Public Policy Associates, Inc. (PPA) works in four main policy areas: education, workforce, justice, and healthy communities. This year, all of these areas were impacted by COVID-19. Food insecurity rose, states struggled to contain the spread of the virus within correctional facilities, many students faced inadequate access to remote learning, and workforce systems had to respond to high unemployment. Throughout this, inequities by gender and race/ethnicity featured as persistent problems needing attention in order to deliver strong outcomes for everyone.

In issue briefs, we discussed these challenges and offered guiding questions and suggestions for policymakers. In projects, we helped clients and their partners to lay strategic groundwork for action. Here are a sampling of some of our key products and activities across policy areas from the past year:

Understanding the Digital Divide: Our research for the National Education Association provided analysis of the gaps in technology and broadband access for K-12 students in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. The report found that a quarter of students nationally lack the one or more tools necessary to effectively engage in remote learning. The gaps in access by racial/ethnic groups and by state are stark.

Preparing for a Post-Pandemic Economy: State policymakers must assume we will not return to the employment landscape of the pre-COVID-19 days. Overhauling workforce development strategies and systems to effectively meet the new world realities will require states to reimagine current programs and how services are delivered. PPA’s issue brief, developed with the Corporation for a Skilled Workforce, lays out paths to a new way of meeting these challenges.

Building Food System Partnerships: Health care and food systems can work together to address social determinants of health. Over the year, PPA staff have worked to facilitate an effort in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to develop cross-sector partnerships for this purpose, as this article explains.

Learning from Juvenile Arrest Data: It is crucial for policymakers and practitioners to understand the dynamics of juvenile crime—its frequency, the prevalence of specific crimes, geographic patterns, and the role of racial and ethnic disparities. PPA’s issue brief from earlier this year points out key data patterns and promising policy directions.