Briefing for June 1-5, 2020 on COVID-19 and Low-Income Communities

Briefing for June 1-5, 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 June 5, 2020

The black-white economic divide is as wide as it was in 1968: 14 charts from the Washington Post show how deep the economic gap is and how little it has changed in decades. The COVID-19 recession is also hitting black families and business owners far harder than whites.

The striking racial divide in how COVID-19 has hit nursing homes: Homes with a significant number of black and Latino residents have been twice as likely to be hit by the coronavirus as those where the population is overwhelmingly white.

CDC head apologizes for lack of racial diversity data: CDC Director Robert Redfield apologized on Thursday for his agency’s “inadequate” reporting on racial disparities in coronavirus patients, addressing criticism that the lack of data has hampered the public health response in communities of color disproportionately affected by the virus.

Research shows students falling months behind during pandemic: The abrupt switch to remote learning wiped out academic gains for many students in America and widened racial and economic gaps. Catching up in the fall won’t be easy.

Unemployment drops to 13.3% in May as parts of economy reopen: The rate, which many economists predicted would be far worse, reflects parts of the economy reopening in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

‘People are looking at me’: For many who have lost jobs, hunger comes with shame: 30% of American households where people have lost income because of the virus have missed meals or relied on food handouts in recent weeks, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll. “We have a group of people who are suddenly struggling to get food,” Santa Fe Mayor Alan Webber said. “They’re people who are really unused to asking for help, people who thought they had a pretty good handle on life.”

Time to change perceptions and policies for essential workers?Richard Reeves and Hannah Van Drie of the Brookings Institution examine the “respect gap” for essential workers, whose vital services have been highlighted by the pandemic and who too often are seen as working in “low-prestige” jobs.

As the pandemic strains supplies, Native Americans fight food insecurity: As a response to the way in which the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted food supply chains, especially in remote parts of the Navajo Nation, the new “Seeds and Sheep” program is mailing seeds to families so they can grow food for themselves and their community. The nonprofit running the program, Utah Diné Bikéyah, has connected with over 300 families so far. It is part of a larger trend of Native efforts to provide agricultural education, teach people to grow culturally relevant food, and reduce food insecurity. This story comes from a special COVID-19 collection curated by the Solutions Journalism Network.

Rural Oklahoma communities are desperate to save their hospitals – but management companies sometimes make things worse: Financial pressures have forced the closures of 130 rural hospitals across the country in the past decade, leaving communities grasping for solutions to avoid losing health care in areas with the most need. Rural health experts fear many more won’t survive the coronavirus pandemic. An investigation by The Frontier and ProPublica found that some private management companies hired to save the most vulnerable hospitals in rural Oklahoma have instead failed them.

Questions continue to swirl around $3 billion food aid program: Lawmakers are asking why some federal contractors in the Trump administration’s food aid program apparently lack qualifications to deliver the goods and have hired a consultant to tell positive stories.

Coronavirus has upended Florida’s slow recovery from a brutal 2018 hurricane season: Hurricane Michael hit the Florida panhandle in October 2018. The brunt of the storm fell on Bay County, Florida, where the pandemic has thrown rebuilding months behind schedule, leaving hundreds of families without homes and struggling to get back on their feet.

Briefing for June 4, 2020

‘This is what happens to us’: How U.S. cities lost precious time protecting black residents from COVID-19.

Black Americans face an unequal housing market and the pandemic could make it worse: The housing conditions for black Americans leave them more exposed to contracting COVID-19. Only 54.5% of African-American households live in single-family homes, according to a report from the Economic Policy Institute, compared with 74.5% of white households.

Housing inequality fuels protests: “Understand the housing crisis that we’re going through and the homelessness we face daily,” Donnette Leftord, a mother of three in New York who has been unemployed since March due to the pandemic, tells Reuters. “Here we are, trying to deal with financial difficulty during this period, and then we’re still being murdered on the street,” she said, pointing to the death of George Floyd, a black man who died on May 25 in police custody in Minneapolis.

COVID-19 in Native American communities: A quiet crisis that has become an ear-deafening emergency: Freedman Consulting Senior Advisor Mary Smith writes that the “coronavirus pandemic has elevated to the public’s consciousness what Native Americans have known for decades — that the amount of funding and resources dedicated to Native American health and well-being is unconscionable.”

As coronavirus devastates Navajo Nation, youth step up to take care of elders: Across Navajo Nation, young people are coming together to protect their elders through grassroots efforts and campaigns. They’ve created online campaigns, like Protect the Sacred and #NavajoStrong to help provide accurate information, collect donations, deliver medical supplies, and recruit medical professionals. This story comes from a special coronavirus collection curated by the Solutions Journalism Network.

1.9 million new unemployment claims: The coronavirus pandemic has forced roughly 42.6 million workers onto jobless rolls in just 11 weeks.

A window into an American nightmare: As the homelessness crisis and the coronavirus crisis converge, what can we learn from one city’s struggles? A look at how San Francisco is grappling with a persistent problem by the New Yorker.

For West Coast reporters covering homelessness, coronavirus breeds caution: Fearing they could infect their sources, some reporters are limiting contact at a time when unsheltered communities’ needs are increasing.

Kamala Harris and Andrew Yang lead call for monthly coronavirus payments: In a virtual town hall hosted by The Appeal on Monday, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) and fellow former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang talked up a proposal that would see each American receive a monthly payment of up to $2,000 over the course of the coronavirus pandemic.

How parents are managing in the pandemic: A comprehensive analysis of survey data from the American Enterprise Institute.

How Detroit’s new food delivery program is helping “box-in” coronavirus: Detroit is piloting a food-delivery program that’s not only helping solve one part of the city’s hunger problem at a time when food supply chains are scrambled and pantries are slammed. It’s also helping stop the spread of the virus by enabling infected residents to stay in isolation — one of the four things cities need to do to “box in” the virus and finally get COVID-19 under control.

The pandemic highlights the need for equitable healthcare: McKinley Price, mayor of Newport News, Va., writes in Governing that “federal policymakers, and in too many cases their counterparts at the state level, are not doing enough to protect black communities. Black mayors are picking up the slack, developing solutions to improve the health of their residents.”

Over half of Mississippi’s child care centers remain closed: Some officials are calling on the state to invest more in child care centers as the industry is pushed to the brink amid Mississippians heading back to work.

Briefing for June 3, 2020

Black workers, already lagging, face big economic risks: Black employment rates are plummeting, and the evolving wealth and income hit could fall on the shoulders of those ill-equipped to bear it.

An undercurrent of the protests; African Americans are struggling more economically from the pandemic: From the Washington Post: “In the Minneapolis area, where protests have turned violent in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd, the median income for black households is less than half of white ones — $38,200 compared to $85,000. In Washington, D.C., where protesters set fire to American flags and a historic church near the White House, the percentage of out-of-work black residents outpaces white residents at a rate of about 6 to 1. African American households have struggled more economically than the median household nationwide, even when unemployment was at single-digit historic lows. Now, months into the pandemic that has rendered 40 million people jobless, African Americans have lost jobs at higher rates in many communities.”

Florida’s largest majority-black city was doing well — then came the pandemic: From the Washington Post: “Parks were cleaned up, businesses moved in and the city thrived. Now, Miami Gardens — the largest majority-black city in the state — is waging a fight against the novel coronavirus. The virus has disproportionately attacked black Americans regardless of where they live, how much money they make or how well they’ve galvanized their communities.”

Police arrested fewer people during coronavirus lockdowns — even fewer were white: Racial disparities grew in New York City, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Tucson, Ariz. as arrests fell, according to a data analysis by the Marshall Project.

Housing hardships hit new heights during the pandemic: From the Brooking Institution: “Groundbreaking data from a new large-scale, nationally representative survey of low- and moderate-income (LMI) households (representing roughly 60% of the overall U.S. population) administered by the Social Policy Institute at Washington University in St. Louis in April of 2020 suggests that individuals have been facing increased housing hardship such as evictions, delayed rent or mortgage payments, and unexpected utility payments and home repairs during the pandemic. Particularly at high risk for evictions are Hispanic/Latinx populations, who are already more likely to be low-income and to become infected with COVID-19 compared to white populations.”

Community Action Agencies turn their attention to COVID-19 relief: An interview with Denise Harlow, Chief Executive Officer of Community Action Partnership, with Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity.

Chicago seniors have been dying alone at home, unnoticed, because of the pandemic: ProPublica Illinois reports that the “patchwork system of well-being checks in some of Chicago’s public and subsidized housing was not enough to prevent deaths in heartbreaking circumstances.”

They made ends meet before the coronavirus — now they’re the ‘new poor’: The Tampa Bay Times reports that the number of Florida households living paycheck-to-paycheck was already soaring before the crisis. Now, nonprofits are trying to keep up.

Projected deaths of despair from coronavirus : A new report from the Well Being Trust and the Robert Graham Center attempts to “predict what deaths of despair we might see based on three assumptions during COVID-19: economic recovery, relationship between deaths of despair and unemployment, and geography. Across nine different scenarios, additional deaths of despair range from 27,644 (quick recovery, smallest impact of unemployment on deaths of despair) to 154,037 (slow recovery, greatest impact of unemployment on deaths of despair), with somewhere in the middle being around 68,000.”

Nearly half of Mississippians show signs of anxiety and depression amid pandemic: A U.S. Census Bureau survey finds Mississippi has the highest rate of anxiety and depression among states during the pandemic at 44.3% of adults showing symptoms. Nationally, more than a third of Americans reported symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder.

Briefing for June 2, 2020

Axios-Ipsos poll: America’s big divide on police, coronavirus: A new Axios-Ipsos poll finds that America has a massive racial gulf on each of our twin calamities — trust in police, and fear of the coronavirus.

  • 77% of whites say they trust local police, compared with just 36% of African Americans — one of many measures of a widening racial divide in Week 11 of the Axios-Ipsos Coronavirus Index, taken the week George Floyd was killed by a white policeman in Minneapolis. 
  • 75% of African Americans say they’re extremely or very concerned that coronavirus is doing greater damage to people of color, while 30% of whites and 42% of Hispanics share that concern.
  • 70% of African Americans say they’re very concerned that official responses to the pandemic are being biased against some racial groups. Only one-third of whites and about half of Hispanics share that view.

‘The stories about protests are also the stories about COVID-19 and racism’: Paige Winfield Cunningham writes in the Washington Post’s Power Post: “The protests are stoking concerns that black Americans gathering in close proximity could further worsen disparities that have been years in the making. These disparities are now getting unprecedented attention because of two of the biggest news events this year: the pandemic and (George) Floyd’s death. Just as the protests over Floyd’s death have brought fresh attention to how black Americans are treated by law enforcement, the pandemic also stirred up a focus on how they lag far behind when it comes to personal health and access to affordable, high-quality care. ‘The stories about protests are also the stories about COVID-19 and racism,’ said Zinzi Bailey, a social epidemiologist at the University of Miami.”

Seattle may mandate sick leave, premium pay for gig workers during pandemic: Seattle City Council members have introduced legislation to require meal-delivery companies like DoorDash and Postmates, grocery-delivery companies like Instacart and ride-hail companies like Uber and Lyft to provide their independent contractors with paid sick days and $5 “premium pay” for each trip until the crisis subsides.

New Orleans launches program that will feed 30,000 residents, help restaurant industry: New Orleans will feed thousands of residents this summer who have struggled amid the coronavirus outbreak under a program meant to relieve food insecurity and stimulate the city’s restaurant industry. The city will by June 14 hire restaurants and kitchens who will prepare and deliver up to two meals a day to eligible residents, officials said Monday. 
Millions of health care workers aren’t getting the pay or respect they deserve: Brookings Institution fellow Molly Kinder writes of low-wage, essential health care workers on the COVID-19 frontlines: “Like the higher-paid doctors and nurses they work alongside, these essential workers are risking their lives during the pandemic — but with far less prestige and recognition, very low pay and less access to the protective equipment that could save their lives. They are nursing assistants, phlebotomists, home health aides, housekeepers, medical assistants, cooks and more. The vast majority of these workers are women, and they are disproportionately people of color. Median pay is just $13.48 an hour.”
Rural counties with COVID-19 cases from meatpacking have infection rates 5 times higher: A data set from the Daily Yonder and the Food & Environment Reporting Network shows the statistical relationship between meatpacking and the spread of COVID-19 in rural America. Information compiled by the Food & Environment Reporting Network shows how meatpacking counties have some of the highest infection rates in the United States.
Parents struggle to provide for their families during pandemic: Using data from the Urban Institute’s Health Reform Monitoring Survey collected in late March and early April 2020, Urban researchers found:

  • More than four in 10 parents reported that they or someone in their family lost work or work-related income because of the coronavirus outbreak. This proportion rises to about five in 10 for non-Hispanic black parents and low-income parents and to more than six in 10 for Hispanic parents.
  • Low-income parents were less likely to be able to work from home and more likely to have had difficulty arranging child care than higher-income parents. The same holds true for Hispanic parents, who were less likely to be able to work from home and more likely to have had difficulty arranging child care than non-Hispanic white parents.
  • Parents reported coping with the pandemic’s economic impacts by cutting back spending on food, reducing savings, and going into debt.
  • More than one-third of parents reported problems paying for housing, utility, food, or medical costs in the past month, including roughly half of low-income parents and black and Hispanic parents.

A hidden coronavirus risk; your employer: Olga Kazhan writes in the Atlantic: “Our pandemic approach to sick leave is a continuation of America’s jumbled leave laws, in which your time off largely depends on your employer, not your needs. Because of this patchwork system, Americans are some of the only workers in the Western world who risk getting fired if they don’t drag their sick selves into work. Before the pandemic, a quarter of private-sector workers didn’t have a single paid sick day. The inconsistent way that America does sick leave will become an even bigger problem as more states open up and companies ask their employees to return to the office. In the coming months, employers will wield remarkable power in determining whether their employees will be at risk of catching COVID-19, and whether they can keep their jobs if they do. As unemployment remains high and companies have more workers to choose from, more people may find themselves losing their jobs if they get sick.”

Can low-income Americans make a difference in the 2020 election? The Rev. Dr. William Barber III and the Poor People’s Campaign plan a virtual rally in Washington on June 20 in the hopes of elevating the issues of income inequality and injustice that the pandemic has cast new light on.

Hurricane season collides with pandemic as communities plan for dual threats: As Florida and other coastal states plan for hurricanes, they are confronting troubling new public safety calculations because of the coronavirus.

Briefing for June 1, 2020

Black Americans’ competing crises: Axios writes: “For many black Americans, this moment feels like a crisis within a crisis within a crisis. It’s not just George Floyd’s killing by police. Or the deaths of EMT Breonna Taylor and jogger Ahmaud Arbery. Or the demeaning of birdwatcher Christian Cooper and journalist Omar Jimenez. Or the coronavirus pandemic’s disproportionate harm to black Americans. It’s that it’s all happening at once.” “Everybody’s world got made smaller by coronavirus,” said Brittany Packnett Cunningham, co-founder of Campaign Zero. “But when you’re black, your whole world got a lot smaller.”

Why temporary layoffs may become permanent: Forty-two percent, or 11.6 million, of all jobs lost through April 25 due to COVID-19 will become permanent, according to the University of Chicago. The study places these in three buckets: jobs lost to coronavirus-induced demand shifts, jobs at firms that don’t survive the pandemic and jobs lost due to post-pandemic concerns, such as social distancing.
Scenes from an economic collapse: A remarkable series of vignettes in Sunday’s New York Times Magazine from seven communities: Baton Rouge, La.; Glassboro, N.J.; Milwaukee, Wis.; Las Vegas, Nev.; Crete, Neb.; Pueblo, Colo.; and San Antonio, Tex.
What do coronavirus racial disparities look like state by state? NPR analyzed COVID-19 demographic data collected by the COVID Racial Tracker, a joint project of the Antiracist Research & Policy Center and the COVID Tracking Project. This analysis compares each racial or ethnic group’s share of infections or deaths — where race and ethnicity is known — with their share of population. Here’s what it shows:

  • Nationally, African-American deaths from COVID-19 are nearly two times greater than would be expected based on their share of the population. In four states, the rate is three or more times greater. 
  • In 42 states plus Washington D.C., Hispanics/Latinos make up a greater share of confirmed cases than their share of the population. In eight states, it’s more than four times greater.
  • White deaths from COVID-19 are lower than their share of the population in 37 states and the District of Columbia.
  • Major holes in the data remain: 48% of cases and 9% of deaths still have no race tied to them.

The top U.S. coronavirus hotspots are all Native American lands: New York times columnist Nicholas Kristof writes from Chinle, Ariz.: “The Navajo Nation is a vast, awe-inspiring land of desert crags and canyons, the largest reservation in the country, but today it reverberates with grief and fear. The Navajo have had more people infected with the coronavirus per capita than any state in the country. Decades of neglect, exploitation and discrimination mean that even before this pandemic, Navajo here had a shorter life expectancy (72) than people in Guatemala (74) — and now COVID-19 is hitting Native Americans with particular force.

A new bill pushes Congress to do more about COVID-19 racial disparities: A new bill from Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Rep. Robin Kelly (D-IL) aims to provide an immediate way to help address some of these issues by allocating $1.5 billion in grants to local organizations that are trying to combat gaps communities of color are currently experiencing. Vox reports that their legislation, the Community Solutions for COVID-19 Act, focuses on getting funds to grassroots organizations that already have a track record of providing everything from access to medical care to culturally informed guidance about the pandemic.

Tenants largely stay current on rent — for now: Collections have been surprisingly strong through the pandemic, but there are troubling signs — for landlords and tenants alike as the country hits another first day of the month.

Overdoses have skyrocketed in Chicago and the pandemic may have made it worse: Opioid-related deaths in Cook County have doubled since this time last year, and similar increases are happening across the country. “If you’re alone, there’s nobody to give you the Narcan,” one coroner told ProPublica Illinois.

A ‘perfect storm’: Coronavirus, poverty, lack of health care facilities rock rural Alabama: Sparsely populated Lowndes County, deep in Alabama’s old plantation country, has the sad distinction of having both the state’s highest rate of COVID-19 cases and its worst unemployment rate. Initially spared as the disease ravaged cities, the county and other rural areas in the state are now facing a “perfect storm”: A lack of access to medical care combined with poverty and the attendant health problems, including hypertension, heart disease, lung disease, kidney disease and diabetes, that can worsen the outcomes for those who become sick with the coronavirus, said Dr. Ellen Eaton.

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