North Carolinians, like so many others across the country and the world, have suffered staggering losses during the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to the incalculable loss of life, individuals and communities have also faced losses in jobs and businesses and experienced disruptions in healthcare, childcare, housing stability, food security, and in-person education. The impacts are significant and complex, and the ultimate toll is difficult to predict.
The State has always supported this campus, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is stepping up to partner with communities in ongoing recovery and resilience-building efforts. The launch of Carolina Across 100, a five-year initiative charged by UNC Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz and led by UNC School of Government professor Anita Brown-Graham, will exemplify the University’s mission to “enhance the quality of life for all people in the State.”
The initiative will form meaningful partnerships with communities in all one hundred North Carolina counties to respond to challenges stemming from or exacerbated by COVID-19. The University will co-create solutions with communities to address some of their most pressing needs by providing financial resources, data insights, coaching, facilitation and coordination efforts, and program design support.
Our Community Listening Survey was conducted in September 2021, primarily targeting leaders in the public, private, and not-for-profit sectors to gauge the impact of COVID-19 on their organizations and in their communities. The response was overwhelming. We heard from over 4,000 people, resulting in just over 3,200 usable surveys. This includes input from individuals living in, working in, and serving all 100 North Carolina counties. In-depth interviews with a diverse range of over 60 stakeholders added nuance and depth to our survey findings. Learn more about our process.
Insights to guide impact
Our data analysis uncovered deep and lingering concerns about the long-term impacts of COVID-19 on communities. Over 90% of respondents agreed that the pandemic will have long-term effects. Most respondents (71%) also expect that the greatest impacts from COVID-19 are still to come; less than one-third of individuals reported that they thought the worst of the pandemic was behind us.
Specifically, respondents’ top concerns included employment instability, the loss of small businesses, and educational disruptions. These issues also ranked among the highest when respondents were asked about the challenges that would have the longest-term impacts on their communities.
Other areas of concern for our respondents were the risk of business closures generally, housing instability, childcare availability, along with significant loss of life due to COVID and political and social divisiveness. Further, these high-level concerns are remarkably consistent across regions of the state, despite differences in local economies or educational systems.