PRI Releases New Report On Community Level Data on the Impact of COVID-19 in NYC

Aug 16, 2023 | News

The NYC Pandemic Response Institute’s Community Convening and Learning Team (CCLT) led by the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy conducted an environmental scan to document the research activities carried out by community-based organizations (CBOs), faith-based organizations (FBOs), research and academic institutions, and health departments in NYC. Their findings were released in a report entitled Community Level Data on the Impact of COVID-19 in NYC which describes the resources being accessed to meet community needs since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020.

Contributing authors include: Diana Romero, PhD, MPH; Deborah Levine, LCSW; Ira Memaj, MPH; Laura Hobbs, MPH; Claire Ogburn, MPH; Kamrun Nahar, MPH


NYC experienced a disproportionate COVID-19 burden, with an extremely high number of cases, hospitalizations, and deaths in our communities. Historically underserved communities were particularly impacted, including communities of color, immigrant communities, and low-wage essential workers. When government-directed services failed to meet the needs of these populations, CBOs stepped in, providing some of the most needed services such as cash assistance, housing and food resources, and health services ranging from mental health to COVID-19 testing and vaccinations. Despite the important role CBOs play in filling critical health and social service gaps, many struggled to remain in operation due to new service challenges and the exacerbation of pre-existing organizational issues. Many CBOs conducted research to better understand how to meet the demand for services, often in collaboration with academic institutions. Community organizations serve as important centers for community-level research to illuminate community needs and identify and evaluate the effectiveness of programming and services.


To develop this report, 210 NYC-based organizations, research and academic institutions, and health agencies were engaged. From that engagement, 68 reports, publications, and other media sources from NYC community organizations helped to inform the findings of this report. The objectives were to:

  • Gain a better understanding of the impact COVID-19 has had thus far on communities across NYC 
  • Document the breadth of community-level research
  • Provide insight on the work of CBOs during a global public health emergency
  • Inform current and future strategies that promote health and prevent disease


Six main themes were identified, many of which are cross-cutting, which highlights the intersections of the findings and issues raised in the reports.

  1. Job Insecurity – NYC fared worse economically than the national average with higher unemployment rates coupled with increased costs of living. Immigrants, BIPOC, and women are most severely impacted.
    Cross-cutting: Xenophobia, Racism, and Discrimination
  2. Access to Services – Immigrant communities experienced the greatest difficulty accessing services due to exclusion from assistance programs, language, fear of retaliation due to immigration status, and racial and cultural discrimination. Decreases in staff and revenue severely compromised the services CBOs were able to provide during the first peaks of the pandemic.
    Cross-cutting: Xenophobia, Racism, and Discrimination
  3. Mental Health – COVID-19 isolation periods, along with their economic consequences, such as unemployment, financial distress, and housing and food insecurity, contributed to the worsening of mental illness across NYC communities. Low income communities, communities of color, and people who inject drugs (PWID) disproportionately reported higher rates of anxiety and depression, which were further exacerbated by the limited access to mental health services.
    Cross-cutting: Access to Services; Xenophobia, Racism, and Discrimination
  4. Xenophobia, Racism, and Discrimination – Hate crimes and instances of xenophobia were on the rise during COVID-19 due to punitive policies and combative political rhetoric. These instances were coupled with job loss, financial insecurity, and childcare difficulties among immigrants, low-wage workers, and people of color.
    Cross-cutting: Access to Services
  5. Education – COVID-19 led to higher rates of absenteeism, particularly among ESL students and low-income students with limited access to the technology required for virtual learning.
    Cross-cutting: Access to Services
  6. Housing – Housing insecurity is a persistent problem during the pandemic due to general economic precarity and the inability to pay rent.
    Cross-cutting: Xenophobia, Racism, and Discrimination; Education.

The report finds that CBOs know and actively communicate the type of services communities need as well as the barriers and challenges faced in provisioning services and resources that often exist to compensate where city services fail. The authors conclude that it is time to stop placing the burden of public health responses on CBOs, and instead integrate their existing work into system responses that streamline support to CBOs to meet community needs, and inform efficient, effective, and equitable policy changes.

Download a copy of the full report here.