The North Carolina Community Action Association (NCCAA) commissioned a study to assess the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on its efforts to combat poverty and facilitate self-sufficiency in low-income communities throughout the state. We conducted focus groups with individuals served by Community Action Agencies (CAAs) and conducted a corresponding set of key informant interviews with identified leaders in five communities across the state. The research focused on five themes:
Because of COVID-19 safety precautions, we conducted the focus groups and key informant interviews virtually via Zoom. Designed to last no more than 90 minutes, the focus groups and key informant interviews were conducted in the evening, typically from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., using semi-structured interview protocols developed by our research team based on a review of the extant literature on the COVID-19 pandemic (see Appendix A). Between eight and ten individuals participated in each focus group session and a similar number of individuals in the key informant interviews across the five communities. In each of the five communities, the participants were recruited by the NCCAA. Participants with low incomes were provided a $100 gift card in appreciation of their time.
We digitally recorded each of the five focus group sessions and each of the four sessions with key informants representing the five targeted communities in the study. We used a professional transcription service to transcribe the digital files, and then conducted separate detailed content analyses of the transcripts from the five focus group sessions and the four sessions with community key informants. We generated eight key takeaways from our content analysis of the focus group transcripts and nine key takeaways from our content analysis of the transcripts emanating from our Zoom sessions with community key informants.