Assessing the Impact of Covid-19 on Low Income Households and Communities in North Carolina
This study assess the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on its efforts to combat poverty and facilitate self-sufficiency in low-income communities throughout North Carolina.
Report by James H. Johnson Jr., Ph.D, Jeanne Milliken Bonds, MPA
Kenan-Flagler Business School UNC-Chapel Hill
Allan M. Parnel Vice President, Cedar Grove Institute for Sustainable Communities Mebane, NC
The North Carolina Community Action Association (NCCAA) commissioned a study to assess the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on its efforts to combat poverty and facilitate self-sufficiency in low-income communities throughout the state. We conducted focus groups with individuals served by Community Action Agencies (CAAs) and conducted a corresponding set of key informant interviews with identified leaders in five communities across the state. The research focused on five themes:
- Behavioral responses to recommended protective measures
- Hardships and economic fallout
- Coping strategies
- Adequacy of relief measures
- Perception and beliefs about COVID-19 vaccines
Because of COVID-19 safety precautions, we conducted the focus groups and key informant interviews virtually via Zoom. Designed to last no more than 90 minutes, the focus groups and key informant interviews were conducted in the evening, typically from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., using semi-structured interview protocols developed by our research team based on a review of the extant literature on the COVID-19 pandemic (see Appendix A). Between eight and ten individuals participated in each focus group session and a similar number of individuals in the key informant interviews across the five communities. In each of the five communities, the participants were recruited by the NCCAA. Participants with low incomes were provided a $100 gift card in appreciation of their time.
We digitally recorded each of the five focus group sessions and each of the four sessions with key informants representing the five targeted communities in the study. We used a professional transcription service to transcribe the digital files, and then conducted separate detailed content analyses of the transcripts from the five focus group sessions and the four sessions with community key informants. We generated eight key takeaways from our content analysis of the focus group transcripts and nine key takeaways from our content analysis of the transcripts emanating from our Zoom sessions with community key informants.
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About the Authors
James H. Johnson, Jr. is the William Rand Kenan, Jr. Distinguished Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship in the Kenan-Flagler Business School and Director of the Urban Investment Strategies Center in the Frank Hawkins Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise at UNC-Chapel Hill.
Jeanne Milliken Bonds is a Professor of the Practice, Impact Investment and Sustainable Finance in the Kenan-Flagler Business School and the Department of Public Policy at UNC-Chapel Hill.
Allan M. Parnell is a Senior Research in the Kenan Institute’s Urban Investment Strategies Center and Vice President of the Mebane, NC-based Cedar Grove Institute for Sustainable Communities.
The Kenan Institute fosters mutual understanding between members of the private sector, the academic community, and their government, and to encourage cooperative efforts among these groups.
The Kenan Institute serves as a national center for scholarly research, joint exploration of issues, and course development with the principal theme of preservation, encouragement, and understanding of private enterprise.
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