Alumna Looks at COVID-19 Impact on Communities

RuthAnne Visnauskas ’92, who serves as commissioner/CEO of New York State Homes and Community Renewal, shared her perspective on the social impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on New York — especially hard-hit New York City — during a Loomis Chaffee webinar presentation on Wednesday, May 13.

“The impact [of the pandemic] is felt everywhere, but it is not equal,” RuthAnne told the audience of 122 people who tuned in to her presentation, “Social Inequality and COVID-19.” The webinar was the fifth of a six-part COVID-19 Speakers Series organized by Loomis Chaffee’s Alvord Center for Global & Environmental Studies and the Norton Family Center for the Common Good.

In her role, RuthAnne oversees an umbrella agency that includes the state’s Division of Housing and Community Renewal, Housing Finance Agency, Affordable Housing Corporation, and the State of New York Mortgage Agency. RuthAnne’s leadership has aimed to steward Governor Andrew Cuomo's $20 billion affordable and homeless housing plan.

In her presentation she drew upon her experience in urban policy and housing to speak about how pre-existing social structures have shaped the uneven effects of the COVID-19 outbreak and its disproportionate impact on communities of color and low-income households.

RuthAnne shared data indicating that where one lives matters, in New York State and beyond. Areas that have little access to good healthcare services and health insurance; have high housing costs and household density; and rely on public transportation and public support for housing cannot easily withstand a financial or medical shock. People living in these areas have suffered greater economic and health losses in the COVID-19 pandemic than other areas.

She discussed some of the some of the ways the state and federal governments might respond in order to lessen the uneven impact. She expressed hope that the crisis will prompt societal and policy changes that will result in better planning for future shocks and improve the health, safety, and security of all populations in New York state and elsewhere.

After her presentation, RuthAnne answered viewer-submitted questions in a session moderated by Elizabeth Parada, director of Loomis Chaffee’s Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

RuthAnne earned a bachelor’s degree from University of Pennsylvania and a master’s degree from New York University. Prior to joining New York State Homes and Community Renewal, RuthAnne served as managing director of the Housing Advisory Board for the Robin Hood Foundation, New York's largest poverty-fighting organization. She lives with her family in New York City.  

Connect to a recording of RuthAnne’s webinar.

The last webinar in the COVID-19 Speakers Series will take place on Wednesday, May 20, at 1:15 p.m. Eastern Time. Paul Mounds ’03, Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont’s chief of staff and a member of the Reopen Connecticut advisory group, will address ways citizens and the government have responded to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. Eric LaForest, Keller Family Director of the Norton Center, will moderate a question-and-answer session.  

To learn more about the upcoming presentations and register for the webinars, connect to the COVID-19 Speakers Series webpage.