Social Justice, Infrastructure and the Coronavirus Pandemic

What these three things have to do with one another probably seems obscure or tenuous, and quite pale in importance in the current circumstances.  But bear with me for a moment.

If the global medical emergency has demonstrated anything, it has highlighted how quickly inadequate resources become strained, and how critical society’s underpinning institutions and civil hardscape are to the functioning of its people.  

And as difficult as this situation is, on the whole, the pain is not distributed evenly.  As witnessed during other crises, cracks in community foundations and holes in the social safety net seem always to become most visible in times of distress.  

In America’s congested, densely populated lower-income urban areas, social distancing is challenging at best.  Add to this, however, deficiency of public facilities and education and healthcare institutions in these neighborhoods, and the risks during a healthcare crisis are amplified.  Add in the inadequacy of transit/transportation options, food deserts, a digital divide when schools have suddenly gone online, and public safety concerns and other characteristics of deteriorated urban areas (air and water quality and other environmental issues), and suddenly the impacts of a pandemic like the novel coronavirus become insidiously inescapable.

Depressed rural areas of the country are not better off, however.  In the countryside not far from where we sit in Yarmouth, Maine, the availability of critical medical care to treat high-risk COVID-19 patients is minimal.  Safe, reliable public transportation for the rural population is scarce or non-existent. And while social distancing is a given in these areas, the remoteness means frequently poor quality of wireless communication and unavailability of high-speed internet and fiber optics, which translates to a paucity of online learning and telehealth opportunities.

TFIC’s mission is to act as a commercial enterprise in the service of community aspirations, which includes ensuring that our projects and services address issues of public safety, education, and social justice.  The President and the US Congress have talked about appropriating as much as $2.0 trillion for infrastructure as a New-Deal type stimulus initiative. Time is needed for this kind of money to create an economic impact and likewise to address the country’s infrastructure needs.  It would be a shamefully missed opportunity if, by the time this stimulus money is put to work, the uneven distribution of the pandemic’s impact is forgotten and the social and civil infrastructure gaps in disadvantaged communities as noted, go unmitigated.