Briefing for December 14-18, 2020 on COVID-19 and Low-Income Communities

Briefing for December 14-18, 2020 on COVID-19 and Low-Income Communities

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

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

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

Briefing for December 18, 2020

Six months into the pandemic, 40% of families with young families had experienced economic fallout: A brief from the Urban Institute uses data from the most recent wave of the Coronavirus Tracking Survey, a nationally representative survey of nonelderly adults conducted September 11–28, 2020, to assess food insecurity and other key indicators of material hardship and well-being among families with young children. Key takeaways include: 

  • Four in 10 parents (40.3%) living with a child under age six reported they or their family experienced a loss of employment or work-related income during the first six months of the pandemic, and this economic turbulence can make it difficult for families to meet basic needs at a sensitive point in early child development. 
  • Parents who experienced a job loss or a loss in job-related income reported using a variety of coping strategies, including cutting household spending on food (34.4%), using all or most of their savings (26%) and increasing credit card debt (25.5%). 
  • More than one in five parents (22.9%) reported that their household experienced food insecurity, which was the most common form of material hardship, in the past 30 days, followed by unmet need for health care because of costs in the past 30 days (21.4%). 

The pandemic is having a devastating impact on children, and vaccines won’t fix everything: COVID-19 has taken an unthinkable toll on children — a social, emotional and academic ordeal so extreme that some advocates and experts warn its repercussions could rival those of a hurricane or other disaster. “We’re going to almost need a New Deal for an entire generation of kids to give them the opportunity to catch up,” said Billy Shore, the executive director of Share Our Strength. As of now, he added, “we don’t even know what we’re going to be dealing with.” 

These buses take school to children: A photo essay from the New York Times documents a program in Jackson, Mich., in which 50 school buses have been equipped with wireless antennas in order to bring online school to students. Administrators said about one in five of the district’s 5,000 students access classes through the program. Drivers lock up the buses and leave them throughout Jackson from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., at parks and outside recreation centers and near a homeless center and apartment complexes. “We’re all learning a new way of building an education system built for a pandemic,” said Jeff Beal, the Jackson Public School superintendent. 

How states can use TANF to deliver immediate help during the pandemic: The second in a series of briefs from the Center for American Progress suggests two strategies for states to make better use of their Temporary Assistance for Needy Families funds in the absence of federal action. 

  • Increase the use and amount of several kinds of TANF benefits, particularly through unspent TANF reserves, with an emphasis on expanding and boosting direct cash assistance but also a focus on subsidized jobs, housing assistance, child care, other nonrecurrent short-term benefits, and other technical changes. 
  • Broaden eligibility for TANF by suspending all work and work-search requirements and sanctions; freezing lifetime use limits and automatically recertifying all recipients; increasing the income threshold and basing eligibility on expected income rather than previous income; allowing childless adults to sign up, at least during the crisis; and making other eligibility changes. 

Tyson Foods fires employees accused of making bets on COVID-19: Tyson Foods is firing seven employees at its pork processing plant in Waterloo, Iowa. They were the subject of an investigation into managers and supervisors placing bets on how many workers would contract the coronavirus. The allegations were made in a wrongful death lawsuit involving the Waterloo plant filed by families of workers who had died of COVID-19. Tyson suspended the managers without pay last month a day after the lawsuit was brought to light. Tyson then hired former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to conduct an independent investigation. The alleged wagering happened last spring. About 1,000 of the plant’s 2,800 workers tested positive for COVID-19 in May. 

Trusted messengers may help overcome vaccine concerns in hard-hit communities: From STAT: “Public health officials around the country are gearing up for what might be as challenging as figuring out how to store a vaccine at 70 degrees below zero Celsius. They need to persuade people who are part of communities that have been hit hard by the virus — those in low-income families and some minority populations, especially Black and Latino residents — to take a vaccine developed in less than a year and approved under emergency use authorization. Yet there are a few places where officials think they have a head start. Rochester, Minnesota, home of the Mayo Clinic, is one of them. The Rochester Healthy Community Partnership has been working to reduce health disparities in the area’s immigrant communities, including Somali, Hispanic, Cambodian, South Sudanese and Ethiopian residents, for 15 years. 

Louisiana teachers recover from back-to-back hurricanes during pandemic: The dual crises of the coronavirus pandemic and a highly active hurricane season — five storms hit Louisiana this year — have made Lake Charles, La. teachers’ jobs even more challenging. Every campus in the parish school district sustained damage; internet access has been spotty at best. Many students and teachers are still displaced, living with relatives or in hotels paid for by the state. Residents say the federal government has been slow to respond, and with so much rental housing destroyed, housing options are limited. 

Disney workers used to make magic — Now they struggle to get by: Disney theme parks have taken a big hit during the coronavirus pandemic, hurting not only the laid off workers but the entire surrounding community

Briefing for December 17, 2020

Nearly 8 million Americans have fallen into poverty since summer: The U.S. poverty rate has surged over the past five months, with 7.8 million Americans falling into poverty, the latest indication of how deeply many are struggling after government aid dwindled. The poverty rate jumped to 11.7% in November, up 2.4 percentage points since June, according to new data released Wednesday by researchers at the University of Chicago and the University of Notre Dame. While overall poverty levels are low by historical standards, the increase in poverty this year has been swift. It is the biggest jump in a single year since the government began tracking poverty 60 years ago. It is nearly double the next-largest rise, which occurred in 1979-1980 during the oil crisis, according to James X. Sullivan, a professor at Notre Dame, and Bruce D. Meyer, a professor at the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy. 

America’s biggest companies are flourishing during the pandemic and putting thousands of people out of work: With few exceptions, big businesses are having a very different year from most of the country. Between April and September, one of the most tumultuous economic stretches in modern history, 45 of the 50 most valuable publicly traded U.S. companies turned a profit, a Washington Post analysis found. Despite their success, at least 27 of the 50 largest firms held layoffs this year, collectively cutting more than 100,000 workers, The Post found. 

Pandemic leaves more military families seeking food assistance: Fort Bragg, the largest military base in the United States, has all the trappings of a small American city: shopping centers, a barber shop and social clubs. In a sign of the times, it also has a food bank. This spring, the Y.M.C.A. on base — which started a food pantry last year to respond to the growing food insecurity among military families — saw a 40% increase in requests for groceries. During the same period, grocery requests to AmericaServes, a network that helps military families, jumped to the biggest service request in the organization’s history. The story is much the same around the country, hunger groups say, for the lowest-income families in the military, who have a specific set of challenges, and different from civilians whose economic fortunes have also been damaged by the coronavirus pandemic. 

States grapple with next steps on evictions as crisis grows: Millions of renters on the edge of eviction foreshadow a national crisis that’s expected to grow next year, with states and cities that granted renters a reprieve amid the coronavirus-battered economy now wrestling with what comes next. While states like Oregon and California are trying to pass much longer moratoriums, some don’t have more protections in the works. “This has the potential of being the biggest housing crisis of our lifetime,” said David Dworkin, president and CEO of the National Housing Conference, a nonprofit dedicated to affordable housing for all Americans. About one-third of U.S. households say they’re behind on rent or mortgage payments and likely to face eviction or foreclosure in the next two months, according to data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau. Eyes are on congressional leaders who are closing in on a massive COVID-19 relief package, including an extension of the federal eviction moratorium until February and $25 billion in rental assistance as well as a new round of stimulus checks, bonus unemployment benefits and many other efforts to deliver aid. 

Public transit is a lifeline for low-income residents  They will bear the brunt of service cuts: Sweeping proposed cuts to Washington, D.C.’s Metro system would disproportionately impact the region’s low-wage workers, many of whom are essential to the recovery from the pandemic. Workers with nontraditional hours have always faced public-transportation obstacles. The latest round of proposed cuts would mean more hardship for such commuters, many of whom clean stores and offices, stock grocery shelves, cook at restaurants and care for the sick. 

National commission says prison guards, inmates should get priority access to vaccines:
With cases of COVID-19 continuing to spread through prisons, guards and inmates should be among the first to receive vaccinations against the virus that causes the illness, a national commission recommended this week. The vaccine recommendation by the National Commission on COVID-19 and Criminal Justice, whose members include former U.S. Attys. Gen. Loretta Lynch and Albert Gonzales, was the main takeaway in a set of findings released by the panel. The group also called for an increase in the number of prisoners released during the pandemic and for some incoming inmates to be diverted from prisons in order to slow the spread of the disease. 

Maryland study finds Black suicides dramatically increased during early months of pandemic: During the early months of the coronavirus pandemic last spring, experts and doctors worried about the mental health toll of so many losses, from isolation to layoffs and deaths. Some predicted there might be an increase in suicides. Now, in what is believed to be one of the first studies of its kind, Johns Hopkins researchers who examined deaths across Maryland have found evidence of a rise in suicides — and also of the inequities between Blacks and whites. In the study, published Tuesday in JAMA Psychiatry, the researchers determined that among Black residents, suicide deaths appeared to double the recent historical average in one key period — from March 5, the date Maryland declared a state of emergency and shut down, until May 7, when the first public spaces were reopened. During the same time, scientists found that the suicides among whites appeared to drop by half. 

Child tax credit expansion gains momentum: First Focus on Children Executive Vice President Michelle Dallafior talked to Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity about growing bipartisan support for expanding the child tax credit in 2021. 

How Cherokee Nation is beating back COVID: Leaders from the Cherokee Nation have been praised for their success in containing the coronavirus pandemic through aggressive and rapid actions. A key component to that success has been the Cherokee Nation’s private healthcare system, which includes a hospital on the reservation. Other efforts that have played a role include a mask-wearing mandate and messaging that focuses on protecting the community’s elders. This story comes from a special COVID-19 collection curated by the Solutions Journalism Network. 

One year after Joe Burrow’s Heisman Trophy speech, Ohio food pantry is struggling in the pandemic: Donations flooded into the Athens County Food Pantry after native son Joe Burrow, then the quarterback at LSU, praised the facility during a speech last December after winning college football’s prestigious Heisman Trophy. In the past year, the Athens County Food Pantry switched from a first-come, first-served policy to a never-out model — anyone who needs food and comes to the pantry between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. during the week will get it. The new facility came with increased space and additional refrigeration. The pantry used $350,000 to start the Joe Burrow Hunger Relief Fund, with the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio matching every dollar, to maximize long-term impact. At a recent function, pantry President Karin Bright told a small crowd that 2020 had been the worst of times and the best of times. The giant donation had come, unbeknown at the time, when it would be needed more than ever. Athens County has essentially no industry, and Ohio University powers the local economy. The bars, restaurants and shops that rely on students and staff have been decimated without a typical school year, let alone homecoming and graduation. 

Briefing for December 16, 2020

High-poverty neighborhoods bear the brunt of the pandemic’s impact: Over the course of the pandemic, COVID-19 infections have battered high-poverty neighborhoods in California on a staggeringly different scale than more affluent areas, a trend that underscores the heightened risks for low-wage workers as the state endures a deadly late-autumn surge. A California Healthline review of local data from the state’s 12 most populous counties found that communities with relatively high poverty rates are experiencing confirmed COVID-19 infection rates two to three times as high as rates in wealthier areas. By late November, the analysis found, about 49 of every 1,000 residents in the state’s poorest urban areas — defined as communities with poverty rates higher than 30% — had tested positive for COVID-19. By comparison, about 16 of every 1,000 residents in comparatively affluent urban areas — communities with poverty rates lower than 10% — had tested positive. 

COVID has driven down the rate of high school graduates attending college: This year’s COVID-induced decline in the college-going rates of low-income students is very likely to reduce social mobility and increase income equality in the future. Numerous studies have demonstrated the value of a college degree in both monetary and non-monetary terms. Without exception, the studies show significant monetary returns, ranging from $600,000 to more than $1.3 million in the course of a lifetime, depending, of course, on the college, the degree and the academic field. A report by The College Board finds that that the percentage of individuals over 25 living in households in poverty declines from 13% for those with only a HS diploma to 7% for those with an associate’s degree, and then to 4% for those with a bachelor’s degree. 

Rural America reels from the toll of COVID-19 deaths: The fall surge of coronavirus infections and deaths related to COVID-19 has hit hardest in rural areas across the country that had largely been spared the worst of the initial waves in April and June as health care systems in smaller communities struggle to keep up with so much sickness. A new analysis conducted by the Pew Research Center finds that rural areas that are sparsely populated now account for about twice the number of coronavirus-related deaths as the most densely populated cities. An average of three people are dying each day in congressional districts where fewer than 5% of residents live in dense concentrations. Districts where more than 40% of residents live in urban or dense suburban neighborhoods are suffering an average of 1.5 deaths each day. 

Rural areas will have a more difficult time getting vaccinated: Rural America’s weak health care infrastructure, combined with vaccine hesitancy and the complexities of the distribution process, will make it much harder to vaccinate rural America against the coronavirus. “It is just logistically easier to reach people in dense urban populations than sparse rural ones,” said Josh Michaud, associate director of global health policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation. 

Food insecurity crisis deepens: From NPR: “Nine months into the pandemic, and lines outside food pantries are still a common sight around the country: families waiting in row after row of cars, snaking as far as the eye can see. Last year, more than 35 million people experienced food insecurity. But because of the pandemic, that number could be as high as 50 million for this year, according to the hunger relief organization Feeding America. And with multiple federal aid programs set to run out soon, many pantries fear they will run out of food, too. The crisis is acute, and it’s nationwide, says Kate Leone, Feeding America’s chief government relations officer. Since the pandemic started, an average of 60% more people have been seeking help from the organization’s network of 200 food banks, Leone says, with one in two children facing hunger in some counties. Among their clients, Leone says, are former volunteers and even donors. ‘We think that about four in 10 of the people we’re serving now are new to needing charitable assistance,’ Leone says.” 

He cleans COVID-19 hospital rooms  He got the vaccine to build trust in the shot: From the Washington Post: “Roy Dunlap told his family his plans as they sat down to a dinner of salmon, greens and white rice. ‘I’m going to take the vaccine tomorrow,’ the director of environmental services at Howard University Hospital said. His 17-year-old son’s eyes bulged and he raised his eyebrows to the heavens, as he typically does when his father says something out of the ordinary. Then the teenager looked at his mother. ‘What do you mean?’ Dunlap remembers his wife saying. ‘Your family needs you. Let somebody else take it.’ But Dunlap had already made up his mind to get the coronavirus vaccine. He thought about the number of people who have died of COVID-19, including one of the cleaning workers he supervised at the hospital. He recognized the importance of getting vaccinated, and wanted to be a leader for not only his staff of 70 people — who clean and disinfect every part of the hospital, including the COVID-19 rooms — but also his community.” 

Women of color can be key in dispelling vaccine fears in minority communities: From USA TODAY: “Several polls have shown the ambivalence surrounding the vaccine among people of color. Half of surveyed Black adults aren’t planning to take the vaccine, even if it’s available for free and scientists assure it’s safe, according to a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation and The Undefeated, ESPN’s race, sports and culture website. Experts and members of these communities aren’t surprised. The country’s history of unethical testing and experimentation on Black men and women colors the community’s lack of trust. But as the coronavirus continues to threaten people of color most, medical experts say dispelling skepticism is essential, and women of color could be the key.” 

The next vaccine challenge — Reassuring older Americans:
Older Americans are pivotal to the success of the vaccination campaign now rolling out across the United States. Members of the over-65 age group are the most likely to be hospitalized and to die from COVID-19, and the least likely to muster a strong immune response to the coronavirus. In some states, nearly 40% of deaths from COVID-19 have occurred among residents of nursing homes. That’s why an advisory committee of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine be given first to the nearly three million residents of long-term-care homes. But one member of the committee, Dr. Helen “Keipp” Talbot, voted against the recommendation, saying that the vaccines had not been tested enough in frail populations and that bad medical outcomes coinciding with the immunization — common in that age group — could undermine public confidence in the new vaccine. 

Surgeon general urges vaccine education program among communities of color: Surgeon General Jerome Adams this week stressed the need for education about the COVID-19 vaccine in communities of color, specifically in Black communities, which have justifiably low levels of trust in health care institutions. “Having a vaccine is only the first step. We must now move from vaccines to vaccinations. And it would be a great tragedy if disparities actually worsened because the people who could most benefit from this vaccine won’t take it,” Adams said at a press conference from George Washington University Hospital in Washington, D.C. 

Briefing for December 15, 2020

‘The most lopsided economic event imaginable’ – Wave of evictions threatens Black, Latino tenants: As COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc on the nation, it is exacerbating long-existing racial disparities in housing — and those disparities mean that ultimately, even more people could get sick. The expiration of the federal eviction ban at the end of the month will disproportionately hurt Black and Latino tenants, financially hobbling them for years and ensuring that the United States’ staggering racial wealth gap won’t narrow anytime soon. Black and Latino people are twice as likely to rent as white people, so a wave of evictions would hit them hardest, adding to the unequal toll of a pandemic that is already ravaging the health and finances of minority communities. “The majority of the up to 17 million households at risk of losing their homes this winter are comprised of people of color,” Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition told POLITICO. 

What happens to the unemployed when the checks run out? When jobless workers get their last unemployment check, the effect on spending is sharp and swift. Unemployed workers’ spending on food, clothes and other so-called nondurable goods immediately drops 12%, about twice as much as when they lost their job and went on unemployment insurance, University of Chicago researchers have found. Spending at drugstores falls 15%. Co-payments for visits to the doctor fall 14%. Spending on groceries falls 16%, or $46.30 a month, on average. Millions of Americans are less than two weeks from cutbacks like those. The last two federal emergency unemployment programs in the CARES Act, passed as the pandemic’s first wave surged in March, expire on Dec. 26. An analysis by the Century Foundation concluded that 12 million workers who rely on one or the other of these programs will lose them on that day. This will add to 4.4 million who will have already exhausted their federal unemployment benefits. It projected that fewer than three million of these workers will be eligible for what are known as extended benefits, which kick in when the unemployment rate in a state is exceptionally high and can last six to 20 weeks, depending on the state. 

Schools need a Marshall Plan to recover from the pandemic: Richard Carranza, Austin Beutner and Janice Jackson, the superintendents of the nation’s three largest school districts, New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, respectively, write for the Washington Post: “President-elect Joe Biden has described the crisis in public schools caused by the pandemic as a “national emergency.” As the superintendents of the nation’s three largest public school districts — New York, Los Angeles and Chicago — every day we grapple with the challenges that worry not just the president-elect but also the students and families we serve. Our schools, like thousands more across the nation, need help from the federal government, and we need it now. The challenges school communities face aren’t for lack of effort by principals, teachers, staff, parents and students. Among our three districts, more than 2 million students and hundreds of thousands of educators have worked to transform teaching and learning from the inside out. We’ve seen teachers tackle long division from their kitchens and students debate the Constitution in Spanish from their living rooms. But the fact is that for many — if not most — children, online and even hybrid education pales in comparison to what’s possible in a classroom led by a great teacher. Too many children are falling behind, threatening not just their individual futures but also America’s global competitiveness.” 

How women are disproportionately bearing the burden of the pandemic: The PBS NewsHour looks at the toll the pandemic is taking on women. A recent survey found roughly a quarter of women were considering reducing hours, switching to less demanding jobs, or leaving the workforce altogether. At least 2 million women have dropped out of the labor force since last year. 

What it would really take to save the economy? According to a new paper from economists Adam Hersh and Mark Paul commissioned by the Groundwork Collaborative — a progressive economic think tank — really reviving the United States economy could require three, even four times the numbers currently being considered on Capitol Hill. The pair estimates Congress would need to pass $3 to $4.5 trillion in economic relief in the near term to get the economy to reach its full potential. “Economics has given us all the tools we need to address the crisis, and we just need the policymakers to open up the checkbooks of the U.S. government,” said Paul, a political economist at the New College of Florida and a Roosevelt Institute fellow. 

The emergency funding ideas that could save public transportation: As transit operators in major U.S. cities plan drastic service cuts to address pandemic budget holes, leaders and advocates are advancing ideas to scrape together new funds, whether or not fresh federal aid arrives. One proposal to support the New York City Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which faces a $16.2 billion deficit by 2024, is a bill by state assemblyman Robert Carroll to charge a flat $3 fee for every online purchase delivered in New York City, starting January 1. In an op-ed for the New York Daily News, Carroll estimates that his bill would raise more than $1 billion annually for the MTA from the 1.8 million packages delivered in the city every day. A related idea appears in the state budget plan passed by the Massachusetts Senate in November — a 7% fee on single-occupancy ride-hailing trips, and a 3% fee for shared trips, up from a 20-cent flat fee. A calculator from the Metropolitan Area Planning Council estimates that the new fees would generate about $72 million annually. Some of that could fund the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, which operates Boston’s “T” and faces a budget shortfall as high as $600 million next year. 

COVID-19 vaccines can’t arrive fast enough for frontline health workers: As health care workers started receiving the new vaccines on Monday, STAT spoke to health workers — nurses, doctors, and a paramedic, in COVID hot spots around the nation. While there is vaccine hesitancy among health care workers as well as the general public — in one study, 36% of nurses said they would not take the vaccine — many other frontline medical workers, exhausted by the pandemic and the many risks they’ve taken to provide care these long months, say the shots can’t come soon enough. 

Vaccine doses on the way to Navajo Nation: The Navajo Nation expects its first doses of Pfizer and BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine early this week. The doses will be administered to health care workers and those in long-term assisted living facilities. Last week, the nation extended its stay-at-home order to Dec. 28 after experiencing a surge in cases that it attributed to family gatherings and off-reservation travel. The order was first imposed Nov. 13 and was scheduled to end Dec. 6. 

Briefing for December 14, 2020

Jobless benefits saved them until states wanted the money back: Unemployment payments that looked like a lifeline may now, for many, become their ruin. Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, a federal program that covers gig workers, part-time hires, seasonal workers and others who do not qualify for traditional unemployment benefits, has kept millions afloat. The program, established by Congress in March as part of the CARES Act, has provided over $70 billion in relief. But in carrying out the hastily conceived program, states have overpaid hundreds of thousands of workers — often because of administrative errors. Now states are asking for that money back. The notices come out of the blue, with instructions to repay thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars. Those being billed, already living on the edge, are told that their benefits will be reduced to compensate for the errors — or that the state may even put a lien on their home, come after future wages or withhold tax refunds. 

Community college students with lower incomes more likely to cancel plans: Students’ incomes appear to have had major impacts on whether they continued at community colleges or left completely during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new analysis from the Community College Research Center at Teachers College of Columbia University. The analysis, published in a blog post, used U.S. Census Bureau data that has been collected every two weeks since the summer from 100,000 random addresses. The researchers used the data from about 25,000 people who reported having community college plans, either as first-time or continuing students, for at least one person in their household from August through mid-October. As of October, more than 40% of households reported that a community college student is canceling their plans. Another 15% are taking fewer courses or switching programs. “40% is a huge number of cancellations,” said Clive Belfield, a research fellow with the center who co-authored the post with Thomas Brock, director of the center. “We would expect dropouts, but not to this scale.” 

Fewer high school graduates attending college during pandemic, study shows: The number of students enrolling in college immediately after high school plunged nearly 22% this fall over the last year, hitting high-poverty, urban schools hardest — a likely reflection of the coronavirus-related toll on higher education plans, according to a national survey released last week. The survey by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center found that the drop-off varied substantially by institution, with community colleges showing the largest enrollment decline among low-income students and public four-year universities the lowest. 

‘I didn’t make it’: The Washington Post writes a moving portrait of Flaviana Decker, a Walt Disney World waitress struggling to hold on to her middle-class life: “Her job waiting tables at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort had sustained her through the painful end of her marriage and the struggles of being a single parent to two teenage girls, one of whom is autistic and struggles with basic motor skills and speaking. Throughout the summer and fall as lawmakers were fighting over an economic relief bill and the number of coronavirus cases was climbing, Flaviana was scouring the Disney fan blogs for glimmers of hope that the tourists might be returning. But the once famously long lines at Disney World remained short even as Orlando’s free food lines, packed with laid-off hotel and theme park workers, grew longer. All the while, Flaviana’s unemployment checks shrank from more than $800 a week in July to $247 a week in October, which didn’t even cover her rent.” 

A shot in the dark: Will public shaming deter the nation’s wealthiest people from cutting the line to get the coronavirus vaccine

Farmworkers, firefighters and flight attendants jockey for vaccine priority: From Kaiser Health News: “With front-line health workers and nursing home residents and staff expected to get the initial doses of COVID vaccines, the thornier question is figuring out who goes next. The answer will likely depend on where you live. While an influential federal advisory board is expected to make its recommendations later this month, state health departments and governors will make the call on who gets access to a limited number of vaccines this winter. As a result, it’s been a free-for-all in recent weeks as manufacturers, grocers, bank tellers, dentists and drive-share companies all jostle to get a spot near the front of the line.” 

Going it alone in two of America’s agriculture towns: Named essential workers, the country’s small farmers, ranchers and farmworkers are coping with the pandemic without a corporate safety net, persevering through shutdowns, slowdowns and supply-chain meltdowns. From The Washington Post: “Moorefield, W.Va., is an Appalachian town of about 2,500 people, changed forever by Pilgrim’s Pride’s three poultry plants clustered at the South Branch of the Potomac River. Nearly 3,000 miles west, Salinas, in Monterey County, Calif., made famous by Nobel laureate John Steinbeck, is an agricultural city of 155,000 that produces a significant portion of the nation’s leaf and head lettuces, celery, broccoli and strawberries. In these two American breadbasket communities, small farmers and ranchers have been left to improvise as their markets swivel and contract. In its early months considered an urban problem, the coronavirus has been especially brutal in rural agricultural communities, where farmworkers were slow to get personal protective equipment and effective safety protocols.”

Prisons should get the coronavirus vaccine early: Christopher Blackwell, an inmate at Monroe Correctional Facility in Washington State, writes in The Washington Post: “I have spent eight months watching my fellow prisoners inside a state penitentiary in Washington suffer from COVID-19. Now there is finally a vaccine on the horizon. Unfortunately, it may not get to many incarcerated people in time to save us.” 

The cost of child care was already astronomical  In the pandemic, it’s ‘terrifying’: Nine months into the pandemic, many kids haven’t returned to the schools or day-care centers they attended before the coronavirus, kept out of classrooms and nursery rooms by prolonged closures or parents who don’t yet feel comfortable sending them back. Parents have been left to devise their own solutions. Some have formed pods or hired nannies, while others have enrolled their kids in private school, more likely to be open for in-person learning. These options are inevitably more expensive than pre-coronavirus child care — which, in the United States, was already astronomical. While wealthier parents can afford to “get creative,” lower income and many single parents have far fewer options, said Caitlyn Collins, a professor of sociology at Washington University in St. Louis who studies women and families. Some are leaning on family members or just doing the best they can on their own. Others have been laid off or have had to quit their jobs to take care of their kids. Child-care costs are either increasing or they are “drastically shrinking,” Collins said: There’s not a whole lot of in between. 

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