Briefing for July 1-2, 2020 on COVID-19 and Low-Income Communities

Briefing for July 1-2, 2020 on COVID-19 and Low-Income Communities

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

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

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Briefing for July 2, 2020

The link between structural racism, the coronavirus recession, and economic inequality – weak institutions: Heather Boushey, president and CEO of the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, writes: “The voices of protesters on the streets of cities and towns across the United States over the past few weeks reverberate a message Black Americans have spoken out about for generations: They cannot trust and have never been able to trust government to act on their behalf, whether it’s addressing police and state-sponsored violence, a deadly disease, economic inequality, or the day-to-day racism that presses on them throughout their lives. In short, our public institutions have failed Black Americans.”

COVID-19 recovery funds seem to be key to survival for many families: Bloomberg Law reports that a new report by the Urban Institute finds people who received expanded unemployment insurance assistance from the CARES Act were more financially secure than those who didn’t. Adults who didn’t receive benefits reported increased likelihood they didn’t take care of their medical needs because of costs, the research conducted and published Tuesday by the Urban Institute’s Michael Karpman and Gregory Acs indicates. Those families who lost work and income because of the pandemic and received jobless benefits in the 30 days before the May survey reported their incidents of food insecurity declined from 27.1% in March and April to 24.1% in May. There was no decline in food insecurity among adults who didn’t receive the benefits, the report says.

Unemployment rate fell to 11.1% in June before new shutdowns: The reality of the job market is now likely far bleaker. Americans filed 1.4 million new applications for unemployment benefits last week, the department reported.

About 11% of the workforce is out of work and has little chance to get rehired: From Heidi Shierholz at the Economic Policy Institute: “Of the 32.5 million workers who are either officially unemployed or otherwise out of work because of the virus, 11.9 million workers, or 7.2% of the workforce, are out of work with no hope of being called back to a prior job; 5.7 million workers, or 3.5% of the workforce, are out of work and expect to get called back to a prior job but likely will not; and 14.8 million workers, or 9.0% of the workforce, are out of work and can reasonably expect to be called back. That means the share of the workforce that is out of work and has no reasonable chance of being called back to a prior job is 10.7% (7.2% + 3.5%).”

Domestic workers face economic devastation: Haeyoung Yoon, senior policy director for the National Domestic Workers Alliance, told The Appeal that even as people are returning to work, approximately 50 percent of domestic workers are still unemployed.  “I think the pandemic has really reminded everyone that these domestic or other low-wage workers of color are really running our economy and powering our economy,” she said. “And keeping us safe allows us to eat, take care of our loved ones, and take care of our houses.”

School bus drivers excited, scared as school year looms: School bus drivers are about to begin a school year unlike any they’ve ever experienced. Schools have been shut down for months, and as coronavirus cases slow in some states and surge in others, districts are debating whether on-time re-openings come fall are even possible. And if in-person classes do resume, what role will the venerable yellow school bus play?

One way to slow coronavirus spread at meatpacking plants – a lot of testing: Meatpacking plants have been some of the biggest COVID-19 hot spots in the country. Thousands of workers have been infected, dozens have died. As plants reopen, one strategy has helped slow the virus’s spread: large-scale employee testing. NPR food and agriculture correspondent Dan Charles explains how this approach could be a lesson for other industries as well.

Houston launches $64 million program to combat homelessness during pandemic: During a news conference on Wednesday, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner announced the launch of a new $64 million plan to address homelessness in Houston. The Community-wide COVID-19 Housing Program (CCHP) will house 5,000 people experiencing homelessness over the next two years to limit the spread of COVID-19.

What happens when a neighborhood’s only grocery store closes: The nearby Save A Lot supermarket was a lifeline for Karina Rayeford, a single mom of three kids in downtown Norfolk, VA. The grocery store, located in the predominantly Black public housing community of St. Paul’s where she lives, wasn’t the fanciest. But it had all the vegetables, meats, cereals, milk and household items Rayeford needed for her family at prices she could afford. And, most importantly, it was just around a five-minute walk from her apartment. That changed last month when Save A Lot, the only grocery store within a mile from Rayeford, closed its doors in the middle of a pandemic. In 2015, an estimated 39 million people, or 12.8% of the US population, lived in such an area, according to the USDA.

Florida State faculty can no longer care for children while working from home starting in August: Faculty at Florida State University expressed concern about a new memo indicating employees would no longer be able to care for children at home while still working remotely starting August 7. That requirement is a normal part of the university’s teleworker policy, but had been waved during the pandemic, when nearly every employee was forced to stay at home.

Briefing for July 1, 2020

Young people of color more often hospitalized for coronavirus: The majority of coronavirus hospitalizations among Latino/Hispanic Americans are among those ages 18-49, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Surviving coronavirus may come down to what hospital admits you: Evidence is emerging about another inequality affecting low-income city residents: disparities in hospital care.

How to address COVID-19 health care inequities: From the American Medical Association: Lack of access to structural support, sick leave and technology, and a mistrust of doctors and hospitals are among the social factors that contribute to health inequities among people of color, according to Linda Rae Murray, MD, MPH, a past president of the American Public Health Association and a leader in Chicago’s health community for more than 40 years. And in the COVID-19 pandemic, health inequity can be a killer.

Distrust of health care industry among Blacks could limit vaccine effectiveness: recent survey conducted by the Pew Research Center found that if a COVID-19 vaccine were available today and proven effective, only 54% of Black adults would be willing to get it, compared to 74% of white adults. A Poynter Center analysis reports that 35% of Black Americans have a great deal of confidence in medical scientists to act in the public interest, compared with 43% of white adults.

Oklahoma approve Medicaid expansion: On Tuesday, Oklahoma voters approved a measure to expand Medicaid, making the state the first to expand the program during the pandemic.

Effects on Black families with children may be long lasting: From the New York Times: “According to research from the Center on Poverty and Social Policy at Columbia University, working-age adults, children and Black Americans will fall below the poverty line at the highest rates as a result of the coronavirus pandemic’s economic effects. At the intersection of those vulnerable groups are Black children, who are already disproportionately represented in America’s poor. According to data from the American Community Survey and analyzed by the Kids Count Data Center, a nonprofit tracking the well-being of children in the United States, 32% of Black children live in poverty, compared with 11% of white children and 26% of Hispanic or Latino children.”

Residents of low-income neighborhoods have more difficulty social distancing: A new paper shows people in lower-income neighborhoods have faced barriers to physical distancing, particularly the need to work outside the home. State physical distancing policies have not mitigated these disparities.

Eleven mayors sign on to universal basic income pilot: Interest in universal basic income has skyrocketed during the pandemic, and 11 mayors announced earlier this week that they are “… launching Mayors for a Guaranteed Income. This coalition will invest in additional guaranteed-income pilots and advocate for state and federal cash-based policies.” The mayors: Michael Stubbs, Stockton, CA; Chokwe Lumumba, Jackson, MS; Melvin Carter, St. Paul, MN; Ras Baraka, Newark, NJ; Aja Brown, Compton, CA; Eric Garcetti, Los Angeles, CA; Adrian Perkins, Shreveport, LA; Libby Schaaf, Oakland, CA; Stephen Benjamin, Columbia, SC; Keisha Lance Bottoms, Atlanta, GA; and Victoria Woodards, Tacoma, WA.

Minneapolis had progressive policies, but its economy still left Black families behind: The Twin Cities once drew black families fleeing racism in the Jim Crow South, and with their combination of progressive policies and prosperity, regularly rank among the best places to live in America. But the prosperity fueled by the region’s Fortune 500 companies and progressive policies has not translated into economic equality. Instead, the wealth gap between Minneapolis’s largely white population and the city’s Black residents has deepened, producing some of the nation’s widest racial disparities in income, employment and homeownership. Such disappointments offer cautionary notes for those promising change in Minneapolis and other areas of the country in the aftermath of protests against police brutality and systemic racism. 

Millions of Americans fear evictions without more help from Congress: Millions of tenants are at risk of receiving eviction notices in late July as protections from a major coronavirus stimulus program are set to expire. The coronavirus relief bill, signed as the CARES Act in late March, included a moratorium on evictions for tenants in units with federally backed mortgages or other assistance who were unable to pay rent. But with no agreement in Congress on an extension of the moratorium, families hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic may soon have to make new living arrangements. “There are now only 25 days left before the federal eviction ban expires on July 25,” said Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), chair of the House Financial Services Committee, on Monday.

Baltimore pays back rent to avoid evictions: Baltimore renters who lost their income due to the coronavirus pandemic can receive assistance under a more than $13 million relief program that will launch Wednesday.

News deserts in the South: Every state in the South, the new center of the coronavirus outbreak, had at least one county without a newspaper, according to new research from Penelope Muse Abernathy at the Hussman School of Journalism and Media at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Axios reports the study found roughly 10% of Texas counties and 15% of Georgia counties no longer have a stand-alone newspapers. Several other states in the South with many fewer counties — including Virginia, North Carolina and Tennessee — had at least a half-dozen counties without newspapers.

Hawaii COVID-19 facility offers range of services for homeless: When COVID-19 began spreading throughout the United States, officials in Hawaii set up a quarantine facility for those experiencing homelessness that helped connect residents with other services to reduce their risk of contracting the virus. While it’s too early to know if this could be a viable model for health care in the long run, the practice of temporary housing has currently helped curb the spread of the virus among the community’s unhoused residents. This story comes from a special COVID-19 collection curated by the Solutions Journalism Network.

Extreme heat could amplify COVID-19 racial, economic inequities: From the Center for American Progress: “The year 2020 is already on track to be the world’s hottest on record. With the heart of summer fast approaching, the communities confronting the highest COVID-19 infection and death rates, the worst hardships from the ongoing economic crisis, and the most pervasive incidents of injustice and police brutality will have to contend with yet another public health threat: heat waves.”

The challenges of the pandemic for queer youth: Issues include limited access to community support and counseling and, in some cases, quarantining with unsupportive family members.

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