The MKE Civic Response Team Update provides news and information about our community’s strategic response to COVID-19 and coordinated efforts to change systems in greater Milwaukee for the better.
Civic Response Snapshots
The MKE Civic Response Team contributes to progress and informs strategy on relief and recovery efforts across a range of intersecting community priorities. Recent activities include:
Helping those seeking rent assistance: As COVID-19 continues to take a toll on household income, organizations like Community Advocates and the Social Development Commission are experiencing an incredibly high volume of calls from residents inquiring about rent assistance. Volunteers are needed to support the increased call volume in one of two ways: 1) answering calls and assisting customers in making appointments for energy assistance and rental assistance applications (Community Advocates opportunity) or 2) transcribing call information (SDC opportunity).
Blending food and economic strategies: Team members are exploring options to keep families fed while supporting local businesses and the economy. Advocating for the long-term protection and expansion of federal SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits in Wisconsin is a key focus. Strategies include advancing SNAP Market Match, which enables participants to use their benefits to purchase fresh produce from farmers markets, as well as instituting an option to use SNAP toward hot meals, which could also yield economic benefit for participating local restaurants. Meanwhile, colleagues at Milwaukee Public Schools and Milwaukee Center for Independence are developing meal plans to keep kids fed amid the ever-changing outlook for the fall semester.
Partnering with community organizers for wellness: Community organizers whom residents trust have been distributing free wellness kits to individuals and families in Milwaukee neighborhoods with funding and other resources provided through the MKE Civic Response Team. The focus is on residents’ mental health. Community organizer Camille Mays said, “We do this work for free all the time, but here, we had the support with no agenda and no strings attached. The funders ended up able to step back and allow organizers to develop a plan and have Public Allies distribute the wellness kits. And we have new plans so we can keep going on this. We appreciate being valued and following up and keeping your word. I hope we can sustain this going forward.”
Stopping summer slide: About 100 Milwaukee students have received access to high-quality online summer learning through a collaborative effort that includes Carmen Schools of Science and Technology, Ubuntu Research and Evaluation, Teach For America, City Forward Collective and funding from the Greater Milwaukee Foundation. Team resources are also supporting parents and teachers becoming leaders in the virtual learning space, as well as digital access connectivity, as the community collectively prepares for an adaptive approach to instruction and learning this academic year.
Community testing and health resources: The Team has supported the development of TestUpMKE, a grassroots, multicultural and multi-lingual outreach and communications effort to promote the value and availability of COVID-19 diagnostic testing in Milwaukee’s medically underserved communities. The Team is also advancing support for the Unified Emergency Operations Center (UEOC)’s new position of Testing Project Officer, who will coordinate community testing resources and efforts across health care, public and retail providers. Additionally, the Milwaukee Enrollment Network, co-convened by Covering Wisconsin and the Milwaukee Health Care Partnership, is seeking applicants for an Enrollment Manager to lead work to educate, enroll, retain and measure health insurance coverage for Milwaukee County residents, with the aim of reducing the uninsured rate and improving access to care.