Inclusive and Resilient Recovery: Virtual Roundtable on Inclusive and Equitable Community Development Recovery Strategies for Practitioners - October 22, 2020


David Jackson: Welcome to the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta's Virtual Roundtable on inclusive and equitable development recovery strategies for practitioners. My name is David Jackson and I'm a senior adviser in the department of Community and Economic Development for the Atlanta Fed. I would like to thank you for joining us today. This is the first in a series of webinars we are planning to help explore inclusive and equitable recovery strategies. We know that governments, nonprofits, and the people these organizations serve have all been challenged by the pandemic and we're working every day to meet those challenges.

At some point in the future, we will fully recover from this pandemic. How effective and how inclusive that recovery will be has roots in choices we are going to make today. The webinar, and the entire series, is structured to help inform those choices, data, research, promise, and practice can all help point us to impactful answers on how recovery strategies might be implemented. Together, we will start to explore these tools and hear how practitioners, planners, and policymakers, like many of you, are hard at work planning and taking action to enable an inclusive recovery. Next slide, please.

We are joined today by an outstanding group of speakers that will share insights from their work and information about the data and practices they are using to understand and confront the challenges of the pandemic. We have guests from two great southern cities. We're also joined by the Atlanta Fed staff that have been studying current conditions. I'm not going to read everyone's bio because they're all so accomplished, we'd be here all day. We will make a complete version of their bio available to you later. First, I'd like to introduce two dynamic directors working on the front lines of their cities in the areas of economic opportunity and community development.

Josh Carpenter is the director of innovation and economic opportunity for the city of Birmingham. Ellen Lee is director of community and economic development for the city of New Orleans. In addition to Ellen and Josh from the Atlanta Fed, we have Jessica Dill, director of the Center for Housing and Policy. We have Danny Sexton, quantitative research analysis specialist, and Sarah Stein, an adviser in the department of Community and Economic Development. We are also joined by two of my colleagues from the Community and Economic Development engagement team, Mary Hirt and Jasmine Burnett. They're the ones behind the scenes making sure all of this works. We're taking questions through the Q&A function and there you'll be able to add a question and vote up questions you like. We'll answer a few of the top vote-getting questions at the end of the panel discussion. Next slide, please.

You may ask why the Fed is doing this work. Community and economic development at the Atlanta Fed works at the intersection of engagement and research. We use engagement that is aligned with data, research, tools, and best practices to help support the central bank's mandate of stable prices and maximum employment by working to improve the economic mobility and resilience of people and places for a healthy economy. We work with government, philanthropy, private sector, and direct service providers to help advance this work. We also work at the intersection of research and engagement. It is through opportunities like this webinar and other engagement efforts that we hope to learn about what practitioners are grappling with and bring that information back to our research partners, so we might identify ways that research could help inform that practice.

Likewise, we also play a role in helping practitioners like you use data and engage with the research. This feedback loop is intended to help inform research and practices in ways that improve outcomes. Next slide, please. And a wonderful example of how all this work takes place is the Center for Housing and Policy. And I'd like to introduce Jessica Dill so she can tell you more about the center and its work. Jessica?

Jessica Dill: Thanks, David. Hi, everyone. It's a pleasure to be with you today. As David said, I'm Jessica Dill, director of the Center for Housing and Policy at the Atlanta Fed. I'm willing to bet many of you haven't heard of my center before, so I want to take this opportunity to tell you who we are and what we do. The Center for Housing and Policy is actually an outgrowth of an earlier real estate center that the Atlanta Fed established back in 2010 at the height of the last economic downturn. The Atlanta Fed realized it had housing and real estate experts tucked away and siloed in several different business lines across the Bank. And it realized it was important for these groups to collaborate more closely if we wanted to stay on top of trends and make more informed business decisions.

So back in 2010, the center was tasked with creating and maintaining the Bank’s point of view on real estate. And it worked really hard to build bridges internally with staff and our banking supervision area who were busy surveilling market conditions and monitoring risk tied to real estate lending and bank portfolios as well as staff and our Community and Economic Development group. Folks like David and Sarah Stein, who you'll meet shortly, who were busy keeping a pulse on housing issues and other issues tied to low- and moderate-income communities. And finally, staff in our research department like Daniel Sexton, who you’ll also meet in just a few minutes, who are typically engaged in longer-term research projects that aim to study and better understand dynamics in the broader economy.

All of that to say, we've assembled a great team of real estate subject matter experts, each with a slightly different lens and a slightly different end goal for our day-to-day work, but all who are actively engaged in slicing and dicing data and spending time out in the community, interacting with business contacts in an effort to better understand underlying market conditions. So, if we fast-forward to the end of 2018, the Atlanta Fed decided to reorient the center. The idea was to leverage all of the internal bridge building that had been taking place since 2010 and create a more outward-facing platform where we could present the Bank's latest and greatest thinking on real estate issues. Enter the Center for Housing and Policy.

So, the center is charged with fostering thought leadership and dialogue on housing and policy related issues. We aim to achieve this through producing data tools that explore and document changing market conditions, through producing research that influences policy decisions and discussions, and through convening various types of forums like today's webinar and conferences to disseminate the knowledge through our work. I'd like to think that this webinar organized by David in some sense represents the culmination of all the things the center's charged with doing, as it'll showcase several tools, many of which are accompanied by analysis and write-ups that aim to dig a bit deeper. And we're here today to make sure this information makes its way to our intended audience, all of you on the line, which brings me to my final point.

Historically, the center is aimed to reach researchers, policymakers, and Southeast business contacts operating across the Atlanta Fed's territory. As COVID-19 hit, it became extremely clear that local level leaders and policymakers would have a critical role to play in the response. In fact, a few localities reached out to us to engage us for help with questions like can we apply any lessons learned from the last downturn to the COVID response? What will the path of recovery look like? And how should I go about estimating the number of households impacted that might need assistance?

Through this dialogue, it became really clear there was an opportunity to strengthen partnerships at the local level and better leverage a resource that we have sitting at the ready, and a resource, I would argue, that many localities lack. And the resource I'm referring to here is staff that has advanced analytical skills, a little extra bandwidth because I know you guys are really busy dealing with the recovery and access to a timely and often expensive data set. Some of the tools and information that we'll present today are the product of inquiries that we've received. While we aren't well positioned to provide one-on-one support to everyone doing this work, we're very interested in learning more about your information needs and gaps and on-the-ground realities in hopes that we can continue to leverage our resources to create public goods, as they say in econ, that are useful to you as you go about doing the hard but important work to stabilize and improve outcomes in the community cities across the Southeast.

Importantly, I should mention that while my center is only officially a staff of one: that's me, it wouldn't be possible without the great work of what I like to call contributing staff. So, I'm going to stop talking right now and pass the virtual mike on to two of my colleagues that regularly contribute to the Center for Housing and Policy. First to Sarah Stein, and then to Daniel Sexton, so that they have an opportunity to spotlight some of the tools that have been developed. So, Sarah, please take it away.

Sarah Stein: Thanks, Jessica. And hello, everybody. I'm Sarah Stein on the Community and Economic Development team at the Fed. And I am an adviser there and I work closely with Jessica Dill. And actually, what I'll be talking about is a tool that's the result of that collaboration and the collaboration of the center. The first tool I want to speak to you guys about and make sure you guys know about involves renter vulnerabilities. In light of COVID-19 job loss, there have been concerns over how income shocks might translate into housing instability. And the Furman Center at NYU [New York University] developed a methodology that uses job industry census data to estimate households that could be vulnerable to COVID-19 job loss, and then connect it to household housing instability. So these charts reflect data from a recent Real Estate Research blog post that I coauthored with Jessica Dill and some other members of our Fed team that uses the Furman Center's method to take a closer look at nine cities across our district. And those nine cities are Atlanta, Panama City, Birmingham, Gulfport, Jacksonville, Nashville, New Orleans, and Orlando. [Bay City, Florida, was inadvertently left off this list.]

And in our analysis, we found that over half of the renters identified as vulnerable through this analysis were already cost-burdened headed into COVID-19. This means that they were paying more than 30 percent of their income into their house payment before COVID even showed up. And the chart on the left shows that of renters who were already cost-burdened going into the pandemic, 88 percent earned less than $50,000. And this is particularly significant because the Survey of Household Economics and Decisionmaking indicates that households earning under $50,000 are less likely to have a three-month rainy day fund. And that makes it more difficult for them to weather a shock to their income such as reduced work hours or furloughs like we've seen with COVID-19, or even job loss entirely.

So we also broke down the vulnerable households by race and ethnicity, and within the eight of the nine metro areas that we examined, we found that the portion of vulnerable renters that identified as nonwhite or Hispanic outsized their share of renter households to a statistically significant degree. And as you can see on the chart on the right, 73 percent of cost-burdened vulnerable households identified as either nonwhite or Hispanic. And so, this analysis supports other research that indicates that the pandemic may be causing disproportionate hardships on households of color.

I'm just going to quickly switch to the next slide and point out that on the blog, connected to the blog and on the center's website, you can look at this data yourself, there's a dropdown list that shows each of the cities we've examined. And if your metro area is not on there and you want it to be, reach out to us and we can see if we can add it to it. It would depend on the data, but we may be able to expand that list so that it's more usable for you.

Another tool that I'm going to talk about is one that was developed through a collaboration between the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, the Atlanta Regional Commission, and some folks at Georgia Tech in the School of City and Regional Planning and the Center for Spatial Analysis and Visualization. And this is an eviction tracker. And what it does is it tracks the eviction filings in the five-county Atlanta region. So, it's not every single eviction that happens, because unfortunately, not all evictions go through the courts, or maybe fortunately, depending on your outlook. I mean, many renters don't want to have their eviction go through the court because that can have ramifications down the line for their ability to get another place to rent. But this tracks the evictions that have gone through the magistrate courts of those counties or that are being filed. And you can view it in a number of different ways.

I encourage you to go and explore it. Of course, it's only currently available for the five-county metro Atlanta area. But one reason I want to show it to you today is to show you the possibility that something like this can be created, depending on your local circumstances like the availability of the data, and also to encourage you to reach out if this is something that you think you might have an interest in exploring more. So, as you look at the tool, you can look at it. Right now, we have it available in the map function where you can see eviction filings by census tract. And then if we quickly switch to the next, you can look at filings by week.

On this chart, the blue line is 2019 filings and the red bars are 2020 filings by week. And then also, it's helpful to look at it by month because it smooths out some of the cyclical nature of the monthly filings. And that's the next slide by month. And the same is true of the blue line and the red bar. So hopefully, that's useful to some of you in the Atlanta metro area, and then also inspiring to others if this is something that you're looking to create for yourselves. You have lots of knowledge about how to do that. So, I'm going to turn it over to Daniel Sexton, a colleague of mine at the Fed to talk about homeownership.

Daniel Sexton: Hi, everyone. Thanks, Sarah, for the awesome presentation. I'm going to be talking a little bit more about homeownership and the options available to homeowners. I'm a quantitative research analysis specialist, which is a mouthful, here at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. I'm just going to jump right into it and start describing what I have been working on through Jessica’s center. So, one of the big things that has been available to homeowners throughout this pandemic period has been mortgage forbearance. Typically, this is offered to people that have suffered some kind of temporary hardship like a hurricane that has affected their ability to pay back their mortgage. And so, because this has sort of been, in some sense, a hurricane for the entire economy, this program, which is normally kind of restricted to small local areas, has been taken up by people all over the country.

And, in fact, a lot of the regulatory agencies and the housing market have encouraged people to do this. So, what I'm going to be able to show you is, well, a preview of a tool that's going to be coming out hopefully in the next month or so, once we clear a few internal barriers at the Fed. [The previewed tool became the Atlanta Fed’s Mortgage Analytics and Performance Dashboard.] But I'm going to be able to show you in any well-populated ZIP code, in any month after the pandemic, a user will be able to see the estimated rate of mortgage forbearance. So, the number of people rather using mortgage forbearance divided by the total number of mortgages in that ZIP code in that month. We are able to see delinquency, which is going to be measured as people who are not paying their mortgage and also are not in forbearance. And we're going to be able to see trends of this over time.

Now, there's a couple of limitations here. There's a three-month lag on the data and, of course, the estimates are estimates, but we've done a little bit of internal validation with a better data set that we have. So, if you could skip to the next slide, Mary. I just want to give you a quick sense of what this tool looks like. Here, I've just highlighted the Sixth District, Sixth Federal Reserve District. So, we've got Tennessee, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and Florida. And you can see in the top left there, we've got a map of kind of hot spots of where forbearance is outstanding. And on the bottom left, you can see where the delinquencies are and you can kind of see that those are a little bit inversely related and for the geography that the user selects, you can also see this. You can see this over time on the right as well.

You can see on the top right there, the very top right, there are ways for the user to select different states, different metro areas, and kind of scroll through time to see a time series of this. Mary, if you skip to the next slide. We can also really, really drill down and see this at your locality. So living in Atlanta, I just picked Atlanta, but if you're in Birmingham or Miami or New Orleans or wherever you might be, whatever your interested area is, you can drill down and see this, and you can see where the forbearance is being taken up. So where are those households that have really been in need, and are they getting the help that they need? And also, where are the hot spots? Where are the problem spots with delinquency? So, that's pretty much the tool. If you have any questions, I'm very open to hearing feedback. So, hit me up at the email address I put in the first slide. Thanks a lot.

Jackson: Next slide, please. Thank you, Jessica, Sarah, and Danny. These are outstanding tools and a great example of how the Atlanta Fed department can help make sense of what's occurring in your communities. I benefit greatly from working with this group and I trust that all of you, once you get engaged, will find huge value in the information and data that they can help you explore. As we transition into our panel, I'd like to take a moment to set the stage for some information from a national COVID survey the Federal Reserve has conducted several times since last March, looking at the impacts of COVID-19 on communities and entities serving them.

Next slide, please. There are many data points explored in the survey, but I'd like to lift up just a few, to help frame the next part of our discussion. Of the national organizations that responded to the survey, 57 percent were nonprofits, and another 14 percent were from government. Of these organizations, it was a solid representation of those working in housing, small business, workforce, and public and community services. These are the areas our panelists know a lot about. Fifty percent of the respondents worked in housing, which was closely followed by public and community services, small business, and workforce. The respondents to the survey were very similar to you on the webinar today. Next slide, please.

We asked survey respondents if they were impacted by COVID-19. And as you might imagine, the majority said they were. We also asked, what was the nature of this impact or disruption? One of the more important things we learned was there's been an increase in demand for service, while there has also been a decrease in many organizations’ ability to provide those services. While demand is growing, 53 percent have seen expenses rise. In part, this can be driven by public health–mandated social distancing practices that make the delivery of some services slow and inefficient and more costly. In some cases, almost impossible to deliver. At the same time, little additional funding sources had surfaced as of early August, with no change in fee-for-service or foundation funding. Thirty-four percent of organizations noted an increase in government funds, but the stability of this funding remains to be seen, as many municipalities have been hard hit by budget shortfalls.

Next slide, please. Let's take a look at this chart again, focusing on the first two columns. Sixty-five percent of respondents indicated demand for their services has increased and yet almost half (42 percent) noted a corresponding decrease in the anticipated ability to provide those services. The fact is, reducing the ability to provide services were varied, and we expect this to continue as we work toward an inclusive recovery. And this is truly a challenge. When we think about inclusive recovery, we want to see a recovery that's inclusive across income, across race, and across every metric you can measure. And many of these not-for-profits and government agencies are the go-to place with people in communities with things like retooling their job skills, getting assistance with food, by helping their children connect with things that will help their education move forward. This is a true challenge. It's something we have to keep an eye on as we work toward an inclusive recovery.

Next slide, please. Now I'd like to add Josh and Ellen’s voice to the discussion. I'm going to start with a question that you both can answer around, what challenges are you seeing in your cities? Are they similar to the things that we just talked about seeing in the survey, and how are you even responding to these challenges?

Josh Carpenter: Well, first of all, thank you, David and to the Atlanta Federal Reserve Bank for giving us this opportunity to speak and share our thoughts. I can tell you for those of you that are listening in similar situations to Ellen and me throughout the Southeast, that the tools that you've seen today are useful. I know my team has already been using them and is eager to continue to. Certainly, the challenges that we've seen, we've seen a number of small business closures that have really threatened the dynamism and vibrance of our small business ecosystem and really threatened jobs more broadly. Not unlike most urban municipalities, small businesses account for well over half of our jobs. And so, when an estimated 20 percent of them are threatened or had to radically reconfigure or adapt their business models, it's problematic.

We early on put together what we called the Birmingham Strong Loan Fund. The city seeded that with $1.2 million, and we were able to raise another $1.3 [million], ultimately getting about 90 loans out the door and saving an estimated 700 jobs. But far many more workers have lost jobs. In Jefferson County, which is where Birmingham sits, about 85,000 workers, or approximately 17 percent of the workforce, filed for unemployment between March and August. We've been able to recover a lot of those jobs, about 10,000 of them. We, in the interim, put together something we call the Birmingham Service Corps, and the idea there was to get folks who might not have qualified for unemployment an opportunity to build new skills through service.

And so, our opportunity there is if you were an office administrative support worker who may not have had deep background in digital health coaching, for example, but you had some modicum of digital fluency, you were able to quickly learn the types of skills that would enable you to gain a foothold in that next career. So, we're doing our best to come up with new programs, to work with the private sector very closely, and leverage our resources from policy perspective and as a convener in the public sector to help co-create solutions that mitigate some of the challenges our small businesses and our workers are facing.

Jackson: That's exciting. Ellen, what's going on in NOLA?

Ellen Lee: Thank you, David, and then to the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, also happy to be here always to discuss the work that we are doing in New Orleans and to learn from our peers. Similar to Birmingham, we have been impacted greatly by this pandemic. Of course, the things that make New Orleans the amazing city that she is, is what has also made us particularly vulnerable to this pandemic. And I'm talking, of course, about our tourism and hospitality industry. So, we already have an industry that's still a significant part of our economy, that has low-wage jobs, jobs that in many cases aren't affording our workers other benefits that they need to thrive.

And so, with the shutdowns of travel and tourism, we're just seeing that loss of jobs for our workers. We are seeing the impact on small businesses that support, in many cases, not only our hospitality and tourism industry, our restaurants, other suppliers to those hotels and other venues, but also just the businesses that support hotels with supplies and goods and those kinds of things. So, we have seen that as well. We're doing similar programs. I think for us, the other big impact is on our artists and culture bearers. So live music venues that are not able to be open, street performances and those things, just the people who make the art and culture are also being doubly impacted by this pandemic.

And so, we have stood up with partners and so many others, funds to help provide relief for our artists and culture bearers, funds for hospitality workers. We're certainly, also as Josh mentioned, ways that we're figuring out how to pivot employees who might have been working in hospitality sector, even if that's in housekeeping or front desk work, how might they transfer those skills to hospitals now that need enhanced cleaning services or that may need some other customer service opportunities.

So, we're looking for those ways to pivot employees and to continue to engage our small businesses in providing goods and services. We have breweries who are now manufacturing hand sanitizer, right? Just trying to find ways that we can keep businesses engaged and keep as many people as possible employed. It's tough, but we're doing what we can.

Jackson: Yeah, I can imagine being on the front line in a city as this challenge rise is really looking for ways to adapt to new strategies, to help the changing sector, still be able to help the people who work there, and deliver value back to your city. And so, as we think about going through this and getting to the point where we may actually have a recovery, what do you think recovery might look like in your city and what signs do you see now that leads you to believe that recovery can happen in a way that you see it?

Lee: Well, I am hopeful. Of course, we have moved into phase three in New Orleans. We still have limited capacity at restaurants and bars. We still don't have live entertainment. We are opening up the Superdome for some fans for our go-Saints games are not certainly not at anywhere near the capacity of what the dome will hold but beginning to make little progress around that. So, I am hopeful around that. I think that the anxious part is still around people's ability to travel and bring the economy back.

And again, because we continue to be so tourism focused. That does concern me about people's willingness to continue to travel. And, of course, because of the enormous amount of music and food festivals that we have every year that are a significant part, not just of our economy, but of our culture here in Louisiana, in New Orleans, how that is going to impact it? I certainly expect that unfortunately, we will lose some of our small businesses. I don't have a number in mind, but I just think this is the reality that not everyone is going to make it. And what that's going to mean for wealth for those families beyond the impact on employees. But I am hopeful that I think it's going to be realistically maybe not 2021 but just as we get into 2022, when we have a reliable vaccine and more people willing to take the vaccine that we will begin to truly get back to whatever normal is and which is going to be very much, I think, a new normal irrespective.

Jackson: Thanks. Josh, I know when we were prepping for the webinar, you talked about how Black unemployment in Birmingham was impacted. And so, thinking about the last recovery from the Great Recession, so this recovery, what do you think might be some of the differences and some of the bigger challenges that we have to keep an eye on as we think about recovery in Birmingham?

Carpenter: Yeah. Like Ellen, I think the shape of the recovery is going to be uneven not only across sectors, but within our community. And I think that's really important to lift up is that pre-pandemic, the unemployment rate for African Americans in Birmingham, which is the fourth-largest majority-Black city in America, was three times higher for Black people than it was for white people. This has really sharpened the consequences of those inequities. I think it's made it even more difficult, and not unlike many other communities, we're seeing this pandemic and recession felt more sharply by women.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, last quarter, four times as many women left the workforce than men due to social norms and kids staying at home and frankly, insufficient childcare and ineffective institutions to support working families. And that's something that we're cognizant of. It's something that we can no longer decouple workforce policy from childcare policy. And I think that this has made that abundantly clear for us. We see some sectors coming back quickly. I think the commercial real estate market is going to struggle as it sort of reaches a new equilibrium, but our health care or health care companies, particularly those that were focused on innovative service delivery models, are really starting to grow in importance. So, this is going to be a really important time in our economy, but we have to think about what policies we have at our disposal that mitigate some of the challenges for the individuals who suffered most.

Birmingham was the second-slowest major metropolitan area to recover from the Great Recession. We cannot make the mistakes we did 10 years ago by not being deliberate about how we recover. And the other thing is that we had the highest amount of relative poverty coming out of the Great Recession, meaning that the people who were poorest in our community suffered most. That calls on us to be way more thoughtful and strategic about how social policies, social support systems are absolutely fundamental to economic recovery. And I think that's how we're trying to think about it.

Jackson: You both have made really important points as we think about recovery, and we think about who has been hurt worse by the pandemic, especially when we just aggregate the data to see who's been impacted. We can see that there's a real need in recovery to focus on the subgroups and really look at who's been made worse off and how we can help them leapfrog back to better. And that's one of the things that we're going to continue to pursue in this series.

Another question I have for both of you is about how governments are leveraging CARES Act funding to address community economic development concerns. Keeping in mind that today on the webinar, we have participants that come from cities as large as New Orleans and Atlanta and as small as Panama City and Augusta, how are you using CARES Act? Are there any disconnects between state and federal funding that you think as we move forward, it could be looked at to make things better? And is it really providing you a way to be impactful for those most in need in your communities?

Lee: Let’s not all talk at once. I'll start again on this one. There were some cities of maybe some of you on the call who because of the population of your city received a large infusion of CARES Act resources. I think that in some ways, we certainly feel like we were robbed of that opportunity, partially not just because of the size of our city, we were below that threshold of half a million in population, but because of the persistence of the prevalence of the pandemic in New Orleans.

New Orleans had a very high number of cases relative to other parts of the country. And so, the resources that we expended on addressing the pandemic, I think, was not necessarily taken into consideration when that first tranche of CARES Act funding was distributed to our large cities. That said, we do more with less better than anyone, or as well as anyone. And so, we have gotten an allocation of CARES Act funding directly from HUD [U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development], of course, that we have used to really stand up our programming for rental assistance for our homeless population and really trying to get people off of the streets where they're more vulnerable and into more permanent housing, looking at programs to support our small businesses.

The challenge with all of the federal funding is this duplication of benefits issue. And so, if you got PPP [Paycheck Protection Program], then it was harder to get CDBG [Community Development Block Grant] funding because of the duplication of benefits. The state allocated some money for a small business program, but if you had gotten a PPP or an SBA [Small Business Administration] loan or Main Street Recovery. So, it's unpacking the duplication of benefits issue that is not getting businesses the resources they really need to come back. But we've tried to do what we do best and rely on our partners to deliver those resources to the people in businesses who need it most.

Jackson: Josh, would you like to add?

Carpenter: Yeah, I mean, not unlike New Orleans, Birmingham felt robbed. We were short of the population threshold. But our county, Jefferson County, was able to receive some funding because we're about 700,000 people in the county. So, we've had a couple of issues. I want to speak to follow up on what Ellen said. We built our small business loan program so that it would bridge to the Paycheck Protection Program. We rolled it out really mid to late March, and then just hoped and prayed that we would get some level of reimbursement, and we've been able to, and that's been helpful. So, there's been ways in which we were able to work with CARES funding to layer atop what they were doing and bridge companies to that more secure environment. I think where we've had trouble is candidly in trying to get more resources to the state.

University of Alabama, Birmingham UAB Hospital is the fourth-largest public hospital in America, serving about 1.7 million patients. So, people who were very sick with COVID-19 came to Birmingham to get treated. We treated a lot of people at our hospital, and we felt that a disproportionate share of funding should then return to the way that our city was disrupted in care and treatment and patient care and care delivery.

Another huge issue for us is we just did not feel like we got enough workforce funding that was flexible and was going to enable us to target workers in our local communities who had been displaced by COVID-19 and bridge them into new opportunities. And we actually petitioned the state with five other cities to try to get that done and it didn't happen. And so, that's been a real disappointment for us as a community. We were as a state selected as one of the eight states for reimagining workforce grant. So, we're going to work with our workforce investment board to try to make that happen.

So I would say, CARES has been in many cases a disappointment because there's a lot of strings attached and we don't feel like the mechanisms that could have gotten money delivered to the people who needed it most were really available to us as cities who could pull the levers. And there are some other complications around getting the money fully expended by the end of the year. I certainly hope that we hold state and other local governments accountable to making sure that they spent those dollars as effectively as possible for the residents and that we send no money back to the Feds.

Jackson: Yeah, it sounds as if it may be an opportunity for cities in the region to work together and think about how they may communicate the disconnects that were unintentional, I'm sure, but didn't allow you to take the biggest advantage of these funds. So, as we turn to the next question, I want to point out that that question and our following questions were really derived from that long survey we asked everybody to fill out in their registration. We wanted this to be responsive to the questions that you had.

And another big question, in addition to how CARES Act funding was working, was about evictions. And I'd like to turn, before we get into a question about that, the floor back over to Sarah Stein, who's an expert on this and could lead us through some understanding of what's happening in the eviction space. Sarah.

Stein: Thank you, David. Yeah. So, I think I would just give kind of an overview on what might be going on. I mean, I think the bottom line on evictions as it is on so many other things that have to do with COVID-19 is that it's very particular to where you are as to what is going on. I think we could say that, by and large, when the pandemic hit, there was pretty much across the nation a drop in the number of eviction filings that were occurring. Now, we should remember that eviction filing, so the evictions that actually make it into the court, do not represent every instance of when somebody loses their housing because they don't have enough money to pay rent. But it is a decent indicator of what's going on because a lot of those other instances are really off the radar, very hard to track lockouts by landlords or people who just know they won't be able to pay rent and leave at that point or are asked to leave by landlord and decide to do so. So, that's just one thing I want to point out to begin with.

Now really quick, one way that I have been sort of presenting the idea around how are evictions going and what has happened over the course of the pandemic is through this next slide, which I'll throw up here where you'll see. Mary, if you could advance, yes. So, this is a tray of Swiss cheese. And I think that this is a useful metaphor or diagram to talk about the multiple overlapping and often misaligned efforts to mitigate evictions during this pandemic and ones that are of varied effect, making it hard to know exactly which ones were effective and could be effective going forward. And which ones when they're removed could lead to a flood of evictions.

Now, we do know that there are a lot of people out there that have far less money than they had before the, less income, than they have before the pandemic hit. And that can lead to housing instability because they're far less able to pay rent like we talked about with the vulnerable renter households. So, first, you want to think about household and resources and network resources on that sort of one level. Then you have, if you would advance to the state or local eviction prevention measures, and it differs by state and even locality. Some localities, municipalities are able to put some kinds of moratoriums in place, and then some states did it as well, and that all depends on state laws. So, depending on what state you're in, you may or may not have had different layers of protections that came from that level. Then, of course, there was, if you want to click it again, federal income support through the CARES Act UI [unemployment insurance] benefits, and focusing here predominantly on the $600 a week that was additionally provided to those folks who were eligible for UI benefits.

Now, there are studies that are coming out that show that even among people who should have been eligible for UI benefits under the expanded eligibility, maybe about one in four, some studies are showing, I think one study from the Shift [Project] out of Harvard is showing that one in four did not get those benefits. But that was a big boon to people. Those who got it were able to better pay rent because if you have more income coming in, you're able to make that rent payment. And then finally the federal eviction moratoriums that have been in place and one coming from the CARES Act, which covered federally subsidized and federally backed housing. So, mortgages with federally backed mortgages are homes that are federally backed mortgages. So that was the first one that was in place from March through the middle of July.

And then there was a little bit of an extension due to a notice period into August, but that is no longer preventing evictions entirely. And then now the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] moratorium is in place, that was through an executive order by the CDC. That, of course, you may have heard is being litigated in courts over whether or not it impedes upon landlord rights. So, we'll see the outcome of that litigation, but it has also been applied and interpreted at a local level with varying effects and varying impacts. So, we're talking about things that can vary down to the court that you're in versus the court next door. And so, that's the overview on evictions that I'll give at this point. And then you guys can have an interesting conversation about what you're seeing in your areas.

Jackson: Thanks, Sarah. That's really helpful. The Swiss cheese analogy is an important one because there's no one thing, every place is doing something differently and maybe even multiple things in a place. And that leads to a question for Ellen. Ellen, I know you've been working on this in New Orleans. Can you share some of the NOLA experience?

Lee: Sure. Again, we talked about how many people are suffering because of this pandemic. We opened a rental assistance program in, I want to say, early April, and within a week or a few days got over 8,000 applications. We're very concerned about it. This was before really some of that enhanced unemployment benefits came in, but we wanted to make sure that we could retain people in their housing. It's an issue of health to be able to retain your housing. So, we started rental assistance programs. We also invested more in legal services because we know that when people are facing eviction, when they have legal representation at the court, they are far less likely to actually be evicted than when they do not have legal representation.

So, we made some additional investments in our Southeast Louisiana Legal Services organization to help with some representation there. And I'll say finally, because I saw that a question came up, we know that there's an impact on landlords also when their tenants can't pay the rent. It doesn't only lead to the possibility of homelessness and eviction, but also the income for that landlord that might be a source of supplementing their fixed incomes, etc. for them to pay their other bills. And so, we started a program to assist landlords also because we recognize the hardship on both sides of that story.

Jackson: Yeah, and that's important. It's one of the things that I think doesn't get talked about enough, that there's the challenge where people lose their home and get evicted, but that's part of a supply chain that has a lot of mom-and-pops that manage their properties that we've got to think about as well. And all of these point to the complexity of this challenge and all of the things that we have to do to try to help come up with program and policy to improve. And this allows us to go to our last question, which I think Josh is eminently qualified to talk to us about. And it's a nice segue from thinking about small mom-and-pop landlords. Josh, what role do you think that private industry plays in the recovery and the challenges that we're facing in the pandemic?

Carpenter: Well, I think first of all, I have to lift up a lot of the industry partners that we have here in Birmingham. They've just been phenomenal partners. I think in many ways they feel like members of our team. And so, I'm just so grateful for our partners. In his book America Needs Talent, Jamie [Merisotis] has a great line. He says, "Employers need to shift from being consumers of talent to becoming cocreators of talent." And I think that's never been more true. We have to have employers who coinvest in their workers who are currently on their payroll and workers who should be on their payroll. The dynamism and the turn of the labor market cannot continue to play as more risk on the individual. We as a public sector need to be more thoughtful and creative about how we're spending money to support them, but the private sector has to come alongside us. And that's going to be hugely important for us as we sort of adapt systems to go forward.

The second piece of this is they've got to invest in a more diverse supply chain for the long term. We started a program here in Birmingham we're calling VITAL. It stands for Valuing Inclusion to Accelerate and Lift. The goal is to publish transparently who Birmingham is procuring services from, and that's the city of Birmingham proper. As you know and Ellen knows, cities are large procurement agents. And if we look at the procurement power of cities writ large, it's billions if not maybe even trillions of dollars. Each year, the city purchases goods and services whether it's to pave sidewalks or cater food or engage in consulting services. Who is providing those services is very important to the shape of your economic recovery. And in a city like ours, we really wanted to measure our performance specifically with how many Black-owned businesses we were buying from, how many women-owned businesses we're buying from, other disadvantaged business enterprises.

And several other companies came alongside that to sign onto Mayor Woodfin's VITAL pledge. So, we have now 14 major companies who are using their power as procurers to invest in new systems, new opportunities in a measure of their performance, so that they can be better at procuring with a more diverse supplier base long term. That does two things. Number one, it invests in entrepreneurs. We hear all the time, "Don't give me charity, give me contracts," from our diverse suppliers. That's something that's really, really important.

The second thing is that it creates a broader supply base for the long term and what that ultimately does will drive down costs by creating more competition in the market. So, we see a real opportunity to focus on our equitable recovery on workers, and again, on small businesses, and on other folks in the supply chain who have too often been overlooked. And so, we think that that starts with measuring our performance.

Jackson: Great. Yeah, I think you both have done a great job of spotlighting for us that innovation has to be in place, building partnerships, thinking about those partnerships, not just being the public sector, but having the private sector, and really using the data and the research to inform how you take those actions. Those are all the only ways that we're really going to be able to move this forward. What we're going to do now, because we're coming up on wrapping up, is I'm going to give you some information about some future Fed events that are coming. And then we're going to go to questions and answers because I haven't been able to fully read it while I've been paying attention to Josh and Ellen, but Mary has been there and we have had some phenomenal questions come up, so we'll have an opportunity to talk about it.

Resources that are available from the Fed are available on our website. And the other webinars that we have: our Ask Us Anything webinar Using Labor Market Data to Drive Workforce Strategies is coming on November 11 [the session was subsequently moved to December 1]. The first in our Inclusive Recovery series, that kickoff is going to happen on November 12. And if you haven't already seen the first Racism and the Economy series, which was part of the Atlanta Fed, the Minneapolis Fed, and the Boston Fed lifting up how systemic racism plays out in our economy, that you should go back and find and look at it. But the next one in that series is coming up on November 17.

In addition, there are a lot of tools that we've talked about today. We'll send an after-action email after the webinar, which will be able to connect you to tools like our Unemployment [Claims] Monitor, our Opportunity Occupations Monitor, and our Advancing Careers as well as tools that allow you to look at the vulnerable rental household data that Sarah talked about, see information from our Small Business Credit Survey, and that COVID survey that I talked about.

So, with that, we're going to go to questions and spend the time we have left responding to things that you put into the Q&A. And I'm sure, Josh and Ellen, there'll be robust opportunities to learn more from you during this question and answer period. So, I'm going to go to Mary. Mary, I know people have been voting on questions while we've been talking. What's the top question that we're waiting to hear about?

Jasmine Burnett: So, the top question is directed currently to Josh Carpenter. The question is, why did companies’ ever "decouple workplace policy from childcare policy"? They employ people and people have children and families. How will policies change moving forward to take into account the children and families, especially older parents who are working?

Carpenter: Well, I think that's a great question. I think that there's a couple of reasons why. I mean, the United States actually had a universal childcare policy passed both the House and the Senate in the 1970s was actually vetoed by the Nixon administration. Several other countries, United Kingdom included, have begun to really move down their childcare policies, so that three-year-olds even get universal pre-K there. America has not made that type of investment. And so, I think employers have shifted to becoming the sort of ad hoc childcare supporters. Many employers as a benefit will subsidize childcare; for example, the city of Birmingham subsidizes childcare. I dropped my daughter off at one today.

The reality is that that's just not happening in other countries. We've asked the private sector to step in there largely in absence of the public sector, which is there in many other communities. I think what I was trying to point out that I was trying to make there is that that's just not a workable model because there's too many gig workers who are working contract-based employment in a lot of variety of locations, and we need benefits to be more portable. And that's going to enhance our ability to be more entrepreneurial as a community, as a country. And it gives workers, all workers, an opportunity to have the supports they need to be productive at work, but also thrive as a full person.

Burnett: Thank you for that. The next question that we have may also be for you. Can you speak to additional demographics of women leaving the workforce due to the pandemic, perhaps by race, job type, industry, salary level, etc.? Is there anything that stands out as most impacted in terms of that demographic breakdown for women?

Carpenter: I would probably defer to a member of the Fed. I see Stu Andreason, my friend, who knows quite a bit more about that than I'm sure I do. And I'll say from our end that has been anecdotally true across the board from white-collar sort of high-end jobs to retail workers. We have heard disproportionately that women are leaving the workforce, and that is a huge problem and is and should be something that we all care about, but I would defer to one of my Fed colleagues on more granular data.

Lee: Yeah, I would agree. I would think anecdotally, when we look at the industries, particularly for hospitality in tourism and hotels and those housekeeping jobs, that those are more disproportionately held by women. And so, the impacts on those jobs has been even greater, but I, too, defer to the Feds for the actual data on that.

Jackson: I'm going to take a moderator prerogative and jump in here with one of the questions. There was a question that was talking about the impacts of climate mitigation, especially looking at evictions during hurricane season and folks moving to higher ground and more inland places. There are few places that I think are impacted by storms more than New Orleans. And one of the things that we think about at the Fed is that recovery is not just from a shock like a storm or a pandemic, but also the stresses that over time things change and we've got to figure out recovery to help ensure that when these stresses come, the communities we serve are well served. Ellen, I'm sure this is something that New Orleans spends a lot of time thinking about.

So, when you think about pandemics and storms, and you think about the longer-term impacts of climate change, how is New Orleans looking at this? I know there's some programs that you can talk about have been implemented to help others on this webinar think about how they may approach it where they live.

Lee: Sure. We had maybe six named storms in the Gulf this year, two major hurricanes that hit Louisiana and our neighbors just miles away from New Orleans. We were fortunately spared direct hits this time, but 15 years after Hurricane Katrina, we all still have a little PTSD whenever we hear that storms are in the Gulf. So, some of the things that we're doing, we know that our relationship with water has to change. And we, in addition to the billions of dollars that have been invested in the federal levee protection system, that we also have multimillions of dollars to invest in infrastructure in New Orleans that's going to make us more resilient, more sustainable, better able to manage water so that we can minimize the impacts of rain, these weather events, so that we're not as deeply impacted with flooding. And sometimes this can be a hard rain that has caused street flooding that can get into businesses.

So, we are working. We're one of the grantees from the HUD's National Disaster Resilience Competition from several years ago to again continue to build our infrastructure and create the jobs and businesses that support the creation of this green and blue infrastructure. I think these are the ways that we can address climate change while also creating more jobs, increasing the skills of our workforce, and also building the capacity of our small businesses and our minority businesses, who, as Josh mentioned, provide goods and services and skills to our community. So, we're solving multiple challenges around businesses, workforce, and climate change. And that's some of the things happy to talk more with anyone who wants to learn more about those efforts.

Jackson: Great. Thank you. Well, we're about to come up on the end and I think I'll just take an opportunity to see if Josh, Ellen, or any of our other panelists want to add anything to the conversation before we wrap up. I think we've had a great discussion. I want to thank all of the panelists for being part of it. And in closing, I think this is a real good opportunity for us to all engage. We want to hear from everybody who signed up for the webinar today, stay in contact with us. And it's an opportunity for us to think about ways to ensure that our places in the Southeast, but really at the front of the line, and thinking about how to overcome the pandemic and help our citizens really prosper in outcomes that'll inevitably be going forward. So, Josh, Ellen, any last words?

Lee: Well, I'll just say thank you all again. Thanks, David, the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, and really thanks to everybody on the call. Josh and I were really fortunate to be selected to participate, but any one of you could have stood in our shoes and talked about the great work that you're doing in your own city. We know what it's like to be on the front lines and thank you all for hanging in there and being partners with us as well. And I'm open to learning anything from anyone about great results that you've had for your own people.

Carpenter: Yeah, I think I would just echo Ellen's comments that we're all sort of building the plane as we fly it. And there's this great John F. Kennedy quote about the more your knowledge increases, the more your ignorance unfolds. I feel like the more and the deeper we get into COVID, the more problems we have to solve. I think we can shorten the distance to solve those problems if we're really effective in sharing solutions. And as I mentioned to David, I think this is a really great forum to do it. So, I join Ellen and all of you in saying that I look forward to hearing what you're all doing to help tackle these difficult and unwieldy problems.

Jackson: Thank you, Josh. Ellen, Sarah, anybody else have any last comments?

Stein: I just wanted to draw everyone's attention to a tool that some of our colleagues in CED created called the Unemployment Claims Monitor that does break down unemployment claims on a demographic basis. And that might interest some of you who are curious about demographics and job loss. So, that is available and we will share that link with you in the email that follows.

Jackson: Great.

Dill: David…

Jackson: Oh, sorry. Go ahead, Jessica.

Dill: I'd like to thank everyone for tuning in, and again, we're sincere in our offer to do what we can to help folks size and estimate populations, bring data to bear that may or may not be at your fingertips. So, please don't be shy on reaching out to us either through emails. You can do that on our website or LinkedIn, connect with us. We'd love to hear from you so that we can produce tools that help you do your job better. Reach out, don't be shy.

Sexton: Yeah, you said what I was going to say, Jessica. I just want to second that the tools, and I can speak for the data tools that Sarah and I have developed, these are for you. And we want you to use them. We want you to find them useful. So, if you have any questions or feedback or ideas or things that you think could make it more interesting, please don't hesitate to reach out and give us that feedback because this is part of our public outreach and this is what we want to do.

Jackson: Great. Thank you all very much. So, to wrap up again, I'd like to remind you about the Ask Us Anything webinar, Using Labor Market Data to Drive Workforce Strategies, that's on Wednesday, November 11 [subsequently moved to Tuesday, December 1]. If you haven't signed up for that yet, please do. That'll be followed by What Does Inclusive Recovery Mean in the South? That's the kickoff of our series that's going to run the rest of this year and into next year. That's going to be on Thursday, November 12. You don't want to miss that. And then the next Racism and the Economy session, which is going to be about employment. These are great opportunities for you to connect with us at the Fed and to learn more about what we're doing.

So, thank you for joining us today. We hope you found this informative. We hope you made connections, and we'll be able to continue to work with you as we do webinars and in your community. So, thank you very much for joining us. Have a great afternoon.