Briefing for March 11-13, 2020 on COVID-19 & Low-Income Communities

Briefing for March 11-13, 2020 on COVID-19 & 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.

Our own Bill Nichols, formerly Senior Reporter for USA TODAY and then Managing Editor of Politico, is heading the team. Also contributing are Matt James, who is on the CDC Foundation Board but doing this in his personal capacity, and communications expert Megan Sather, who is handling this issue around the country and also volunteering for this effort. We welcome others who want to contribute. We have no client for this work, and we also welcome additional ideas for useful topics.  We are proud to have helped support some original journalism on this topic, an example of which is the Q&A with Lili Farhang below for Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity.

If you would like to receive a daily or weekly briefing, feel free to subscribe here.

Briefing for March 13, 2020

The job losses begin: Airlines, hotels, travel agencies, and event companies are being hit with the first wave of coronavirus-linked layoffs.

Census woes: The 2020 census already faced daunting obstacles; the coronavirus outbreak makes the process even more difficult.

Business steps up on sick-leave policy: With the federal government still debating about whether to act, companies like Uber and Walmart are upgrading sick-leave procedures.

The tourism swoon starts to be felt: The nation’s capital is one of many cities beginning to feel the impact of tourists staying home.

School closing skyrocket: More than 1.3 million U.S. children in grades K-12 have been impacted by school closings; 377 million worldwide.

How to feed kids who depend on school lunches and breakfast: No Kid Hungry offers a set of recommendations.

Increase the federal Medicaid matching rate: A bipartisan group of economists and physicians call on Congress to raise the Medicaid matching rate for states, as presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama did during economic crises. Presidents Bush and Obama both signed increases to the federal share of Medicaid. “Today the need for increasing the federal share of Medicaid is even more urgent and important than it was when Presidents Bush and Obama did it.”

Local government steps in: bill before the D.C. City Council would provide protections for quarantined workers, including halting evictions.

The case against a payroll tax cut: The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities argues that the payroll tax cut President Trump continues to advocate would be “too slow, not well targeted, and too narrow.”

The view from Silicon Valley: Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan talk to Biohub’s Joe DeRisi about the impact of the coronavirus.

How to help laid-off workers: Heather Boushey calls for sick pay and emergency extended leave, among other actions.

Random acts of kindness: Across social media, there were spontaneous offers of help: grocery runs for seniors, weekend errands for high-risk age groups and even financial help for those in a jam, as seen in this Twitter thread from writer Shea Serrano.

The music never stops – or does it? Touring musicians face plummeting income as venues close and gigs get cancelled.

Briefing for March 12, 2020

Many Americans face long-term financial consequences: Fifty-four percent of Americans report not being financially prepared to manage a contagious disease outbreak that furloughs them for several weeks.

SNAP cuts to move forward despite outbreak: Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue says rule changes for the food stamps program that could impact as many as 700,000 people will go into effect April 1 despite the coronavirus crisis.

The daunting challenge of being a school nurse in a pandemic: School nurses are crucial resources in the outbreak, but more than a third of school nurses work at three or more schools and one in five public schools has no paid nursing support at all. 

A loneliness epidemic: Social distancing may be necessary but it can also create a social recession for the elderly, the disabled, or those with pre-existing conditions.

An elder care crisis: “For years we’ve been warned about the limitations of our tattered, largely informal, and resource-scarce care economy. Now, we’re asking these caregivers—largely low paid, if they’re paid at all—to protect the elderly from a virus that even experts don’t yet fully understand.”

Housing help: San Francisco and San Jose, California have moved to ban outbreak-related evictions.

Mass cancellations impact freelancers, low-wage workers: CNN Business looks at the toll in Austin, Texas from the cancellation of the annual South by Southwest festival.

Help for hourly workers: As the National Basketball Association shuts down its season indefinitely, Dallas Mavericks’ owner Mark Cuban said he would develop a relief package for hourly workers impacted in Dallas.

College students scramble for housing: Sudden decisions to close colleges and universities have some first-generation, low-income students dealing with what amounts to an eviction notice.

Online classes could be daunting for students without web access: A Capitol Hill hearing on the Federal Communications Commission’s budget Wednesday focused on the issues facing the 12 million students who do not have internet at home and the almost one in five students who have no computer at home.

Congress scrambles to respond: The House of Representatives released a multi-billion-dollar package late Wednesday with emergency provisions that include paid sick leave, free testing, food aid, and unemployment insurance.

Tax Day delay: Negotiations continued Wednesday between the White House and Congress on a package of economic measures aimed at blunting the impact of the coronavirus outbreak. One likely element appears to be pushing back the April 15 deadline for most U.S. taxpayers.

As policymakers look for ideas . . . : Three policies that would help mitigate the impact on workers.

Local funds start to crop up: A coalition of philanthropic groups and major corporations in the Seattle area is launching a $2 million-plus campaign to help people disproportionately impacted.  

The bitter irony behind New York’s sanitizer supply: Incarcerated persons making the state’s own sanitizer, NYS Clean, make an average of $0.62 an hour – and sanitizer is banned in many prisons because of its alcohol content.

The battle for accurate information: With a muddled message coming out of Washington, local media will be crucial in getting out accurate information from state and local authorities. Here’s how several local news organizations are approaching that mammoth task.

Briefing for March 11, 2020

The policy overview: President Trump went to Capitol Hill Tuesday to begin a negotiation with Congress on an economic response package to the outbreak. Trump’s initial focus on a temporary payroll tax cut ran into opposition as House Democrats discussed a package that would include “paid sick leave for certain workers, extra funding for children’s school lunches, expanded unemployment insurance, and increased spending on social safety-net programs.”

What SHOULD policymakers be doing? Lili Farhang, co-director of Human Impact Partners, tells Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity that creating emergency funds for paid leave and child care should be considered, as well as pushing for passage of the Healthy Families Act. Farhang also urges low-income workers to find out what their rights are if they are quarantined, particularly those who are part of a union.

The school lunch crisis: Some 22 million students depend on subsidized lunches and breakfasts at public schools across the country. What happens when many or all of those schools close?

Lessons learned: As we watch other nations grapple with coronavirus, the impact on low-income communities is clear. In China, “it’s the most vulnerable — the poor, the disabled, the very old and the very young — who have been hit hardest.”

The dangers of stereotyping: “With the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, Asian Americans are once again facing hostility during a global public health emergency.”

What happens if you don’t have health insurance? The Texas Tribune looks at how the outbreak could play out among 5 million uninsured Texans.

The impact on migrant children: CNN reported Tuesday that the administration will no longer hold unaccompanied migrant children in shelters in California and Washington because of coronavirus fears. Will other shelters be closed? Are other shelters safe?

Who will care for the caregivers? Ai-jen Poo, the founder of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, writes in the New York Times about the need to protect those who work to protect others.

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