The underlying pandemic exposed by COVID-19

Shelley Silva and her family

By Shelley Sylva, TD's Head of Social Impact

Note: The following blog post was originally posted to LinkedIn

Every day for the past 60 days, I get a phone call or email that I don't want –notifying me that another family member, friend, or neighbor has died from COVID-19. Among those were two of my own mother's siblings; Geraldine and Benjamin Wright who died within five days of each other.

While we have all been touched by this unforgiving virus, it has had a disproportionate impact on Black communities. The saying that when America gets a cold the Black community gets pneumonia has never been truer. For us, the pandemic, its restrictions and impacts are experienced differently. A Black man wearing a required facial covering is perceived differently, with potentially deadly consequences compared to a white man wearing the same facial covering. Moreover, in the COVID-19 economy, Black workers are less likely to be able to work from the safety of their homes and have also suffered record numbers of job losses since March. They also are disproportionately found among the newly identified essential workers in the economy today—continuing to go to their workplaces, risking their health and that of their families because they are unable to sustain adequate social distance from their co-workers and customers.*

The disparity in how COVID-19 impacts these communities has served to heighten awareness of the socioeconomic inequity faced by this country's Black communities – a pandemic of racism. And just when we thought things could not get any worse, any more divisive, the recent police killings of Black people have ignited anger and civil unrest. But perhaps it has also ignited uncomfortable conversations that could drive systemic change.

In order for that to happen, corporations and brands need to leverage their privilege and influence. It means doing much more than writing a check. The social impact team I lead at TD views philanthropy as only one component of helping to break down the systemic racial inequity most recently demonstrated by the impact of the pandemic on Black communities. Through our partnerships with Black-led organizations, we are continuing to build on ways to empower Black communities and create equitable access to educational, healthcare and economic opportunities. We are also leveraging the power of our business and the strength of our 85,000 employees TOGETHER to strengthen Black and Brown communities.

Impact on minority communities

Ample studies suggest the pandemic is impacting minority groups, especially Blacks , at disproportional rates. The Kaiser Family Foundation published a report earlier this month showing that in the majority of states reporting data that include race and ethnicity, black Americans account for a higher share of confirmed cases and deaths compared to their share of the total population. A map from Johns Hopkins University reflects the latest data from states regarding race and COVID-19 cases, reflecting the same conclusions.

"Because many racial and ethnic minority persons live in poverty, they are experiencing this pandemic differently," according to the John Hopkins website. "For example, they may rely on public transit if they cannot afford a car, need to shop more frequently for necessities since they cannot afford to stockpile goods, and do not have health insurance or access to regular medical care. Social distancing may not be a convenient or realistic option for many, because they may live in small, multi-family apartments or homes."

Supporting the communities who need it most

Our efforts as a nation must be focused on the immediate need to help lessen the COVID-19 impact in the hardest-hit communities. It's why TD Bank and the TD Charitable Foundation initially donated $250,000 to the National Association of Community Health Centers to support local healthcare providers working with those individuals affected by COVID-19 who may have more limited access to healthcare in general. These funds are being used to increase access to care for some of the most at-risk communities in Boston, Philadelphia, New York, Washington, D.C., and across Florida and New Jersey.

The TD Charitable Foundation has also allocated an additional $3.6MM to local community organizations in at-risk areas from Maine to Florida to specifically address their needs resulting from the spread of COVID-19.

At TD Bank, we believe partnerships are the way to achieve the greatest success in every area. During these trying times, these organizations are stepping up for Americans in both big and small ways. Through our donations, we can help them weather the storm while continuing to deliver maximum impact.

Disrupting a broken system: TD Ready Challenge 2020

There is much work to be done in the long term to break down systemic inequity. When we launched our global corporate citizenship platform, the TD Ready Commitment, in March 2018, we did not anticipate that a global pandemic would hit two years later and have profound impacts around the world. But at the time we knew a few things: that change is a fact of life, that we live in a period of unprecedented change, and "that change can be disruptive and has the potential to increase social and economic exclusion," as our President and CEO Bharat Masrani said.

While our focus as a nation needs to be on the immediate concerns of COVID-19, I believe we have a longer-term commitment to address the overall health of these communities, and the conditions that made Blacks and other minorities far more vulnerable to this disease.

As a bank, I am very proud that TD will lead in addressing this issue with its 2020 TD Ready Challenge by providing $10MM in funding across North America to support innovative solutions creating more equitable health outcomes for vulnerable populations. We seek to support organizations who are engaged in addressing the inequities faced by people of color and other minorities.

Applications must work to explicitly address the inequities exacerbated by the pandemic, as well as one or more of the four interconnected drivers of change of the TD Ready Commitment – Financial Security, Better Health, Connected Communities and Vibrant Planet. Specifically, we seek innovative, scalable and/or replicable solutions to help address the pandemic-caused issues faced by communities that are experiencing disproportionate impacts of COVID-19 across North America.

As people continue to navigate a new, disrupted reality that includes physical distancing, experts and industries are currently working on what the new normal could look like post pandemic. History has shown how innovation plays a critical role in helping people develop the ability to overcome obstacles and have confidence in the future. Generating new ideas and solutions that address the needs raised by the current crisis will be key to helping all communities emerge resilient, inclusive, vibrant and ready for the continually changing future.

*Black workers face two of the most lethal preexisting conditions for Coronavirus—racism and economic inequality Report By Elise Gould and Valerie Wilson June 1, 2020 Economic Policy Institute


Stay up to date with email alerts