Lessons from Abroad for an Inclusive Recovery from the COVID-19 Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated existing systemic inequities, with the brunt of its effects felt by Black, Latinx, and low-income communities. But a postpandemic recovery does not have to follow the same path.

As communities across the US begin to recover from the pandemic, policymakers and communities have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to build a more inclusive, more equitable economy and society. To do so, they will need to identify, adapt, and implement strong policies that support inclusivity and expand access to opportunity. Although many of these policy solutions will be homegrown, evidence and inspiration can also come from other countries.

The Urban Institute, with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, is studying how innovative, effective policies and programs from abroad could inform state and local recovery policies in the US. This work started with two analyses: a demand analysis to identify top policy priorities for an inclusive recovery and a comparative analysis to identify countries that provide the best opportunities to find relevant examples. Based on analysis, the research team developed five briefs examining policies and programs from abroad that could inform US state and local policymaker efforts to support an inclusive recovery:

  1. a French payroll tax to help increase the supply of affordable housing,
  2. multiple policies for improving the supply of and access to equity financing,
  3. a model from Barcelona for improving equitable access to public space,
  4. an Australian policy that could help improve child care funding, and
  5. a Welsh program for expanding access to high-speed broadband.

Each brief is accompanied by a one-pager that summarizes key points.

With support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Urban Institute set out to study how innovative policies and programs from abroad could inform state and local efforts in the United States to build an inclusive recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. This work began with two analyses: a demand analysis to identify the priorities of top state and local policymakers for an inclusive recovery and a comparative analysis to identify countries that could provide the best opportunities to find relevant examples. This methodological note describes the project’s underlying rationale and the project’s approach and methodology for the demand analysis, the comparative analysis, and the five policy research briefs.

Resources from the full project are available at https://urbn.is/lessons.

Lessons from Abroad for an Inclusive Recovery from the COVID-19 Pandemic: Methodological Note

High-speed broadband has become the connective tissue between the individual and all facets of society: educational, professional, social, and civic. The COVID-19 pandemic has only cemented this reality as schools, businesses, and governments have shifted online. Yet millions of Americans lack affordable access to baseline broadband. Bridging this connectivity gap is essential to an inclusive and equitable recovery from the pandemic, but political and technical barriers mean that new and innovative policy solutions are necessary to do so. We conducted a global scan of innovations to better understand how other countries have expanded broadband access. We ultimately identified a Welsh program, Superfast Cymru, that could inform US policymakers seeking to close access gaps. Our research and analysis identified the program’s main features and four policy innovations for US policymakers to consider.

Read the Summary

This brief is part of a larger project exploring how innovative policies and programs from abroad can inform state and local efforts in the US to advance an inclusive recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Resources from the full project are available at https://urbn.is/lessons.

Lessons from Superfast Cymru for Broadband Access in the United States

Despite their many economic, health, social, and environmental benefits, many parks and green spaces are underresourced or underutilized. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the urgent need for parks and green spaces, but for many people in the US, particularly people of color and people with low incomes, quality parks and green spaces are inaccessible. Addressing these disparities and harnessing these spaces and key civic infrastructure requires consistent and targeted resources. To inform US policymakers’ efforts to launch new, equitable public-space efforts, we scanned international policies that could inform how we democratize access to public spaces in the US. In this brief, we explore “superblocks” in Barcelona, Spain, as a promising and adaptable strategy for repurposing streets as shared public space.

Read the Summary

This brief is part of a larger project exploring how innovative policies and programs from abroad could inform state and local efforts in the US to advance an inclusive recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Resources from the full project are available at https://urbn.is/lessons.

From the Streets to Citizen Spaces

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, equity financing in the US is at an all-time high. But this form of capital in the US is highly concentrated by geography, industry, race, and gender. Equity investors are increasingly financing larger, more mature businesses rather than smaller startups in need of capital, and most equity financing is concentrated on the coasts and in the male-dominated fields of technology and software. As the economy appears to enter a recovery phase from the COVID-19 pandemic, we scanned international equity financing programs that could inform US policymakers’ efforts to improve the supply of and access to venture capital investments across geography, industry, gender, and race and ethnicity. We identified three international programs (in Germany, Sweden, and Canada) that we believe can provide valuable lessons for policymakers in the US seeking to stimulate economic development and build shared prosperity.

Read the Summary

This brief is part of a larger project exploring how innovative policies and programs from abroad can inform state and local efforts in the US to advance an inclusive recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Resources from the full project are available at https://urbn.is/lessons.

Promoting Equity Investments for An Equitable Recovery

In the United States, many individuals and families with low incomes struggle to find and afford rental housing because of a limited supply of options, skyrocketing costs, and stagnating wages. The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated these issues, leading to job and income losses for millions of Americans. Innovative policy solutions, including ones inspired from abroad, can improve housing stability for renters by addressing key affordability challenges. An employer payroll tax from France offers an effective strategy for financing affordable rental housing because of its history of success, straightforward application, and ease of translation to US tax policy and existing housing program structures and administration. In this brief, we discuss the US rental housing challenge, review the history and application of France’s employer payroll tax, and identify trade-offs for policymakers interested in implementing a similar policy in the US to consider.

Read the Summary

This brief is part of a larger project that explores how innovative policies and programs from abroad can inform state and local efforts in the US to advance an inclusive recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Resources from the full project are available at https://urbn.is/lessons.

Funding Affordable Rental Housing through an Employer Payroll Tax

For decades, policy experts, practitioners, and advocates have called attention to the inadequate public funding that supports the child care sector in the US. As a result, many child care providers in underresourced communities struggle to survive without additional support, and access to child care depends heavily on parents’ ability to pay the high costs. The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated this crisis, and policymakers are now considering fundamental changes to the child care funding infrastructure. To inform policymakers in reforming the child care sector, we scanned innovative child care policies from abroad to stabilize child care supply. Australia’s Community Child Care Fund (CCCF), which provides operational grants to providers in historically underserved communities offers lessons that US policymakers could employ in the US to stabilize at-risk child care providers. In this brief, we discuss the child care crisis in the US, review the CCCF, and identify lessons and trade-offs for policymakers interested  in implementing a similar policy in the US.

Read the Summary

This brief is part of a larger project exploring how innovative policies and programs from abroad could inform state and local efforts in the US to advance an inclusive recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Resources from the full project are available at https://urbn.is/lessons.

Stabilizing Child Care Supply through a New Funding Mechanism