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Community Conversation: How Mecklenburg County plans to bounce back from the COVID-19 pandemic

A recovery and renewal task force focused on three issues: health, economy and community.
Published: Sep. 24, 2021 at 8:44 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Mecklenburg County Commissioners approved all 55 recommendations of the Recovery and Renewal Task Force. Commissioners created the task force back in June.

The assignment was to come up with recommendations the county should implement to help people bounce back from the pandemic. The task force heard from neighbors and the co-chairs of the task force say they learned a lot.

“What I learned is that we have great community leaders,” Task Co-Chair Victoria Avramovic said. “We have people that are ready to get to work. We have already some really great ideas and initiatives in place - we just need to gather that extra bench strength to lift it up to the level that it needs to be now that Covid has raised the bar for what we need to be providing for our residents.”

Another thing leaders learned is different entities can work together.

“One thing that became very clear to me is that all the rules and regulations that prevented agencies and public-private partnership from coming together they were relaxed,” Task Force Co-Chair Dr. Jerome Williams said. “They were waived during this period of time so that we can come together to battle this pandemic and what I am hopeful for is that the relaxation of those rules and regulation and policies statutes will continue. It really got us to work together in a more collaborative fashion.”

The task force focused on three issues: health, economy and community. The core goal when it comes to health is to reduce or eliminate health disparities.

“That’s an aspirational goal,” Williams said. “We have to shoot for the moon and in order to do that - we have to address historically deeply rooted issues of inequity across our community - that’s why the task force - put together by the board of county commissioners and we were given our charge - within that charge was a principal of not returning to business as usual.”

When it comes to health - recommendations include expanding Medicaid in North Carolina and county mental health supports for children, young adults, educators and staff.

When it comes to the economy - recommendations include continuing assistance to renters and landlords and investing to close the digital divide. Another focus will be on people who have been released from jail.

“We have other parts of our population that are re-entering the communities from incarceration,” Avramovic said. “And they need to have the opportunity to be contributing members of our economy and we need to open up opportunities for their employment. We need to rethink people with criminal backgrounds that they should not be excluded from the workforce. We need to be a forgiving community - they have paid their debt to society.”

The last focus is the community. Strategies call for the county to partner with trusted organizations serving undocumented residents and establish more mentorship programs.

“There are so many different elements of our community that have been fragmented by COVID 19,” Williams said. “And we have to create resilience across our community and if we don’t - then I’m fearful that we can’t really overcome the challenges we’ve come to face right now.”

Leaders admit this assignment is not easy.

“A number of challenges are policy regulatory related,” Williams said. “So the lack of the ability to employ those who are formerly incarcerated - all those rules and regulations that should be challenged should advocate for those changes. So it’s a big lift, but I think the timing is right for a variety of reasons.”

Leaders claim this report will not sit on a shelf and collect dust. They say there will be accountability and they believe the county can’t do it alone.

“I think our leadership needs more support,” Avramovic said. “I think they need more bench strength and that is what’s being a community is - always having the bench strength to push the community and to challenge the community. So this is not on one leader - it’s on the community and coming together and being a team.”

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