28 Jun Briefing for June 28-July 2, 2021 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 a daily news service summarizing relevant stories, which you can read below.
If you would like to receive a daily briefing, feel free to email email@example.com to subscribe.
Briefing for July 2, 2021
Damage to children’s education — and their health — could last a lifetime: Kaiser Health News reports that while much of the nation is starting to return to normal, many children will have much more difficulty rebounding from the pandemic experience. “After more than a year of isolation, widespread financial insecurity, and the loss of an unprecedented amount of classroom time, experts say many of the youngest Americans have fallen behind socially, academically, and emotionally in ways that could harm their physical and mental health for years, or even decades. ‘This could affect a whole generation for the rest of their lives,’ said Dr. Jack Shonkoff, a pediatrician and director of the Center for the Developing Child at Harvard University. ‘All kids will be affected. Some will get through this and be fine. They will learn from it and grow. But lots of kids are going to be in big trouble.’ Many kids will go back to school this fall without having mastered the previous year’s curriculum. Some kids have disappeared from school altogether, and educators worry that more students will drop out. Between school closures and reduced instructional time, the average U.S. child has lost the equivalent of five to nine months of learning during the pandemic, according to a report from McKinsey & Co. Educational losses have been even greater for some minorities. Black and Hispanic students — whose parents are more likely to have lost jobs and whose schools were less likely to reopen for in-person instruction — missed six to 12 months of learning, according to the McKinsey report. Missing educational opportunities doesn’t just deprive kids of better careers; it can also cost them years of life. In study after study, researchers have found that people with less education die younger than those with more.”
How the pandemic widened the education gap for boys of color: Chalkbeat looks at the pandemic’s impact on three Black Chicago teenage boys. “In Chicago and across the country, there is growing evidence that this year has hit Black and Latino boys — young men like Derrick, Nathaniel, and Leonel — harder than other students. Amid rising gun violence, a national reckoning over race, bitter school reopening battles, and a deadly virus that took the heaviest toll on Black and Latino communities, the year has tested not only these teens, but also the school systems that have historically failed many of them. It has severed precarious ties to school, derailed college plans, and pried gaping academic disparities even wider. But in this moment of upheaval, educators and advocates also see a chance to rethink how schools serve boys of color. With billions in federal stimulus funds on the way, the crisis is fueling a patchwork of efforts to bring diversity to the teaching cadre, support college-bound teens, and more, though a bolder, wholesale overhaul is yet to emerge. The stakes are high. Even before pandemic disruption set in, boys of color were most likely to drop out, skip college, and end up unemployed. ‘This is a critical moment of opportunity to help young men of color,’ said Adrian Huerta, a faculty member in the Pullias Center for Higher Education at the University of Southern California, who studies the educational experiences of boys and young men of color. ‘It’s a national issue, and it will take a national investment.’”
Children have not experienced the pain of the last year equally: CalMatters tackles a similar topic, looking at the disparate pandemic experiences of high school seniors in two Oakland zip codes: “Of all the ZIP codes in Alameda County, 94603, home to Madison Park Academy, has been perhaps the most brutalized by the pandemic. Located in the part of the city sometimes referred to as deep East Oakland, it had a COVID infection rate eight times that of the ZIP code with the lowest infection rate, 94618, which covers the affluent North Oakland hills at the other end of the city 10 miles away. The blazing path COVID cut through deep East Oakland and similar neighborhoods around California — and the relative protection enjoyed by wealthier neighborhoods like the North Oakland hills — was set into motion long before reports of a worrisome new respiratory virus began trickling out in early 2020. Children living in these two ZIP codes, and in similarly segregated neighborhoods around the state, have not experienced the pain of the pandemic equally. Many of those lining up to cross the temporary stage on the school’s football field had seen COVID race through their homes, sickening them and their family members. Some managed their studies while caring full time for younger siblings. Others struggled to connect to classes via shaky district-provided hotspots. Many took on jobs to help pay mounting bills. Some lost friends in the surge of homicides that has paralleled the pandemic.”
FEMA changes rules for COVID-19 funeral program after outcry: From Politico: “The Federal Emergency Management Agency has changed its pandemic funeral assistance policy to allow family members of those who died from COVID-19 to submit for reimbursement even if the death certificate does not identify the illness as the cause of death. FEMA said Tuesday that people whose family member died between Jan. 20 and May 16, 2020 can apply for aid if they submit a signed letter from a coroner, medical examiner, or official who certified their relative’s death certificate that links the death to COVID-19. The change could allow thousands of people whose relatives died early in the pandemic, before reliable testing was commonplace, to access the funeral aid program — the largest FEMA has ever run. The agency had struggled to find a balance between helping people in need and warding off potential scammers. FEMA altered its application requirements after months of talks with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) about how to make it easier for people to apply. FEMA rolled out the $2 billion pandemic funeral assistance program in April, using money from a $2.3 trillion spending package that former President Donald Trump signed in December 2020. FEMA has run similar programs after hurricanes and other natural disasters, but the scale of the COVID-19 reimbursement program raised fears internally that people would try to scam the system.”
Medicaid expansion takes effect in Oklahoma: The Oklahoman reports that after more than a decade of fierce debate about whether Oklahoma should expand Medicaid, “the Sooner State on Thursday became the 37th state to implement Medicaid expansion and offer health benefits to more low-income residents. Medicaid expansion has been one of the most heated political topics in Oklahoma since the Affordable Care Act became law in 2010. Supporters of State Question 802, which Oklahoma voters passed last year to expand Medicaid, celebrated the change that is expected to result in roughly 200,000 more Oklahomans qualifying for Medicaid benefits. About 25% of Oklahomans are already enrolled in Medicaid, but the expansion allows adults ages 19-64 whose income is 138% or lower than the federal poverty level to qualify. ‘A lot of effort went into getting 124,000 people signed up in 30 days,’ said Health Care Authority CEO Kevin Corbett. Agency representatives have heard lots of Oklahomans crying out of joy as they have helped them sign up for benefits, he said. The agency will launch a marketing campaign next week to help encourage newly eligible residents to sign up for Medicaid.”
Briefing for July 1, 2021
Desperate for home care, seniors often wait months with workers in short supply: From Kaiser Health News and NPR: “For at least 20 years, national experts have warned about the dire consequences of a shortage of nursing assistants and home aides as tens of millions of baby boomers hit their senior years. ‘Low wages and benefits, hard working conditions, heavy workloads, and a job that has been stigmatized by society make worker recruitment and retention difficult,’ concluded a 2001 report from the Urban Institute and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Robyn Stone, a co-author of that report and senior vice president of Leading Age, says many of the worker shortage problems identified in 2001 have only worsened. The risks and obstacles that seniors faced during the pandemic highlighted some of these problems. ‘COVID-19 uncovered the challenges of older adults and how vulnerable they were in this pandemic, and the importance of front-line care professionals who are being paid low wages,’ she says. Michael Stair, CEO of Care & Comfort, a Waterville, Maine-based agency, said the worker shortage is the worst he’s seen in 20 years in the business. ‘The bottom line is it all comes down to dollars — dollars for the home care benefit, dollars to pay people competitively,’ he said. Agencies like his are in a tough position competing for workers who can take other jobs that don’t require a background check, special training, or driving to people’s homes in bad weather.”
Virtual care becomes a common cause in divided Congress: Politico reports: “Congress appears poised to let millions of Medicare recipients continue to video chat with their doctors after the pandemic is over. A set of telemedicine policies the Trump administration adopted during lockdowns is emerging as an unexpected bipartisan rallying point as lawmakers begin to weigh life after COVID-19. The coverage policies are due to lapse once the health emergency ends, which could limit telehealth payments to rural providers and doctors with existing relationships with patients. Lawmakers are lining up to decide what Medicare will pay for after the pandemic is over, with sponsors of a leading Senate plan confident they have the votes to include it in a must-pass piece of legislation this year. Telehealth lobbyists so far have failed to get extensions into COVID-19 relief packages, in part due to concern over how they could drive up health spending and potentially invite fraud. The new momentum is driven by the way Americans quickly embraced remote care during lockdowns, helping cement a permanent role for what had largely been a niche industry. A Senate plan, S. 1512 (117), by Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) that would permanently enshrine many of the Trump Medicare coverage and payment rules has attracted 59 co-sponsors. Many private insurers have already moved to offer or broaden coverage of virtual visits.”
Mental health toll from isolation affecting kids on re-entry: The Associated Press reports that after “relentless months of social distancing, online schooling, and other restrictions, many kids are feeling the pandemic’s toll or facing new challenges navigating reentry. A surge in teen suicide attempts and other mental health crises prompted Children’s Hospital Colorado to declare a state of emergency in late May, when emergency department and hospital inpatient beds were overrun with suicidal kids and those struggling with other psychiatric problems. Typical emergency-department waiting times for psychiatric treatment doubled in May to about 20 hours, said Jason Williams, a pediatric psychologist at the hospital in Aurora. Other children’s hospitals are facing similar challenges. In typical times, the activities that come as the school year ends — finals, prom, graduations, summer job-seeking — can be stressful even for the most resilient kids. But after more than a year of dealing with pandemic restrictions, many are worn down and simply don’t ‘have enough in the tank of resilience’ to handle stresses that previously would have been manageable, Williams said. ‘When the pandemic first hit, we saw a rise in severe cases in crisis evaluation,’ as kids struggled with ‘their whole world shutting down,’ said Christine Certain, a mental health counselor who works with Orlando Health’s Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children. ‘Now, as we see the world opening back up, …it’s asking these kids to make a huge shift again.’’’
LIFTing families from generational cycles of poverty: LIFT, a national organization focused on breaking generational cycles of poverty, began a pilot project to deliver more services remotely in early 2020. Little did LIFT leaders realize that that model would have to instantly grow into its main delivery system just weeks later when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. LIFT CEO Michelle Rhone-Collins spoke to Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity recently about the organization’s experience during the pandemic, the lessons LIFT learned, and her “skeptical optimism” that the country as a whole has learned more about how to help families find more opportunity and prosperity.
Tuskegee relatives promote COVID vaccines in ad campaign: From the Associated Press: “Tuskegee is the one-word answer some people give as a reason they’re avoiding COVID-19 vaccines. A new ad campaign launched Wednesday with relatives of men who unwittingly became part of the infamous experiment wants to change minds. Omar Neal, 63, a former mayor of the Alabama town, said he was hesitant at first about the shots. Neal is a nephew of Freddie Lee Tyson, a family man who was among several hundred Black men who decades ago became involved without their consent in the federally backed syphilis study. Neal said he agreed to appear in the national campaign after doing research to gain confidence in the vaccines. ‘I want to save lives,’ Neal told The Associated Press. ‘I didn’t want people to use Tuskegee and what transpired there as a reason for not taking the vaccine.’ In 1932 and over 40 years, Black men in Tuskegee, Alabama, were subjected to experimentation without their knowledge. Most of the 600 men had syphilis — including Tyson, who got infected before birth — but they were left untreated so researchers could study the natural history of the disease. Tyson died from unrelated causes in 1988, 16 years after the study ended. But many others died from a disease that can be cured with penicillin. Neal and other Tyson relatives are among half a dozen Tuskegee descendants involved in the ads, which focus on vaccine hesitancy among Black Americans. They say vaccination is needed to help communities of color and curb a disease that has disproportionately affected Black Americans.”
Evictions in Memphis may offer a preview of what’s in store for the rest of the nation: The Washington Post looks at the housing crisis in Memphis as a potential preview of what the rest of the country could face: “Most renters in Shelby County — with one of the highest poverty rates in Tennessee — have been protected for months from eviction after courts were shut down twice during the coronavirus pandemic and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention placed a moratorium on evictions for nonpayment of rent because of the crisis. But that changed in the Western District of Tennessee in March, when a federal judge struck down the moratorium, paving the way for evictions to resume in full force in that region. A vast judicial machine that evicted tenants at more than double the national average in the years before the pandemic is revving up after months of dormancy. Judges fly through a case a minute as they work their way through an estimated 20,000-case backlog while lawyers from Memphis Area Legal Services try to broker deals between troubled tenants and fed-up landlords. The chaos is a preview of what will happen nationwide this summer after the CDC moratorium expires at the end of July. Experts are bracing for a pent-up wave of evictions at a time when 10 million Americans are still behind on their payments, a historic high, according to a recent analysis of census data by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.”
Briefing for June 30, 2021
More than $425 million for rental assistance didn’t make it to tenants or landlords: The Center for Public Integrity and The Associated Press report: “Nationwide, state leaders set aside at least $2.6 billion from the CARES Act’s Coronavirus Relief Fund to prop up struggling renters, but a year later, more than $425 million of that — or 16% — hadn’t made it into the pockets of tenants or their landlords, according to an investigation by the Center for Public Integrity and The Associated Press. ‘It’s mind-boggling,’ said Anne Kat Alexander, a project manager with Princeton University’s Eviction Lab. ‘I knew there were problems, but that’s a huge amount of money not to be disbursed in a timely manner.’ The federal government had an eviction moratorium in place for the majority of 2020 and the first half of 2021, but landlords across the country have found creative ways around it. People in communities of color have been far more likely to receive eviction notices during the pandemic than people in White neighborhoods, according to an analysis by Public Integrity of eviction data in 2020.”
Workers are exhausted and burned out — and some employers are taking notice: From the Washington Post: “Employers across the country, from Fortune 500 companies such as PepsiCo and Verizon to boutique advertising firms and nonprofit organizations, are continuing pandemic benefits such as increased paid time off and child- or elder-care benefits as well as embracing flexible work schedules and remote work in recognition that a returning workforce is at high risk of burnout. Last week, Bumble, the company behind the dating app, took the week off. LinkedIn shut down for a week in April. Last summer, Canadian e-commerce company Shopify instituted ‘Rest & Refuel Fridays’ globally and will do the same this year from July 2 through August. Fidelity is granting U.S. full-time and part-time employees five additional paid ‘relief days’ for unexpected events, as well as elder- and child-care coordinators to help find and vet caregivers or tutors. The fund manager also expanded a program to help parents of children with behavioral or developmental disabilities. Marriott International is adding three paid ‘TakeCare Days Off’ on the Fridays before Memorial Day, July Fourth, and Labor Day for non-hotel staffers. The world’s largest hotel chain also ‘strongly encourages teams’ to avoid all meetings on Fridays. If a critical meeting must take place, ‘we ask that it be concluded by no later than noon, local time,’ Sarah Brown, Marriott’s director of corporate media relations wrote in an email.”
Three actions Congress can take to advance LGTBQ worker justice: Three suggested actions from CLASP “to make Pride Month 2022 a more equitable and prosperous time for LGBTQ workers and their families.”
- Pass the Equality Act to provide LGBTQ people protection from discrimination.
- Pass the Raise the Wage Act to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour. Nearly 40 million workers, including 1.5 million LGBTQ people, urgently need the economic security that a raised minimum wage would provide
- Pass a generous, inclusive federal paid family and medical leave plan for all working people. Paid leave is an essential benefit for all workers and families, though many policies do not account for chosen family structures. Moreover, Black and Brown LGBTQ workers are less likely to have access to workplace paid leave policies than White LGBTQ workers.
Getting the Child Tax Credit expansion right: Wendy Lazarus and Laurie Lipper of the Kids Impact Initiative outline their priorities for making the most of the newly expanded Child Tax Credit. “This is a monumental opportunity for American kids and families, and the new child tax credit initiative approaches the starting line with momentum. But its success cannot be taken for granted. Only a concerted and well-directed effort can garner the public support needed to ensure that such practices continue to benefit generations to come. To get there, two things need to happen: 1) We need to spread the word far and wide about these initiatives and make sure people recognize how they have helped their own children and those of their family and friends; and 2) We need to bake in government and policymaker accountability as these policies are implemented to ensure they are effective.”
Tampons and other menstrual products become tax-free in Vermont this week: Starting Thursday, menstruation products will become tax-free in Vermont, the Burlington Free Press reports. “The House and Senate approved the change as part of a tax bill, H.436, on May 21, and Gov. Phil Scott signed it into law on June 8. Tampons, panty liners, menstrual cups, sanitary napkins, and other menstrual products are included in the tax exemption, according to the bill. Vermont’s Legislative Joint Fiscal Office estimates that the sales tax exemption on these products will result in a $685,000 reduction in tax revenues in the Education Fund. ‘This revenue reduction is expected to remain relatively flat in future fiscal years,’ the fiscal analysis report stated. ‘Vermont’s aging demographics are expected to put downward pressure on the future demand for these products.’ …Menstruation products are still subject to a sales tax in 28 states, according to Period Equity, a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to eliminating the tax and advocating for accessibility and safety of menstrual products.”
Rural families struggle to find internet providers offering federal rebates: From the Daily Yonder: “The federal government’s new Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) program offers a needed discount for low-income residents, but despite an open enrollment it still remains only a promise for some rural families. Congress approved the Consolidated Appropriations Act, which pays for the EBB program, in December of 2020. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) opened enrollment for qualified, low-income households to receive a $50 discount on their monthly internet bill or $75 if they reside on tribal lands on May 12, 2021. Residents can qualify if they receive benefits such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Medicaid, or the Pell Grant. After hearing of this new resource, the executive director of the Manistee Friendship Society, Cassandra Kamaloski in the northern part of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, shared information about the benefit with the residents of rural Manistee County. She became concerned when some clients of the mental-health nonprofit returned to her saying their internet service providers weren’t participating in the program. ‘If the companies won’t participate, our members miss out on these great opportunities in their community,’ she said. ‘It’s been very frustrating not being able to help them with that need.’”
Briefing for June 29, 2021
Black people continue to lag behind in COVID vaccinations: The Washington Post uses Philadelphia as an illustration of the continuing lag in vaccination rates for Black Americans. “The United States is awash in coronavirus vaccines, with free beer, plane tickets, and million-dollar prizes dangled as inducements to persuade the reluctant to get a shot. Philadelphia is doling out $400,000 in giveaways. Despite that, a racial divide persists in the nation’s vaccination campaign, with federal figures showing counties with higher percentages of Black residents having some of the lowest vaccination rates in the country. An examination of city and federal vaccination data and interviews with more than 20 researchers, doctors, health officials, and residents in the nation’s sixth-largest city opens a window onto the missteps and misunderstandings, the legacy and loss that have fostered the disproportionate pain of death and disease in communities of color. Coronavirus immunizations are the latest iteration of the pandemic’s unequal burden. The city of Philadelphia is the nation’s largest predominantly Black county, and it has one of the higher vaccination rates among counties with a preponderance of Black residents. But that doesn’t mean Black people are getting vaccinated at a high rate. The city’s data shows that while 52% of White people have received at least one dose of a vaccine, just 34% of Black people have. Nationally, 54% of the population has received at least one dose. ‘I get mad when I see the numbers,’ said Ala Stanford, a surgeon and founder of the Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium, whose organization, according to the group’s figures, had administered nearly 50,000 vaccinations as of June 11, about 75% of which went to African Americans.”
Rush to close vaccination gap for Hispanics: Politico reports: “Troves of misinformation, language barriers, and fears around immigration enforcement are hampering efforts to vaccinate Hispanic communities against COVID-19, challenging the Biden administration’s push to crush the coronavirus as a dangerous new variant quickly spreads. Much of the nationwide attention on the slowing vaccination campaign has focused on hard-line resisters, predominately in Republican-led states in the South and Mountain West. But Hispanic communities, even as they’re among the most eager to receive the shots, are still facing barriers to vaccination that could leave them vulnerable to the virus this summer, according to interviews with nearly two dozen people working on vaccination efforts, including state officials and community groups. The White House, which has acknowledged it’s likely to narrowly miss President Joe Biden’s goal of vaccinating 70% of adults by July 4, is facing renewed pressure to energize the vaccination campaign while the Delta variant — now accounting for at least 20% of infections — gains a foothold in communities with lower vaccination rates. But advocates for underserved Hispanic communities say government at every level is struggling to overcome the systemic barriers to vaccination in those communities — many of the same forces that have historically left them with uneven access to health care. ‘The system is set up to not really work with us,’ said Venus Ginés, the president and founder of Día de la Mujer Latina, a community-based organization in Texas. ‘It’s just a lot of lip service, a lot of window dressing is happening right now. And yet our communities of color are still suffering.’”
Thousands of prisoners were sent home for COVID — Now many have to go back: The New York Times looks at the futures of the roughly 4,000 federal prisoners who were released because of the pandemic. “In the final days of the Trump administration, the Justice Department issued a memo saying inmates whose sentences lasted beyond the ‘pandemic emergency period’ would have to go back to prison. But some lawmakers and criminal justice advocates are urging President Biden to revoke the rule, use his executive power to keep them on home confinement or commute their sentences entirely, arguing that the pandemic offers a glimpse into a different type of punitive system in America, one that relies far less on incarceration. ‘If I go to prison for all the time I have left, I won’t have boys anymore. They will be men,’ said Wendy Hechtman, who is serving a 15-year sentence for conspiracy to distribute a form of fentanyl. ‘I have so much to lose. And to gain.’ Biden has vowed to make overhauling the criminal justice system a crucial part of his presidency, saying his administration could cut the prison population by more than half and expand programs that offered alternatives to detention. While the White House has yet to announce a decision about those on home confinement, the administration appears to be following the direction of the Trump-era memo.”
Nearly a quarter of health workers harassed or threatened, CDC says: From Axios: “Nearly a quarter of public health workers said they felt bullied, threatened, or harassed because of their work since the pandemic began, new CDC data shows. The data corroborates the anecdotal evidence of how politically charged public responses and work burnout wreaked havoc on the mental health of public health workers this past year, causing some to even resign. Out of 26,174 public health workers surveyed across the U.S., 23.4% said they’d been threatened or harassed and 11.8% said they’d received a job-related threat.”
- More than half of respondents reported symptoms of at least one mental health condition in the past two weeks. That included about 37% reporting symptoms in the past two weeks coinciding with PTSD, 32% reported symptoms of depression, 30% reported anxiety, and 8% reported suicide ideation.
- The results of the screenings were worse among those who said they felt unable to take time off and among those who worked more than 41 hours a week.
- Nearly 75% of respondents having experienced traumatic stress said they were overwhelmed by work.
How the pandemic roiled the foster care system: Scientific American reports: “Among the unseen victims of COVID-19’s ravages are the legions of foster children for whom basic services and support were for months suspended. Financial, emotional, educational, social, and even some basic housing issues were pushed aside; the foster care system itself was overwhelmed by virus-related court closures and delays. Mental health care, so critical for young foster children, was confined often to calls or Zoom meetings. Uncertainty about the future, always a reality in the system, became the coin of the realm. Chicago saw a 33% increase in the number of children entering foster care. States like California, Kansas and Florida meanwhile, noted decreases in reports of child abuse — a chilling reminder of what can happen when watchful eyes no longer are present. A CDC report also noted fewer child abuse-related emergency department visits during the pandemic. ‘It’s not that it is happening less,’ says Moisés Barón, CEO of the San Diego Center for Children. ‘It’s just that there are fewer mandated reporters interacting with the youth.’”
Obamacare’s survival is now assured, but one big problem remains: Sarah Kliff writes for The Upshot in the New York Times: “Some Democrats are eager to build on their Affordable Care Act victories in the Supreme Court by filling a gaping hole created along the way: the lack of Medicaid coverage for millions of low-income Americans in 12 states. But so far, Republican leaders in those states are refusing to use the health law to expand Medicaid, despite considerable financial incentives offered under the law and sweetened under the Biden administration. Some are trying to defy the will of their own voters, who passed ballot initiatives calling for expansion. And in Washington, Democrats who want to act are divided about when and how. Democratic House members from states that have not expanded have begun to push for the federal government to intervene and provide coverage to the four million Americans shut out of Medicaid expansion. ‘We cannot wait anymore,’ said Representative James Clyburn, Democrat of South Carolina, one of the holdout states. ‘The states didn’t do it. We in Congress have got to move.’”
Briefing for June 28, 2021
How a shortage of mental health beds keeps kids trapped inside ERs: From Kaiser Health News, NPR, and WBUR: “Emergency rooms are not typically places you check in for the night. If you break an arm, it gets set, and you leave. If you have a heart attack, you won’t wait long for a hospital bed. But sometimes if your brain is not well, and you end up in an ER, there’s a good chance you will get stuck there. Parents and advocates for kids’ mental health say that the ER can’t provide appropriate care and that the warehousing of kids in crisis can become an emergency itself. What’s known as emergency room boarding of psychiatric patients has risen between 200% and 400% monthly in Massachusetts during the pandemic. The CDC says emergency room visits after suicide attempts among teen girls were up 51% earlier this year as compared with 2019. There are no current nationwide mental health boarding numbers. ‘This is really unlike anything we’ve ever seen before, and it doesn’t show any signs of abating,’ said Lisa Lambert, executive director of Parent/Professional Advocacy League, which pushes for more mental health care for children.”
Housing crisis poses crucial test for Biden administration’s economic plans: The Washington Post reports: “The Biden administration mounted an aggressive push reshaping national housing policy in a span of 48 hours this past week, replacing a key regulator and pushing a flurry of other changes to try to address growing concerns within and outside the White House about a housing crisis for millions of renters and vulnerable Americans. On Wednesday, the White House named an acting director of the powerful Federal Housing Finance Agency, Sandra L. Thompson, who called out the lack of affordable housing and access to credit for many communities of color. The White House appointed her hours after tossing a Trump appointee. Then on Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention extended its eviction moratorium by one month. The Biden administration also announced initiatives to quicken the disbursal of rental relief and encourage local governments and courts to prevent evictions. As part of the effort, the White House will convene a summit this Wednesday for ‘immediate eviction prevention plans’ to prevent an ‘eviction crisis.’ Housing has emerged as one of the most unequal and consequential parts of the economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic. Low interest rates, cheap mortgages, and bidding wars are fueling a housing boom for wealthier Americans and making homeownership out of reach for many first-time buyers. Meanwhile, housing is a top expense and worry for millions of renters and unemployed workers, and advocates fear a wave of homelessness once the CDC’s final moratorium lifts July 31.”
Parents anxiously await start of child tax credit payments: CNBC talked to families who will be eligible for the expanded Child Tax Credit and what that money will mean to them: “In just a few weeks, millions of families will start to receive monthly payments from the federal government through its new, expanded child tax credit. For Marla Snead, 52, the money will mean the world. Snead and her youngest daughter, Carlee, 14, live in Chesapeake, West Virginia — her eldest, Kelsie, is 22 and out of the house. Having an additional $250 cushion each month will mean that she can take Carlee to the occasional movie and buy her supplies and clothes for high school next year. She’s also considering buying air conditioners for their house, something they’ve gone without. ‘$250, to me, is like handing a pauper a million,’ said Snead, who is fighting cancer and lives on Social Security benefits. ‘It is going to help me so much. I mean, even Christmas — I might be able to get my children Christmas.’”
America has cut poverty before — With political will, it can happen again: Annie E. Casey Foundation President and Chief Executive Officer Lisa Hamilton writes for The Hill: “The historic expansion of the federal child tax credit, which has long had bipartisan support, is a huge and important step in the right direction. It will lift more than four million children above the poverty line, many of them kids of color. Tax credits are a proven solution to reducing poverty, improving child and maternal health, and increasing overall family stability. Research shows they can significantly improve how healthy a person is in five years or less through better housing conditions, nutrition, and health care access, especially for women and children. Solutions like this, long championed but too seldom passed, can change the trajectory of our children’s lives and should be the norm, not the exception. The United States has the opportunity right now to make choices and priorities that can set a global standard for child well-being in a post-pandemic world. Lawmakers ought to be able to find common cause to ensure the largest one-year drop ever in child poverty is not followed by the largest-ever one-year surge.”
Maine program creates child care slots and good jobs at the same time: The COVID-19 pandemic focused the nation’s attention on a number of pre-existing issues for working families, and none more dramatically than daycare. As child care businesses shuttered overnight, families struggled to keep or find employment. Coastal Enterprises, Inc. (CEI) aims to help launch more child care businesses while also expanding the number of good jobs in rural communities. Cynthia Murphy, senior program director, Workforce Solutions, at CEI, spoke with Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity recently about the Child Care Business Lab, the work it has done, and the work it hopes to do.
Sidewalk seating is good for restaurants — It’s a challenge for disabled people: In an op-ed for the Washington Post, Eric Garcia writes that the sidewalk seating modifications many restaurants made during the pandemic create access issues for the disabled. “While sidewalk dining has helped keep restaurants afloat over the last year and a half, it has also transformed pedestrian thoroughfares in cities around the country, narrowing pathways, cluttering concrete with cables and equipment, and clogging the flow of traffic as servers come and go. Those obstacles have introduced new challenges into the lives of many people with disabilities, making the difficulties of negotiating urban spaces that much harder. The issue demonstrates how cities too often see the needs of disabled people — who are also among the most vulnerable in the pandemic — as unimportant, while they try to make life convenient for everyone else. Even in normal times, disabled people tend to be treated as afterthoughts, but in many cities during the pandemic, their needs have simply not been factored in at all.”
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