Although initially presumed to be isolated from the worst of COVID-19, the virus is now spreading rapidly to smaller and more rural areas. Not only do rural communities lack the critical health care infrastructure and financial resources to adequately address the crisis, but they are also disproportionately vulnerable to its economic ramifications. Rural areas have higher poverty rates, are still struggling to recover from the Great Recession, and have a higher share of the most immediately vulnerable industries like retail and hospitality. Moreover, broadband is lacking in these areas, making it difficult to identify and access emerging information and resources.
On Wednesday, June 10, the Bass Center for Transformative Placemaking at Brookings hosted a conversation exploring how hyperlocal rural organizations are working to mitigate the economic impacts of COVID-19 on the ground. A panel of local leaders discussed the role their organizations are playing in supporting struggling small businesses and connecting them to resources at the local, state, and federal levels. Additionally, panelists discussed how they are laying the groundwork for recovery in the months and years to come, and what further supports are still needed to ensure rural communities durably emerge from this crisis.