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Community Resilience in the Pioneer Valley Region

Community Resilience in the Pioneer Valley Region

The U.S. Census Bureau recently released a new set of community resilience indicators, which measure “the capacity of individuals and households to absorb, endure, and recover from the health, social, and economic impacts of a disaster such as a hurricane or pandemic.” Just as COVID-19 has hit some of our communities harder than others, the ability to bounce back from the health and economic impacts of the deadly pandemic will also vary substantially. Knowing which people face the greatest challenges will help us to focus resources where they are most needed. Across the Pioneer Valley (Franklin, Hampshire and Hampden Counties), more than one quarter of all residents (186,000 people) have three or more risk factors as identified by the US Census Bureau. About one in four (162,000) have no risk factors, while the balance, about half of residents in the Pioneer Valley, have one or two risk factors.   Of the 45 Census Tracts in the Pioneer Valley in which at least one in three residents have three or more risk factors, almost all fall within the boundaries of Hampden County’s four Gateway Cities – Westfield, Holyoke, Chicopee, and Springfield. (See Figure 2). Outside of Hampden County there are just four such tracts: three in Hampshire County (one in Amherst, and two in Northampton), and one in Franklin County (in Greenfield). The Census Bureau methodology drills down at the Census Tract level, categorizing residents within each census tract according to the number of risk factors each person faces.   They...
The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Lifeline in the Pioneer Valley

The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Lifeline in the Pioneer Valley

With the economy heading for a cliff the second week of March, none of us knew what to expect. At least initially concerns over the health impacts of COVID-19 took center-stage, as Massachusetts employers responded to this unprecedented shock to our economy. Policy makers quickly recognized that public health considerations needed to take precedent—at least for a while—resulting in a body blow to the national economy and the economies of every state. Most states took measures to at least partially close down their economies to all but “essential services”. Here in Massachusetts, Governor Baker ordered the closure of non-essential service businesses as of noon, March 24th, 2020, two weeks after declaring a state of emergency throughout the Commonwealth due to the Coronavirus outbreak. At the federal level, the bipartisan CARES Act that was signed into law on March 27, included several provisions to soften the blow for businesses and individuals harmed by the economic shutdown. The establishment of federally backed loans through the Small Business Administration (SBA), in the form of the Paycheck Protection Program [https://www.sba.gov/funding-programs/loans/coronavirus-relief-options/paycheck-protection-program] was one of the most substantial elements, a $650 billion initiative intended to help businesses survive and their employees continue to make ends meet. Throughout the Pioneer Valley, thousands of businesses (8,673) were extended loans through the PPP, allowing them to retain an estimated 100,1001 workers (36,000 via loans of less than $150,000, and 65,000 via loans of $150,000 or more).     Because the publicly available information for PPP loan recipients is different...