Why Equity and Inclusion Matter for Community Economic Development

October 18, 2021
| Lynda Perez, Director, Division of Community Discretionary and Demonstration Programs, Office of Community Services.
Diverse image shows multi-ethnic multi-cultural people

It is not enough to just create a job. Often, barriers, such as homelessness, lack of education, inadequate access to childcare, and substance abuse issues, prevent individuals in need from obtaining and/or keeping a job. For families and communities to thrive, it is vital to address the differing needs of community members and ensure they have access to both employment opportunities that pay a living wage and the support services needed to effectively address barriers to employment so that they can maintain long-term employment.

Currently, even though the unemployment rate has been trending down in recent months, people of color as still disproportionately unemployed. For instance, the unemployment rate was 5.2 percent nationally in August Visit disclaimer page (PDF), or, in other words, approximately 8.4 million individuals were unemployed in August 2021. However, the unemployment rate for Black and Hispanic workers remains at 8.8 percent and 6.4 percent, respectively.  When I see this number, I am reminded of the role that federal programs, like the Community Economic Development (CED) program, can play in fostering equitable and inclusive community economic development efforts that are community-based and seek to provide employment opportunities for individuals who have been historically and disproportionately left out of the job market. Supporting employment opportunities for these individuals is vital in creating resilient communities and opportunities for all low-income children, families, and individuals to thrive.

The Community Economic Development (CED) Program

The Community Economic Development (CED) program is one of seven programs within the Office of Community Services (OCS) focused on reducing poverty. Community economic development is a locally driven process where communities identify and initiate their own solutions to economic, social, and environmental issues to build healthy, economically viable communities. Thus, the CED program plays a critical role in funding projects that help to ensure all individuals in a community have the opportunity to achieve economic self-sufficiency.

CED is the only federal program that focuses primarily on creating jobs for individuals with low income in communities with high unemployment and poverty rates. Each year, CED discretionary grants are awarded to nonprofit community development corporations in disinvested communities. The objective of the program is to support businesses that develop new products, services, and commercial activities that result in new positions for individuals with low income. At least 75 percent of jobs created must go to individuals with low income.

In addition to creating these new jobs, all funded grantees are also required to provide critical wraparound support services, such as financial literacy assistance, childcare services, transportation, substance use disorder treatment and English language education, to remove barriers to employment and allow individuals to maintain long-term employment and achieve self-sufficiency.

To learn more about the CED program, please visit: https://www.acf.hhs.gov/ocs/programs/ced

Equitable and Inclusive Community Development - Addressing Barriers to Employment

I am honored to share three short videos that illustrate how CED grantees are creating equitable and inclusive opportunities in their communities, including creating and expanding businesses in their communities, creating much needed jobs, and working to remove barriers to employment for individuals with low income.

  • Chicanos Por La Causa, Inc. is using CED Social Enterprise funds to support an array of incubator projects, including Hand of Grace, a woman-owned business that is helping individuals with intellectual and developmental delays gain independence through employment opportunities.

To learn more, watch: Gaining Independence through Employment in Arizona Visit disclaimer page

  • The Coalition for Responsible Community Development used CED funds to create jobs for young, unemployed individuals with low income who face multiple barriers to employment, including homeless and reentry youth. The project provides youth with jobs, training, and certifications, while supporting the maintenance and beautification of the youth’s neighborhoods through services such as graffiti abatement, professional painting, and hauling services.

To learn more, watch: Removing Graffiti and Creating Jobs in South Los Angeles Visit disclaimer page

  • Westmoreland Community Action received two CED grants to support the development of American Architectural Salvage, a demolition and material re-sale business and the startup of their demolition team. American Architectural Salvage employs individuals who have been historically deemed “hard to employ,” particularly those with a history of substance abuse.

To learn more, watch: Addressing Barriers to Employment in Pennsylvania Visit disclaimer page

Celebrating Community Economic Development Month

As we commemorate Community Economic Development Month this October, we want to use this opportunity to spotlight new projects, with the release of over $14 million in new CED grants,  showcase the monumental efforts and tangible impacts CED projects are having in communities, celebrate the people and businesses that are hard at work creating and expanding jobs in their communities that pay a living wage, and unite us all with a call to action to continue and expand these efforts.

Throughout the month of October, I invite you to check out the Community Economic Development website for weekly updates, resources, and activities to celebrate the community-based economic development efforts that are vital in creating resilient communities and opportunities for low-income children, families, and individuals not just to survive, but to thrive.

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