How SC Nonprofits Can Advance Their Missions Through an Uncertain Economy | Columbia
COLUMBIA – For nonprofits in South Carolina, surviving a changing economy after a pandemic and meeting workers’ wants and needs is like “trying to catch a falling knife,” said Tom Barkin, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond , at a summit of state charities.
During a three-day summit, Barkin and other business leaders considered how to help South Carolina nonprofits meet challenges posed by declining state labor force participation, the ongoing health impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the need for… Child care arise and the rapid technological development.
“COVID has prompted companies, governments and economists to reconsider their assumptions about the labor market,” Barkin told more than 300 people during the annual Transforming South Carolina Summit of business and nonprofit leaders hosted by the state nonprofit Coalition Together SC. “I fear we are increasingly moving into an economy where there will be persistent labor shortages.”
“Catch a Falling Knife”
When the pandemic hit, 22 million jobs were lost and the national unemployment rate hit 14.7 percent by April 2020.
Unemployment has returned to pre-pandemic levels, but Barkin said participation — the percentage of working-age people in the workforce — is still not there in South Carolina at about 55 percent, according to the SC Department of Employment and Workforce is where she should be.
But there are ways to address the challenge of a full recovery, the Federal Reserve Bank CEO said.
Carrie Cook, the vice president of the Federal District Bank, said not enough conversations have focused on “the fundamental shift in the way workers want and need to work, and the dignity that workers want when they show up.” She said the move was one to a “care economy.”
“I hear Tom[Barkin]talk about inflation as ‘trying to catch a falling knife,'” Cook said jokingly. “There are certainly many challenges ahead of us, but there are also many opportunities.”
Barkin, who heads the Federal Reserve Bank, which covers South Carolina, said he would like companies to focus on childcare and elder care for employers and employees.
“It sounds great to just say, ‘Open another daycare,’ it sounds great to stay, the state should only pay for a few of them — I don’t think the math works for any of that,” Barkin said. “But I think there is a lot of potential in a business partnership with children’s cware charities in the community.”
Naomi Lett, president of the SC United Way Association, said childcare workers should feel empowered to emphasize their own worth as community members who are not only part of the workforce themselves, but also ensure that parents can stay in it.
“The silver lining that a pandemic has brought is that we are redefining the way we see each other, talk to each other and connect,” Lett said.
‘Juggling a Cream Puff, a Hacksaw and a Bowling Ball’
Susie Shannon, President of the SC Council on Competitiveness, brought up the idea of providing internet access and remote working opportunities to people in rural communities. Shannon said job placement programs should reach out more to these communities and consider subsidizing not just child care, but everything else the community needs for quality of life.
Maybe the challenge is childcare, maybe broadband access, or “maybe it’s sidewalks or safe pedestrian zones,” Shannon said. “You have to… figure out how to go about all this, or Chat GPT will just sort this out,” she jokingly said of the artificial intelligence chatbot.
Dom Mjartan, president of Colombia’s minority-owned Optus Bank and board member of the SC Association for Community Economic Development, said the resources to strengthen the state’s economy are there but should be reallocated.
“There’s enough money, there’s enough opportunity, there’s enough talent, there’s enough intellect… I don’t think I’m delusional or naive in saying that,” Mjartan said. “We need to remove that friction, we need to remove the systemic biases and inequalities that are baked into this system.”
Talks about closing the racial wealth gap between the country’s leaders, like that at the summit, are a good first step, the leaders said.
“I always say this kind of work is like juggling a cream puff, a hacksaw and a bowling ball at the same time,” Shannon said. “We’re using these lessons we’ve had to endure together over the last few years to figure out how to make it from here.”
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