02 Aug Briefing for August 2-6, 2021 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 a daily news service summarizing relevant stories, which you can read below.
If you would like to receive a daily briefing, feel free to email email@example.com to subscribe.
Briefing for August 6, 2021
Housing aid emerges as new housing fight after eviction ban: From The Hill: “Lawmakers and housing advocates are struggling to figure out how to get billions of dollars in rental assistance to tenants who desperately need the help, even with the action taken Tuesday by the Biden administration to extend an eviction moratorium for most of the country. Congress this year appropriated $46 billion for tenants and landlords in need, but only about $3 billion has reached the intended recipients. Concerns are now growing that unless a better method of distribution is developed, the U.S. will find itself in the same place two months from now when the new eviction ban expires. ‘There are people in my community, in my district, that are reaching out saying, How do we access these resources?‘ said Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.). ‘We can do this all day long, but if it doesn’t filter out to the people that we’re doing this for, I didn’t accomplish much.’ Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y.) said state governments and agencies bear some responsibility. ‘The fact is, states like New York and red states need to disburse the funds that Congress has already appropriated that I and Cori Bush and [Rep.] Al Green [D-Texas] have appropriated for purposes of making sure that these tenants get rental assistance, and that they are able to pay their landlords who, as well, urgently need resources to continue to do what they’re doing.'”
Nursing homes confront new COVID outbreaks amid calls for staff vaccination mandates: The New York Times reports: “After sharp drops in infections over the last several months, the number of COVID cases among U.S. nursing-home residents and staff roughly quadrupled from the week ending July 4 to the week ending Aug. 1, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The agency’s data show that cases of COVID-19 among residents had risen to 2,092, the highest figure reported since late February. During the week ending Aug. 1, 296 nursing home residents died from COVID-19, nearly doubling from the week ending July 4. About 133,000 nursing home residents died of COVID-19 over the course of the pandemic, although the death rate has plummeted in recent months with more than 80% of residents now vaccinated. Overall, COVID-19 deaths among nursing home residents and staff members accounted for nearly one-third of the nation’s pandemic fatalities. Growing calls for vaccine mandates among health care workers have gained urgency but also met resistance in the nursing home industry, where some homes say it will cost them staff members in an industry already plagued with high turnover. Only about 60% of nursing home staff members are vaccinated, and some states report an even lower rate, with less than half inoculated, according to the most recent government data.”
26 states ended unemployment aid early — Data suggests it’s not getting people back to work: From CNBC: “About half of U.S. states withdrew federal funds for the unemployed months early to encourage out-of-work residents to find a job. But mounting evidence shows that policy gambit hasn’t yet paid off. Twenty-six states announced their intent to end federal pandemic-era benefits starting in May. They officially pulled out in waves over June and July. UKG, a payroll and time-management firm, found that shifts among hourly workers in those states grew at about half the rate as states that continued the benefit — the opposite trend of what one might expect. Specifically, in states that ended benefits, shifts grew 2.2% from May through July; they grew 4.1% in the others that kept federal aid intact, according to UKG’s analysis. ‘Unemployment benefits were not the thing holding people back from going to work,’ according to Dave Gilbertson, a vice president at UKG. ‘There are other elements out there, particularly in their personal lives, making it really difficult to go back to work.’ It doesn’t appear differences in state economies or labor markets influenced the dichotomy, since both groups were growing at similar rates earlier this year, Gilbertson said.”
Out of the pandemic, a better approach to homelessness: An Urban Institute study looks for enduring lessons from the pandemic response to homelessness in Maine and Santa Clara County, California — “where homelessness response planners and providers broadened their shelter, housing, and homelessness prevention options while focusing on equity and partnering with trusted community organizations to make sure assistance reaches the people who need it most.” In Portland, Maine, “Preble Street — with the support of the state housing authority, MaineHousing — quickly launched new hotel programs to house people sick from COVID-19, according to Mark Swann, the organization’s executive director. It also expanded its street outreach efforts and opened new ‘wellness shelters’ in gyms and other large spaces to increase the number of shelter beds while keeping people safely spaced apart. These wellness shelters represented a significant shift from the typical approach to shelters. Although still congregate settings, they stayed open 24/7, gave people their own beds and a place to keep their belongings, and had social workers on site to help connect people with housing and services.” In Santa Clara County, nonprofits that normally didn’t provide housing help partnered with homeless aid organizations to offer cash and rental assistance to hundreds of clients, helping them stay in their homes as the pandemic raged through the community.
Howard University announces new center to study health disparities: From The Washington Post: “Howard University and several development partners will begin construction in 2023 on a new center dedicated to researching health disparities, school officials announced Thursday. The aim of the National Research Center for Health Disparities — which will be next to the school’s college of medicine — is to attract pharmaceutical companies and biomedical research organizations that are focused on treating chronic illnesses, especially those that affect communities of color. The project, which will take up 260,000 square feet, will include a laboratory and an office building. ‘Howard has a long history of training problem solvers who are prepared to meet and combat the world’s most significant obstacles,’ Howard President Wayne A.I. Frederick said in a news release. He said the center will support the school’s strategic plan ‘by expanding our reach and creating a community where the world’s best minds, thought leaders and scientists can collaborate in one place to solve historic and contemporary health challenges.’”
Briefing for August 5, 2021
“Wisdom and fear” lead 90% of U.S. seniors to COVID vaccines: Kaiser Health News reports: “Amid the latest surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, the United States on Tuesday hit a milestone that some thought was unattainable: 90% of people 65 and older are at least partly vaccinated against the disease. That’s more than 49 million seniors vaccinated. Overall, 70% of adults have been inoculated, at least partly, and nearly 68% of people over 12. ‘This really shows our elders are wiser than the rest of us,’ said Dr. David Wohl, professor of medicine in the division of infectious diseases and director of the vaccine clinics at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine. Wohl said political leanings that have skewed vaccination rates across the country have had much less of an impact on older adults. ‘The threat of COVID-19 is so real for those 65 and over that it transcends many of the other issues that are complicating vaccination rates,’ he said. ‘Wisdom and fear have really led to impressive immunization rates.’ The pandemic has been especially vicious to older adults. Nearly 80% of deaths have been among people age 65 and up. Nursing homes and other long-term care facilities were hit hard, and many banned family members and other visitors from entering, isolating residents. Even older adults living at home often kept their distance from family and friends as they sought to avoid the coronavirus. So when vaccines became available in December, many states targeted seniors first. That effort has proved successful, although rates vary among states. Hawaii, Pennsylvania, and Vermont vaccinated more than 99% of their seniors, while West Virginia ranks last with 78%.”
The housing crisis underlines how much we don’t know about U.S. renters: Writing for Vox, Jerusalem Demsas makes the case for a federal rental registry, arguing that the country is “watching in real time what happens when we don’t know enough about renters at risk of eviction.” “Congress set aside roughly $45 billion to make sure that a pandemic that wreaked havoc on the livelihoods of millions wouldn’t force families out of their homes through no fault of their own. This was no Band-Aid or short-term measure. Experts, renters’ advocates, even landlords agreed:This was the solution. Money itemized explicitly for the purpose of helping people make rent. More than half of it was allocated under the Trump administration and the rest under President Joe Biden. And yet, as of the end of June, the most recent data the Treasury Department has made available shows only around 6.5% of that money has gone out the door. It’s not for lack of trying. But we have allowed low-income tenants to exist at the peripheries of society and of our safety nets, to the point that reaching them, even when there is aid available, becomes a massive, expensive, and often impossible undertaking. ‘One of the things that this pandemic has made very clear is that there’s a lot that we don’t know about our housing market,’ Vincent Reina, director of the Housing Initiative at the University of Pennsylvania, told me in May. ‘The vast majority of cities don’t have full registries of every owner in their city. …It shows we often don’t know who owns properties and what’s going on with these properties or which tenants are experiencing financial hardship.’”
Poll finds nearly a quarter of Americans worry about having enough to eat: The Nutrition Insecurity, Hunger, and America’s Policy Priorities research report, with research conducted among a nationally representative sample of Americans in June 2021, revealed that nearly a quarter of Americans report worrying significantly about their family having enough to eat (24%) while more than half report worrying at least some of the time about society as a whole (52%). These numbers, released Tuesday by the Root Cause Coalition, were higher still among those under 45, individuals earning less than $40,000/year, and parents (37% say they worried a great deal). And for those who expressed worry about themselves not having enough to eat, more than one-third (37%) said that they didn’t have enough money to buy food while another 30% said that they used their money to purchase other necessities. ‘While COVID-19 laid bare many challenges Americans face today, this research underscores the importance of addressing hunger and the impact it has on too many individuals and their families. It is shameful that in today’s society so many people are faced with the challenge of having enough food to put on their table,’ said Barbara Petee, Executive Director of The Root Cause Coalition. At the same time, American’s overwhelmingly support hunger as a policy priority (76%), with another 13% saying they aren’t sure. This support was apparent across all demographics — age, gender, race, income, region, education level, and whether individuals were parents or not. Very few (11%) say that it should not be a policy priority. It is not surprising, then, that the public also supports nutrition assistance programs designed to address this very issue. More than eight in 10 (81%) say they at least somewhat support SNAP while a similar number (83%) say they at least somewhat support WIC.”
One in three people say return to office negatively impacted their mental health: From CNBC: “Roughly one in three workers back in the workplace said the return-to-office shift negatively impacted their mental health, according to a June McKinsey survey of 1,602 employed people. Workers who experienced declines in their mental health were five times more likely to report taking on reduced responsibility at work. Meanwhile, another 1 in 3 workers said going back to an office had a positive impact on their mental health, with the primary benefit being they feel more engaged upon their return. But negative responses to return-to-work plans, along with a now rising number of COVID-19 cases due to the contagious Delta variant, are complicating employers’ plans to bring workers back to the office in the fall. And leaders will need to work quickly to address the rising challenges of their returned workforce and support those who are expected to come back soon: nearly half of workers still remote but scheduled to return anticipate negative mental health impacts associated with the transition, such as anxiety and depression, the McKinsey report finds.”
Unmet need for paid leave persists, even after COVID benefits: Paid leave is another of the key issues that has been highlighted during the pandemic. Angela Rachidi, senior fellow and Rowe scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, has been following the issue for years and has been part of an AEI/Brookings Institution working group trying to find bipartisan approaches on paid family and medical leave policies. Rachidi has compiled new data on paid leave usage during the pandemic and she spoke with Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity about that recently, as well as the climate for bipartisan compromise on paid leave on Capitol Hill.
Briefing for August 4, 2021
Biden administration moves to block evictions in most of U.S.: From the Washington Post: “The Biden administration announced a temporary ban on evictions across most of the country on Tuesday, a move that bent to intense pressure from liberal House Democrats but that President Biden acknowledged may not prove constitutional. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a moratorium on evictions for 60 days for U.S. counties with ‘substantial and high levels of community transmission’ of the coronavirus, according to an agency news release. About 90% of the country will be covered by the ban as the virus’s delta variant spreads quickly throughout the country, Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a statement. The 19-page order lists criminal penalties including fines and jail time if someone is found to have violated the eviction moratorium. The Biden administration had previously said it had no legal authority to extend a separate national eviction moratorium that lapsed over the weekend. A statement from CDC Director Rochelle Walensky on Tuesday evening pointed to the emergence of the Delta variant and said ‘it is imperative that public health authorities act quickly to mitigate such an increase of evictions, which could increase the likelihood of new spikes in SARS-CoV-2 transmission.’ The administration’s move Tuesday capped a sudden, startling, and remarkable rift between Biden and his House Democratic allies, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). Late last week, just days before the CDC’s moratorium was set to expire, the White House issued a last-minute call for Congress to pass a law offering new eviction protections. At the time, the White House said it did not have the legal authority to do so on their own.”
How a permanent expansion of the Child Tax Credit could reduce poverty: A new Urban Institute study looks at how an expanded CTC would affect poverty in a typical year — one not marked by massive unemployment and greatly enhanced federal support because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Key findings, measuring poverty using the Supplemental Poverty Measure:
- Expanding the CTC would reduce child poverty by 5.9 percentage points, from 14.2 to 8.4% (rounded to the nearest tenth), using 2018 as a benchmark for a typical year. That means 4.3 million fewer children would be in poverty in a typical year, representing over a 40% decrease in child poverty.
- Increasing the value of the credit alone, from $2,000 to $3,000 for children ages 6 to 16 and to $3,600 for younger children, would remove 166,000 children from poverty. Making the credit fully refundable so all families with low incomes and qualifying children can claim its full value but keeping the value of the credit at $2,000 per child (the level before the American Rescue Plan Act’s temporary boost) would lift 2.2 million children out of poverty. Combining these two policy changes — full refundability and the higher credits — 4.1 million children are removed from poverty. Allowing families to claim the credit for 17-year-old children lifts an additional 200,000 children out of poverty.
- Children from all racial and ethnic groups would benefit from the expansion of the CTC, and racial and ethnic disparities in poverty rates would narrow. Poverty among Black, non-Hispanic children would be cut in half, falling by 10.3 percentage points, and rates for white, non-Hispanic children would fall by 3.3 percentage points. Poverty among Hispanic children and Asian American and Pacific Islander children would fall by 7.2 and 3.6 percentage points, respectively.
The media’s on-again, off-again coverage of evictions and the Child Tax Credit: Columbia Journalism Review’s Jon Allsop urges journalists to not make coverage of the ongoing housing crisis and the newly expanded Child Tax Credit dependent on a “news peg” — a major development such as a congressional vote or a legal deadline. “The eviction story feels like yet another victim of the news peg, or the belief, sacrosanct within the media business, that coverage of a broader issue should hang on the ‘hook’ of a specific event. As I wrote earlier this year, this dynamic privileges novelty (see: billionaires flying into space) while diluting the attention major outlets pay to deep, long-running societal problems. Another recent example of this dynamic was the child tax credit — an unconditional cash benefit for most U.S. parents that experts and campaigners have hailed as a historic, transformational step in the fight against child poverty. The policy received a flurry of national attention earlier this year when Biden passed it as part of his COVID-19 relief package, and then again recently when checks started hitting bank accounts. In between times, it got much less attention; as The Atlantic’s Annie Lowrey noted, citing data maintained by Stanford University, the tax credit has barely been mentioned on cable news compared to, say, vaccines or Donald Trump — perhaps contributing, among other factors, to a lack of awareness of the policy among the small, yet significant, proportion of parents who are eligible to receive the tax credit but won’t get it automatically.”
Missing voices in the Child Tax Credit debate — Parents: Writing for The Hill, Daniel Schneider, professor of public policy and sociology at Harvard University, and Peter Tufano, professor of finance at Oxford University and visiting professor of business administration at Harvard, try to gauge the views of parents about the expanded Child Tax Credit. “As empirical researchers, we have been out in the field working with a national market research firm (JDPower) to understand how parents are thinking about this benefit. The preliminary results from our most recent national survey, fielded June 11-14 — a month before the first payments — are encouraging. Even before the media blitz, parents’ awareness of the credit was already high, with over 60% aware of a tax credit that they haven’t yet received. They feel that it will be important to them: More than half of eligible recipients (58%) judge that this program will have a large or very large impact on their family finances; another 24% judge the impact to be moderate. Surely it will improve the lives of the 10 million children living in poverty, including 14% of all American children, 27% of all Black children, and 21% of all Hispanic children. Yet this is not just about the poor: We find that parents well above the poverty line believe it will materially impact their families. Some opposed to the plan have written that the money will be wasted, but that’s not what parents are saying. We polled them on their likely uses of the funds, and parents plan to use these funds for essential saving purposes and to balance household budgets. The top four planned uses for the funds — each accounting for more than 25% of responses, are saving for kids’ education, direct purchases for kids, paying off bills, and shopping for groceries.”
Tennessee student performance plunged during the pandemic: As 2020 test scores start to come in across the country, the Nashville Tennessean offers a glimpse into worrisome trends that other states may find as well: “New state data is finally shining light on just how much the COVID-19 pandemic impacted student achievement in Tennessee. As many education officials warned and expected, the number of students meeting grade-level requirements plunged this year, with economically disadvantaged students and students who did most of their schooling remotely showing some of the worst declines, according to statewide standardized test results released Monday by the Tennessee Department of Education. After more than a year of disruptions to learning, only 29% of Tennessee students are on grade-level in English language arts, and even less — 25% — are on grade-level in math. The data, which only reflects statewide averages, shows that declines weren’t limited to elementary students who many were most concerned about while schools were closed because the coronavirus pandemic.”
Briefing for August 3, 2021
Red states would see huge benefits from expanded Child Tax Credit: The new expansion of the Child Tax Credit will “shower outsize benefits on residents of rural and less populous states and will deliver a disproportionately large relative boost to their local economies,” according to a new study from the Niskanen Center analyzed by the Washington Post. Key takeaways from the study by Samuel Hammond and Robert Orr:
- “Across the next 12 months, we estimate that the CTC expansion will boost consumer spending by $27 billion, generate $1.9 billion in revenues from state and local sales taxes, and support over 500,000 thousand full time jobs at the median wage.”
- “More populous states will by nature see a larger total benefit from the CTC expansion. In relative terms, however, the CTC expansion provides larger benefits to states with lower average incomes and larger average family sizes, helping support access to community-based child care.”
- “In particular, rural regions stand to benefit from a substantial injection of relative purchasing power equivalent to 1.35% of non-metro GDP.”
Administration seeks to blunt impact from end of eviction moratorium: The New York Times reports: “With the federal moratorium on evictions having expired over the weekend, the White House on Monday sought to limit the impact, demanding that states speed up disbursement of billions of dollars in bottled-up rental aid while pleading with local governments to enact their own extensions. President Biden — under fire from the left of his party for not extending the freeze and eager to prove he was taking action to prevent evictions — directed federal agencies to consider targeted extensions for tenants in federally subsidized housing, asked state judges to slow-walk eviction proceedings, and called for a review of problems that have slowed the flow of aid. The temporary ban on evictions, imposed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last fall as a COVID-19 relief measure, lapsed on Saturday after a frenzied, failed effort on Capitol Hill to extend it through the end of the year, putting hundreds of thousands of tenants at risk of losing shelter. It will take weeks for new eviction cases to work their way through state courts. But some legal aid groups and tenants’ organizations are already reporting a steep rise in phone calls and emails from renters who owe money to landlords and lost the protection of the federal moratorium at midnight on Saturday.”
Latinx college enrollment was rising, but the pandemic has taken a toll: From CNBC: “College enrollment is down due to the coronavirus pandemic, but the Latinx student population has been hit particularly hard. Spring 2021 undergraduate enrollment is down 5.9% from last year, according to the National Student Clearinghouse. Latinx enrollment, which had been rising before the pandemic, showed some of the biggest swings: A decrease of 1.9% in spring 2021 compared to an increase of 2.1% in spring 2020. Community colleges, which include large Latinx student populations, saw a 13.7% decrease in enrollment in spring 2021, compared to an increase of 1.7% in spring 2020. Students dropped out for are a variety of reasons: Family members became sick or lost their jobs and the student had to help support the family. Or, they just couldn’t afford it anymore. And, instead of falling further behind, they decided to drop out. The pandemic also worsened some of the problems already faced by Hispanic college students, including language barriers, challenges due to immigration status, or lack of knowledge of the application due to them being first-generation students. ‘Latino students were disproportionally affected in the pandemic, since we are the most economically vulnerable,’ said Deborah Santiago, co-founder and chief executive officer of Excelencia in Education, an organization that looks to accelerate Latinx student success in higher education. ‘There was less enrollment and less persistence, but looking at the bigger picture, in one year, we saw five years of growth lost in terms of enrollment and representation, and that is big.’”
These states cut unemployment aid early to supercharge hiring — It isn’t working: From CBS News: “In May, Missouri Governor Michael Parson explained he was directing the state to cut off $300 in weekly jobless payments, months before the federally funded benefits were due to expire in September. The ‘excessive’ aid had ‘incentivized people to stay out of the workforce,’ he said. But Parson’s plan to supercharge hiring by curtailing jobless benefits may not be paying off, based on a new analysis of hiring data from Gusto, a company that handles payroll and other services for small and midsized businesses. So far, a dozen states that were the first to cut pandemic jobless benefits have experienced hiring growth on par with states that kept the federal benefits, the Gusto analysis found. These 12 states, all of which have Republican governors, blamed the generous unemployment benefits for keeping workers on the sidelines, but early evidence suggests that other issues — ranging from pandemic health concerns to problems with childcare — may be weighing on the job market, Gusto economist Luke Pardue said. ‘These benefits [were] ended early in order to try to speed up economic growth, but this data shows that this policy didn’t have that intended effect,’ Pardue noted. He added, ‘At the end of the day, if these governors have in mind creating a longer-term, sustainable recovery, and if we want a speedy recovery, ending unemployment insurance isn’t the silver bullet.'”
Welfare rolls decline during pandemic: From the Washington Post: “The number of Americans receiving financial help through the nation’s welfare system ebbed last year, even as economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic gripped the nation. As the pandemic destroyed jobs and health officials urged people to stay home to avoid exposure to the virus, 13 states left in place rules requiring residents to work or look for a job to qualify for monthly checks from Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, the main public program of cash assistance for the very poor. The work requirements were part of dramatic state-to-state variations in the way the welfare program, known by the acronym TANF, responded to the pandemic, according to federal caseload figures and other data analyzed by the Washington Post. As a result, the odds of being able to get — and stay — on welfare has hinged on where someone lives. In all but three of the 13 states that continued their work rules, scattered across the South, the Midwest, and the West, the number of residents receiving cash assistance fell from February 2020, the month before the pandemic was declared in the United States, to the end of the year, the analysis shows. In contrast, among the 37 states that officially halted or relaxed the rules once the pandemic began, just eight had welfare caseload declines. The number of people receiving cash assistance rose in 20 of those states and, in the nine others, caseloads grew until the middle of last year before tapering off.”
Biden child care plan faces a critical test: Politico reports: “President Joe Biden’s proposal to help millions of more families afford child care must overcome a critical hurdle first: The nation currently lacks enough facilities and workers to staff them. While Biden’s plan also includes money for new child care centers and hiring incentives, Democrats acknowledge that many families wouldn’t immediately benefit from the infusion of resources. ‘That’s not going to happen in three days. First we have to build the capacity and get the workers, and then we will have the ability then to move on,’ Senate HELP Chair Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said. With trillions of dollars in federal aid already poured into the economy to counter the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, the situation raises larger questions about how quickly all of the new spending Biden has proposed can be absorbed. Methods of tracking child care centers and workers vary widely from state to state, so putting a number on the child care shortage nationally is difficult. But a 25-state report from the Bipartisan Policy Center estimated that, prior to the coronavirus pandemic, nearly 2.7 million children under age 6 with working parents lacked access to child care — including day care centers, home-based child care, preschools, and Head Start, among other providers.”
Briefing for August 2, 2021
Pelosi turns tables on White House, urges eviction ban extension: From Politico: “Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her leadership team on Sunday urged President Joe Biden to immediately renew and extend the eviction moratorium until Oct. 18 after House Democrats failed to marshal the votes to prevent its lapse this weekend. Pelosi, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), and Assistant Speaker Katherine Clark (D-Mass.) issued a joint statement Sunday night putting the ball back in the Biden administration’s court, after the White House on Thursday said it could not extend the eviction ban and urged Congress to do it. ‘It is clear that the Senate is not able to [extend the ban], and any legislation in the House, therefore, will not be sufficient,’ the senior Democrats said. ‘Action is needed, and it must come from the administration.’ The statement from House leadership marked the latest escalation of tensions between congressional Democrats and the Biden administration over the fate of the eviction moratorium, which ended Saturday after being first implemented by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in September. Progressive lawmakers including Reps. Cori Bush (D-Mo.), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) also urged Biden to maintain the ban in a letter this weekend and staged a protest at the Capitol.”
‘Down the drain’ — Millions face evictions as ban lapses: As the federal eviction moratorium lapsed over the weekend, Politico reports that millions could be facing evictions. “Now lawmakers and activists fear an unprecedented surge in evictions in the coming months just as the highly transmissible Delta variant causes a spike in coronavirus cases. The eviction wave is expected to hit population centers across the country. Housing advocates point to renters in Ohio, Texas, and parts of the Southeast — where tenant protections are generally low, housing costs are high, and economic problems from the pandemic linger — as particularly at risk. Even though it has its own ban in place through August, New York is also a concern, because it has been especially slow at distributing rental assistance funds to the hundreds of thousands of tenants in the state who are behind on their rent. ‘We’ve been circling a drain,’ said KC Tenants Director Tara Raghuveer, a housing organizer in Kansas City, Mo. ‘On Saturday, poor and working-class tenants go down the drain in some places.’”
Housing aid remains slow to arrive and few states have COVID eviction protections: The Washington Post reports that as the federal eviction moratorium ends and courts begin processing steep backlogs of eviction cases, “only nine states and D.C. have some kind of emergency protections for tenants that will last into August, according to an analysis by The Washington Post. That has magnified criticism of the sluggish Emergency Rental Assistance Program, which some advocates say was flawed from the get-go because it relies on state and local governments across the country to create and administer their own programs. While some states quickly set up programs, others struggled to locate people in need or received so many applications that the onslaught overwhelmed staff and software systems, causing months-long delays. Six months after the aid program was approved by President Donald Trump in December, just 12% of the first $25 billion in funds had reached people in need due to loss of income from the pandemic, according to the Treasury Department. More than three months after President Biden signed a March relief package with another $21.5 billion for the program, even less of that has been spent.”
Poll shows 24% of Latina women have lost family member to COVID: Amid a pandemic that has disproportionately affected people of color, roughly one in four Latina women in the U.S. have reported losing a family member to COVID-19, according to a new poll, Newsweek reports. “The survey, which was conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of a group of reproductive rights organizations, found that at least 24% of Latina women have had a family member die from the coronavirus. The survey also found that Latina women are at least 5% more likely to become sick or have a family member become sick with COVID-19 than other women of color, including Black women and Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) women. In total, nearly 80% of Latina women have reported feeling personally affected by the pandemic, whether it be through becoming ill, losing a family member, losing a job, being evicted, or struggling to make payments. At least 37% of Latina women also reported facing mental health difficulties throughout the pandemic, as compared to 29% of Black women and 34% of AAPI women.”
$15 wage becomes norm as employers struggle to fill jobs: From the Associated Press: “The signs and banners are dotted along suburban commercial strips and hanging in shop windows and restaurants, evidence of a new desperation among America’s service-industry employers: ‘Now Hiring, $15 an hour.’ It is hardly the official federal minimum wage — at $7.25, that level hasn’t been raised since 2009 — but for many lower-skilled workers, $15 an hour has increasingly become a reality. Businesses, particularly in the restaurant, retail, and travel industries, have been offering a $15 wage to try to fill enough jobs to meet surging demand from consumers, millions of whom are now spending freely after a year in lockdown. And many of the unemployed, buoyed by stimulus checks and expanded jobless aid, feel able to hold out for higher pay. The change since the pandemic has been swift. For years, and notably in the 2020 presidential race, labor advocates had trumpeted $15 an hour as a wage that would finally allow low-paid workers to afford basic necessities and narrow inequality. It struck many as a long-term goal. Now, many staffing companies say $15 an hour is the level that many businesses must pay to fill their jobs. ‘That number is not a coincidence,’ said Aaron Sojourner, an economist at the University of Minnesota. ‘It’s the number that those activists and workers put on the table 10 years ago, and built a movement towards.’”
How disabled Americans are pushing to overhaul a benefits program: The New York Times reports: “When Congress created Supplemental Security Income in 1972, it left no question about its intentions. The program, lawmakers wrote, was ‘designed to provide a positive assurance that the nation’s aged, blind, and disabled people would no longer have to subsist on below-poverty-level incomes.’ Today, it helps ensure the opposite. The maximum annual benefit is $9,528, three-quarters of the federal poverty level. Payments decrease if recipients have more than $85 a month in outside income, and are revoked if they exceed $2,000 in savings. There are penalties for accepting groceries or even shelter from loved ones. The result is that it is structurally difficult to be on S.S.I. and not live in poverty. The shift happened over nearly five decades in which Congress made no major changes to the program, which is run by the Social Security Administration and serves about eight million Americans. The outside income limits, for instance, have never been updated for inflation. Now, as Democrats hash out the details of trillions of dollars in spending that they hope to pass through budget reconciliation with no need for Republican support, S.S.I. recipients and advocates see a rare opportunity to overhaul the program.”
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