COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on communities across the country for the past year. But some cities have been able to keep residents connected with each other and vital resources. Home deliveries of personal protective equipment, virtual community block club meetings, and socially distant community clean-ups are just a few of the Love Your Block (LYB) program’s pandemic projects.

LYB is a two-year Cities of Service grant program that connects mayors’ offices with communities to revitalize neighborhoods one block at a time. The program provides $25,000 in grant funding and two AmeriCorps VISTA members to cities. Cities use the funding to disburse mini-grants, often between $200 and $2,000, to neighborhood groups that propose and implement volunteer-led projects focused on improving land and properties that are vacant or in disrepair in their neighborhoods. From 2018 to 2020, 10 cities participated in the LYB grant program: Buffalo, New York; Gary, Indiana; Hamilton, Ohio; Hartford, Connecticut; Huntington, West Virginia; Lancaster, Pennsylvania; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Newark, New Jersey; Richmond, Virginia; and South Bend, Indiana.

We recently completed an evaluation of LYB; through interviews, focus groups, quantitative data on mini-grant outputs, and an annual survey, we collected comprehensive data about LYB, including insights from city staff, AmeriCorps VISTA members, residents, and nonprofit organizations who partnered on the two-year grant. In March 2020, the evaluation expanded to include documenting city responses to the effects of COVID-19 through LYB. Based on LYB cities' work during the pandemic, here are three insights for local governments seeking to adapt their community and neighborhood-based services during this public health and economic crisis.

  1. Cities incorporated the Love Your Block mini-grant structure into their COVID-19 response
  2.  Love Your Block cities reimagined resident engagement during the pandemic
  3. Love Your Block increased coordination within city hall which helped with COVID-19 response

Read the full article about community-based response to COVID-19 by Matthew Gerken and Leiha Edmonds at Urban Institute.