Despite the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, Boulder’s Health Equity Fund continued to support urban nonprofits that promote justice in 2020.
The Health Equity Fund is paid for through the city’s sweetened beverage distribution tax, a two cents an ounce excise tax on the distribution of beverages with added sugar and other sweeteners. The tax was approved by Boulder voters and went into effect in July 2017.
Last year, the fund itself was affected by the coronavirus pandemic. According to the 2020 annual report, monthly income decreased in 2020. This could be related to restaurant closings, a decline in tourism, virtual classes at the University of Colorado Boulder, fewer commuters, or a combination of all of that, housing and staffing services, department head Elizabeth Crowe said.
Still, she argued that the fund is likely to put Boulder in a better position to face the pandemic, although its effects cannot be known or quantified with certainty.
“We cannot know for sure what quantifiable effects could have been prevented by all of the investments we have previously made through the Health Equity Fund,” she said.
However, it is beneficial that many organizations incorporated healthy eating, wellness, and more health services before the pandemic began, Crowe said.
Although the pandemic has widened health inequalities, the Boulders Health Equity Fund’s investments are helping more community members get and stay healthy, Kurt Firnhaber, director of housing and human services, said in the 2020 annual report.
“The way so many of our partners have been able to incorporate new strategies has been really remarkable,” agreed Crowe.
According to a city press release, the Health Equity Fund has given nearly $ 14 million to programs that provide healthy eating, nutritional education, physical fitness, direct health services, and wellness education since its inception in 2017.
This is important for its goal of promoting equal health opportunities and eliminating inequalities in access, argues the city.
With a grant of $ 201,630 from the Health Equity Fund, El Centro Amistad in Boulder started a program that sends health promoters to Latino communities across the city. In addition to training, the organization launched a Wellness Challenge that offers coaching, weekly meetings, and free training classes, and encourages participants to set a variety of personal goals.
El Centro Amistad was instrumental in advocating the sugary beverage tax. The idea was to create a tax source that could help fill the gaps in access to health care and wellness, said Executive Director Jorge DiSantiago.
“The gap in our community for access to wellness, healthy eating and healthier living is huge for Latino families in Boulder … or low-income families,” he said.
Boulder Parks and Recreation also received $ 75,000 from the Health Equity Fund, which enables the department to run its Recquity program, which subsidizes access to various recreational facilities for low-income families.
An additional $ 100,000 grant went to Rec on Wheelz, a program that brings a branded minivan equipment and recreational professionals to Boulder Housing Partners’ shared apartments and locations.
Bryan Beary, community development and partnerships manager for Boulder Parks and Recreation, said the funding was an “incredible opportunity” for the department and called the fund “absolutely visionary.”
“It’s one of those interesting times when you will be able to create programs that really address the core problem of health inequalities,” he said.