The Working with Vulnerable Communities during COVID-19 & Racial Injustice panel discussion was presented by Schane Coker, AFC®, FFC®; Edna Forero, MSLR, AFC®, FFC®; Jessica Cherubin;  and Sylvia Watford, AFC®, FFC®. This panel helped session participants gather information on how to best serve vulnerable communities in the face of crisis. The panel focused on the COVID-19 pandemic, however, the panelists also discussed how racial disparities might impact future crisis situations that have yet to be unveiled. The panel included two financial professionals, a financial educator, and a PhD student.  The financial professionals worked with nonprofits that had to quickly adjust to these unprecedented times. The financial educator worked with a credit union that had to change their delivery methods nearly overnight. The PhD student served as the moderator for the panel.

Identifying Needs

Panelists shared that clients were greatly impacted by the sudden closure of childcare services and other important facilities. The panelists needed to find ways to provide income and services during the crisis to help households continue running. To do this, they needed to understand their clients’ needs. Recognizing that the client is the best expert in gauging their immediate needs, they used surveys to gather information. Their key survey findings were:

  • The concern of COVID-19 exposure was too high for clients to feel comfortable accepting prepared meals.
  • Many clients needed help getting virtual learning items
  • Clients needed help paying household bills.

Efficiency and Flexibility

Efficiency became key as assistance requests flooded in. Key innovations that panelists implemented included:

  • Phone triage lists to prioritize emergency assistance needs.
  • Employee surveys to identify language skills. This helped connect clients with employees who could communicate in the clients’ preferred language.
  • Phone and web-based meeting tools. This allowed panelists to serve varying levels of client comfort and accessibility.


Service challenges continue to be abundant as the world continues to live through COVID-19. The panelists shared many such challenges that they encountered. These included:

  • Migrant families who regularly pay taxes didn’t receive the stimulus check which added to their struggles.
  • Some families working through immigration processes were reluctant to accept any financial assistance. These families worried about how financial assistance could impact their immigration status.
  • Limited access to certain populations such as the incarcerated.

Best Practices

To overcome the immediate economic COVID-19 crisis and combat racial injustice, the panel suggests:

  • Know your resources
  • Look for viable next steps to address the wealth gap
  • Encourage clients to express themselves through community involvement
  • Focus on solutions
  • Let clients work in their own way.

Keeping these best practices in mind, AFCPE® professionals will be able to respond to future crisis situations.

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