COVID-19 has laid bare the inequities that persist in our economy. From surging unemployment rates to impending evictions, small business closures and rising food insecurity, the pandemic has exacerbated the hardships marginalized communities have faced for decades, with the burden falling on women, Black Americans, and the undocumented who have been hit the hardest by the coronavirus.

For Miamians, the global health crisis has compounded the pressures of being low-income and underemployed.  Prior to the pandemic, nearly 60% of Miamians were hardly getting by due to low wages and the region’s high cost of living, with 1 in 10 residents suffering from unemployment and unsure of where the money will come from to sustain their livelihoods. What’s worse – those who are looking for work don’t know which jobs will return in the post-COVID economy, while others don’t know where to even begin finding the support they need to transition to a new industry.

COVID-19 has accelerated the need for Miamians to access resilient living wage jobs as a way to recover and build prosperity beyond this pandemic. The scale of the challenge far outpaces the impact that one organization can make alone, which is why we need a coordinated ecosystem to support this new labor market.

While our community does not have a shortage programs and support, a lack of collaboration has created a fragmented environment in which several institutions, local governments, and organizations provide various workforce and small business development programming without a coordinated impact evaluation and research. This means that you might graduate from a workforce program only to find that there aren’t any available jobs or know which small business provider can help your business weather this pandemic. Our current system is not responsive to help you recover economically from COVID-19.

The Miami Foundation is developing the Building Prosperity Initiative to bring together community leaders, nonprofits, and public sector agencies to ensure that job seekers are connected to living wage jobs and small businesses attain services that help them grow.

Our goal is to increase opportunities out of poverty and into living wage jobs. With our partners at Florida International University’s Small Business Development Center and Prospera, we provide tailored support to businesses based on their size and needs. Similarly, our partners at Catalyst Miamiare convening job seekers to provide gain professional development skills from different workforce programs and connect with employment agencies in Miami to help residents thrive. To bring these resources to one place, the Building Prosperity team is developing the one-stop-shop website to help students, job seekers, and business access the support that they need to grow.

With the efforts of numerous partners utilizing this collective impact strategy, residents will be able to identify where Miami’s living wage jobs exist as well as access the necessary support to secure meaningful employment to build prosperity for themselves and their family.

The Building Prosperity partners have ensured small businesses and job seekers are involved in the design, implementation, and assessment of the solutions to make sure that the experience of job seekers, students, and businesses are centered as we build a more just and equitable system where all Miamians can thrive.


De’Sean Weber is the Resilience Project Manager at The Miami Foundation.


Photo credit: Miami Herald

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