The economic, social, and health effects of COVID-19 are profound and far-reaching. For individuals and societies, this crisis has been called a defining moment, a turning point, and a once-in-a-generation challenge. For policymakers and the communities they serve, it has been an unprecedented trial; on top of the public health impact, COVID-19 has brought significant economic disruption, which has worsened inequality and created uncertainty for state and local government budgets.

As communities continue to struggle with COVID-19 and vaccine rollouts, leaders cannot lose sight planning for a long-term, equitable recovery. Focusing on an inclusive recovery will be critical to ensuring we don’t exacerbate the disparities already afflicting our country.

But what is an inclusive recovery? And how can public leaders push their policies to be more inclusive as we look toward a post-pandemic future?

An inclusive recovery occurs when a city overcomes economic distress in a way that enables all residents—especially historically excluded populations—to benefit from and contribute to economic prosperity. Inclusive recovery doesn’t just happen—it requires deliberate policy actions that promote racial and economic inclusion across a range of issues.

To realize an inclusive recovery from COVID-19, policies, and programs must address underlying health and economic disparities and inequities that the pandemic has exacerbated. For instance, COVID-19 reminded us that civic infrastructure, like green space, can promote mental and physical health, but not everyone has access to quality parks. And COVID-19 has elevated the urgency of closing the digital divide in broadband access to ensure public participation in government decision-making, prevent further divergence in educational outcomes, and enable labor access to quality jobs.

Research shows that to support an inclusive recovery, policies at all levels of government could pursue the following:

  1. Target those who faced the greatest inequities before the COVID-19 pandemic and those who face the greatest negative effects during the pandemic, which often (but not always) overlap. 
  2. Enhance equity by building on evidence of what works, and measure long-term outcomes.
  3. Be informed by input from communities historically excluded from decision-making. 
  4. Build longer-term resilience. 

Read the full article about inclusive recovery of the pandemic by Matthew Eldridge, Christina Plerhoples Stacy, Justin Milner, Isabella Remor at Urban Institute.