Briefing for April 20-24, 2020 on COVID-19 and Low-Income Communities

Briefing for April 20-24, 2020 on COVID-19 and Low-Income Communities

We are struck that one of the few certainties about the coronavirus outbreak is that low-income communities and workers in low-income, service sector occupations will be disproportionately impacted. Likely in devastating fashion.

One step in combatting this will be to share information about what is happening and what can be done.  That’s why we are offering this daily news service summarizing relevant stories, and a concise weekly summary alternative as well.  You can see it below.

If you would like to receive a daily or weekly briefing, feel free to subscribe here.

Briefing for April 24, 2020

Four in ten adults report job-related losses from coronavirus outbreak: The latest Kaiser Family Foundation Health Tracking Poll finds four in ten (42%) of all adults say that either they or their spouse or partner experienced a job loss or a cut in salary or hours due to the coronavirus. Among this group, most say the loss of income is either a “major problem” (41%) or “minor problem” (32%) for their household. The loss of income is a bigger problem for those in lower-income households, with most of those earning less than $40,000 annually (58%) saying the loss of income is a “major problem” for their household.

The racial disparities of COVID-19 could be even worse than feared: As more data becomes available, it is confirming what sparse indicators had suggested weeks ago: the pandemic is striking members of minority groups, particularly African Americans, at dramatically disproportionate rates. Now comes a potential second wave of disturbing data: African Americans also appear to be shortchanged even in testing for COVID-19. That could make the racial disparities in rates of infection and death even worse.

The American Dream in 2020: How to strengthen it: A report by Aparna Mathur, Abby McCloskey and Erin Melly at the American Enterprise Institute outlines targeted local and federal policies that would increase economic opportunity, particularly in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak.

How to make a post-coronavirus American more equitable: The COVID-19 crisis may, in fact, provide a unique opportunity to reshape business, society, health and more in this country and throughout the world. And the tech industry can play a pivotal role.

Millions of Americans are still waiting for their unemployment checks: The growing national backlog, analyzed by the Washington Post, has proved particularly problematic in Florida — where fewer than 7 percent of applicants have received aid

Juvenile detentions plummet: A survey of juvenile justice agencies in 30 states funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation finds that the number of young people in local secure detention centers fell by 24% in March, a sign that the coronavirus pandemic is dramatically altering the juvenile justice system. The percentage reduction in youth detention across these jurisdictions in a single month was as large as the national decline over seven years from 2010 to 2017.

Who has enough cash to get through the coronavirus crisis: Do you have enough money saved to weather this pandemic? If you are an American, your answer may well be no. Fewer than half of American adults — just 47 percent — say that they have enough emergency funds to cover three months of expenses, according to a survey conducted this month by the Pew Research Center.

Vaccine rates drop as parents avoid doctor visits: Afraid of COVID-19, parents are postponing well-child checkups, including shots, putting millions of children at risk of exposure to preventable deadly diseases.

Protecting farmworkers and securing the food supply: Farmworkers cannot shelter at home to remain safe from COVID-19; instead, they must go to work — along with meatpacker employees, truckers, and grocery store workers — to ensure that the nation’s food supply is maintained. Farmworkers are particularly vulnerable to illness because of high rates of respiratory disease being an occupational hazard, low rates of health insurance coverage, and often substandard living and working conditions. Despite these risk factors, agricultural workers — the majority of whom are immigrants and about half of whom are undocumented — lack many of the legal protections enjoyed by most workers.

Illegal evictions are still taking place: Legal aid lawyers say they’re still seeing illegal evictions and expect a surge in need from millions of newly unemployed tenants once state and local moratoriums end.

Where low-income jobs are being lost: An online tool developed by the Urban Institute to estimate how many low-income jobs have been lost by residents in each census tract or are at risk when stay-at-home orders are in place.

Five ways to monitor the coronavirus in any U.S. metro area: A treasure trove of data from the New York Times.

Briefing for April 23, 2020

Create a national office of public-private partnerships: Our own Tom Freedman writes in the Washington Post: “The COVID-19 crisis has revealed a huge opportunity for improving our government. That’s because a wonky policy tool — public-private partnerships — has become much more important during the pandemic. The problem, however, is that these are being deployed in an ad hoc, uncoordinated manner, with too little thought given to how they fit the needs of our democratic society. What’s missing is an effective structure for how we could best use the promise of these partnerships in a modern, new government.”

Tough choices for child-care workers: As the COVID-19 virus reaches into all corners of the U.S, child-care workers are being asked to step up. They’re being called on to provide care for the children of medical personnel, law enforcement and others in critical jobs. Yet these workers, who are generally low paid and unlikely to have health insurance, now face difficult decisions around risking their jobs and their safety. The latest story in the partnership between Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity and Microsoft News.

Prison fatalities could drive estimated coronavirus death toll much higher: COVID-19 could claim the lives of approximately 100,000 more people than current projections stipulate if jail populations are not dramatically and immediately reduced, according to a new epidemiological model released Wednesday by the ACLU and academic research partners. 

Families in limbo: Coronavirus hobbles reunifications from foster care: The COVID-19 outbreak has wreaked havoc in the foster care system, including on the ability of separated families to connect. In many communities across the country, family contact that is already often scant and heavily monitored is now barely occurring, with public health mandates suspending visits between foster youth and their parents and siblings or scaling them back to often-frustrating phone chats.

How government missteps impacted the military and veterans: The administration’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak hamstrung the military and hampered the VA system’s ability to prepare for the pandemic.

Another 4.4 million file for unemployment benefits: The last five weeks have marked the most sudden surge in jobless claims since the Department of Labor started tracking the data in 1967. American workers filed 26.5 million initial claims since March 14, according to the seasonally adjusted numbers.

See the initial impact of COVID-19 on state-by-state employment and earnings: The Urban Institute has an interactive tool with 50-state data that paints an alarming picture of how the COVID-19 pandemic and government efforts to address the public health crisis crashed into state labor markets.

Cities increasingly turn to vacant hotel rooms to house homeless: While these are significant efforts, activists say it might already be too late. Many of the initiatives these cities have put forward are short-term solutions. After the pandemic passes, homelessness will continue to affect individual and societal well-being without a push for more affordable housing, providing rent assistance, or simply offering the houseless a home. The urgency of the issue will likely increase as more people lose their jobs due to the recession triggered by a nation-wide lockdown.

Makeshift shelters for the homeless can help; but they need real housing: “We have a pandemic laid over an epidemic. We have a situation that’s suddenly at the front of people’s mind because they recognize that the health of their neighbor has immense impact on their own health,” said Commissioner Kenneth Hodder, the Western District commander for the Salvation Army, the nation’s largest non-government social services provider with 7,600 sites nationally.

Few jails offer addiction treatment, making some early releases potentially fatal: As the nation struggles to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, jails and prisons are beginning to release groups of people who are deemed safe for community return. The majority of people being identified for early release are those who have been accused or charged with non-violent offenses, many of which involve drugs. But multiple studies have found that risk of fatal overdose is dramatically higher among recently released prisoners.One important reason why: when people are forcibly detoxed from opioids but not provided adequate treatment for the underlying addiction, they return to their communities with significantly decreased tolerance but no more tools to help them deal with cravings than they had when they went in. “They’re not cured, they’re not treated, they’re not in recovery, they just haven’t been able to use,” said Lipi Roy, a clinical assistant professor at NYU Grossman School of Medicine.

Rural telephone companies step up to provide hotspot access: School and business closures have intensified the broadband access issues of some rural families. In Eastern Kentucky, three small companies are part of a movement to build new wi-fi hotspots to meet the demand.

Why transitional work strategies are needed now: From Morning Consult:“Both the public health and economic fallouts from the COVID-19 outbreak are expected to be massive. Making certain our essential workforce is protected through expanded paid leave, ensured food and housing assistance, enhanced unemployment insurance, cash payments and other targeted measures is decisively the blunt force needed for short-term countercyclical change.”

Briefing for April 22, 2020

About half of low-income Americans report household job or income loss: As the economic toll from the coronavirus outbreak continues to mount, a new Pew Research Center survey finds the impact is falling more heavily on lower-income adults – a group that was feeling significant financial pressure well before the current crisis. Overall, 43% of U.S. adults now say that they or someone in their household has lost a job or taken a cut in pay due to the outbreak, up from 33% in the latter half of March. Among lower-income adults, an even higher share (52%) say they or someone in their household has experienced this type of job upheaval. Just 23% of respondents say they have emergency funds that would last them three months.

A plan to get $1,000 to 100,000 people in 100 days: Project 100, a new effort backed by former Georgia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams and former presidential candidate Andrew Yang, aims to send $1,000 cash transfers directly to 100,000 economically vulnerable families within the next 100 days. To pull this off, the project will need to raise $100 million. Of that amount, $55 million has already been secured from a diverse mix of funders that includes Google, the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation and late-night television host Stephen Colbert.

22 state Attorneys General call for USDA to drop SNAP changes: A group of 22 Democratic attorneys general and the city of New York are asking the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to not finalize a proposed rule to tighten eligibility for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The lawmakers claim that the rule would take away food assistance from 3.1 million people and free lunch from 265,000 children amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Administration bars CARES Act aid to undocumented students: The Trump administration issued new guidance Tuesday barring undocumented college students from receiving federal aid to pay off certain expenses. Congress allocated $6 billion in its economic rescue package to colleges to grant to students to cover expenses related to interruptions fueled by the coronavirus pandemic. The money is intended to help students pay for expenses such as food, childcare and housing. However, the Education Department issued new guidance mandating that the money can only be given to students who qualify for federal financial aid, meaning U.S. citizens and some legal permanent residents.

‘How do I defend people now?’ Public defenders rely on in-person, confidential meetings with clients. They say COVID-19 makes their jobs nearly impossible.

Confusion over administration’s prisoner release policy: A coronavirus-related policy shift that could have cleared the way for thousands of federal prisoners to be sent home early was abruptly reversed this week, according to friends and family members of inmates. Prison officials indicated earlier this month that inmates who had served less than half their sentences could still be considered for early release to limit the spread of infection behind bars. However, inmates in various prisons who had been put into prerelease quarantine almost two weeks ago were advised Monday by authorities that the policy had changed, lawyers and associates said. But then late Tuesday, a Justice Department spokesman suggested yet another course correction and indicated that officials at the Bureau of Prisons were confused or given inaccurate guidance about previous directives from Attorney General William Barr.

Why the rollout of the CARES Act was a mess: Desperate citizens haven’t gotten their stimulus checks. The Payroll Protection Program has run out of money. According to two former federal employees, the CARES Act was doomed from the start.

Farmers hit from all sides: U.S. farmers are fighting for their livelihoods as the coronavirus pandemic slashes commodity values, cuts off supply chains and closes markets around the globe to their products.

American agriculture in chaos: COVID-19 is disrupting agriculture on many levels. The Trump administration recently announced it will spend $19 billion to help farmers. But they aren’t the only group in need of support – undocumented immigrants are roughly half of American farmworkers, and they have been excluded from the federal aid. 

Who will take care of the children of farmworkers? Thirty thousand children receive child care through a program called Migrant and Seasonal Head Start, a program that has all but shut down for the indefinite future.

Hawley calls for emergency farm to food bank program: Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley (R) joined the growing chorus of voices calling on the U.S. Department of Agriculture to set up an emergency program that would use farm produce that is currently going unused to replenish the nation’s endangered food banks.

Prolonged school closures could be very bad for America’s students: Experts are especially worried about younger and low-income kids.

Coronavirus has upended education for all children, but those with special needs face particular challenges: With most schools closed for the foreseeable future due to the coronavirus outbreak, families across the nation have been challenged to oversee their children’s education. But for parents of students with special needs, the task is more daunting. Many are unsure how to assume roles normally filled by teams of professionals while also managing disruptions to their children’s lives.

What’s being done to help people with student loan debt? The Brookings Institution provides an overview of the relief – both current and prospective – available to the 42 million Americans, or one in every eight, who have student loans.

Briefing for April 21, 2020

The unemployed meet the uninsured: People in 533 U.S. counties have two big problems, a Center for Public Integrity analysis found: They’re more likely to work in leisure and hospitality jobs decimated by the COVID-19 crisis than the national average, and before the crisis were less likely to have health insurance. Now, millions in these counties are out of work and in danger of losing employer-provided health care, threatening to add to already higher-than-average rates of uninsured.

Chicago anti-gun violence activists take on coronavirus: Street outreach workers who work to reduce gun violence in Chicago are using the relationships they’ve built to now spread the word about the dangers of the coronavirus. “To the extent that we are the sort of conduits to vulnerable neighborhoods, it makes sense for us to sort of disseminate that information because it’s an important public service,” one outreach worker explains. From the Solutions Journalism Network COVID-19 Solutions Story Tracker.

Policies that could help meet a surge in domestic violence: Four ways courts, communities and victim services providers can help, from the Urban Institute:

  • Extend orders of protection and virtually petition for new orders.
  • Extend remote support and services.
  • Explain to victims how stay-at-home orders apply to them.
  • Engage neighbors, families and friends – from a distance.

More than 1,800 inmates at Ohio’s Marion Correctional test positive: Overall, the state’s prison system has recorded 2,426 positive results among inmates, the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction said. That number is 21% of the total confirmed cases in Ohio.

Concern for juvenile facilities mounts: Nationwide, over 100 incarcerated children have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to an analysis by The Sentencing Project. The largest concentration of infections appears to be in Virginia and Louisiana.

Nearly 100 transit workers have died from the coronavirus amid lack of basic protections: Employers have delayed on safety measures while bus drivers and others continue to work: “We’re risking our lives out here, every day.”

Deregulation may be one reason nursing homes are getting hit so hard: In July 2019, the Trump administration proposed new rules relaxing the requirements tied to infection control. It suggested that consultants could be used, instead of requiring infection specialists to be employed at the site, at minimum, on a part-time basis. This meant that there was no longer a requirement for a full-time, hands-on expert in infection contamination on-site.

Why the coronavirus is a civil rights issue: First came early data showing that the coronavirus affected African Americans disproportionately. Then came the fight for a fair response and recovery.

Who will feed hungry Americans: Chef Jose Andres writes in the Washington Post: “Leadership counts. We need leaders who listen to experts and do not pass the buck. Today there are no leaders when it comes to feeding all our citizens—nobody is responsible for the nation’s needs.”

COVID-19 took away public education; will we miss it? In short, yes.

COVID and the class of 2020: Black students’ transition to college and work: The New America Foundation and the Indianapolis Recorder host an online conversation this afternoon.

‘I can’t find them’: Attendance was already an issue in Newark schools. The coronavirus created new barriers.

Strengthening school nutrition during the COVID era: School nutrition professionals have mobilized in unprecedented ways, joining first responders on the front lines and feeding thousands of kids in the face of school closures. But while communities are rallying to make sure kids stay nourished and healthy, the USDA is moving forward with wide-ranging changes that could jeopardize ten years of progress toward healthier school meals. 

He works in a grocery store – but he’s still losing hours: portrait by FiveThirtyEight of an overnight grocery stocker in San Antonio.

Groups call for immigrant families to be included in next relief package: Nearly 200 national, state, and local organizations, including the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), the American Academy of Pediatrics, Children’s Defense Fund, First Focus on Children, The Children’s Partnership, MomsRising, the National Education Association, and UnidosUS, have signed a letter urging Congress to include immigrant families and children in the next COVID-19 relief package. 

U.S. newsrooms have lost half their employees since 2008: The number of newspaper newsroom employees dropped by 51% between 2008 and 2019, from about 71,000 workers to 35,000.

Briefing for April 20, 2020

Child welfare officials fear drop in child abuse complaints is due to loss of teachers keeping watch: Calls to Washington state’s child abuse hotline are down about 50%, while Montana, Oklahoma and Louisiana are reporting about a 45% reduction since schools closed last month to slow the spread of the virus. Arizona’s calls are down a third compared with previous weeks, and Nevada has seen a 14% drop compared with March 2019. “That means many children are suffering in silence,” Darren DaRonco, spokesman for the Arizona Department of Child Safety, told the Associated Press.

Rural response to COVID-19 could be hampered by years of population loss: Decreased populations have already weakened the fiscal and economic health of many rural counties.

Veteran’s Administration, Treasury, still working to get checks to veterans: Lawmakers and veterans organizations are particularly concerned about disabled or low-income veterans and surviving family members who receive monthly compensation from the VA but don’t file tax returns or benefit from Social Security. As of Monday morning, the VA is reporting 339 deaths among veteran patients, up from 301 on Friday. There are now 5,468 positive cases, up from 5,087 on Friday.

Tax refunds delayed: The Internal Revenue Service has virtually shut down normal operations in order to rush out relief funds from the CARES Act. As a result, millions of individual taxpayers and businesses could face lengthy delays before they receive refunds they desperately need as the coronavirus halts their incomes. Taxpayers disputing how much they owe or waiting to see if they qualify for tax credits also could have to wait indefinitely.

First they lost their jobs; then, they lost their health insurance: The Economic Policy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank, estimates that 9.2 million U.S. residents were at high risk of having lost coverage during the past four weeks. The consulting firm Health Management Associates forecasts that perhaps 12 million to 35 million people will lose job-based insurance because of the pandemic, on top of the 27.5 million who were uninsured before the virus arrived. The Washington Post gives an overview of the crisis.

Millions of students and young adults won’t get CARES Act checks: Any person age 17 to 24 who was claimed as a dependent won’t be eligible for the $1,200 payment or the $500 child bonus.

McKinsey study: Coronavirus delivers ‘highly predictable’ 1-2 punch to black Americans: “It’s not COVID,” said Shelley Stewart, one of the authors of the report. “COVID is laying bare some of the long-standing socioeconomic implications and realities for lives, health, and livelihoods.”

The disproportionate impact of COVID-19 in one chart: Vox encapsulates the havoc wreaked by the virus within communities of color.

‘Coronavirus News for Black Folks’: That’s the name of a newsletter written by journalist Patrice Peck that shares stories about how the COVID-19 outbreak is impacting the black community worldwide.

The scramble to feed kids left hungry because of school closures: As coronavirus has shut down much of the country, schools have had no choice but to close and move classes — or at least, some semblance of them — online. But some school services can’t be delivered remotely. You can’t serve lunch over Zoom.

School cafeterias have become soup kitchens, but federal aid hasn’t made the transition: Many school cafeterias are now operating more like community soup kitchens, even though the federal school meals program won’t reimburse districts for meals served to struggling adults.

Entire families are suffering food shortages: The impact of the coronavirus is affecting every aspect of society and food security for low-income families, especially older adults and children, is no exception. 

You can’t reopen the economy without a plan: Slate podcast featuring journalist Amanda Ripley on the lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina and economic Heather Boushey on fighting the recession.

The race to save homeless shelters from coronavirus: Cities are increasingly turning to vacant hotel rooms to try to keep unhoused residents safe. Nationally, projections by University of Pennsylvania researchers suggest that about 40% of the estimated 550,000 people experiencing homelessness in the U.S. could be infected at the population’s viral peak, with more than 21,000 needing hospitalization.

U.S. factories in Mexico are still open – and workers are dying: Maquiladoras, as the thousands of foreign-owned factories in northern Mexico are known, are not accustomed to extended work stoppages. The factories, which avoid most tariffs because their finished products are for export only, have boomed since the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement, drawing hundreds of thousands of workers to rapidly industrializing border cities for jobs that typically pay many times less than similar positions in the U.S. Mexico’s undersecretary of health, Hugo López-Gatell, warned last week that the devastation from the coronavirus might be acute in the northern border states in part because some factories had continued to operate despite new social distancing guidelines that called for nonessential businesses to suspend work.

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