Briefing for July 27-31, 2020 on COVID-19 and Low-Income Communities

Briefing for July 27-31, 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 31, 2020

Census door knocking cut a month short under pressure to finish count: The Census Bureau is cutting short critical door-knocking efforts for the 2020 census amid growing concerns among Democrats in Congress that the White House is pressuring the bureau to wrap up counting soon for political gain, NPR has learned. Attempts by the bureau’s workers to conduct in-person interviews for the census will end on Sept. 30 — not Oct. 31, the end date it indicated back in April would be necessary in order to count every person living in the U.S. given major setbacks from the coronavirus pandemic. Three Census Bureau employees, who were informed of the plans during separate internal meetings Thursday, confirmed the new end date with NPR. All of the employees spoke on the condition of anonymity out of fear of losing their jobs.”It’s going to be impossible to complete the count in time,” says one of the bureau employees, an area manager who oversees local census offices. “I’m very fearful we’re going to have a massive undercount.” 

Seniors and staff caught in middle of nursing homes’ quest for profits: The cycle of buying and selling care homes has led to shortcuts, closures, even fraud — and imperiled vulnerable residents’ health

Teaching during a pandemic: Grace Luetmer and Megan Gallagher of the Urban Institute suggest three ways we can help support teachers during the pandemic

  • Districts must include teachers in the planning process. 
  • It is very likely that even among schools that reopen this fall, outbreaks will force schools to reinstate remote education until it is safe again to return to the classroom. Districts must plan for intermittent closures by ensuring all teachers have high-speed internet access. 
  • Given the likely changes to instruction in the 2020–21 school year, districts and schools should develop clear guidance around how teachers will be evaluated and how subsequent supports will be provided, even if instruction continues remotely.  

Searing heat will make racial disparities from COVID-19 worse: Scientists say the nation is experiencing another public health emergency that will further exacerbate the coronavirus crisis: extreme heat. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is predicting the next three months will be hotter than normal for much of the country; 2020, it says, likely will rank as one of the hottest years on record. Communities of color, particularly lower-income Black and Latino neighborhoods, will be particularly affected. Extreme heat likely will push more residents into crowded cooling centers, where they may be exposed to the virus, and worsen breathing problems and other underlying health conditions that already disproportionately affect people of color, researchers say. 

Boosting SNAP — Benefit increase would help children in short and long term: From Brynne Keith-Jennings at the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities: “Food insecurity can have long-term consequences for children’s health and well-being, studies show; raising SNAP benefits reduces hardship and increases families’ food spending during an economic downturn. Policymakers should boost SNAP benefits in the next relief package, as the House-passed Heroes Act does.” 

Once seemingly insulated, Kentucky’s Appalachian counties hit hard by COVID-19: Bell County, with its forested mountainsides and hollows perched on the Tennessee border, is among several of Kentucky’s vulnerable Appalachian counties now scrambling to stanch a late-arriving onrush of COVID-19. Bell and neighboring Harlan County recently recorded some of Kentucky’s highest per-capita average daily case increases. Bell went from 20 cases to more than 200 in two weeks. Harlan saw 85 in a single week, twice as many as it had over four months. 

Across Texas and the nation, COVID-19 is deadlier for people of color: Texas’ southernmost county, Cameron, is home to just 1.5% of the state’s population, but it accounts for nearly 5% of its known COVID-19 fatalities. Cameron County — where 89% of residents are Hispanic and nearly a third live below the poverty line — stands out as just one stark example of widespread disparities in COVID-19 outcomes. Across Texas and the nation, the novel coronavirus is deadlier for communities of color and low-income communities. These disparities, and a wealth of other demographic information, became more apparent this week when new tallying methods at the state health agency revealed a more complete picture of who has died in Texas and where.  

How ‘nature deprived’ neighborhoods impact communities of color: Green spaces make people healthier and happier, but decades of systemic racism have left many people of color living in areas without access to nature

COVID-19 response must include youth and adults impacted by criminal justice system: From Duy Pham and Kisha Bird at CLASP: “As the coronavirus pandemic and public health crisis stymies the U.S. economy, youth and adults impacted by the criminal justice system face significant challenges to achieving economic stability. Criminal justice advocates have rightly focused on the immediate health needs of incarcerated individuals by calling for the decarceration of vulnerable populations and those in pretrial detention. Policymakers must also address the economic stability of those impacted by the justice system who have been struggling to find employment and meet the needs of themselves and their families.” 

A chance for a last goodbye: Finally, our friends at Broke In Philly are starting the Last Goodbye Project, which offers Philadelphia area residents an “…opportunity for those who’ve lost close friends and family to COVID-19 to express those final sentiments, albeit belatedly. Through conversations with reporters or through self-documentation (handwritten letters, audio, video recording), anyone in Philadelphia who has suffered loss due to the pandemic can have the chance to say goodbye.” 

Briefing for July 30, 2020

Almost 30 million in the U.S. didn’t have enough to eat last week: Food insecurity for U.S. households last week reached its highest reported level since the Census Bureau started tracking the data in May, with almost 30 million Americans reporting that they’d not had enough to eat at some point in the seven days through July 21. In the bureau’s weekly Household Pulse Survey, roughly 23.9 million of 249 million respondents indicated they had “sometimes not enough to eat” for the week ended July 21, while about 5.42 million indicated they had “often not enough to eat.”  

Children were already going hungry in West Virginia — COVID-19 is making it worse: Poverty and food access are not a new problem in West Virginia, a state plagued by opioid abuse and an economic downturn following coal’s decline. But the pandemic has served as a reminder of the all-too-easy association between child hunger and Appalachia: one in five children here struggle to access food on a regular basis, according to Save the Children’s recent report, and the global nonprofit ranked the state 42nd in the country for childhood hunger.  

Medicare data confirms virus’ harsh impact on communities of color: American Indian and indigenous Alaskan Medicare beneficiaries have the second highest hospitalization rate for COVID-19 among all racial and ethnic groups in the program, new federal data shows. Only Black beneficiaries have a higher rate. The finding adds to the growing body of research that shows the pandemic is taking a disparate toll on communities of color. Black beneficiaries had the highest hospitalization rate at 670 per 100,000, according to the Medicare claims data. They were followed by American Indians and Alaskan Natives with a rate of 505 hospitalizations per 100,000. Hispanics, who can be of any race, had a hospitalization rate of 401 per 100,000. They were followed by Asians at 207 per 100,000 and whites with 175 hospitalizations per 100,000. 

An extra $600 a week kept many workers afloat — What do they do now? A supplement to unemployment benefits is at an end, and Congress is deadlocked over new aid. For some, that means hunger, evictions or bankruptcies

Pandemic learning ‘pods’ don’t just have to be for the rich: How to make education more equitable during the COVID-19 crisis.

Who should get a coronavirus vaccine first? Experts weigh priority for health-care and essential workers and people of color 

The child-care industry is on the verge of collapse — Congress must save it: The editorial board of the Washington Post writes: “With schools shuttered and child-care options restricted, working parents across the country are shouldering unexpected child-care burdens. Many will not be able to return to work until they can find safe, affordable childcare. At the same time, the child-care industry is collapsing under pandemic-inflicted financial pressure. Without swift action from Congress, child-care centers are at risk of permanent closures that could severely undermine the country’s economic recovery.” 

Supporting families during the pandemic — Learning from frontline staff: LaDonna Pavetti of the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities writes for Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity about the lessons learned by the work LIFT, a human services organization, has done in communities of color during the pandemic. The three top takeaways: 

  • The pandemic, by worsening the hardship rooted in racism that LIFT families were already facing, is taking a significant toll on families and coaches. But it’s also showing families’ strength and resilience. 
  • Accessing resources to alleviate hardship has been extremely taxing and has created additional stress for both families and coaches. 
  • Short-term solutions may reduce hardship, but until we come to grips with the ways in which institutional racism restricts opportunities, Black and Brown individuals and families will continue to struggle to live the life to which they aspire. 

Envisioning a more inclusive future of work: Charles Chear of Rutgers University writes for Next City: “As the nation grapples with racism and inequality, we need to ensure that future of work discussions and policymaking are inclusive of the poor, BIPOC and women. This means thinking about workers not only as professionals or individuals with set work hours, but also as collective families. We need to consider work that happens among adults and children and youth, too.” 

Briefing for July 29, 2020

Less time on schoolwork, more paper packets in low-income districts, survey finds: Once the pandemic upended normal school this spring, students of all ages in high-poverty school districts were asked to do less schoolwork and spend less time in class than their peers in affluent school districts. That’s according to a national survey led by the American Institutes for Research, one of the most sweeping efforts to date to track what student learning looked like during that period. The survey also found high-poverty districts were less likely to monitor if students completed their work, if students were interacting with their teachers, and if students were logging into their school district’s online programs. Some 15% of high-poverty districts said they didn’t monitor student participation at all, while only 1% of low-poverty districts said the same. 

Re-opening schools is a lose-lose dilemma for many families of color: Children of color have the most to lose if schools remain physically closed in the fall. Their families also have the most to lose if schools reopen. Parents of color are also more worried than white parents about losing the other benefits that schools provide, like social services and food, according to recent polling by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Only 9% of white parents are worried about their children having enough to eat at home if schools remain closed, compared to 44% of parents of color.  

COVID-19’s class war: The greatest predictor of coronavirus deaths appears to be income. 

Pandemic is having a devastating effect on Latino families: From the Brookings Institution: “As we now know — and as our team has documented elsewhere — Latino Americans are more likely than non-Hispanic whites to contract COVID-19 and to face disproportionately high mortality rates when they contract the virus. What has not been well understood, outside of anecdotal accounts, is the impact COVID-19 is having on the economic well-being of Latino families. In a new Abriendo Puertas/Latino Decisions National Parent Survey that we conducted from June 12-19, 2020, we find that, beyond the health impacts of the virus, Latino families are also facing severe economic stress due to the COVID-19 recession.” 

The new water wars: The coronavirus economic crash is tightening the financial vise on utilities that supply water and sanitation across the country, potentially putting water companies on the verge of financial insolvency while millions of Americans struggle to pay their utility bills. 

Biden announces plan to boost Black, Latino finances: Former Vice President Joe Biden announced a plan on Tuesday to spend tens of billions of dollars to help people of color overcome inequities in the economy, a move that comes amid financial and racial upheaval nationwide. The plan calls for dedicating $30 billion of previously proposed spending on a small-business opportunity fund for Black, brown and Native American entrepreneurs. Biden also proposed tripling the goal for federal contracting with small disadvantaged businesses, from 5% to at least 15% of all spending on materials and services by 2025. 

Why hunger can grow even when poverty doesn’t: From Jason DeParle at the New York Times: “The news about the needy in recent weeks has at times seemed at odds with itself. As surveys find more people are going hungry, evidence suggests that increased federal aid, in response to the pandemic-driven rise in unemployment, has prevented a surge in poverty. How could hunger soar if poverty does not? The possible explanations shed light on how people are faring in the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. And they bear on the deadlocked policy debate between Congress and the Trump administration over whether to continue expanded jobless benefits, which expire in several days.” 

In Texas, two big problems collide — uninsured people and an uncontrolled pandemic: Texas’ uninsured rate has been climbing along with its unemployment rate as COVID-19 cases surge in the state. Before the pandemic, Texas already had the highest rate and largest number of people without health insurance in the country. And 20% of all uninsured children in the U.S. live in Texas. 

Mental health support for students of color during and after the pandemic: From the Center for American Progress: “For many young people, school is the primary provider of mental health resources. School closures removed students’ main point of access to diagnosis and treatment while adding new stresses of remote learning and social isolation. As the next school year approaches, Congress must make significant investments in sustained, long-term care to help address the trauma of the pandemic as well as implement immediate solutions that can serve students remotely. It is critical that these efforts are approached with a racial equity lens, recognizing not only that BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and non-Black people of color) people are likely facing disproportionate stress and trauma right now — but also that not all BIPOC students have the exact same mental health needs.” 

Briefing for July 28, 2020

How the eviction crisis will look across the country: A state-by-state breakdown of how the potential wave of evictions could hit. In West Virginia, for example, 60% of renters are at risk of eviction. 
Homeless camps in downtown Denver are ‘out of control’ as pandemic drags on: One nonprofit counted 30 encampments and 664 tents. The tent cities are growing more persistent as Denver has backed off enforcing the camping ban
Number of families with hungry children approaches 14 million, study finds: Food insecurity is rising among American children as the coronavirus savages the economy, diminishing the salaries of parents struggling to feed their kids. During the first week of July, the number of households with children that reported not having enough to eat was 13,570,374, according to an analysis of U.S. census data by the nonprofit, nonpartisan Council on Contemporary Families. Before March 13, the day the federal government declared a national emergency, the number was 12,046,456. That’s an increase of more than 1.5 million households in just four months, from 12.8% to 14.5%. 
Congress must help rural America respond to the pandemic: Three key takeaways from the Center for American Progress

  • Many rural areas, particularly rural communities of color, are experiencing coronavirus case numbers and deaths that now surpass those of the large metropolitan areas that dominated the news cycle early on during the pandemic. 
  • The $1,200 direct payments given directly to households as part of the relief provided by the CARES Act boosted spending and business revenues in April, especially in Southern rural communities. 
  • While the percentage of small businesses that were open rose in May and early June, this number plummeted through the end of June along with small-business revenues; this trend coincides with the recent spikes in COVID-19 cases, especially in the Sun Belt region. 

Communicating in a pandemic — How cities can better reach non-English speakers: About 25 million U.S. residents are not fluent English speakers. During a public-health emergency in which clear communication is critical, cities are having a hard time reaching them with critical information — and having an even harder time hearing back from these residents about their own needs. 

For HCBUs, the pandemic hits close to home: Leaders of historically Black colleges and universities are grappling with a challenge that others in higher education don’t fully share: how to reopen their campuses to a population that has proven especially vulnerable to COVID-19. Black people are dying at 2.5 times the rate of white people, according to the COVID Racial Data Tracker. Nearly a third of deaths among nonwhite Americans were in people younger than 65, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, compared with 13% among white people under that age. 

Diabetes highlights two Americas — One where COVID-19 is easily beaten, another where it often can’t be stopped: Americans with diabetes and related health conditions are 12 times more likely to die of COVID-19 than those without such conditions, said Tracey Brown, CEO of the American Diabetes Association. Roughly 90% of Americans who die of COVID-19 have diabetes or other underlying conditions. And people of color are over-represented among the very sick and the dead. 

A COVID-19 vaccine can ensure better outcomes for communities of color — But health professionals need to earn their trust first: Six steps to combat fear and distrust of vaccines in some communities of color by infectious disease physicians and researchers Bisola O. Ojikutu, Julie H. Levison and Kathryn E. Stephenson: 

  • Include people of color in all phases of vaccine development. 
  • Be transparent about the vaccine development process and safety data. 
  • Articulate clear messages. 
  • Protect people from potential harm. 
  • Dismantle all financial barriers to vaccination. 
  • Address health structural inequities and systemic racism. 

Senate GOP released $1 trillion relief package: Senate Republicans released their $1 trillion coronavirus relief proposal Monday afternoon, setting off what could be weeks of political battles with Democrats over unemployment insurance, state and local aid, and liability protection for businesses and schools as the pandemic continues to batter the U.S. economy. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) outlined the pillars of the proposal, which will include another round of $1,200 in direct payments, more money for the Paycheck Protection Program, a reduction in boosted federal unemployment benefits, liability protection and more than $100 billion for reopening schools and colleges. 

A roadmap to re-employment in the COVID-19 economy — Empowering workers, states and employers: From a new study by the American Enterprise Institute: “Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. workforce system struggled to support workers and job seekers in a strong economy. It is not designed to support the millions of newly unemployed workers that will be seeking jobs as the economy reopens. Building a workforce system that can meet this demand will require a fundamental rethink of the system to enable greater flexibility — for workers, states, employers, and workforce system leaders alike — to support wide-ranging needs and to be able to adapt to changing local economic conditions. Two key pillars of change — state flexibility and worker support — are necessary to ease the return to work during the restart.” 

Briefing for July 27, 2020

Administration’s fragmented pandemic response may undermine push to address racial disparities: In 20 interviews across multiple states, health workers, civil rights advocates and state and local officials told POLITICO that efforts by the CDC and the broader Trump administration to mitigate the impact of the virus on communities of color are falling short. They cited cultural misunderstandings and asserted that mixed messages from the White House have made it harder for counties to get a handle on the disease. 

40 million Americans face student loan cliff: Unless Congress or the administration intervenes, monthly loan payments paused due to the pandemic will come due for tens of millions of borrowers. The federal government’s emergency relief for more than 40 million student loan borrowers is set to expire at the end of September, amid sky-high levels of unemployment and an overall economy still stifled by rising coronavirus cases. 

How the childcare crisis will distort the economy for a generation: The economic toll of the collapse of the child system will be felt for 20-30 years, says economist Betsey Stevenson. “The work of recovering from it will not end just because we have a vaccine,” says Stevenson, a labor economist at the University of Michigan and former member of President Barack Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers. “We are making choices right now about where we will be as an economy in 20 years, in 30 years, based on what we do with these kids.” 

State unemployment agencies could take months to adapt to White House proposals, memos show: Ancient state unemployment systems that struggled to handle the first round of COVID-19 relief payments could take months or more to adopt a White House proposal for modifying the benefits, according to memos obtained by NPR. Such a lag could mean that the roughly 30 million people currently collecting pandemic-related unemployment benefits would see their income drop from a weekly average of $900 to an average of $300 per week. The proposal would cut emergency unemployment benefits to roughly 70% of a person’s lost wages — a more complicated calculation than the current, flat $600. 

LGBTQ youth face mental health struggles during pandemic: 40% of young LGBTQ people have considered suicide in the last year; that rises to more than half for trans and non-binary youth. That’s according to the second annual survey on LGBTQ youth mental health by The Trevor Project. The non-profit organization provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBTQ people under the age of 25. “LGBTQ youth already deal with housing instability, food insecurity and trouble accessing health care,” says clinical psychologist Amy Green, director of research at the Trevor Project. “All of that is exacerbated by a pandemic.” 

When a pandemic meets a heat wave: Extreme summer temperatures target the same communities most vulnerable to COVID-19. Where can people go when staying indoors with air conditioning isn’t safe? 

Technology gap between senior ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ complicates pandemic response: Family gatherings on Zoom and FaceTime. Online orders from grocery stores and pharmacies. Telehealth appointments with physicians. These have been lifesavers for many older adults staying at home during the coronavirus pandemic. But an unprecedented shift to virtual interactions has a downside: Large numbers of seniors are unable to participate. Among them are older adults with dementia (14% of those 71 and older), hearing loss (nearly two-thirds of those 70 and older) and impaired vision (13.5% of those 65 and older), who can have a hard time using digital devices and programs designed without their needs in mind. Many older adults with limited financial resources also may not be able to afford devices or the associated internet service fees. (Half of seniors living alone and 23% of those in two-person households are unable to afford basic necessities.) Others are not adept at using technology and lack the assistance to learn. 

Eight signs the retirement crisis is getting worse: The retirement crisis has been under way for a while. A growing share of older households had little or no savings, as costs for housing, health care and other items went up. Some worked longer, while others went deeper into debt to pay their bills. The current recession could quickly make things worse. Eight reasons why

  • Continued work is no longer an option for many seniors 
  • Many older workers could soon face lower Social Security benefits because of declining wages 
  • Older households may start taking money from retirement accounts 
  • Housing prices could fall 
  • Many older households could end up with higher rents 
  • Many older workers may decide to retire early 
  • The pandemic could raise health care costs for older workers 
  • Older households could go deeper into debt as incomes fall 

As they try to help others, nonprofits need their own safety net: Even as the economic crisis creates new demand for their services, organizations with millions of workers are resorting to layoffs as revenues dry up

Newsom signals more protections coming for essential workers: As California’s COVID-19 cases continue to surge, Gov. Gavin Newsom has announced more protections for the state’s essential workers, including farmworkers, truck drivers, construction workers and grocery employees. Newsom highlighted a new program, Housing for the Harvest, which will provide hotel rooms for agricultural workers who test positive or were exposed to the virus so they can safely isolate.  

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