Public Health and COVID19

Health, wealth, place and race are inextricably linked and mutually reinforcing indicators. Public health officials point to longstanding disparities in health care, housing, social services, as well as other socioeconomic indicators that greatly impact the health outcomes of individuals and communities. For example, in Seattle, households of color are twice as likely to go without health insurance as White residents: 11% of Blacks are uninsured, seven percent of Asians, 16% of Hispanics, 27% of Native Americans and eight percent of NHPI, compared to five








17 Gene Balk, “Seattle is the third most gentrifying U.S. city — but that might not be as bad as you think, study finds,” The Seattle Times, July 24, 2019, https://www.
18 Gene Balk, “Percentage of Black residents in Seattle is at its lowest point in 50 years,” The Seattle Times, June 16, 2020, percentage-of-blacks-living-in-seattle-at-lowest-point-in-50-years/
19 Naomi Ishisaka, “Inye Wokoma’s Last Stand: One Man’s Fight To Save Seattle’s Central District,” Seattle Magazine, April 2018,
20 “Out of Reach 2020: Washington,” National Low Income Housing Coalition,
21 Maggie Stringfellow and Dilip Wagle, “The economics of homelessness in Seattle and King County,” May 18, 2018, cities/the-economics-of-homelessness-in-seattle-and-king-county
22 Sydney Brownstone, ” COVID-19 forced King County to change its homelessness system. And almost by accident, housing referrals for Black people are going up.,” August 3, 2020,

8 For more information, visit

The Racial Wealth Divide in Seattle

percent of Whites.23 Examining life expectancy in the Seattle area down to neighborhood census tracts shows alarming racial disparities: There is a 6-10-year difference in life expectancy between places like NE Seattle, a primarily White, upper middle-income neighborhood, and vast parts of West and South Seattle and King County.24 These numbers reinforce the idea that the life expectancy gap between races could be attributed to socioeconomic and geographic factors. An added component to highlight is the number of U.S.-born residents with health insurance, at about 95%, compared to foreign-born residents; 89% of them are uninsured.25

What the COVID-19 crisis has underscored in Seattle and across the nation is that people of color are at a higher risk of contracting and dying, not only from COVID-19, but also from other preexisting conditions. Preliminary research in King County shows that Hispanic residents are four times more likely to contract the virus, and 2.5 times more likely than White residents to die as a result. These numbers are equally alarming for Black residents and NHPI, with Black cases being twice as high as White cases, and NHPI contracting the virus at four times the rate of White residents.26 Studies show that there are multiple forces behind these disparities, including the fact that people of color are disproportionately represented among essential workers who cannot perform their jobs while sheltering at home, they’re more likely to live in multigenerational households that can increase the risk of exposure to the coronavirus, and they lack access to quality health care.27

Before COVID-19, Seattle topped many rankings as one of the best economies in the US. However, the data tells us that all residents did not benefit from that booming economy. Many would argue that the growing economy, while providing more job opportunities, also raised the cost of living and pushed many residents of color out of their homes. The recent pandemic only exacerbated these challenges, and its long-term impact is uncertain. However, Seattle has an opportunity to develop and implement policies and practices where everyone has access to the tools, resources and support needed for their residents to live a prosperous life post-COVID. In a recent report on State Policy Priorities, Prosperity Now underscored that the pandemic- related emergency policies enacted by states should not only remain in place until this crisis is over but offers recommendations to leaders and policymakers on how to utilize this momentum and consider policies that will help families to have a means to save, access to affordable housing, and protection from predatory traps, to name a few.28

Additionally, the organizations participating in the Building High Impact for Nonprofits of Color are on the frontlines responding to the immediate needs of their communities’ head on. They are diverse across their services to address the complex problems that exist, providing rental assistance to small business support to pro bono legal aid. Through their participation in this program, they will be positioned to lead on solutions and emerging best practices that will be grounded in the racial disparities discussed in this report.

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