Nashville nonprofit The Equity Alliance released a study Wednesday giving data that backs up anecdotal assertions that minority communities in the Nashville/Davidson County are experiencing pandemic-related hardships at higher rates than white ones. 

The community assessment study, titled “Our Fair Share,” was contracted by Metro Council and Nashville Mayor John Cooper, who selected The Equity Alliance to survey the community and help determine how to prioritize the city’s $121 million share of federal CARES Act stimulus money. 

“Our community doesn’t feel like it has the access or information we need,” said Tequila Johnson, founder and co-executive director of The Equity Alliance during a press conference to discuss the results of the report.

Tequila Johnson, co-executive director, The Equity Alliance.
Tequila Johnson, co-executive director, The Equity Alliance.

The survey was conducted in partnership with local civic groups, nonprofit organizations, faith-based institutions, and subject matter experts and researchers, including ThinkTennessee, a nonpartisan think tank focused on civic education and outreach. 

Door-to-door canvassing accounted for almost 1,800 responses to the survey, while almost 5,500 individuals responded to an online survey. 

Key findings included:

  • Almost a third of Hispanic respondents – 27% – reported someone in their household has been sick with COVID-19, while 14% of Black respondents have, compared to 9% of white respondents.
  • Forty three percent of all respondents said they need either financial assistance, rent assistance or food assistance to quarantine safely. Of Black respondents, 51% reported such a need and 49% of Latino respondents said they have a  need for such assistance.
  •  More workers of color are physically reporting to work as essential workers and many feel unsafe on the job. Of the 40% of Nashvillians considered reporting to work, 45% are Black and 54% are Hispanic.
  • Of survey respondents, 35% chose mortgage and rent relief as their most important priority for use of stimulus funds, including 45% of Black respondents, 39% of Latino respondents and 48% of renters.
  • Significantly more business owners of color said they have need for cleaning supplies and personal protective equipment  than white business owners, by a margin of 48% to 19%. 
  • Forty four percent of respondents from the hardest-hit ZIP codes in Davidson County are concerned about getting sick in the future, compared to 36% of Nashvillians in other ZIP codes.
More than 2,700 cases of COVID-19 have been diagnosed in South 37211 zip code, an area in which many immigrants live.
More than 2,700 cases of COVID-19 have been diagnosed in South 37211 zip code, an area in which many immigrants live. (The Equity Alliance)

More respondents said confusing or contradictory information from elected officials has been their biggest challenge, with 49% of respondents selecting it, than isolation or securing PPE and cleaning supplies. 

“We have a mayor saying one thing, the governor saying another and the president saying do whatever you want,” said small business owner LeLann Evans, speaking at the noon press conference. “When the people are confused and don’t trust the government, who can they rely on?”

The Equity Alliance is a non-partisan organization founded in 2016 to advocate for Black Tennesseans and other communities of color, equip citizens with tools and strategies to engage in the civic process and empower them to take action on issues. The full report can be accessed here.