop and launch a culturally competent and accessible health care and jobs program. Designed to support immediate and long-term recovery for communities most impacted by the pandemic, the New Orleans Resilience Corps is a scalable, replicable model for cities across the country. Leveraging federal workforce development funds, our model focuses training under-employed and laid-off people from the local service sector industries in critical community health outreach practices, preparing them to take on new roles that are critical to the recovery. Working with the Louisiana and City of New Orleans Public Health Departments, we deployed community health workers into neighborhoods hardest hit by the pandemic, providing multilingual essential services like community education, testing and vaccination information and enrollment, contact tracing, food and hygiene kit deliveries, and more. During their service in the New Orleans Resilience Corps, workers receive job training to prepare them for permanent employment in the growing health care industry.
The New Orleans Resilience Corps is the disaster response and recovery model of the future. We created the city corps model to pilot how local communities can address the needs created by a disaster, make neighborhoods more resilient, and create good jobs for residents.
We have demonstrated both the scalability and replicability of this model for cities and states across the country — a model that centers Black, brown and immigrant communities as the keystone of effective strategies to increase resilience nationwide.