County climate activists host forum on housing, economy and healthcare


Graphic courtesy Montgomery County Faith Alliance for Climate Solutions

Montgomery County Green New Deal Coalition Forum fostered productive conversations on environmental and housing issues.

By Christian Larson

The Montgomery County Green New Deal Coalition hosted an online meeting on September 16, providing residents with a platform to discuss countywide concerns amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Topics ranged from housing shortages to socioeconomic disparities and healthcare access.

Over 70 residents attended the meeting. Moderators encouraged participants to ask questions in the chat for panelists and other attendees. During the final third of the meeting, the moderators directed attendees into breakout rooms to discuss housing and healthcare issues in smaller groups. 

Grace Rivera Owen, committee member of the Latino Health Initiative, emphasized how the pandemic has disproportionately impacted low income minority families that have limited access to transportation.

People from these communities continually face challenges when picking up groceries from local Grab and Go locations. They are forced to carry multiple 25 pound boxes home on the bus, Owen said.

Though it’s clear that these racial disparities need to be addressed, the state and local governments are in dire need of a federal lifeline, said Chair of Renters Alliance William Roberts.

“We need the federal government to be infusing massive amounts of money down to the state and local level to stabilize people in their homes,” Roberts said.

The meeting panelists stressed how the pandemic is changing the county’s social programs for the better. When the pandemic ends, Montgomery County must continue acting with the same sense of urgency, panelist Tebabu Assefa said.

“We can’t just sustain what is to come from the way we used to do things,” Assefa said. “It has to change.”