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Responding to the COVID-19 Crisis: Treating Essential Workers As Truly Essential

Join Sarah Rosen Wartell, president of the Urban Institute, for the next installment in Urban’s conversation series, Evidence to Action. During this virtual event, Ai-jen Poo, cofounder and executive director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, and Elisabeth Jacobs, interim executive director of WorkRise, a new research-to-action network for jobs, workers, and mobility hosted by the Urban Institute, will join Wartell to discuss how to translate “essential” work in policy and practice to ensure all workers are treated with dignity and respect.

The COVID-19 crisis created a new, publicly recognized category of essential workers, including those in the care, health, food service, and transit sectors. These workers have always been essential for our society, economy, and well-being, but many are not rewarded or protected in ways that reflect their essential status. However, the public now better understands the many ways in which we depend on essential labor. This conversation will explore how the crisis has affected essential workers, how the disproportionate representation of people of color in these jobs is connected to structural racism, what policy and practice tools can ensure essential work is dignified, and how to create pathways to opportunity and mobility for all workers.

Urban is bringing evidence-based insights to this crisis, focusing on solutions that advance equity and upward mobility. Each week, Urban experts will speak with changemakers from the government, philanthropic, and private sectors about the knowledge they need to help us respond to the crisis, recover, and become more resilient.


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The Evidence to Action conversation series elevates the voices of leaders and changemakers responding to, recovering from, and building resilience during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. The Urban Institute was built for this moment. We answer tough questions with unbiased, rigorous research and evidence-based solutions. For 50 years, we have studied what it takes to strengthen social safety net programs, dismantle structural racism, protect workers and families, and build community resilience. Using advanced analytics, data science, technology, and decades of expertise, we equip changemakers with the facts and insights they need to accelerate solutions.


Until further notice, all Urban Institute events will be online.
Watch our virtual events live or come back later for the recording.

Send any inquiries regarding this event to [email protected].


Date & Time Friday, June 26, 2020

  • Senior Fellow
  • President