Briefing for August 10-13, 2020 on COVID-19 and Low-Income Communities

Briefing for August 10-13, 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.

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Briefing for August 13, 2020

Unemployment insurance bolsters child support payments but future remains uncertain: From Stell Simonton for Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity: “For parents receiving child support, the best news they probably haven’t heard is called federal unemployment insurance. Those $600-a-week payments — which ended July 31 — have reached the pockets of people who lost jobs during the pandemic and kept child support checks flowing. If federal unemployment checks don’t continue — and that seems to be the case for the moment, despite President Trump’s executive order on Saturday offering a $400-a-week extension — the drop could be swift, said Larry Desbien, director of the Colorado Division of Child Support Services. ‘I think it could hit across the board — families at all income levels,’ he said.” 

Doctors and nurses with COVID-19 feel pressured to come back to work: From Kaiser Health News: “Guidance from public health experts has evolved as they have learned more about the coronavirus, but one message has remained consistent: If you feel sick, stay home. Yet hospitals, clinics and other health care facilities have flouted that simple guidance, pressuring workers who contract COVID-19 to return to work sooner than public health standards suggest it’s safe for them, their colleagues or their patients. Some employers have failed to provide adequate paid leave, if any at all, so employees felt they had to return to work — even with coughs and possibly infectious — rather than forfeit the paycheck they need to feed their families.” 

Grocery workers say morale is at an all-time low: Hailed as “heroes” at the onset of the pandemic, supermarket employees now say they are overworked, overwhelmed and feeling expendable again

Virus shows signs of peaking in rural areas: The number of new cases of COVID-19 in rural counties declined over a one-week period for the first time since May. The number of deaths, however continued to climb. 

Black-white wealth gap will widen educational disparities during pandemic: From the Center for American Progress: “As the debate over school reopening heats up, policymakers must consider how wealth disparities between Black and white families will affect educational outcomes. Parents, as well as teachers and staff, need to feel safe sending their children back to school. When in-person schooling is not possible, parents must have the resources to help their children learn remotely. Schools and local government can provide reliable internet service and electronic devices to children — but they need more financial support. State and local governments will also need to ensure that families have stable housing by extending moratoriums on evictions and foreclosures.” 

Charity can’t fill the COVID-19 hunger gap; Congress should raise SNAP benefits now:
Writing in the Kansas City Star, Valerie Nicholson-Watson, president and CEO of Harvesters — The Community Food Network, the regional food bank serving northeast Kansas and northwest Missouri, calls for a SNAP increase: “With rapidly rising food prices and the uncertainty that school meals for hundreds of thousands of food-insecure kids will be available as we stumble into a new school year, the necessity of a temporary SNAP benefit increase becomes even more clear.” 

Housing, hazards and health  Considerations and approaches in light of COVID-19: From an analysis by the National League of Cities: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, increased exposure to health hazards have been compounded by reduced inspections and repair services, and more service cuts are on the horizon as city budgets come under strain. To make matters worse, cities are anticipating a budget shortfall between 2020 and 2022 that amounts to more than $360 billion in lost revenue. A recent survey by the National League of Cities found that 24% of cities are making cuts to community and economic development programs and 13% of cities are making cuts to code inspection, planning, and permitting services. Yet, despite these challenges, local leaders are protecting their residents’ health by improving housing conditions. 

Disputed water settlements worsen pandemic in Navajo Nation: Colonial laws and federal neglect created a worse-case scenario during a global pandemic. 

Formerly incarcerated Americans could flex political muscle in this year’s presidential election: As formerly incarcerated persons face new obstacles in the wake of the pandemic, many more of them will have an opportunity to voice their concerns at the polls this year. Over a million currently and formerly incarcerated Americans have regained their right to vote since the last presidential election. Though many still face barriers to voting, like outstanding fines and fees, for some of these Americans, this November will be the first time they’ll be able to cast a ballot.

Briefing for August 12, 2020

Lost on the frontline: Kaiser Health News and the Guardian investigate the 922 deaths of U.S. healthcare workers

Inside the fight to save Houston’s most vulnerable: New York Times reporters and cameras were given exclusive access to the COVID-19 medical I.C.U. at Houston Methodist Hospital. Meet five patients and watch as the staff works to heal them. 

Feds crack down on lenders targeting small businesses with high-interest loans: Federal and state regulators are cracking down on lenders targeting small businesses with high-cost loans and abusive collection tactics, generating unease in a lightly regulated industry that has flourished as it put merchants in a vise. 

Could massive numbers of nursing home deaths have been prevented? Across the country, at least 43,000 nursing home residents have died of the coronavirus. In California, at least 3,400 have passed away. But at the eight CalVet veterans’ homes, it’s been a different story: Among 2,100 residents, half of whom require round-the-clock care, including hospice patients and Korean and Vietnam war veterans with complicated health conditions, only two have died of the coronavirus. 

Who holds the key to a new America? Dr. William Barber II and Jonathan Wilson-Hargrove of the Poor People’s Campaign write in the New York Times that, “In the midst of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, campaigns that court low-income nonvoters by focusing on issues like expanding Medicare and raising wages could transform the political landscape.” 

Parents torn as some schools face greater reopening risks: USA Today analyzed COVID-19 cases by ZIP code and found the virus has affected poorer school communities more severely than wealthier areas in the same district. 

How a COVID-19 ‘rapid response team’ in Chicago is working to fix decades of neglect in the Black and Latinx communities: Spurred by the high concentration of COVID-19 deaths in Black and Latinx neighborhoods on Chicago’s South and West sides, city government teamed with multiple community groups to form a Racial Equity Rapid Response Team to distribute protective gear, food, financial aid, and other help in the hard-hit neighborhoods. The help included more than 1 million masks, 6,000 boxes of food, 250,000 information flyers, laptops and free internet access, and $380,000 to help pay rent and utilities. The deaths and desperate need for help stem directly from decades of racial disparities in food and health care access. This story comes from a special COVID-19 story collection curated by the Solutions Journalism Network. 

Tiny homes in Amish country could soon house Philly homeless: From the Philadelphia Inquirer: “Out in Lancaster County, amid the low hills and high corn, horse-drawn Amish buggies slow tourist traffic on winding country roads. Old-time preachers reign on the radio, warning of dark consequences for sinners run amok in 21st-century America. And in the town of Leola, not 50 feet from a clutch of cows lounging under a hot summer sun, a small workshop hums and bustles with the creation of a product that could, someday soon, help the homeless in Philadelphia.” 

The Opportunity and Counseling Corps  Helping K-12 students and young adults cope with the pandemic: The Center for American Progress is proposing the creation of an Opportunity and Counseling Corps. This investment would enable schools and their partners to take the following actions: 

  • Hire tens of thousands of recent high school graduates, college graduates, and other community members to support students and educators as they serve in high-poverty schools. 
  • A significant portion of corps members would be devoted to tutoring. 
  • Opportunity Corps members could also serve as resident teachers, mentors, classroom aides, or apprentices in order to provide technical support to families needing assistance with remote learning technologies; or they could learn trades to maintain school facilities. 
  • Opportunity Corps members could be hired through the expansion of existing national service programs, such as AmeriCorps, and other nonprofit partners; or they could be hired directly by school systems. 
  • Hire tens of thousands of additional social workers, psychologists, and counselors. 

Trump executive actions could worsen state budget woes: From the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities: “President Trump’s executive actions of last weekend do nothing to alleviate the enormous budget crisis that’s battering states and localities nationwide, and one of them — extending unemployment benefits — could make the crisis worse, depending partly on how details shake out in the coming days.” 

Capital gridlock and pandemic threaten jobs of low-income Senate cafeteria workers: From CNN: “They grill burgers in the Senate basement. They wait tables in the senators-only dining room. And they fill coffee for lawmakers rushing to their morning committee hearings. But dozens of cafeteria workers, who make low wages and are an integral part of daily life in the Senate, are now worried about putting food on their own tables. Sources told CNN that dozens of hourly cafeteria workers in the Senate have been threatened with layoffs by October if Congress fails to pass a funding package necessary to keep the staff employed. One source estimated that up to 80 workers could be let go, a figure the company that employs them — Restaurant Associates — did not deny, contending the warnings of potential layoffs are the result of being forced to close some of its restaurants because of the pandemic.” 

‘It’s like a tidal wave’: Indianapolis grapples with serving residents in need: Demand has been high enough to strain Indianapolis’s multi-million dollar rental assistance program, which received more than 10,000 requests in less than one week and now has more than 15,000 households on a wait list. Money for that program is part of the roughly $177 million in federal funding from the Cares Act that Indianapolis has received to help residents during the crisis in various forms — boosting money for rent, utilities, food, public safety, contact tracing and testing, masks and more. City officials, however, say it’s not enough to last the city through the economic fallout that will continue for months beyond the pandemic. As the city-county council slowly allots that money to various programs and nonprofits — funding which it must spend by the end of the year — Indianapolis waits in anticipation for the federal government to provide even more aid to local states and cities

Briefing for August 11, 2020

New legislation focuses on the pandemic’s effect on maternal mortality: The emerging evidence suggests pregnant people are at enhanced risk of complications from COVID-19. Now, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Rep. Lauren Underwood (D-IL) are trying to plug holes in how the government tracks the virus’ impact on pregnancy, put new resources into maternal health and ensure that pregnant individuals are ultimately eligible for any new treatments and vaccines, according to a bill shared first with The 19th

America is failing Black moms during the pandemic: Long before the pandemic hit, Black pregnant and birthing people around the country were reporting that doctors disregarded their concerns, ignored their wishes, and put them at risk. Out of 10 similarly wealthy countries, the US had the highest number of maternal deaths per capita in 2018. Black women are disproportionately impacted, dying in childbirth at three to four times the rate of white women. Now, birthing people and their advocates say the COVID-19 crisis is only exacerbating the discrimination that Black patients and other patients of color already face from providers — one of the main drivers behind their higher rates of maternal mortality. In response, some people are looking outside of hospitals, to midwives, home births, and birthing centers they feel are more likely to provide them with the care they deserve. 

Three ways the pandemic is hurting Black maternal health: A new analysis from the Urban Institute looks at ways the coronavirus outbreak is worsening existing inequities for Black mothers: 

  • Telehealth and limits placed on in-person prenatal care can hinder early detection of health risks 
  • Limited support during labor and separation of mother and child can put them at risk 
  • Social isolation and economic anxiety can disproportionately harm Black mothers after delivery 

Mississippi may not be able to afford Trump’s unemployment boost: In a sign of the confusion about President Trump’s weekend announcement of apparent additional unemployment help, Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves, a strong Trump supporter, said Monday that the state might not be able to afford the program, which requires that states provide $100 of the additional $400 per week. Reeves said this would cost Mississippi about $21 million to $23 million a week, roughly doubling what it is paying in state unemployment insurance benefits currently. 

Initial data on COVID-19, kids and race is troubling: Research published last week in the journal Pediatrics revealed striking differences between children of color and white children in their susceptibility to COVID-19. Researchers looked at 1,000 children and young adults ages 0 to 22 in the Washington, D.C. area who were brought to a drive-through COVID-19 testing site in the spring with relatively mild symptoms. Overall, roughly 20% of the children tested positive. But just about 7% of white children tested positive, whereas 30% of Black children and more than 45% of Latinx children did. The median age of kids who tested positive was 11 years. The findings also suggest there are marked income-based disparities in COVID-19 infections among American children. Using national data to estimate median family income of the locations where each child in the study lived, the researchers concluded that less than 10% of children whose families were in the top income level tested positive. Nearly 40% of those in the bottom quartile tested positive.  

One-third of American renters could miss August payment: An estimated 27% of adults in the U.S. missed their rent or mortgage payment for July, according to a nationwide survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau weekly over the last three months. Among renters alone, just over one-third (34%) said during the waning days of July that they had little to no confidence that they could make their August rent payment, a stark measure of the ongoing economic devastation for households stretched to the brink by the coronavirus pandemic. 

Labor, civil rights and anti-poverty groups demand FCC amend Lifeline to help low-income Americans pay their bills: As the economic crisis brought on by the coronavirus pandemic continues throughout the United States, a coalition of 25 organizations, including the NAACP, the National Consumer Law Center and the Communications Workers of America, is urging the Federal Communications Commission to make a number of changes to the Lifeline voice and broadband subsidy program to help low-income Americans pay their phone and internet bills. Among its requests, the coalition is calling on the FCC in a letter filed late Sunday night to extend certain rule waivers through the end of the year, making it harder for customers to be kicked out of the program; restore the monthly subsidy for voice call services to $9.25 from its current $7.25 payment; and freeze the scheduled increase in the minimum service standard that Lifeline providers must offer to customers pending further review of the program overall.  

Changes to school meals have made kids healthier. In a COVID-19 era, will they last? From Civil Eats: “As officials around the country consider whether or not to reopen schools, one of the many factors under discussion is access to meals. At the end of July, House Democrats even introduced a bill to introduce universal school meals for the 2020-2021 school year, in response to renewed advocacy around the issue. Less discussed in recent months is the quality of the meals themselves. In the midst of the pandemic, the Trump administration has been trying to roll back the nutrition standards that determine what exactly kids are eating in school. In response, a number of advocacy groups are fighting to keep the existing standards in place. Now, a Harvard study published in July has introduced new evidence into the debate. The study found that Obama-era changes to school meals have led to a significant decrease in obesity among low-income children, resulting in an estimated half a million fewer children living with obesity five years later.” 

Briefing for August 10, 2020

Coronavirus-related unemployment is soaring in these cities: According to USA Today, the five cities with the highest unemployment rates are: 

  • Atlantic City-Hammonton, NJ: 35% in June 2020 
  • El Centro, CA: 28.7% in June 2020 
  • Ocean City, NJ: 26.7% in June 2020 
  • Kahului-Wailuku-Lahaina, HI: 22.3% in June 2020 
  • Barnstable Town, MA: 19.7% in June 2020 

For pandemic jobless, the only certainty is the uncertainty: The coronavirus outbreak and resulting economic upheaval have thrown millions of lives into disarray. Industries have collapsed, businesses closed, jobs disappeared. Compounding the misery is a question no one can answer: When will this all be over?

Hispanic, Black children at higher risk of coronavirus-related hospitalization, CDC finds: Hispanic children are approximately eight times more likely and Black children five times more likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19 than their white peers, according to a study released Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The report — which used hospitalization data collected in 14 states including California, Georgia, New York and Ohio from March 1 through July 25 — acknowledged that most pediatric cases of COVID-19 are asymptomatic or mild and that hospitalization rates among children remain relatively low. But like COVID-19 in adults, Black and Hispanic children are far more likely to experience symptoms warranting hospitalization. 

Without federal protection, agriculture workers risk COVID-19 exposure to harvest crops: Farms have already reported outbreaks among hundreds of workers in states that include California, Washington, Florida and Michigan. And yet, the federal government has not established any enforceable rules either to protect farm workers from the coronavirus or to instruct employers on what to do when their workers get sick. While migrant worker advocacy groups say this allows farms to take advantage of their workers and increase their risk of exposure to the coronavirus, farms say they’re doing what they can to protect workers with the limited resources they have, while also getting their crops harvested. 

40 million Americans are at risk of eviction without government intervention: Up to 40 million Americans could be evicted by the end of this year, according to a new report published Friday by the Aspen Institute. The report warns that the United States may be facing the most severe housing crisis in history without government intervention, with up to 43% of renter households facing eviction this year. People of color — particularly Black and Latino Americans — make up about 80% of those facing eviction. Last month, 26% of Black renters and 25% of Latino renters were unable to pay rent compared with 13% of white renters, according to U.S. Census data analyzed by the Aspen Institute. 

Coronavirus aid favors whites, leaving many people of color at risk of being evicted: Federal housing aid during the coronavirus pandemic disproportionately benefits white households over minorities, with Black households most at risk, a POLITICO analysis has found. The federal assistance favors homeowners over renters, and because white households are more likely to own homes — a long-standing trend with roots in racist housing policy — they have more access to aid. Black households are more likely to rent than any other group, so they will be hardest hit with evictions likely to proceed in states without moratoriums, including Texas and Georgia. 

The coming eviction crisis  ‘It’s hard to pay the bills on nothing’: Binyamin Appelbaum of the New York Times writes: “The last time the economy went over the cliff’s edge, in 2008, the federal government encased the banking system in plastic Bubble Wrap and allowed millions of Americans to lose their homes. It’s about to make the same mistake all over again.” 

The toll eviction takes: The physical, financial and mental health consequences of losing your home. 

Most Americans don’t have enough assets to survive three months without income: A new study from Oregon State University found that 77% of low- to moderate-income American households fall below the asset poverty threshold, meaning that if their income were cut off they would not have the financial assets to maintain at least poverty-level status for three months. 

Coronavirus impact  Chasm grows between whites, people of color, poll finds: The ongoing coronavirus pandemic and its economic toll are hitting people of color in California especially hard, and a new poll illustrates just how alarming the disparity has grown among the state’s families. Black, Latinx and Asian residents are more likely than white residents to say COVID-19 has had a negative impact on their family’s health and financial situation, according to the poll of more than 8,000 registered voters by the Institute of Governmental Studies at UC Berkeley. In one of the most dramatic findings, while just 16% of white voters say the virus has seriously hurt their ability to pay for basics like food and rent, that figure skyrockets to 72% among Spanish-speaking Latinx voters. A similar percentage say the virus has caused very serious problems when it comes to their family’s ability to get necessary medical care. 

California lockdown job loss could impact entire nation: California’s second round of coronavirus-related shutdowns, among the nation’s strictest measures, are already causing pain for the most populous state’s labor market and portend a deterioration in the overall U.S. employment picture for July

Polluted communities take double hit from coronavirus: Around the country, as the coronavirus devastates communities of color, some are experiencing a similar reckoning with their overburdened surroundings. The pandemic has been brutal in environmental justice communities, adding a new layer of suffering in places that already shoulder a disproportionate burden of environmental hazards. Newark’s death rate from COVID-19 is 223 per 100,000 people, compared to 177 statewide and just under 44 in the U.S. as a whole.

Rural schools’ crumbling infrastructure was a threat even before coronavirus: From the Daily Yonder: “Rural schools are sick, and it’s not just the coronavirus. As the nation’s gaze turns to the reopening of schools this fall, we must realize that safe and accessible education is still an elusive promise for millions of America’s kids, virus or no.”

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