Briefing for July 20-24, 2020 on COVID-19 and Low-Income Communities

Briefing for July 20-24, 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 24, 2020

‘A Band-Aid for a bullet wound’ — Workers are getting laid off anew as PPP runs out: The Paycheck Protection loan program was intended to be a short-term measure, just like the extra $600 in weekly unemployment benefits, to help get small businesses through the worst of the pandemic. But the pandemic outlasted the PPP. Layoffs are beginning to spike again across the country — the number of new unemployment claims rose last week for the first time since March — as coronavirus cases soar, spurring cities and states to backtrack on re-openings only a month after appearing to turn the corner. 

‘Crashing down’ — How the childcare crisis is magnifying racial disparities: 93% of childcare workers are women, and 45% are Black, Asian or Latino, while half of childcare businesses are minority-owned. The collapse of the childcare industry is hitting women of color the hardest, threatening to stoke racial and gender inequities and putting pressure on Congress to address the crisis in its new round of coronavirus aid. 

A gap in federal unemployment benefits now is inevitable – here’s why: Tens of millions of laid-off American workers will go weeks without federal jobless aid — because Congress hasn’t renewed the benefits in time for overwhelmed state unemployment systems to adjust their computers. State offices will need weeks to reprogram their systems to account for an extension of the $600 weekly federal payments that expire on Saturday — or any changes that Congress makes to the benefit amount or eligibility rules. That comes on top of hardships faced by workers in states like Washington and Nevada, who are already waiting months to get their first payments in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic because their unemployment offices can’t handle the historic flood of claims. 

Pandemic homelessness could leave millions unable to access public benefits: The increase in the unhoused population due to the pandemic has been well documented. What is receiving less coverage, however, is the way in which housing instability will impact vulnerable groups’ ability to access other crucial government benefits. While many public benefits systems are now accessible online, they still reflect roots in paper-based communications, and assume that applicants have a single stable address. To receive Medicaid, SNAP, TANF, and a host of other benefits, state governments often rely on mailing forms. These include certification forms, cards to receive the benefits, and recertification forms. Without a stable and reliable mailing address, those eligible for benefits are often unable to access them. Now, amidst the pandemic, this long-term dilemma of providing benefits to those with unstable housing is impacting millions of Americans. 

Learning Hubs open across San Francisco to help students struggling with online education: San Francisco officials are readying an unprecedented educational assistance program for the fall meant to help up to 6,000 children with their distance-learning needs, as parents and students confront the reality of starting the school year without classrooms during the COVID-19 pandemic. Starting in September, dozens of recreation facilities, libraries and community centers across the city will be transformed into “learning hubs,” spaces where young students who may struggle with remote instruction can go each day to access their digital classwork and the social interactions that virtual schooling cannot provide. 

Minnesota offers ‘no barriers’ testing for immigrants, uninsured: The Minnesota Department of Health is organizing COVID-19 testing events across the state that offer residents a chance to be tested without worrying about immigration status or a lack of health insurance. The one- or two-day “no-barriers” events have attracted up to 1,000 people at each site. State officials have been working with local public health officials to pinpoint locations and with advocacy groups to get the word of a testing event out into the community. They say it’s important for everyone in Minnesota that anyone can get tested, even if they are undocumented and lack health insurance. This story comes from a special COVID-19 collection curated by the Solutions Journalism Network. 

How coronavirus is deepening California’s income inequality: Five charts from CalMatters that show how the pandemic has driven a wedge into the fault lines dividing the state’s haves and have nots. 

Congress asked to provide billions to shore up crumbling schools that could pose safety hazards: A coalition of dozens of education and civic groups are asking Congress to provide billions of dollars in emergency funding to repair aging, crumbling school buildings that are an obstacle to the safe reopening of schools during the coronavirus pandemic. 

COVID-19, public health, the economy and schools: The American Enterprise Institute will host a virtual discussion on July 30 featuring public health expert Scott Gottlieb, economist Michael Strain and education scholar Frederick Hess.  

Briefing for July 23, 2020

In North Carolina, unpaid water and electric bills are driving families and cities to the brink: As many as 1 million families in North Carolina have fallen behind on their electric, water and sewage bills, threatening residents and their cities with severe financial hardship unless federal lawmakers act to approve more emergency aid. 

What housing for seniors could be like after the pandemic: If fewer of the country’s seniors live in nursing homes or assisted living facilities as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, where will they live

How Oklahoma and other states are dealing with a rise in child abuse cases: Now that school’s out and back-to-school arrangements for the fall are uncertain, Oklahoma — like other states across the nation — faces the same challenge: How do you keep children and teens safe from abuse when the safety nets of day care and school disappear

It shouldn’t take a pandemic to get Congress to care about the poor: Chad Maisel, staff economic director for Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) writes for the Hill: “These last several months, with the jolt of weekly unemployment claims and visuals of lines at food banks, have exposed Americans and their elected representatives to the sad reality of poverty. People who have never before interacted with the federal safety net are doing so in droves, including over 30 million workers who have filed for unemployment assistance, and millions more who have received cash payments to cover basic expenses such as food and rent.” 

Barriers to SNAP and unemployment benefits during the pandemic: A nationwide survey commissioned by Hunger Free America finds: 

  • More than one-third (34%) of survey respondents who applied for benefits applied for both SNAP and unemployment insurance (UI), completing two separate application processes — often providing duplicate information — to receive both benefits.  
  • 42% of survey respondents said it was “time-consuming and/or difficult to apply” for UI. For SNAP, 24% of survey respondents said it was “time-consuming and/or difficult to apply.”  
  • When asked how long it took to submit the full SNAP application (along with any required documentation), 33% of survey respondents said it took more than 3 hours, and 18% said it took more than a day. Almost half (44%) of survey respondents said it took more than 3 hours, and 21% said it took more than a day to apply for UI.  
  • 40% of respondents said they had problems reaching the government offices by phone when trying to apply for SNAP. 36% said they never received a call back when they left a message for a government office.  

New unemployment claims rise to 1.4 million: Unemployment claims rose to 1.4 million last week, the Labor Department reported, ending 15 weeks of consecutive declines in new applications. The increase in the number of workers seeking new aid follows several states delaying their reopening plans and closing some businesses down again as coronavirus cases spike. 

New UBI pilot in Silicon Valley targets former foster children: A new pilot program put forth by Santa Clara (CA) county’s Board of Supervisors provides the country’s first universal basic income for foster youth in transition. For a 12-month period that started in June 2020, eligible young adults will receive $1,000 every month, no strings attached. The program is designed for young adults aged 21 to 24 — an age range at which many become ineligible for other social safety net programs — and eligibility is based on a number of factors, with higher priority given to 24-year-olds. 

Federal evictions ban ends Friday, putting 12 million tenants at risk: The moratorium covers renters who live in homes with federally backed mortgages, which the Urban Institute estimates to be 12.3 million households, or about 30% of all renters nationwide. Once the moratorium lapses, landlords can give their delinquent tenants 30 days’ notice and then begin filing eviction paperwork in late August. 

Communities of color could take major hit as eviction moratoriums expire: A Center for Public Integrity analysis shows most eviction filings since March occurred in minority and low-income neighborhoods. This story is part of a Poynter Center series funded by a grant from the Rita Allen Foundation to report and present stories about the disproportionate impact of the virus on people of color, Americans living in poverty and other vulnerable groups. 

Why Blacks and Hispanics are more likely to be affected by coronavirus: Historical practices embedded in health care, structural racism and high-risk jobs contribute to the pandemic’s disproportionate effects. This story is part of a Poynter Center series funded by a grant from the Rita Allen Foundation to report and present stories about the disproportionate impact of the virus on people of color, Americans living in poverty and other vulnerable groups. 

Will rural homelessness rise after benefits and moratoriums end? The agencies and churches that would normally help are already stretched thin by the pandemic. 

Pandemic pushes San Francisco to move more homeless residents into permanent housing: San Francisco Mayor London Breed unveiled a plan on Tuesday that attempts to chart the city’s course for addressing homelessness over the next two years, a proposal shaped in large part by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Breed’s “Homelessness Recovery Plan” seeks to find shelter or housing accommodations for 6,000 homeless people, a figure that includes 4,500 placements in permanent supportive housing. An estimated 1,500 of those will be new units — a figure the mayor’s office said represents the biggest increase in permanent supportive housing in the last two decades. The city will lease 1,000 of those units in the 2020-2021 fiscal year. 

How to center disability in the tech response to COVID-19: From Lydia X.Z. Brown with the Brookings Institution’s TechStream: “Now more than ever, we need policymakers to understand that meaningful access and participation of disabled people is not optional. Information about programs designed to provide relief from the devastating economic impacts of COVID-19 must be accessible to disabled users. The design of these programs must take into account the social, environmental, and political factors that have put disabled people, especially multiply marginalized disabled people, in economically precarious positions for decades. Apps designed to track and slow the spread of COVID-19 should be developed and implemented carefully, and local governments should be cautious about deciding to implement new apps for any official purposes.” 

Briefing for July 22, 2020

‘It’s insane’ — Millions of kids could lose access to food if this program expires: The Trump administration is resisting calls to make it easy for tens of millions of students to get free meals at school this year, even as childhood hunger rates have risen to the highest levels in decades. During the spring and summer, as the coronavirus health crisis exploded, the government allowed most families to pick up free meals from whichever school was closest or most convenient without proving they were low-income. But that effort is on the verge of expiring as states prepare for children to return to school, and as school systems are pushing the federal government to continue the free meals program through the fall. 

If Congress cuts jobless benefits, “It would be a disaster”: Six unemployed Americans on what losing $600 a week would mean to them. 

Cities rethink how to deal with extreme heat during pandemic: Cities are enforcing capacity restrictions at cooling centers and offering free air conditioners as a way to beat the heat. 

State-by-state impact on communities of color: Out of the 47 states that report the race of COVID-19 victims, the most disproportionately high COVID-19 mortality rate was born by Black or African Americans in 35 states, American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) residents in five states, Asian Americans in four states, white residents in two states, and Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders (NHPI) in one state. 

The nature gap: As access to fresh air and outdoor space becomes a crucial health factor during the pandemic, a new analysis by Conservation Science Partners (CSP), commissioned by Hispanic Access Foundation (HAF) and the Center for American Progress, looks at the historic, systematic segregation of people of color from public lands and other natural places. 

LIFT voices describe problems among Black and Latina mothers during pandemic: A research paper from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities combines the experiences of LIFT members, volunteer coaches, and staff with Household Pulse Survey data for female respondents with household incomes under $35,000 for the week ending June 23 to document the impact of the health and economic crisis on families who were already struggling before the pandemic. About 3 in 5 Latina women and more than half of Black women in households with incomes below $35,000 report that someone in their household lost employment income since March 13. 

Promoting economic recovery for communities of color and low-income workers: Camille Busette of the Brookings Institution recently testified before the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Investor Protection, Entrepreneurship, and Capital Markets, urging lawmakers to focus recovery efforts on addressing the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on communities of color, the enduring equity crisis in the U.S., and the continued financial insecurity of low-wage workers. 

Cities brace for crippling wave of evictions: Mayors across the nation are looking to extend eviction moratoriums and/or provide renters and landlords with emergency funds to avoid a tsunami of coronavirus-related evictions. 

Four ways to keep renters from falling off the eviction cliff: Mary K. Cunningham of the Urban Institute offers four policy solutions for the looming wave of evictions. 

  • Extend unemployment benefits for the next six months, at a minimum. 
  • Fund enough rental assistance to meet the need — an estimated $16 billion. 
  • Pass a national eviction moratorium. 
  • Fund legal assistance and pass right to counsel laws. 

Are pop-up test sites the answer? Health and government officials in Cleveland, in partnership with community organizations, have begun setting up pop-up coronavirus test sites to help communities disproportionately impacted by the virus. This story comes from a special collection curated by the Solutions Journalism Network.  

Universal Basic Income championed by a cohort of mayors: Mayors of Atlanta, Los Angeles, Stockton, CA, and other cities want a federal cash program to support their residents in need.

Briefing for July 21, 2020

COVID’s hidden toll: PBS’s Frontline examines how the COVID-19 crisis has hit vulnerable immigrants and undocumented workers. The documentary follows the coronavirus pandemic’s invisible victims, including crucial farm and meat-packing workers who lack protections and have been getting sick.

‘A very dark feeling’ — Hundreds camp out in Oklahoma unemployment lines: In Oklahoma, one of the poorest states, unemployment — which reached a record 14.7% in April — has pushed many to the point of desperation, with savings depleted, cars repossessed and homes sold for cash. Even though the unemployment rate dropped to 6.6% in June, the backlog has created unprecedented delays. Oklahoma had approved 235,000 of about 590,000 filed claims by June 21 — a total $2.4 billion payout, far more than in previous years. About 6,000 state claims are pending.

Rural America’s daily rate of new infections grew 150% in last month: The number of new COVID-19 cases reported each day in rural counties has more than doubled in the last month, and the increase shows no signs of abating. In the last week, nonmetropolitan counties surpassed a record-breaking 7,000 new cases on three consecutive days. 

Vulnerable border communities wage wrenching battle with virus: In the Rio Grande Valley, poverty and chronic illness are aggravating the coronavirus outbreak. Ambulances stack up outside emergency rooms, where patients wait for beds.

Only 32% of companies returning to work have plans for employees’ child care needs: Among companies that have already had their employees return to the office, 42% do not have a dedicated plan to help employees balance child-care responsibilities, according to Society for Human Resource Management’s recent research. And only 32% of organizations that are planning to return to work have outlined child-care plans.

The pandemic has pushed aside city planning rules — But to whose benefit? As bike lanes and cafes sprout on streets, marginalized residents wonder when their priorities will get attention.

Lawsuit rips schools for abandoning special needs students during pandemic: School districts across the country have abandoned special education kids amid the coronavirus crisis, according to a class action Manhattan federal lawsuit. The case argues that districts ignored federal law by failing to provide legally mandated services to kids who suffer from mental and physical deficits after the closure of schools in March.

This ZIP code already had the highest poverty rate in Miami-Dade County — Then came the pandemic: Most residents in the 33034 ZIP code work in retail, construction, child care and tourism. But 12% are agricultural workers, the highest rate in Miami-Dade County, where the rate is less than 1%. Florida City, which forms the heart of the ZIP code, also relies heavily on the hospitality/restaurant industry. The city is the last town tourists drive through en route to Key West, often stopping there for a bite or an overnight stay before continuing the long trip south. Those industries, as in the rest of Miami-Dade, have been walloped by the virus.

Virginia poultry workers see major victory in coronavirus protections: Virginia became the first state in the nation last week to require businesses to protect workers from the coronavirus. The state’s new emergency temporary standards obligate businesses to give out personal protective equipment, mandate social distancing guidelines and put in place response plans and training for workers, among other measures. Companies risk up to $130,000 in penalties if they are found to be in violation of the guidelines.

With online classes planned for the fall, thousands of Colorado families still lack internet access: Student demand for laptops and Chromebooks has dropped, but Colorado districts are still questioning how to reach all their kids with reliable internet.

COVID-19 stalls citizenship process: About 315,000 immigrants may not be able to vote in the November election because their citizenship applications won’t be completed in time, according to an analysis of previous USCIS data by Boundless Immigration, a technology company that assists immigrants navigating the immigration system.

Briefing for July 20, 2020

Food stamps, targeted by the White House for cuts, prove crucial in pandemic: Jason DeParle of the New York Times writes: “More than six million people enrolled in food stamps in the first three months of the coronavirus pandemic, an unprecedented expansion that is likely to continue as more jobless people deplete their savings and billions in unemployment aid expires this month. From February to May, the program grew by 17%, about three times faster than in any previous three months, according to state data collected by The New York Times. Its rapid expansion is a testament to both the hardship imposed by the pandemic and the importance of a program that until recently drew conservative attack. Among the 42 states for which The Times collected data, caseloads grew in all but one.”

Conservative leaders and scholars called for expanded EITC and Child Tax Credit: A group of leading conservatives wrote to congressional leaders last week calling for expansion of the EITC and CTC as a key part of any new coronavirus relief. Among the signees: W. Bradford Wilcox, AEI/Institute for Family Studies; Rachel Anderson, Center for Public Justice; John A. Burtka IV, The American Conservative; Robert P. George, Princeton University; Michael Hernon, The Messy Family Project; Johann Huleatt, The Bruderhof; Yuval Levin, American Enterprise Institute; Kathryn Jean Lopez, National Review Institute; and Abby McCloskey, McCloskey Policy LLC.

Is the pandemic the moment for a universal basic income? As unemployment remains high and the threat of automation looms over any recover, UBI is getting another look as a potential key to ongoing economic stimulus.

No bleach and dirty rags — how some janitor are asked to keep you virus-free: From Jodi Kantor at the New York Times: “As the coronavirus continues to rage and businesses and workplaces weigh the risks of reopening, janitors have a warning about the current state of cleaning in the United States. Many say they have not been given enough resources to fight the pathogen, or, in a few cases, even hot water to wash their hands. They are often not told if someone has tested positive where they are working, many said in interviews, making it difficult to protect themselves and others.”

Many schools won’t reopen in the fall — now what? Vox rounds up some policy suggestions from education experts. Their key points:

  • Expand childcare options for parents
  • Give parents the option of taking paid leave
  • Invest in technology and close the digital divide
  • Improve the online school experience – beyond academics
  • Be smarter about containing the virus – close the bars, open the schools

Our rude childcare awakening: Linda Smith and Adrienne Schweer from the Bipartisan Policy Center write in the New York Daily News: “The coronavirus has exposed what millions of working parents already knew: childcare is essential. So is access to paid sick and family leave. Unfortunately, neither of these policies were sufficient for working families before the COVID-19 crisis — and the pandemic is making things much worse.”

Los Angeles schools report disparities in online learning for students of color: A new report by LAUSD analyzed an approximately two-month period from when the pandemic began in middle and high schools. One key finding was that weekly participation by Black and Latino students was 10% to 20% lower than their peers. Students from low-income families, English learners, students with disabilities, and those in homelessness programs or in foster care also participated less online.

Who got their stimulus checks first? Not the people who most needed them:new study released by the Urban Institute has revealed that there are wealth and racial disparities in who received stimulus payments the fastest. Almost 70% of people overall had received their stimulus by late May, but only 58.6% of those below the federal poverty level had. On the other hand, 77.5% of people whose incomes were between 100% to 600% times the federal poverty level had gotten the stimulus by that point. 73.7% of white people had received theirs by then, compared to 68.6% of Black people and 63.7% of Latinx people.

Why tribes should have the authority to enforce strict coronavirus policies: Nonmembers who flout tribal stay-at-home orders could pose an existential threat to tribal communities.

In smaller hospitals, COVID-19 patients have triple the chance of dying, study finds: Research from Boston and around the country finds that critically ill COVID-19 patients are much likelier to survive if they’re treated at bigger hospitals. The sweeping study just out in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine is the first to look at hospital mortality rates in COVID-19 patients nationwide. It includes detailed data on more than 2,200 patients in 65 hospitals. “Patients who were admitted to hospitals with fewer than 50 ICU beds — so, smaller hospitals — had a more than threefold higher risk of death than patients admitted to larger hospitals,” says senior author Dr. David Leaf from Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. 

The pandemic makes an existing Black housing crisis even worse: Black Americans have long been more likely to pay unaffordable rent and mortgages compared to white people, according to census data. With the current downturn, Black households face a greater probability of being unable to pay, raising the risk some may be forced onto the streets or into shelters already disproportionately occupied by Black people.

Hotels are a key to keeping homeless off the streets: Tens of thousands of people in Los Angeles County are at high risk for becoming homeless after the temporary halt on evictions is lifted — one of the largest mass displacements the region has ever seen. There are over 100,000 hotel and motel rooms in Los Angeles County that serve tourists. Hotel industry estimates indicate that, given the downturn in the global tourist industry, around 70,000 of these rooms will lie vacant for several years to come.

Anti-vaccine proponents fuel Black mistrust of medical establishment: The memory of the horrific Tuskegee syphilis study makes some African Americans suspicious of a coronavirus vaccine.

Administration financial regulator has shelved discrimination probes: ProPublica reports that since President Donald Trump took office, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency has quietly shelved at least six investigations of discrimination and redlining, according to internal agency documents and eight people familiar with the cases.

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