Baltimore is one of many U.S. cities that turned to a resilience corps in the past year to tackle the dual crises of the pandemic and unemployment, problems that have disproportionately impacted people of color.

On March 12, 2020, the first coronavirus case was diagnosed in Baltimore. By May, infection rates grew rapidly and became four times higher among Latino residents and 1.5 times higher among Black residents compared with the city's White residents. Meanwhile, the city's unemployment rate had skyrocketed from 4.9% in March 2020 to a high of 11.6% the following month.

To tackle those problems head-on, Baltimore officials and their partners launched the Baltimore Health Corps (BHC) in June 2020 to recruit, train and employ 275 new community health workers. The program targeted those who were unemployed, furloughed or underemployed amid the pandemic and living in neighborhoods hardest-hit by the coronavirus.

Baltimore Mayor Brandon M. Scott, the Rockefeller Foundation, the city's health department and the Mayor's Office of Employment Development shared initial findings from the pilot this Thursday, potentially providing lessons for other cities seeking to launch similar efforts.

"Rooted in an all-hands-on-deck approach, Baltimore Health Corps has been critical to addressing this pandemic," Scott said in a press conference Thursday. "This is what an effective public-private partnership looks like. And, as with our approach to the COVID-19 pandemic overall, the health corps has been grounded in equity."

The corps model is designed to continue serving the local community even after the pandemic. Corps members receive "career navigation" assistance to plan for their professional future and transition to their next opportunity, according to Jason Perkins-Cohen, director of the Mayor's Office of Employment Development. They also receive behavioral health, legal and financial empowerment counseling.

Read the full article about Baltimore's public-private approach by Cailin Crowe at Smart Cities Dive.