Briefing for March 16-20, 2020 on COVID-19 & Low-Income Communities

Briefing for March 16-20, 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.

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Briefing for March 20, 2020

Humanity not cages: Dozens of criminal justice reform groups are trying to build support for a policy platform aimed at preventing “the spread of COVID-19 inside prisons, jails, and detention centers and ensure the safety and wellness of our loved ones.” Among the policy suggestions: reduce jail, prison, and detention center populations before an outbreak occurs; eliminate requirements for incarcerated workers to perform tasks that put them at risk of contracting the disease and allow them to opt-out; release all incarcerated people who test positive to an external healthcare facility to receive care.

Credit relief: U.S. regulators are considering giving banks additional regulatory points for lending to mid- to low-income Americans hurt by the coronavirus.

Senate Republicans unveil rescue package: 
GOP leaders in the Senate released details of a $1 trillion economic bailout measure that includes direct payments to Americans under a certain income threshold, $200 billion in loans to airlines and distressed industry sectors and $300 billion in forgivable bridge loans for small businesses. On the direct payments, which would be capped at $1,200 per person, married couples could get $2,400. Taxpayers who earn more than $75,000 annually will begin to see that payment reduced by $5 for every $100 they earn over the $75,000 threshold, with those who make more than $99,000 getting nothing. Families with children would get $500 per child.

Macroeconomics during a pandemic: The Urban Institute offers policy suggestions.

Heightened danger for women: Health experts worry that the roles women hold in society, such as nurses or caregivers, place them squarely in the virus’s path.

Cleaning workers at risk: Janitors, domestic workers, housekeeping, and office cleaning crews are on the front lines of the battle against COVID-19. Can they protect their own health?

Delivery workers to the rescue: Homebound Americans are depending more and more on delivery services for food – but those workers run significant risks in just doing their jobs.

Benefits for grocery workers: Minnesota and Vermont have classified grocery workers as emergency personnel, making them eligible for certain benefits.

Understanding the new paid leave law: guide to who is eligible and what the details are.

Improving the Families First Act: Aparna Mathur of the American Enterprise Institute and Vicki Shabo of the New America Foundation outline three ways the legislation could be made better: larger companies (with more than 500 employees) should be subject to paid sick leave requirements; businesses should get relief more quickly than waiting for tax credits; a longer term paid sick leave and family medical leave program should be considered.

Safe havens for the homeless: With little direction from the federal government, cities across the country are creating safe spaces for homeless residents. In Seattle, the arrivals area of Boeing Field are being repurposed.

States and cities face cratering budgets: Nearly every type of government revenue is going to take a hit for the foreseeable future.

One-stop shop for Californians: Gov. Gavin Newsom’s team in California has set up a digital hub for state residents to get news and information about COVID-19.

City Hall Coronavirus Daily Update: Bloomberg Philanthropies has created a daily email update to “elevate the critical information city leaders need to respond to and recover from the challenges at hand. Subscribe here.

Nonprofits seek federal help: A group of more than 50 nonprofits asked the federal government for a $60 billion bailout package.

Philadelphia creates fund to help nonprofits: The city of Philadelphia and a group of local foundations have created a $6.4 million fund to help nonprofit groups on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic.

Kamala Harris priorities: The Democratic senator from California has 5 priorities for the next congressional rescue package: direct monthly cash and consumer protection; support for working families and small businesses; expanded access to emergency services through FEMA; prioritization of health-related policies by the Department of Homeland Security; fair treatment of tribes and territories.

Refugee chefs cook meals for healthcare workers and impacted families: Baltimore’s Mera Collective, a worker-owned collective featuring refugee chefs, is now delivering 1,400 meals daily to residents impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

Journalists groups denounce anti-Asian racism: The Asian American Journalists Association, along with other diversity journalism associations, issued a statement decrying “the escalating violence and rhetoric aimed at Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, including journalists, amid the coronavirus outbreak.”

May the music never stop: comprehensive resource guide for musicians.

Briefing for March 19, 2020

Trump signs coronavirus relief package: President Trump signed an initial relief package late Wednesday that provides free COVID-19 testing and extended paid leave for many U.S. workers.

Three million jobs could be lost by summertime: That’s the dire prediction from the Economic Policy Institute, coupled with suggestions for how a coronavirus economic support package should be structured.

Help the helpers: Buzzfeed is keeping a running list of organizations trying to make a difference for low-income communities and workers.

Census delay: The Census Bureau announced Wednesday that field operations for the 2020 Census will be put on hold until April 1 because of the coronavirus.

Unemployment claims soar: The Labor Department reported 281,000 new claims for unemployment insurance last week, a 70,000 jump over the previous week.

ICEto stop most enforcement actions inside U.S.: Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials will temporarily halt enforcement except for deporting foreign nationals who have committed crimes or who pose a threat to public safety.

Shuttered restaurants become feeding centers: Washington, D.C.’s Chef Jose Andres closed all of his local restaurants because of the coronavirus crisis, but has reopened six of them as “community kitchens” in conjunction with his disaster relief organization, World Central Kitchen.

Restaurant rescue fund: The National Restaurant Association is asking for $145 billion for a restaurant and food service industry recovery fund, $35 billion for community development block grants and $100 billion in federally backed business interruption insurance.

Help for restaurant workers: Food & Wine has a comprehensive list of potential resources.

What quarantine looks like in prison: Two inmates in a Washington state facility write an account for the Marshall Project.

Health workers on the front lines: Overworked and facing daunting physical risks, health workers are scrambling to find protective equipment, including masks.

Protecting the protectors: Janitors are helping to battle coronavirus contamination in many buildings across the country. Who is protecting them?

Taxi drivers struggle to survive: “There’s no work. Nobody is outside because of the coronavirus.”

Protecting nutrition for pregnant women and children: The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities has suggestions for how state officials can make sure the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children continue to supply benefits during the coronavirus crisis.

Feeding at-risk students: Here’s what happened on the first day Los Angeles schools tried to feed students through 60 grab-and-go meal distribution centers.

Coronavirus and food access: Four key questions the Rockefeller Foundation urges communities to answer.

Isolated seniorsShuttered community centers have left many U.S. seniors dangerously isolated. In New York City, senior centers were a daily haven for 30,000 elders each day, but all have now been closed, though they can still provide meals to go. “I started crying when I told the seniors we were closing down,” Judy Zangwill, executive director of Sunnyside Community Services, told the New York Times. “I heard audible moans.”

Protecting renters: Rent freezes and emergency subsidies are just two of the options under discussion in the Washington, D.C. area.

Homeless families and individuals need more support: The Center for American Progress calls for future coronavirus aid packages to offer more resources for the homeless.

Workers that are most at risk: Service sector employees in particular will feel the economic effects of the COVID-19 outbreak.

State stats: comprehensive tracker on state statistics and policy actions from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Easing the digital transition: As the life of the nation moves online for the foreseeable future, Public Knowledge has a host of policy suggestions to make that transition smoother.

How nonprofits can weather the coronavirus storm: special report from the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

Get smart about COVID-19 misinformation: The News Literacy Project created this resource page to provide accurate information about the pandemic and free resources to educators and the general public.

Giving teachers a hand as online learning begins: Resources for educators from Common Sense.

Briefing for March 18, 2020

Cash outlays gain momentum: The White House and Congress appeared close to coalescing around a proposal to send many Americans at least $1,000 in cash for coronavirus relief in coming weeks.

Senate Democrats push for larger immediate cash infusion: Democratic Sens. Sherrod Brown (OH), Cory Booker (NJ), and Michael Bennet (CO) called for immediate $2,000 payments to all adults and children in the U.S. below a certain income threshold.

Schools face the digital divide: Classrooms across the educational spectrum are shifting to virtual classes in coming days – with uncertain results for those who lack internet access or home computers.

The case for and against closing schools: Vox offers a helpful explainer.

A day without schools in America: Chalkbeat looks at the reality of what it looks like when a nation’s school children stay home.

The restaurant industry faces catastrophe: With closures in many major cities, restaurants and bars and the workers who depend on them face a potential economic wipeout.

Concern grows about immigration courts: Defense lawyers as well as prosecutors are calling for immigration court proceedings to be dramatically scaled back, as vulnerable immigrants continue to be funneled into crowded hearing rooms.

Hourly and gig workers balance safety and financial security: A look at hourly and gig workers in the nation’s capital as their already unpredictable economic outlook grows perilous.

Grocery store employees on the front lines: Chris, a supermarket employee in the Pacific Northwest, shares her experience in recent days with Vox. “I’ve seen all the rice and beans disappear, be it dry goods or canned. They cleared out the chicken. We can’t keep chicken in. At this point we’re over-ordering, and the staff of the store is working really hard. It’s been something else. They keep buying water. Why do you need water?”

Ride service companies cut back: Uber paused its Uber Pool service and Lyft did the same for Shared rides.

Amazon workers want more safety precautions: Warehouse workers for the delivery giant say they’re working too hard to observe basic coronavirus prevention protocols.

Community foundations and local philanthropies rise to the occasion: It’s happening across the country; in Chicago, the Chicago Community COVID-19 Response Fund “plans to help local nonprofits improve provision of emergency food and basic supplies, as well as rent, mortgage and utility assistance.”

A lifeline for local newsrooms: The Lenfest Institute, Facebook Journalism Project and Local Media Association announced a $1 million fund to help local journalists covering the coronavirus outbreak in the United States and Canada.

Nutrition worries for low-income seniors: From the Brookings InstitutionAlthough social distancing is necessary to help limit the spread of the virus, anything that deters people from accessing group meals at senior centers or food banks puts low-income seniors in danger of malnutrition and hunger. Millions of them also typically cannot afford to stock up on food or supplies, and if they can, many need transportation assistance to and from grocery stores.”

Water shutoff moratorium: More than 90 cities have put moratoriums in place for water shutoffs for customers who can’t pay their bills during the coronavirus crisis, protecting about 57 million Americans.

Briefing for March 17, 2020

Coronavirus outbreak worsens inequality worldwide: Experts fear the pandemic will deepen societal divisions for years to come.

Urban policy primer: President Sarah Rosen Wartell and the team at the Urban Institute are offering a host of suggestions for policy makers on issues that range from COVID-19’s impact on the homeless to the implications for childcare.

The crisis for people behind bars: Human Rights Watch calls for prison and detention authorities to “consider supervised release and other non-custodial alternatives for detained individuals who are at high risk of serious effects from COVID-19.”

Reducing the number of incarcerated people: Minnesota is considering releasing some inmates charged with minor, non-violent offenses in light of the coronavirus outbreak.

Prisons suspend visitations: From the Washington Post: “Unfortunately we are not the public school system, we cannot shut down. We can’t say to the inmates, we want you to go home and once this dies down, we’d like you to come back,” said Elias Husamudeen, union president for officers who work in the New York City Department of Correction. “We can’t do this through Google. We literally have to be here — and they do too.”

Fears mount for the homeless: Housing advocates fear large outbreaks could occur in large homeless shelters and worry about getting up-to-date information to people living on the street.

Seattle delivers food aid: The city of Seattle announced plans to give $800 in supermarket vouchers to thousands of families.

Help for domestic workers: The National Domestic Workers Alliance has launched a Coronavirus Care Fund to help in-home care workers, nannies and housekeepers.

Tracking state action: The American Enterprise Institute has a helpful Covid 19 Action Tracker that categorizes coronavirus response at the state level. They list 5 states as having taken “no public state-wide action or little public guidance”: Idaho, Nebraska, Texas, Missouri and Wyoming.

Journalists on the front lines: John Thornton of the American Journalism Project offers suggestions to nonprofit journalism leaders on how to help their communities get the information they need. “It’s going to be a marathon,” he writes, “not a sprint.”

Reporting during a time of information overload: Resolve Philadelphia outlines reporting best practices for informing readers and viewers: “Build stories like your audience hasn’t seen your coverage before.”

How do you communicate during a pandemic? The team at the Communications Network is keeping a list of examples they’re seeing of grassroots organizations finding effective ways to keep their communities up to speed. They call it a “Coronavirus Crisis Comms Triage Kit.”

Focus on the solution, not the problem: The Solutions Journalism Network is adding examples of coronavirus success stories into its Story Tracker.

No crying in baseball: Always good advice – but it’s hard after reading this examination of all the lower-income workers who will be hurt by the delayed opening of the National Pastime.

Briefing for March 16, 2020

The danger for incarcerated personsPrison populations are particularly endangered during the coronavirus pandemic – another potential crisis that’s not getting enough attention.

Verily teams with state of California to create online tool: California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Sunday night the creation ofProject Baseline, a website that will help state residents monitor potential COVID-19 symptoms and direct them to mobile testing sites, based on capacity. The program, developed in partnership with Verily, a sister company of Google, will be piloted first in the Bay area.

What philanthropy can do: Kathleen Kelly Janus, Senior Advisor on Innovation to California Gov. Gavin Newsom, outlines ways that philanthropy can help mitigate the coronavirus crisis.  “This is a moment for partnership like we’ve never experienced before.”

Senate uncertainty: The Senate reconvenes Monday amid mounting questions about whether the relief package passed Friday by the House of Representatives, which provides $1 billion in food aid and extended sick leave for many U.S. workers, will be quickly approved.

The hole in the House coronavirus relief bill: Many very large companies and very small firms would be exempt from the paid sick leave provision in the bill passed on Friday by the House of  Representatives.

The workers who are most in danger: A remarkable and concerning visual representation by the New York Times shows health care workers, first responders, personal care aides and home health aides face tremendous risks.

The scramble for hygiene products: Disinfectant and other hygiene stables are in short supply for everyone – but the need among low-income communities is acute.

The health care crisis among immigrants: Twenty-three percent of legal immigrants in the U.S. do not have health care coverage and the number jumps to 45% among undocumented immigrants. And policy changes by the Trump administration have many in low-income communities afraid to use coverage they have for fear of damaging their quest for a green card.

Food banks are depleted: In the Bay area, food banks are closing and those that are open lack enough volunteers.

Homeless shelters try to adapt: As more stringent measures were put into place in the District of Columbia over the weekend, homeless shelters vowed to stay open by adopting new procedures.

Suspend all work requirements for public benefits: That’s one of the policy suggestions offered by University of Michigan poverty scholarLuke Shaefer in a wide-ranging Q&A on the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on low-income families and workers.

Boosting internet access during the crisis: Telecom providers such as AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon have agreed to not terminate service or access late fees for the next 60 days for subscribers who might fall behind on bills.

But students face cavernous digital divide: As schools shut down, a public health crisis underlines a technological one.

Evictions ban: A growing list of major cities, including Baltimore, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Miami, are banning evictions during the coronavirus outbreak.

Pandemic pandemonium at U.S. airports: Returning passengers from Europe encountered massive crowds and delays in major U.S. airports over the weekend, endangering both fliers and low-income airport workers and security personnel. This description of the scene at Dulles Airport near Washington, D.C. from former Rand Corporation analyst Cheryl Benard in the Washington Post: “Upon landing, I spent three hours in a jammed immigration hall trying to decide which analogy fit better: the ignorant Middle Ages during the plague years or the most chaotic airport in the least developed country.”

The hardest truth: In the Atlantic, Anne Applebaum compares this moment for the United States to when Admiral Matthew Perry sailed into Tokyo Bay in 1853, changing forever, for all intents and purposes, Japan’s way of life and self-image. The United States, long accustomed to thinking of itself as the best, most efficient, and most technologically advanced society in the world, is about to be proved an unclothed emperor. When human life is in peril, we are not as good as Singapore, as South Korea, as Germany. And the problem is not that we are behind technologically, as the Japanese were in 1853. The problem is that American bureaucracies, and the antiquated, hidebound, unloved federal government of which they are part, are no longer up to the job of coping with the kinds of challenges that face us in the 21st century.”

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