Briefing for June 15-19, 2020 on COVID-19 and Low-Income Communities

Briefing for June 15-19, 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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A Special Request. The issues that impact low-income communities have never been cast in more stark relief. We’ve been doing these updates daily for the last three months because we feel they’re essential, and you’ve let us know you agree by subscribing and helping us showcase journalism on these crucial topics. This has been a pro bono effort led by our principal writer, firm Vice President Bill Nichols, who comes with deep experience in these issues, including as a senior reporter and editor at some of the nation’s major news organizations. Bill will be taking some time off over the next few weeks, and we’d be grateful to hear from any foundation or philanthropist who would like to help support our staffing. Otherwise, we’ll resume our daily updates in July when Bill returns. If you want to help, or talk about how, please email Bill at

Briefing for June 18, 2020

People of color account for majority of coronavirus deaths, new CDC study says: African-Americans and Latinos are vastly overrepresented when it comes to coronavirus infections, according to an analysis released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The findings provide additional confirmation that, as the CDC’s own report says, black and brown communities have been “disproportionately affected” by the pandemic. African-Americans account for only 13.4% of the U.S. population, according to the Census Bureau, but the CDC says they accounted for 22% of coronavirus infections studied in the new analysis.
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.
If everything is a crisis, then nothing is: Advice on how best to frame housing issues from Nat Kendall-Taylor and Bill Pitkin: “Housing issues are urgent and housing systems in many parts of the country are in fact in crisis. However, communications research shows that presenting these issues as a crisis may not be the best way to get society to address them. Crisis framing may create sympathy, but it does not lead to durable changes in thinking or support for long-term solutions.”
1.5 million new unemployment claims filed last week: The continued influx of claims for jobless benefits more than three months into the pandemic is raising doubt among some economists that the U.S. will experience a rapid recovery.
A digital march on Washington: The Poor People’s Campaign plans a Mass Poor People’s Assembly and Moral March on Washington on Saturday, June 20th at 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. EST, and again on Sunday, June 21st at 6 p.m. EST, at
Homelessness crisis feared in D.C. when pandemic ebbs and evictions begin: Just about the time the District of Columbia is coming out of the coronavirus crisis, it will face a new one over homelessness, housing experts warn. Thousands of tenants who recently lost their jobs because of the pandemic shutdown can no longer afford to pay their rent or will soon lack the money to do so. They’re able to stay in their homes for now because of an emergency moratorium on evictions. But the ban ends 60 days after Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) lifts the public health emergency, and evictions are likely to surge, according to officials and advocates for tenants.
Homeless New Yorkers in shelters face higher coronavirus death rate: Thousands of New Yorkers sleeping in shelters face a disproportionately high mortality rate during the pandemic, according to a Coalition for the Homeless report.
COVID-19 hurting populations already struggling with energy bills: Energy insecurity, the inability to pay an energy bill, has long been a problem among low-income households in the United States. But a new survey from the Indiana University O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs has found that COVID-19 is having a significant impact on an already vulnerable population, and is likely to send new households into it.
How to start closing the racial wealth gap: An obscure add-on charge for mortgages has put homeownership out of reach, disproportionately for black Americans.
Millions of health care workers exempt from coronavirus paid leave provisions, study finds: Millions of health-care workers across the U.S. are going to work without paid sick leave during the pandemic, a study published Wednesday found. The analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation estimated that 17.7 million health workers are exempt from the emergency paid sick leave requirement in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act passed in March
Radical schooling ideas for an uncertain fall and beyond: NPR collects these out-of-the-box suggestions:

  • Support families to help teach children
  • Give teens one-on-one support
  • Use online systems to access, remediate and individualize learning
  • Form micro-schools and home-school co-ops
  • Take education outdoors

Hazard pay for gig workers poised to become law in Seattle: On Monday, the Seattle City Council voted unanimously to require food delivery companies such as Instacart and Grubhub to pay gig workers an extra $2.50 per order, and to do so for the duration of the COVID-19 civil emergency first declared by Seattle’s mayor on March 3.

Briefing for June 17, 2020

It didn’t have to be like this: Adam Serwer writes in the Atlantic that the desperation of American workers in the aftermath of the coronavirus was the product of a series of policy decisions and missed opportunities.

Race gaps in coronavirus deaths are even greater than believed: Tiffany Ford, Richard Reeves and Sarah Reber of the Brookings Institution write that: “The issue of racial injustice has rightfully joined the pandemic at the top of the national agenda. Protests against the metronomic killing of Black people, especially at the hands of police, are taking place across the country. At the same time, race gaps in vulnerability to COVID-19 highlight the accumulated, intersecting inequities facing Americans of color (but especially Black people) in jobs, housing, education, criminal justice — and in health.”

Battling COVID-19 — a new deal in Birmingham: As America focuses on structural racism and the killing of unarmed black people, an African American mayor in the south is leading a unique response to a pandemic taking a disproportionate number of black lives. The initiative is a potential model for the nation. This story is part of a partnership between Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity and Microsoft News.

The wealthy have cut their spending, hurting the people who depend on it: The New York Times uses new data from Opportunity Insights to show that the steepest declines in spending during the coronavirus recession have come from the highest-income places.

U.S. must release $679 million in coronavirus tribal relief: A federal judge ruled late Monday that the Treasury Department must release $679 million in coronavirus relief funding for tribes that it intended to withhold while a court challenge over the agency’s initial round of payments to tribal governments played out in court.

‘We’re feeding America, but we’re sacrificing ourselves’: Poultry plants continue to run processing lines at a breakneck speed, making it impossible for workers to social distance. In a New York Times video, a current and former Tyson Foods worker urge the company to slow down the processing lines.

House coronavirus task force launches nursing home probe: The House committee overseeing the federal response to the coronavirus crisis is launching a sweeping investigation into the country’s five largest for-profit nursing home companies, demanding details about their structure, executive compensation and preparedness for the coronavirus crisis.

Renters need $16 billion per month in support during coronavirus crisis: In a new brief from the Urban Institute, Aaron Shroyer and Kathryn Reynolds estimate that when state and federal unemployment assistance expires, $15.5 billion per month would be needed to alleviate cost burden for renters who were cost-burdened before the pandemic and for renters who lost their jobs as a result of it.

The standoff roiling Pittsburgh’s largest newspaper: Editors at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette barred one of its few black reporters from covering recent demonstrations because of a sardonic tweet they said showed bias. They then disqualified about 80 other journalists from the beat for publicly supporting her — calling it another show of bias. Now, reporters say stories have disappeared from the Post-Gazette’s website, and it’s unclear who is writing the paper’s skimpy, unbylined articles about the protests. State and city officials have denounced the actions against journalists, and major businesses have pulled their support. 

Federal Reserve chairman Powell warns that coronavirus recession could worsen inequities: Jerome H. Powell, testifying before lawmakers, said recent labor market improvement was encouraging but predicted a long road ahead for service-sector workers.

Coronavirus economy is particularly harsh for transgender Americans: As the pandemic ravages the country, there are concerns that an already marginalized group will be further left behind. “Transgender people are going to be more harmed by the impact on the economy than other L.G.B.T. people,” said Rebecca Rolfe, Executive Director of the San Francisco LGBT Center. “People who are most marginalized are going to be most impacted. They’re going to be the last hired, the lowest paid.”

Targeted COVID-19 testing is essential for health equity: Targeted testing and contact tracing for at-risk populations represent a more ethical approach to lifting pandemic restrictions and opening up the economy given limited test supplies.

Briefing for June 16, 2020

Harrowing blame game over coronavirus toll in nursing homes: From the Associated Press: A grim blame game with partisan overtones is breaking out over COVID-19 deaths among nursing home residents, a tiny slice of the population that represents a shockingly high proportion of Americans who have perished in the pandemic

California’s overcrowded homes fuel coronavirus spread among workers: Across California, essential and service workers are being hit hardest by the coronavirus, and so are the people they live with. The poorest ZIP codes with the most people living in crowded housing are suffering the most from the coronavirus, according to an analysis of housing and health data by The California Divide, a statewide media collaboration.

To understand who’s dying from coronavirus, look to social factors like race more than underlying illness: Sharon Begley writes for Stat: “While early studies of who was dying of COVID-19 identified risks such as obesity and having diabetes, there is a growing realization that those initial conclusions might have been misleading, obscuring a more significant explanation. As researchers pull back their lens from individuals to population-level risk factors, they’re finding that, in the U.S., race may be as important as age in gauging a person’s likelihood of dying from the disease.”

The healthcare inequities African Americans suffer: Robert Pearl, M.D., writes for Forbes: “In the United States, both the police and the coronavirus attack black people disproportionately. Scientific studies confirm that African Americans don’t just suffer higher rates of police brutality, racial profiling, and mass incarceration compared to white people, they also suffer higher rates of mistreatment in U.S. hospitals, clinics and physician offices.” 

The heartbreak of being a black parent right now: California Surgeon General Dr. Nadine Burke Harris tells KQED that she fears for her children at the current moment: “Of course I do. My God, I think it is a horrible rite of passage for every black parent to have to have “the talk” with their children, and particularly with my husband and I having four black boys. It is particularly salient, and it’s heartbreaking. Honestly, I have been tearful in this process. It’s been very, very difficult.”

CARES Act has brought little relief for black-owned small businesses: Early last month, the Small Business Administration’s inspector general released a report noting that of $659 billion that Congress has approved for Paycheck Protection Program loans — which are meant to allow small businesses to keep workers on their payrolls instead of firing or furloughing them — about $425.8 billion had been disbursed. The inspector general pointed out that the legislation authorizing PPP funding mandated that the SBA prioritize lending to rural, minority and women-owned businesses, but that didn’t appear to have happened.

How to make a COVID-19 bailout for schools more equitable: In a proposal published Monday, two experts say Congress should distribute money based on a mix of student population and child-poverty levels. Sara Reber of the Brookings Institution and Nora Gordon, Associate Professor, McCourt School of Public Policy, Georgetown University, write: “Lawmakers should design a new formula that sends more money per pupil to states with higher child-poverty rates. Even absent a pandemic, more resources are needed to provide equitable educational opportunities for poor children. The current economic and public health crises only exacerbate this pattern by hitting the poor the hardest.”

Parents are ready to go back to work — but where will their kids go? The resurgence of California’s economy — the fifth largest in the world — could rest on one sector in particular that’s been shattered by the pandemic: child care. Steep revenue losses and costly new health and safety requirements are putting beleaguered child care programs out of existence in the high-cost state just as more parents return to the workplace. Even a relatively small percentage of closures could have an outsize effect given pre-pandemic shortages, experts say.

Briefing for June 15, 2020

Missing data veils coronavirus damage in minority communities: The coronavirus’ brutal impact on African Americans and other minorities may never be fully known because of consistent gaps in gathering data on race and ethnicity that persist more than four months into the pandemic. Despite rising pressure on the Trump administration to fix the data deficits, 52% of reported coronavirus cases in the U.S. are still missing information on race or ethnicity. Recent federal guidance on gathering more of that data through testing won’t start until August. “Unless we use data and focus concretely on race, we are going to let COVID-19 bake in a whole new generation of disparities,” said John Kim, Executive Director of the racial justice research and policy organization Advancement Project California.
Depression and anxiety spiked among black Americans after George Floyd’s death: Asians and African Americans show sharp increases in mental health problems amid protests, while white Americans were relatively untouched, Census Bureau finds.
Coronavirus could widen black wealth gap: COVID-19 could widen the homeownership gap for people of color.
As D.C. passes 500 coronavirus deaths, nearly three out of four have been African American: The death toll from the novel coronavirus surpassed 500 in the nation’s capital last week. District health officials report that 375 of the 506 fatalities have been African American, 65 have been Hispanic and 54 have been white. Blacks and whites each account for about 46% of the city’s population, according to Census Bureau data, while about 11% are Hispanic. Yet blacks account for 74% of COVID-19 deaths, and the wards of the city with the largest black populations have suffered the heaviest losses.
Pandemic shows health care racial disparities continue: Whether it’s unconscious, explicit, institutional or research bias, health care experts agree that discrimination in the health care system contributes to the stark disparities seen in how COVID-19 sickens and kills patients of color.
Surprise medical bills in the coronavirus era: Containing the coronavirus depends on knowing who has it, and it’s going to be much harder to get people to get tested if they think they’ll have to pay for it. But it’s becoming increasingly clear that patients may be vulnerable to surprise coronavirus bills.
A hidden change in the CARES Act could endanger privacy for addiction patients: A little-noticed rider to the CARES Act limits the privacy addiction disorder patients have over their treatment records.
The coronavirus recession could be devastating for women: Women are facing unprecedented challenges in the job market — and at home.
Forget the stock market — in the real economy, there is coronavirus and mass unemployment: Michael Linden writes in USA Today that “long before the current presidency, conservatives have argued that the best signs of a strong and healthy economy are high stock prices and corporate profits. But if you ask pretty much anyone else across the country, you’ll hear a different perspective. Over the past two months, more than 37 million people have filed for unemployment and millions more have seen their hours cut (or have had to drop out of the workforce altogether).”
Task force outlines how New Jersey universal basic income program will launch: A task force examining the viability of a universal basic income pilot program for Newark has released an initial report detailing the goal of getting cash into the hands of some of the city’s residents later this year.
A better way forward for keeping workers safe while reopening the economy: Jacob Leibenluft and Ben Olinsky of the Center for American Progress lay out key principles to keep workers safe while easing coronavirus lockdowns.

  • Put in place public health-based approaches that allow for safe reopening of the economy
  • Establish more robust worker safety standards
  • Maintain robust unemployment benefits as an important backstop to worker safety
  • Workers must have paid leave, paid sick time, child care, and adequate pay

The workers who wash Colorado’s hospital linens are afraid of their jobs: A coronavirus outbreak at a laundry co-op that cleans sheets, towels and gowns for 40 Colorado hospitals has workers asking for hazard pay.

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