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Equity’s Role in Recovery: A Case Study

If the racial inequity of personal finances did not exist, “Long Island’s economy could have been nearly $24 billion stronger,” according to findings by Policy Link and Urban League of Long Island recently included in a report from the Nassau County, New York Comptroller.

Public leaders are viewing economic inequity as a threat to their city’s, county’s or state’s long-term financial success. According to a report in The New York Times, Black families earn less; have larger graduation gaps in college; take on more student loan debt and default more often on those loans; are long behind their white peers in homeownership; and have fewer retirement accounts with less savings and have less left over for the next generation. At its most simplistic, the gaps in economic equity can be tied to an increased demand on public services and negative impacts on tax revenue.

Nassau County Comptroller Jack Schnirman is among a growing number of public leaders who are using data to highlight equity gaps and inform the public about potential policy solutions. Closing equity gaps not only boosts economic benefits, but also ensures a more just society. In July, Schnirman launched an equity gap toolkit, which focuses on six specific steps that can close equity gaps in home ownership, educational achievement and student loans. The toolkit was created by Schnirman’s policy and research team.

“Presenting this data as well as solutions on our Open Nassau dashboard brings information directly to residents’ fingertips,” Schnirman said. “Access to information in an easy-to-understand way is a critical component of our work, and our team continues to work on these key equity issues.”

The toolkit links together several data stories and reports to give visitors more insights into specific issues affecting equity.

One jumping-off point in the equity gap toolkit delves into the impact of food insecurity on Nassau County households.

When it comes to the current coronavirus situation, minority communities have been disproportionately impacted, both in terms of health and business.

Reuters reported in June that “the number of Black business owners in the U.S. dropped by 41% between February and April to 640,000, compared to a 17% drop in the number of white business owners.”

The road to recovery and long-term change is an unprecedented challenge in the U.S. Public leaders recognize economies can only function when people have the ability to secure a steady job, support their families and buy goods and services. Overcoming the challenges created and illuminated by this health crisis will not be easy. As government leaders across the U.S. grapple with how and when to open economic activity in the COVID-19 era, closing equity gaps has the best chance of helping communities emerge stronger, more resilient and more equitable.

“From our perspective in releasing this report, if we’re going to say as a region that Black lives matter, then we need to put those values into action and address these gaps,” Schnirman said in a press release. “… Proactive solutions will ensure that we can not only keep the next generation here on Long Island, but that the next generation will build a stronger community through consciousness of these concerns.”

Meredith Trimble is a former municipal official and Town Council Acting Chair, who focused on strategic planning, annual budgeting and bonded infrastructure projects. Her government experience also includes posts in both federal and state-level executive branch agencies: Associate Editor of the U.S. Federal Election Commission’s FEC Record; and Director of Education for the Connecticut Office of State Ethics. In her current role as a Senior Content Specialist with Tyler Technologies, Inc., she writes content to help empower those who serve the public. Her current focus is to help facilitate data-enabled organizations as well as to create connections between governments and those they serve.

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Meredith Gibson

Thank you for this article. Our project in San Diego is also looking at ways to close the equity gap. These are some good ideas coming out of New York.