Briefing for August 30-September 3, 2021 on COVID-19 and Low-Income Communities

Briefing for August 30-September 3, 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 to subscribe.

Briefing for September 3, 2021

Survey shows large majorities support child care and nutrition proposals: From the School of Public Policy at the University of Maryland: “Large majorities of American voters favor several proposals for increasing federal support for children that are being considered for the reconciliation budget plan. More than six in ten voters support an increase in federal subsidies for child care. Two-thirds favor making permanent the credits for summer meals for low-income families with children. In the innovative survey of 2,613 registered voters by the Program for Public Consultation (PPC) at the School of Public Policy at the University of Maryland, respondents were given briefings on the proposals and related information, and evaluated arguments for and against each proposal. The content was reviewed in advance by experts for accuracy and balance and to ensure the best arguments were being presented on both sides. The survey found 63% favor a proposal which subsidizes the costs of child care, so low-income families do not pay anything and middle-income families pay no more than 7% of their income.  This includes 86% of Democrats and 59% of independents, however only 39% of Republicans. The specifics of this proposal were based on the Child Care for Working Families Act (S. 1360, H.R. 2817). Further analysis was conducted by dividing the sample six ways, depending on the Cook’s Political Report PVI ratings, reflecting the partisan orientation of the respondent’s Congressional district. Majorities were found to favor the proposal for child care subsidies in very Republican (62%) to very Democratic (79%) districts.” 

Nearly half of renters still protected from eviction: New York state lawmakers have voted to extend an eviction protection for renters until Jan. 15, 2022, following the Supreme Court’s decision last month to overturn the national moratorium. Despite the lifting of that countrywide protection, nearly half of renters remain shielded from eviction by local policies, according to a recent analysis by the Urban Institute reported by CNBC. “In addition to New York, Illinois will ban evictions until Sept. 19; California’s moratorium will last through Sept. 30; and New Jersey and Washington, D.C., will still curb the proceedings until January. New Mexico also has an eviction moratorium in effect, and an expiration date hasn’t yet been announced. Boston, too, just moved to bar evictions for the foreseeable future. Policies curbing evictions during the coronavirus pandemic have resulted in legal challenges and drawn the ire of property owners, who say they can’t continue housing people for free. Advocates say the bans must remain in place until more rental assistance reaches people. Congress has allocated more than $45 billion to address the crisis hitting tenants and their landlords, but the money has been painfully slow to reach families. Seven months after those funds were approved, 16 states have apparently spent less than 5% of their share.” 

School bus driver shortages are causing chaos as schools re-open: Pandemic-fueled labor shortages are being felt all over the country, including on your neighborhood school bus. Teen Vogue reports: “As students return to school this fall after taking remote classes for over a year, emotions are running high, such as excitement over seeing friends in person againanxiety over the highly contagious Delta variant, and — to top it all off — nerves about maybe not even making it onto the bus. The 2021 academic school year has seen an enormous and unprecedented school-bus driver shortage in counties nationwide, including reports from across Ohio, Illinois, DelawareKentucky, and other states. In a recent survey by School Bus Fleet, about half of the respondents categorized their driver shortage as ‘severe’ or ‘desperate,’ while only 5% of respondents said they have no driver shortage. The same survey stated that more than half of school districts with 25,000 to 100,000 students said they believed it could take three months or more to resume normal transportation operations. Curt Macysyn, executive director of the National School Transportation Association (NSTA), tells Teen Vogue that while school-bus driver shortages have long been an issue, this school year has brought on the worst shortage he’s ever seen. Among the underlying reasons: COVID-19-related health concerns and vaccine hesitancy. ‘At NSTA, we expect the need for school-bus drivers to remain at critical levels over the coming months,’ Macysyn says via email. ‘We project that this will impact the industry’s ability to provide consistent service well into the 2021-2022 school year. Both contracted school-bus transportation companies and district-run operations are struggling to find drivers as this issue continues to escalate.'” 

Hurricane Ida and the coming eviction crisis: Grist reports: “Hurricane Ida has battered one of the poorest regions of the country, driving floodwaters into neighborhoods along the Gulf Coast and those along the Mississippi River in Louisiana. Its winds knocked trees through houses, and its rising waters sent people into their attics where they waited for rescue. Thousands will likely be without shelter for weeks or even months. A move by the Supreme Court last Thursday could make the struggle to find housing even worse. Despite a push from community organizations and members of Congress, the conservative court blocked the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from enforcing a federal moratorium on evicting renters during the pandemic. In the South, the fight by housing advocates to maintain the eviction ban was undergirded by the knowledge that the states most likely to see evictions were those set to be hit by Hurricane Ida, a storm likely intensified by climate change. ‘Climate change is also a housing crisis,’ said Andreanecia Morris, executive director of the housing advocacy nonprofit HousingNOLA. ‘Mother Nature is trying to evict us with cause.’” 

Climate change is bankrupting America’s small towns: Even as smaller communities try to rebound from the economic impacts of the pandemic, increasingly frequent extreme weather is also taking a financial toll. From the New York Times: “Climate shocks are pushing small rural communities … many of which were already struggling economically, to the brink of insolvency. Rather than bouncing back, places hit repeatedly by hurricanes, floods, and wildfires are unraveling: residents and employers leave, the tax base shrinks, and it becomes even harder to fund basic services. That downward spiral now threatens low-income communities in the path this week of Hurricane Ida and those hit by the recent flooding in Tennessee — hamlets regularly pummeled by storms that are growing more frequent and destructive because of climate change. Their gradual collapse means more than just the loss of identity, history, and community. The damage can haunt those who leave, since they often can’t sell their old homes at a price that allows them to buy something comparable in a safer place. And it threatens to disrupt neighboring towns and cities as the new arrivals push up demand for housing.” 

Briefing for September 2, 2021

U.S. hunger rate is lowest of pandemic: Fern’s AG Insider reports: “After cresting at 13.7% at the end of 2020, the U.S. hunger rate is now the lowest, 7.8%, since the pandemic began in early 2020. Analysts say the expanded child tax credit, coronavirus relief programs, and a rebound from recession all helped. Among families with children, the hunger rate fell by one-third since mid-July, said analyst Claire Zippel of the think tank Center on Budget and Policy Priorities on Monday. The change affected 3.3 million families and can be attributed to the child tax credit, she said in a Center on Budget report. ‘The remarkable improvement in food hardship follows issuance of the first monthly Child Tax Credit payment on July 15, which provided up to $300 per child under age 6 and $250 for each child ages 6 to 17, as well as continuing economic growth and improvements in food assistance,’ wrote Zippel. She based her figures on data from the Census Bureau’s ‘Pulse’ surveys. ‘The number of Black, Latino, and white adults with children in households where someone didn’t get enough food has each fallen between one-fourth and one-third since early July,’ said Zippel. In the past, the benefit of the tax credit for 27 million children was muted because their family income was small. The temporary expansion enacted in March made children in the lowest-income families eligible for the full credit and increased the size of the credit. ‘A sizable income boost to families who need it the most,’ said Zippel. Economist Diane Schanzenbach of Northwestern University said on social media that ‘hunger rates overall and (among) those with children are now at their lowest rates during the pandemic.’ Census data indicate an U.S. hunger rate of 7.8%; among households with children, it was 9.5%, she said. The hunger rate is based on the number of respondents who said they sometime or often did not get enough to eat in the previous seven days. Two weeks ago, almost all of the decline in the U.S. hunger occurred among families with children, said Schanzenbach, ‘suggesting the child tax credit made a big dent in hunger.’ Roughly half of the households receiving the tax credit said they used it to buy food. The latest Census data, for mid-August, show the drop in the hunger rate was strongest among families with children, she said.” 

Pandemic made unequal access to food even worse, study suggests: Food deserts were a major issue for low-income communities long before the pandemic — but it stands to reason that the impact of the COVID-19 lockdown might make a bad situation even worse. A new study from a team of Ohio State researchers finds that unequal access to food was exacerbated in the Columbus, Ohio area during the pandemic period, a finding the research team expects to find similar evidence for nationally. Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity spoke recently with one of the study authors, Ohio State doctoral student Armita Kar, about the new research. 

Pandemic exacerbates growing suicide crisis for communities of color: From Kaiser Health News and the Philadelphia Inquirer: “Interviews with a dozen suicide researchers, data collected from states across the country, and a review of decades of research revealed that suicide is a growing crisis for communities of color — one that plagued them well before the pandemic and has only been exacerbated since. Overall suicide rates in the United States decreased in 2019 and 2020. National and local studies attribute the trend to a drop among white Americans, who make up the majority of suicide deaths. Meanwhile, rates for Black, Hispanic, and Asian Americans — though lower than those for their white peers — continued to climb in many states. (Suicide rates have been consistently high for Native Americans.) ‘COVID created more transparency regarding what we already knew was happening,’ said Sonyia Richardson, a licensed clinical social worker who focuses on serving people of color and an assistant professor at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte, where she researches suicide. When you put the suicide rates of all communities in one bucket, ‘that bucket says it’s getting better and what we’re doing is working,’ she said. ‘But that’s not the case for communities of color.’” 

Nearly half of LGTBQ renters behind on rent fear eviction: The Hill reports that about half of LGBT U.S. renters who are behind on their payments fear eviction in the next two months, according to research released by the University of California-Los Angeles’s Williams Institute. “The Williams Institute compiled a brief examining housing stability during the coronavirus pandemic using data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Pulse Survey. The research found that 19% of LGBT respondents said that they are behind on rent. Of those, 47% said that they fear eviction in the next two months. The findings from the survey come after the Supreme Court last week blocked an eviction freeze put in place by the Biden administration to shield financially vulnerable Americans during the pandemic. The moratorium had been put in place by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) under former President Trump last September and was extended several times amid an unpredictable economy and a pandemic-causing virus that has mutated several times. Williams Institute researchers also found that 41% of LGBT respondents rent their homes, compared to 25% of their straight, cisgender counterparts. About 39% of LGBT people owned a house with a mortgage or a loan, compared to almost 48% of non-LGBT people. In addition, more LGBT people of color — 47% — rent their homes, compared to 37% of white LGBT respondents.” 

How one city is helping residents avoid eviction: From NPR: “In a courthouse in Memphis, Tenn., a full docket of cases means tenants are packed into eviction court — as much as social distancing will allow, and then a little more. When each tenant is called up for their case, Judge Phyllis Gardner asks this question: ‘Are you interested in the rental assistance program?’ For the tenants who show up to their court date, judges here regularly extend cases weeks into the future and nearly push them down the hall to Room 134, where Memphis Area Legal Services attorneys help tenants start applications for rental aid. One of those attorneys, Freda Turner, stands up in the courtroom to talk about the program. ‘If you apply and if you’re approved, we will pay up to 12 months of your back rent plus one month of future rent,’ she explains. ‘We will bring you to zero, and you’ll get a fresh start.’ A stable home is the idea behind the $46 billion in the U.S. Treasury Department’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program. Appropriated by Congress to be distributed by states and localities, the federal aid means that even tenants facing deep rental debt have the chance to stay in their homes. That aid is even more urgent since the Supreme Court’s decision to block the CDC’s latest extension of its temporary halt on evictions. Here in Tennessee, there haven’t been CDC eviction protections for more than a month, due to a federal court ruling in late July by the Sixth Circuit. That makes Memphis a harbinger for what the rest of the country is now facing.” 

Briefing for September 1, 2021

Is it really the right time to end pandemic unemployment insurance? From Vox: “On Labor Day, expanded unemployment benefits put in place in response to the pandemic are set to expire, and there’s virtually no political appetite in Washington to extend them. ‘The Biden administration has not made it a priority, and outside of [Democratic Sen.] Ron Wyden, you haven’t heard too many people in the Senate be willing to push on that,’ said Andrew Stettner, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation, a liberal think tank. ‘It doesn’t seem like right now there would even be 50 votes in the Senate.’ That means that the extra $300 per week in federal employment benefits in place since December 2020 will end, as will programs aimed at people who wouldn’t normally qualify for unemployment insurance, such as freelancers, gig workers, and the long-term unemployed, which were put in place in the spring of 2020. Stettner estimates 7.5 million workers will lose all their benefits. Those who still qualify will only get what comes from states. In a letter to leaders in Congress last week, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Labor Secretary Marty Walsh said they believe that cutting off the extra $300 is ‘appropriate.’ They added that the White House thinks states can use remaining money from stimulus funds to help support some workers (namely, the workers who don’t normally qualify). But it’s not clear how many states are going to take that up. More than half have already cut off expanded unemployment benefits over the summer. ‘There will be a few extended benefits programs, but for the most part, there’s going to be nothing available,’ Stettner said. He added that, gleaning from his early talks with states, most are not in a position to deliver anything with remaining stimulus dollars.” 

New public funding could speed up broadband access in remote, rural areas: The Hechinger Report uses the Navajo Nation in New Mexico as an example of rural areas whose lack of broadband access was underlined during the pandemic. “In New Mexico, only 77% of households have a broadband subscription, according to a census report released in April, though some industry observers think the numbers are actually lower. That compares with 85% nationally. And even for those who are connected, the service doesn’t come cheap. Only 13% of New Mexico’s population has access to a low-price internet service plan, according to Broadband Now, a research group. The state’s rugged landscape, its patchwork of state, federal, and tribal land ownership, and the minimal coordination between internet providers and government agencies combine to keep New Mexico consistently near the bottom on national surveys measuring internet access in homes. When New Mexico’s children were suddenly required to attend school via the internet in March 2020, it went badly for many of them. Families spent the school day in fast-food parking lots, outside libraries, or on top of mesas trying to catch a signal. Some students were never heard from for the rest of that school year. And those who could connect were often plagued by slow download speeds and frequently interrupted service. Versions of the same story played out across rural America, making the problem impossible to ignore. ‘It’s not so audacious to sit here and say that as we come out of this pandemic, we are going to decide that every student in this country gets the internet access that they need to fully support their education and succeed in school,’ said Jessica Rosenworcel, the acting chairwoman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which regulates U.S. interstate and international communications.” 

Lessons on child care from the military: As policymakers struggle with finding ways to support the child care industry after it was ravaged by the pandemic, the New York Times reports that the military’s system may be a source of inspiration. “In 1978, Linda Smith walked into her new job as program director of the child care center at Williams Air Force Base in Arizona to find a distressing sight: dozens of toddlers and infants all crammed into one room with a single caregiver and a TV mounted on the wall. ‘They were all just running around the room, and there was just one chair — for the caregiver,’ Ms. Smith said. ‘Imagine the chaos.’ The scene Ms. Smith witnessed was actually quite common in a child care system that was then deeply underfunded and riddled with scandal. At the time, most military child care centers did not even meet fire and safety codes, according to a scathing report published in 1982 by the General Accounting Office, the congressional watchdog. The tipping point came in 1987, when the U.S. Army closed a child care center at the Presidio base in San Francisco amid reports of children being sexually abused. In the ensuing years, the Defense Department, with the help of Ms. Smith, would engineer a transformation of its child care system, laying the groundwork for the creation of what is widely considered among the best such programs in the country. Today, the system’s standards are considered more rigorous than any state’s and almost all of its centers meet the criteria for national accreditation, which includes having a vetted curriculum and a low student-teacher ratio. By comparison, less than one in 10 civilian programs are accredited.” 

In-person requirements hurt WIC recipients during pandemic: Penn Today reports: “In a recent study in JAMA, Penn Medicine researchers examined one way in which these burdens may have worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic. Participating families receive electronic benefits transfer (EBT) debit cards, which they can use to purchase approved food and beverage products from vendors who accept WIC benefits. Nine ‘offline EBT’ states (Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Utah, Texas, and Wyoming) currently require WIC beneficiaries to present these cards in-person at their local WIC office every three to four months to reload their benefits. In all other states, WIC EBT cards are automatically reloaded online (remotely) each month, and beneficiaries do not have to travel to WIC clinics in-person during the pandemic. Did offline EBT reloading limit access to benefits when they were needed most, because eligible families chose not to risk in-person contact during the pandemic? To estimate this effect, researchers compared WIC participation before and during the pandemic in online and offline EBT states. Prior to the pandemic, WIC participation declined in both online and offline states; during the pandemic, however, WIC participation increased sharply in online EBT states while it continued to decline in offline EBT states.” 

How Philadelphia housing repairs drove down crime: Bloomberg CityLab reports that a program launched by Philadelphia in the late ‘90s to breathe new life into the city’s aging neighborhoods and offer support to low-income homeowners who lacked the resources to renovate has had an incidental side effect: according to new research on more than 13,000 recipients of these grants, the blocks where homes were repaired experienced 22% less crime overall and 22% fewer homicides than they likely would have if not for the repairs. The initiative provided residents of primarily Black and Latino neighborhoods with up to $20,000 for home repairs, prioritizing structural fixes like plumbing and roofing. “The presence of this investment reduced crime levels overall, across every type of crime,” said Vincent J. Reina, an associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania and a co-author of the report published in the research journal JAMA Network Open. As major U.S. cities explore criminal justice reform amid a spike in homicides, the study offers insight into the kinds of investments that might help with crime rates — aside from more money for police. It also adds to a growing body of research on community investments that reduce crime.

Briefing for August 31, 2021

Evictions to hit 750,000 Goldman says: Politico reports that about 750,000 renter households will likely lose their homes this year after the Supreme Court blocked the federal eviction moratorium, according to Goldman Sachs economists. “Analysts at the investment bank estimate that tenants owe between $12 billion and $17 billion to landlords as COVID-19 cases surge, with about 2.5 million to 3.5 million households behind on rent. The findings that Goldman released late Sunday mark one of the first comprehensive estimates of what could happen in the absence of the eviction moratorium, which was stopped as state and local governments continued to experience bottlenecks in the delivery of $46.5 billion in federal rental assistance. Given the slow pace of rental aid disbursement, Goldman’s analysts expect that between 1 million and 2 million households will remain without support and at risk of eviction when the remaining state and local eviction bans expire at the end of September. The economists based their findings on rent delinquency data from real estate companies, the National Multifamily Housing Council and the U.S. Census Bureau.” 

White House mulls clemency for some inmates given home release during pandemic: The New York Times reports that President Biden is considering using his clemency powers to commute the sentences of certain federal drug offenders released to home confinement during the pandemic rather than forcing them to return to prison after the pandemic emergency ends, according to officials familiar with internal deliberations. “The legal and policy discussions about a mass clemency program are focused on nonviolent drug offenders with less than four years remaining in their sentences, the officials said. The contemplated intervention would not apply to those now in home confinement with longer sentences left, or those who committed other types of crimes. The notion of clemency for some inmates is just one of several ideas being examined in the executive branch and Congress. Others include a broader use of a law that permits the ‘compassionate release’ of sick or elderly inmates, and Congress enacting a law to allow some inmates to stay in home confinement after the pandemic. Interviews with officials in both the executive branch and Congress, most of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive deliberations, suggest there is broad support for letting nonviolent inmates who have obeyed the rules stay at home — reducing incarceration and its cost to taxpayers. But officials in each branch also foresee major challenges and have hoped the other would solve the problem.” 

Parents have few paid leave rights as COVID closes some schools again: From Bloomberg Law: “Working parents once again face the dilemma of school and day care closures as the delta variant surges, but this year their paid leave options are scant. The federal safety net for coronavirus-related paid leave that Congress passed in 2020 expired in December. And while several states have passed pandemic-related leave measures, not all guarantee coverage for school closures. ‘Working parents in most states and cities are facing an uncertain fall,’ said Vicki Shabo, senior fellow for paid leave policy and strategy at New America’s Better Life Lab. ‘Parents are essentially playing the boss lottery if a child is sick and needs to stay home.’ Since the onset of the pandemic, parents or caregivers have filed roughly 100 lawsuits under the now-expired Families First Coronavirus Response Act, alleging they were fired or unlawfully denied leave when schools or day cares shut down. This represents about a quarter of the more than 400 cases brought since last April under that law, which also provided protections for workers with COVID-19 symptoms or who needed to care for someone quarantining. The virus already is forcing schools and districts in several states — largely in the South where vaccination rates are low and mask mandates are rare — to return to online learning after reopening in person. Closures have been reported in Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Texas, and Virginia, with many more schools starting back up in coming weeks.” 

Asian-American advocates fear new attacks after COVID origins report: The 19th reports: “Violent attacks against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders coincided with the start of the pandemic, and although media attention has waned, reports haven’t stopped. And Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) advocacy groups are worried that the COVID-19 origin report, released Friday by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, may drive a new rise in attacks against the community, especially against women and older people who are seen as more vulnerable targets. They also fear officials may not take victims’ reports seriously unless people are speaking out regularly and emphatically. The report’s inconclusive results come after scientists involved in the research reportedly said that time is running out to find reliable information on the virus’ origin — and as the White House continues to pin the lack of results on government officials in China not cooperating with investigations. The potential blowback from this reminder of the virus’ roots in China, and the difficulty investigators have had with obtaining information, is what the AAPI groups are bracing for. ‘We wanted our communities to be prepared,’ said Sonal Shah, president of the Asian American Foundation, explaining why the recently formed philanthropic group released a toolkit last week. The kit encourages victims of hate crimes or similar incidents to call for help in the moment, write down details later and file a police report. It also encourages people to seek legal representation if necessary.” 

Many kids have missed routine vaccines, worrying doctors as school starts: From NPR: “As she does ahead of every school year, Karen Schwind and the team of school nurses she manages in the New Braunfels Independent School District in central Texas spent a lot of time checking every student’s immunization records against the state’s database. The nurses also checked with parents and doctors’ offices to ensure all students had received their required shots for measles, mumps, diphtheria, meningitis and other childhood diseases before classes started. ‘We start notifying parents in the winter — like January, March and then again in May,’ says Schwind, whose district has 15 K-12 schools. But recently, just a week before school was set to begin, Schwind estimated about 15% of children in her district were still missing at least one of those shots. COVID-19, she says, has complicated routine childhood vaccinations in a number of ways. ‘Many clinics that give routine vaccines have been converted to giving COVID-19 vaccine,’ Schwind says. ‘So in many places, the availability of the routine vaccines may not be the usual spot.’ Some families moved, or remained in online school all of last year, making it easier to overlook the state’s vaccine requirements. And, Schwind says, in recent years, a growing number of parents have been applying for exemptions, citing religious, medical, or philosophical reasons. According to the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, similar patterns are playing out across the country, leaving infectious disease experts worried about the potential for outbreaks of illnesses that were once largely vanquished in the United States. Even modest declines in vaccination rates can compromise immunity within a community, as was seen during a big measles outbreak in the New York City area in 2018-2019.” 

Briefing for August 30, 2021

Millions of Americans face financial cliff as evictions ban, unemployment aid lapse: From the Washington Post: “The clock is now ticking for millions of Americans who are set to face a series of stinging financial hardships in a matter of days, with the loss of federal protections against eviction and looming cuts to their weekly unemployment checks. The two developments arrive at a moment of great tension in Washington, where the White House and Congress have grappled over the state of the country’s pandemic aid — and confronted their limited ability to authorize more of it — even as the economy shows potential signs of strain in the face of a resurgent coronavirus. The first blow arrived Friday, as landlords now can more easily begin removing tenants who have fallen behind on their monthly payments. The potential wave of evictions comes after the Supreme Court found the Biden administration’s recent eviction moratorium to be unconstitutional, leaving the White House powerless to issue its own new directive protecting as many as 6.4 million households that are not current on their rents, according to federal survey data. Many Americans also have struggled to obtain federal rental aid from state and local programs that were allocated tens of billions of dollars in past stimulus packages. Ten days later, some of those same families could face additional financial peril as enhanced unemployment insurance benefits are set to lapse. Congress repeatedly has extended these weekly checks, but President Biden and some of his congressional allies have not sought to renew them ahead of their planned expiration Sept. 6. That could threaten 7.5 million people with the loss of much-needed income, according to a recent estimate from the Century Foundation.” 

Democrats scramble to find answers for eviction ban ruling: Politico reports that Democrats in Congress and the White House are scrambling to “shore up safeguards for millions of tenants facing a housing crisis after the Supreme Court blocked an eviction ban imposed by the Biden administration. Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the House was considering ‘possible legislative remedies’ as more than 60 House Democrats demanded that she and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer work to revive the national eviction moratorium. Top Biden officials also mobilized to try to contain the fallout, with three Cabinet secretaries urging state and local officials to enact their own bans and pause eviction proceedings in court while governors and mayors work to distribute billions of dollars in languishing rental assistance. ‘Congressional Democrats have not and will not ever accept a situation of mass evictions,’ Pelosi said in a statement, adding that the high court decision was ‘arbitrary and cruel.’ Thursday night’s Supreme Court ruling blocking the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s eviction ban thrust the issue back on to Congress’s to-do list, though it appeared unlikely that lawmakers would be able to rally support to enact new protections. The Biden administration imposed the moratorium earlier this month — after first citing concerns about its legality — because House Democrats were unable to drum up the votes to put the policy into law. President Joe Biden would support congressional action to authorize an eviction moratorium, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Friday, even as she cast doubt on the legislative effort. ‘If there were enough votes to pass an eviction moratorium in Congress it would have happened,’ Psaki said. “It hasn’t happened.'”  

Businesses who hired inmates given home release during pandemic push for clemency: USA Today reports: “Over the past year, Rob Cutter saw his business’ income nearly double. Cutter, owner of a small plumbing company in Oklahoma City, Okla., said this would not have happened if not for Susie Patton, his new office manager, who’s helped him cut costs and attract new clients. ‘She has made a great effort in making contact with all my suppliers, retailers, and customers. And she has a really good knowledge of what’s going on in my company,’ Cutter said. But both face the possibility of losing what they have. Cutter could lose a valuable employee. Patton could lose a job that affords her a new life since she left prison. Patton is among the thousands of nonviolent federal prisoners who were allowed to serve their time at home last year to slow the spread of coronavirus inside prison walls. But a Justice Department legal memo issued earlier this year concluded that allowing inmates to stay at home was not meant to be permanent, and they must return to prison once the pandemic is over. For Patton, who has two years left in her sentence, this means disrupting the life she spent the last year rebuilding. Cutter and more than two dozen other small business owners who hired inmates like Patton are now asking President Joe Biden to grant clemency to prisoners. Some say losing employees to prison during a national labor shortage would not only be detrimental to their business, but would also keep their companies from growing.” 

When the new COVID strain hit, Mississippi was uniquely unprepared: The New York Times finds that even before Mississippi suffered a direct hit from Hurricane Ida, the “health care system in the nation’s poorest state is close to buckling under the latest avalanche of cases triggered by the highly contagious Delta variant of the virus. ‘We have reached a failure point,’ LouAnn Woodward, the medical center’s top executive, said late last week. ‘The demand has exceeded our resources.’ The current coronavirus spike has hit the South hard, but a combination of poverty and politics made Mississippi uniquely unprepared to handle what is now the worst coronavirus outbreak in the nation. The state has fewer active physicians per capita than any other. Five rural hospitals have closed in the past decade, and 35 more are at imminent risk of closing, according to an assessment from a nonprofit health care quality agency. There are 2,000 fewer nurses in Mississippi today than there were at the beginning of the year, according to the state hospital association.” 

As COVID surges among children, doctors worry children of color at most at risk: From USA Today: “The COVID-19 vaccines aren’t yet available for children younger than 12, and with schools reopening more kids are getting infected. In Florida, where new cases lead the nation and Gov. Ron DeSantis has banned school districts from mandating masks, children make up roughly 10% of cases since the start of the pandemic, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Nationwide, children accounted for more than a fifth of COVID-19 cases reported the week ending Aug. 19, the AAP reported. In the past two weeks alone, cases among children increased 7%. Doctors expect it will only get worse. Science is still catching up with the pediatric surge, but experts worry about children of color, who disproportionately suffer from lack of access to health care, obesity and other chronic conditionsand COVID-19, too. The disparity is likely to continue. ‘I don’t see a reason why it wouldn’t,’ said Dr. Sean O’Leary, a Denver, Colorado pediatric infectious diseases specialist and vice chair of the AAP Committee on Infectious Diseases. ‘Those kids are at higher risk for hospitalization in general.'”

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