As South Carolina recovers, lets make equity a priority

Posted By: Melanie Huggins Advocacy , Covid-19 Response , Facing Race Together ,

Published May 20, 2020 in  The Post and Courier 

By Melanie Huggins and Sherrie Snipes-Williams

As Gov. Henry McMaster, accelerateSC and leaders across our beloved state continue to tackle the daunting task of reopening and rebuilding our economy, we and the Together SC network of nonprofit leaders and their allies urge that they make equity a top priority.

A commitment to equity demands that we prioritize the needs of people who are most affected by the pandemic and whose lives and livelihoods are literally on the line.

Because of existing underlying inequities, the COVID-19 pandemic is hurting many members of our community much more deeply than others, especially low-wage workers, our economically insecure families, those without safe, affordable housing, people of color, women, those with disabilities, immigrants, the LGBTQ community and our aging residents.

Across South Carolina, thousands of charitable nonprofit organizations are dedicated to serving our state’s great people, protecting our beautiful environment, uplifting our vibrant arts and culture, combating our state’s toughest issues and so much more.

We are deeply concerned about the catastrophic impact the COVID-19 pandemic is having on the people of our state, particularly those who were already marginalized.

Will you join us in asking all elected officials, at every level of government, to prioritize the needs of these historically marginalized communities?

An inclusive and equitable economic recovery will require clear intent, adequate funding and deliberate, sustained action.

The decision by the Legislature to fund expanded free COVID-19 testing for the most at-risk is a positive step in this direction. We especially encourage strong consideration of front-line, low-wage workers and their health and safety.

In a recent open letter to Gov. McMaster and our state legislators, more than 100 nonprofit leaders encouraged them to take the lead by:

  • Making absolutely clear in all that they say and do that they are prioritizing equity.
  • Collecting and disseminating data that are disaggregated by gender, race, age, socioeconomic status, housing status and disability status.
  • Responding to these data with the allocation of adequate, sustained human and financial resources to address persistent inequities, such as the lack of affordable, sufficient broadband in many communities.
  • Promoting guidelines, policies and plans that clearly consider how reopening and the ongoing recovery will meet the needs of those most affected by the pandemic.

Nonprofits are among those on the front lines of our state’s recovery efforts and see firsthand the needs of those we serve. It is our responsibility as leaders to make their lives and well-being our state’s top priority.

As board members and co-chairs of Together SC’s annual summit that brought more than 600 nonprofit leaders to Columbia in early March, we personally witnessed the strength and resolve of our diverse community. Our theme of “Facing Race Together” sought to unite us in understanding and tackling race, equity and inclusion. We left with a collective commitment to do what we can to ensure that all people have what they need to thrive. That’s equity.

The Together SC network of nonprofit, philanthropic and community leaders stands ready to help our state achieve an equitable recovery.

We, and every leader in our state, should ask ourselves this question: What am I doing to help those most in need?

It’s a question we hope you’ll join us in asking — and answering.

Melanie Huggins is executive director of the Richland Library and board chair of Together SC. Sherrie Snipes-Williams is CEO of the Charleston Promise Neighborhood and serves on Together SC’s board.