Briefing for June 8-12, 2020 on COVID-19 and Low-Income Communities

Briefing for June 8-12, 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 12, 2020

Unemployed workers face new delays as states race to shut down nationwide scam: State and federal investigators are scrambling to stop scammers from stealing millions of dollars in unemployment benefits, imposing a raft of new restrictions that have inadvertently deprived some out-of-work Americans from receiving much-needed payments for weeks.

Essential workers need more help with food aid: As the COVID-19 crisis stretches into the summer months, millions of workers continue to risk their lives to do the jobs necessary for the country to function. Workers categorized as essential vary widely by location and perform a diverse set of jobs; they are doctors, nurses, firefighters, grocery workers, postal carriers, funeral attendants, delivery drivers, farmworkers, and more. Now, a new Center for American Progress analysis shows that workers in essential roles are also more likely to have needed federal assistance such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to get by; more than 5.5 million essential workers relied on the program at some point in 2018, according to 2018 American Community Survey (ACS) data.

The coronavirus is splintering a generation of kids: Interviews by Buzzfeed News with more than 40 children across the country reveal American childhood in the midst of COVID-19 — and how race and class help define which children will emerge unscathed.

Black community braces for next threat — mass evictions: A federal moratorium on evictions — which only applies to the one in four rental units that are backed by the government — expires in a matter of weeks.

Why housing authorities need more money to continue COVID-19 response: From Benny Docter and Susan J. Popkin at the Urban Institute: “As COVID-19 has spread across the county, public housing authorities (PHAs) have had to make rapid adjustments to their operations to continue serving their residents, many of whom are disproportionately older, disabled, and people of color, leaving them most at risk of serious health complications from the coronavirus. In our conversations with PHA directors across the country, many described the creative ways they are adapting to meet resident needs while working remotely. Most directors also spoke to the reality that, barring increased federal assistance, they face long-term funding shortfalls. Many PHAs need additional assistance soon, or they will be forced to cut back on services. To ensure PHAs can continue meeting the needs of their residents and providing long-term financial stability, federal policymakers should consider allocating additional funding as quickly as possible.”

How we rise: A new blog from the Brookings Institution on policy solutions to upend structural racism and create a more equitable society for all.

Alabama’s ‘Black Belt’ struggles with coronavirus, unemployment: Life can be tough even on a good day in the Black Belt, where some of the poorest people in America are, as usual, depending on each other to survive. Their struggle has become even more difficult with unemployment intensifying and coronavirus infections raging. “When the rest of the country catches a cold, a place like the Black Belt catches the flu,” said Lydia Chatmon, who works with the Selma Center for Non-Violence. 

‘Black death is the white noise of America’: Joe Wilkes of the New America Foundation writes that the names of George Floyd and other black Americans subjected to race-based violence are “just the tip of the iceberg — the ones that, through sheer chance, managed to gain traction on social media. According to research and advocacy group Mapping Police Violence, at least 7,663 people were killed by police between 2013 and 2019. Black people are approximately three times more likely to be victims of police killings than white people, despite being 1.3 times more likely to be unarmed. Beyond police violence, the black community is disproportionately affected by diseasepovertyunemploymentdisplacementhate crimes, and more.”

Why Kentucky pledged health insurance for all its black residents: The governor of Kentucky committed this week to ensuring that 100 percent of the state’s black population has health coverage, an initiative given new urgency by the coronavirus pandemic and protests against police brutality.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette revolts over sidelining of two black colleagues: An advertiser has pulled a full-page ad amid newsroom complaints concerning two journalists who said they were kept from covering demonstrations. The top editor has fought back with an opinion piece.

Chicago mayor announces $5 million fund to provide cash assistance to Chicagoans excluded from stimulus checks: Chicagoans excluded from the coronavirus stimulus program will be eligible for $1,000 in cash assistance from the new Chicago Resiliency Fund. Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Wednesday announced the $5 million program, which will provide checks to Chicago families who were not eligible for stimulus money from the CARES Act. The mayor said the program is targeted to at undocumented immigrants, families with mixed immigration status, college students living in poverty, and people recently released from prison.

Briefing for June 11, 2020

The coronavirus crisis is worsening racial equality: In recent weeks, data have demonstrated that people of color — especially black and Native American people — are contracting and dying from COVID-19 at far higher rates than their white counterparts. Now, new data from the U.S. Census Bureau reveal that families of color are also disproportionately experiencing the negative social, economic, and mental health effects of the coronavirus crisis.

The black wage gap matters: Timothy Noah in the New Republic: “The grim state of racial economic inequality should sicken our consciences.”

Unemployment claims rose by 1.5 million last week: The numbers suggest that some Americans are still being pushed out of work nearly three months into the pandemic.

A ‘killer stereotype’: The Economic Security Project examines the myth of the “welfare queen,” one of the most harmful and pernicious racial stereotypes of recent decades, with a powerful video and accompanying reading list.

The pandemic’s mental health impact is dangerous for new moms — especially black moms: From the Washington Post: “Reena Pande, Chief Medical Officer for mental-health app AbleTo, says we have the perfect makings of a postpartum mental health crisis. ‘We’ve seen phased approaches for a return to normal, but none of them include steps to ensure mental health is on the upswing,’ says Pande. ‘This is a huge problem.’ And it’s a problem that could disproportionately affect black women.”

The toll that curfews have taken on homeless Americans: The country’s homeless population was already struggling to access services during the pandemic.

Evictions could spike after moratoriums end: Twenty-four states are processing evictions again, and that number is likely to climb to at least 30 states by the end of June.

USDA extends waiver to allow all children to use summer food program: U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced Wednesday a nationwide extension of a waiver allowing local partners the ability to continue serving free meals to all children – regardless of where they live for the remainder of the summer. 

Medicaid providers struggle because of lower revenues: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities Senior Fellow Judith Solomon writes: “Many health care providers serving Medicaid enrollees are struggling due to lower revenue from patient visits and higher costs for personal protective equipment and other pandemic-related measures. Many Medicaid providers should soon receive help from a $175 billion provider relief fund in the CARES Act of March. But while the just-announced fund allocations should help providers weather their immediate challenges, they won’t prevent Medicaid cuts as states cope with massive budget shortfalls — cuts that will harm both beneficiaries and providers. The best way to prevent these cuts and protect beneficiaries and providers is to increase the federal share of Medicaid costs (the federal medical assistance percentage, or FMAP).”

Most nursing home workers in new survey say their lives are at risk daily from COVID-19: More than three months after a nursing home in Kirkland, Wash., became the center of the country’s first coronavirus outbreak, a majority of nursing home workers believe they’re risking their lives on the job and that their employers are not doing enough to protect them from the virus, according to a new union survey. Most nursing home workers say their employers (76%) and the federal government (80%) are not doing enough to ensure they have access to protective equipment, free COVID-19 testing and paid sick days. And 78% say their “life is at risk every day” at work because of the virus, according to a survey by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which was shared with TIME.

‘Dreamers’ graduate into a particularly uncertain world: USA Today reports: “More than 600 students graduating from universities who received help from TheDream.US, the nation’s biggest college scholarship provider for immigrants brought to the USA illegally as children. … TheDream.US students have faced more hardship than the average graduate. They’re graduating into what might be the worst economy since the Depression, just like everyone else. But they also have to worry about their lives being ripped away at any moment. Across the country, nearly 650,000 people wait for the Supreme Court to decide whether they will continue to receive temporary protection from the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program or risk losing their jobs or even deportation. A decision is likely by the end of June.”

Tackling child poverty in the age of COVID-19: The Century Foundation will host a virtual discussion on June 18 between Jeff Madrick, Director of the Bernard L. Schwartz Rediscovering Government Initiative and author of Invisible Americans, and three members of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s consensus committee that authored the landmark report, A Roadmap to Reducing Child Poverty: Greg Duncan, Christine James-Brown and Dolores Acevedo-Garcia.

Ethnic media dialogue: Covering racial injustice demonstrations and COVID-19: The Maynard Institute for Journalism Education hosts a digital conversation on Friday with ethnic media journalists on their coverage of the racial prejudice experience and systemic inequities impacting African-American, Chinese, Latino and Filipino communities.

Briefing for June 10, 2020

What a 1968 report tells us about the persistence of racial injustice: From NPR’s Planet Money newsletter: “In the summer of 1967, African Americans protested, marched, and rioted in cities across the country. The unrest convinced President Lyndon Johnson to set up the Kerner Commission, which spent about six months doing research, visiting slums, and holding hearings. In 1968, they published a provocative report that civil rights leader Jesse Jackson recently called ‘the last attempt to address honestly and seriously the structural inequalities that plague African Americans.’ ‘Segregation and poverty have created in the racial ghetto a destructive environment totally unknown to most white Americans,’ the Kerner report said. ‘What white Americans have never fully understood — but what the Negro can never forget — is that white society is deeply implicated in the ghetto. White institutions created it, white institutions maintain it, and white society condones it.’ Fifty years later, Americans are taking to the streets again, protesting systemic inequities that haven’t gone away. How much has really changed?”
Big changes didn’t come: Paul Wiseman of the Associated Press looks at 1968 and other flashpoints in U.S. history that ultimately failed to bring lasting economic equality for Americans of color. “Amid the anger and anguish is optimism that policymakers will use this moment to find ways to narrow the economic gap between black and white Americans, perhaps through paid sick leave, a higher federal minimum wage, maybe even direct payments to the needy. But the United States has had watershed moments before. And the big changes didn’t come.”
The stark racial inequality of personal finance in America: Economic equality is crucial to racial equality. But at nearly every stage of their lives, black Americans have less than whites.
Working towards racial and economic justice — A conversation with Darrick Hamilton: Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity interviews Darrick Hamilton, Executive Director of the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at Ohio State University. 
Testing nursing home workers can help stop coronavirus — but who will pay? A patchwork of state and U.S. recommendations has hampered efforts to devise a uniform policy, leading to disputes over whether insurers or employers should cover testing costs.
COVID-19 forces tough housing decisions: After distributing hundreds of millions of dollars in the past three months, states and cities don’t have much money left to help struggling renters, leaving officials with an uncomfortable question: Who gets prioritized for help? COVID-19 is forcing local governments to make tough decisions about rental assistance: Some programs are relying on lotteries to ensure all applicants have a fair shot, while others are focusing on specific populations, such as workers ineligible for federal relief.
San Francisco passes sweeping pandemic-focused evictions ban: Landlords will be permanently barred from evicting tenants if they can’t pay rent due to coronavirus-related issues, like job loss or getting sick from the virus, under legislation passed by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.
Strategies for affordable housing during the pandemic: Housing policy suggestions, as outlined by a Brookings Institution task force:

  • Increase the amount of long-term affordable rental housing, especially in high-opportunity communities.
  • Protect existing affordable rental housing from physical deterioration and financial insecurity.
  • Support affordable housing projects currently in the pipeline that face financial obstacles due to the pandemic.

Health care workers of color face double pandemics: For the past few weeks, the United States has been wrestling through two tough conversations with itself about two pandemics — and health care workers, particularly those of color, are living in the middle of both. “Racism is the biggest public health crisis of our time,” said Dr. Nathan Colon, a black surgeon at the University of Washington. “As health care providers, we take care of people.”

Its start was messy, but the Paycheck Protection Program is starting to show results: New jobs report suggests PPP, a key part of the coronavirus CARES Act, helped prevent broader economic collapse, but its overall effectiveness in helping small businesses remains unknown.

As many residents stayed home, Los Angeles saw a spike in coronavirus among Latinos: As many Angelenos were under stay-at-home orders, disparities in how the virus was affecting people became clear. People of color and those in low-income communities were becoming infected at higher rates in L.A. County. Starting around late April, L.A. County saw an especially big surge in infections among Latinos, according to an LAist analysis of data from the L.A. County Department of Public Health.

Briefing for June 9, 2020

‘There’s only so much we can do’: Food banks plead for help: Congress resists demands to increase food stamps as the program becomes increasingly partisan in the Trump era.

How COVID-19 food chain relief can build a more equitable food system for workers: An Urban Institute policy brief outlines steps that policymakers should take to strengthen food systems in any new coronavirus aid packages:

  • Identify paths for agricultural land redistribution and ownership among people of color
  • Support people-of-color-owned food businesses and expand opportunities for ownership
  • Provide greater economic stability for food production and service workers

Have nonprofits and philanthropies become the ‘white moderates’ that the Rev. Martin Luther King warned about? In an essay, Vu Le questions whether the philanthropic establishment has become the ‘white moderate’ King wrote of in his famous “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”: I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: ‘I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action’; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a ‘more convenient season.’“

With abuse victims trapped at home, Detroit moves restraining order system online: Domestic abuse risks are on the rise at a time of social isolation, economic disruption, and gun-buying, and so Wayne County, Michigan, court officials responded to the closing of their courthouses by allowing people to seek orders of protection online. A replacement for an onerous, face-to-face process, the new e-filing system processed fewer applications in its first month than before the pandemic crisis, but at least preserved a steady flow of cases that enable victims to block their abusers from possessing guns. Victim advocates hope the new system expands access even after the courthouses reopen. This story comes from a special COVID-19 collection curated by the Solutions Journalism Network.

Reopening America: Equitable solutions for workers and their families in the COVID-19 era: The Brookings Institution will hold a webinar on Friday to discuss equitable solutions for workers and their families as the American economy begins to reopen. Brookings Senior Fellow Camille Busette will moderate and panelists will include Annelies Goger, David M. Rubenstein fellow, Brookings’ Metropolitan Policy program; Anika Goss, Executive Director, Detroit Future City; and Martha Ross, fellow in Brookings’ Metropolitan Policy program.

Pandemic increases workload, health risks for postal and delivery employees: More than 2,500 Postal Service employees have tested positive for the virus. And, according to the American Postal Workers Union, more than 60 have died. They aren’t the only ones on the front lines.

Republicans’ big bet on the economy: Buoyed by a surprisingly strong jobs report last week and the knowledge that some of Congress’ $2 trillion March spending package still hasn’t been spent, the Senate GOP remains noncommittal on the timing and substance of the next piece of legislation. Bipartisan talks still haven’t begun in earnest, according to senators and aides, and the White House and senior Republican senators say they won’t start until July.

Small businesses owned by women, people of color and immigrants are hit hardest: The COVID-19 pandemic has hurt small businesses owned by people of color, immigrants, and women more than other groups, according to new research. Between February and April, the number of active business owners in the country fell by 22%, from 15 million to 11.7 million, the National Bureau of Economic Research study found. The comparable number during the Great Recession was 5%, or 730,000 business owners, the report notes. During this period, the hardest hit small business owners were:

  • African American, 41%
  • Latinx, 32%
  • Asian, 26%
  • Immigrant, 36%
  • Female, 25%

Coronavirus racial disparities on display in D.C.: Low-income, majority-black neighborhoods in the nation’s capital are getting hit hardest by the coronavirus — a reflection of racial and socioeconomic trends that have sparked mass protests only miles from these neighborhoods.

For many low-income Americans, Oct. 15 is the last chance to sign up for a stimulus payment: Low-income Americans who don’t file income tax returns have until Oct. 15 to use the online tool at — but that could be a problem for people without Internet access.

The poverty narrative: A Midwest perspective: Poverty Solutions at the University of Michigan on Thursday begins a virtual series devoted to a deeper understanding of poverty, particularly in the Midwest. Thursday’s panel, Rethinking the Poverty Narrative, will be moderated by Poverty Solutions Director H. Luke Shaefer. Panelists will be: Darrick Hamilton, Executive Director of the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at Ohio State University; Freedman Vice President Bill Nichols; Boston Globe reporter Zoe Greenberg; and Sarah Alvarez, Founder and Executive Editor of Outlier Media.

Briefing for June 8, 2020

Systemic racism and coronavirus are killing people of color; will protests be enough? A text/photo essay from Ruddy Roye in National Geographic asks: “After the protests end and the pandemic passes, will anything change for America’s communities of color?”

Minority workers who lagged in a boom are hit hard in a bust: African Americans and Latinos are especially vulnerable to job losses in the pandemic and at a disadvantage in getting government support.

There was already a black jobs crisis — coronavirus is making it worse: After weeks of catastrophic job loss across the country, May’s labor report held out a glimmer of hope: The nation’s overall unemployment rate ticked down to 13.3%, from 14.2% in April. But for black Americans it was more bad news: A staggering 16.8% of the African American labor force was out of work, up a notch from 16.7% in April.

Busted budgets are making it harder for cities to address inequality: The pandemic’s economic collapse is making it harder for local leaders to address the inequalities in their cities — even as the unrest over police violence has magnified the need for change even further. Evening out some of these disparities requires money — and city budgets are shot.

Stockton extends its universal basic income pilot: A pioneering universal basic income pilot in the California city was scheduled to expire soon. But the coronavirus crisis made the case to extend it.

Pittsburgh newspaper accused of barring black reporters from covering protests: Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist Michael Santiago of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette says the paper has barred him and at least one other reporter from covering anti-racism protests in Pittsburgh because they are seen as biased by being black. Journalists are also accusing the newspaper of removing and censoring at least two articles published online on Friday that reported on protests over George Floyd’s death and police abuses, as well as of penalizing reporters who supported their black colleagues.

Kids could go hungry this summer with school lunch programs in peril: Food insecurity doubled in April, and now summer help is uncertain for those in need.

The pandemic hit and a car became a home for a family of four: Greg Jaffe of the Washington Post looks at one of the families impacted by the shutdown of Walt Disney World in Florida, “…the engine of Orlando’s vast tourism economy, which in the best of times had struggled to keep its armies of low-wage workers housed, clothed and fed. Now the pandemic was revealing just how fragile and cruel that economy could be, as thousands of those workers found themselves on the edge of eviction and homelessness, living in cars or squatting in abandoned motels.”

Nearly 600 health workers have died from coronavirus: Nearly 600 front-line health care workers appear to have died of COVID-19, according to Lost on the Frontline, a project launched by The Guardian and Kaiser Health News that aims to count, verify and memorialize every health care worker who dies during the pandemic. The tally includes doctors, nurses and paramedics, as well as crucial health care support staff such as hospital janitors, administrators and nursing home workers, who have put their own lives at risk during the pandemic to help care for others. Lost on the Frontline has now published the names and obituaries for more than 100 workers.

The $7,000 COVID-19 test; why states are stepping in to shield consumers: One national insurer was billed $6,946 for a coronavirus test in Texas, according to claims data reviewed by POLITICO.

Navigating home care during the pandemic: For the several million older Americans being cared for at home, the coronavirus brings new challenges.

Poverty will only increase for low-income families impacted by COVID-19: Angela Rachidi of the American Enterprise Institute writes that “…evidence is mounting that America’s lowest-income workers are enduring the worst of the economic fallout from COVID-19, and we can expect increased poverty in the months and years to come as a result.”

Nearly one in six cases of coronavirus cases in Illinois could be tied to Cook County Jail: From the earliest days of the pandemic, criminal justice experts and advocates warned that jails could rapidly become major sources of infection as staff and inmates enter into crowded and unhygienic conditions, then return to their communities outside. Now, research has revealed just how significant a role the Cook County Jail — one of the country’s largest — has played in spreading the coronavirus: Nearly one in six COVID-19 cases identified in all of Illinois by mid-April was associated with people cycling through the jail, according to a new analysis

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