Briefing for March 23-27, 2020 on COVID-19 & Low-Income Communities

Briefing for March 23-27, 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.

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

Briefing for March 27, 2020

What’s actually in the latest Senate coronavirus response bill – and what should be? The Center for Economic and Policy Research breaks down the $2.5 trillion bill that passed the Senate Wednesday and is expected to be approved by the House of Representatives Friday or Saturday.

Winners and losers in the Senate bill: The retail, hotel and restaurant industries were major benefactors, as were airlines, hospitals and farmers; the bill was not so generous to properties owned by the Trump family, the oil industry or renewables.

More help for small businesses: Aparna Mathur of the American Enterprise Institute suggests giving small businesses impacted by the coronavirus crisis an easier path to Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

Tips for relieving economic insecurity during the pandemic: Critical Value, a podcast from the Urban Institute, examines which solutions might offer the most help for an ailing economy, particularly for low-income Americans.

Hard times in Mississippi: COVID-19 infections are just beginning to show up in Mississippi – a state already wracked by poverty, a high percentage of low-income occupations, and a state unemployment insurance system ranked as one of the nation’s weakest.

“I needed that job”: MLK 50: Justice Through Journalism in Memphis begins a series of portraits of local workers who have lost jobs because of the pandemic.

Appalachia data and resources: The Appalachian Regional Council has released two new tools tracking COVID-19 infections and resources across Appalachia. One tool tracks the number of cases; the other presents a demographic data snapshot of confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths in relation to hospital bed counts, population and businesses, and categories of people at risk.

Community health centers bear brunt of pandemic in Appalachia: The six states in Appalachia that did not expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act – Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee – are being forced to rely on free clinics to handle the patient overload from the coronavirus outbreak.

Many rural seniors won’t be able to access telehealth appointments: Earlier this month, the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services expanded telehealth access across the country so that elderly patients could speak with health professionals virtually. But the CMS currently requires both video and audio communication between Medicare patients and their physician for telehealth services – and many rural patients, especially seniors, can’t access video communication.

Fears for West Virginia: West Virginia’s healthcare system faces a serious test; a recent study by the Kaiser Family Foundation indicated that West Virginia is the state with the highest share of adults who are at risk of serious illness if infected by COVID-19 (51 percent) compared to the national average (41 percent). 

How carnicerias, liquor stores, tienditas and Latino supermarkets are feeding their neighborhoods:Carnicerias, liquor stores, tienditas, even gas station markets, have long been the heart of many neighborhoods in Los Angeles and they are providing crucial resources during the coronavirus pandemic.

With campuses closed, college students face housing and food insecurity: Low-income college students are having to scramble for housing and food and to replace crucial lost income from shuttered part-time jobs on campus.

Five ways cities are helping the homeless: Bloomberg Cities surveys strategies being used by city leaders to help homeless residents survive the coronavirus outbreak.

The digital divide for homeless students: Students from housing insecure families want to learn – but how can they when they can’t access digital instruction?

Local journalism needs a rescue package too: Steven Waldman, co-founder of Report for America, and Charles Sennott, CEO of the GroundTruth Project, call for a $500 million investment in paying for public health ads in local media.

Briefing for March 26, 2020

Senate passes rescue package; House approval likely: The Senate passed a $2.5 trillion coronavirus response package late Wednesday, and the House of Representatives is set to take up early Friday.

Unemployment claims soar: The Labor Department reported over 3 million unemployment claims last week, an all-time record.

How to access new unemployment benefits: The Senate package would increase unemployment benefits by $600 per week for four months in addition to what states pay as a base unemployment salary. Who’s eligible and how can you access the benefits?

Can the checks get out in time: The Senate rescue package also calls for a one-time $1,200 check for most adults making $75,000 or less annually and a $500 payment to cover every child in qualifying households. But IRS veterans say getting those payments out under the two-week deadline the White House wants could be tough. “I’m confident they’re going to do better than anybody would expect with all of the limitations they face, but it won’t be easy,” former IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said.

COVID-19 global hackathon: Technology companies and platforms including Facebook, Giphy, Microsoft, Pinterest, Slack, TikTok, Twitter and WeChat are sponsoring #BuildforCovid19, a cooperative forum for developers to use to build software solutions that drive social impact during the pandemic.

States need flexible childcare funding: The National Women’s Law Center calls for $50 billion in childcare support, including providing training and medical support for childcare providers on health and safety practices in response to COVID-19 and paying providers to cover ongoing operating costs while they are closed. 

Keep paying your household workers: Concerns about the safety of an outsider entering homes coupled with financial instability have prompted even many wealthy families to stop paying their household help, and severance payments are a rarity.

Who cares for home health aides? More than three million home health aides help take care of fragile seniors across the USA. What do they do, who are they, and how vulnerable are they?

Terror on the front lines: Health workers increasingly fear that they could become victims of the pandemic rather than being able to help people recover.

Fears grow for domestic violence surge: Groups that provide help and support for victims of domestic violence worry that the combination of an economic collapse, increased isolation and pandemic-related stress could present real dangers for women and children in abusive households.

Medicaid expansion could help: The Urban Institute urges the 15 states that have yet to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act to consider doing so to be in a better position to help workers who may lose their jobs during the coronavirus crisis.

Gates Foundation steps up in Seattle: The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced a $3.7 million grant to the COVID-19 response in the Seattle area, including $1 million to help local authorities to provide accurate and timely information to the public.

Community foundations look to help: A map from the National Center for Family Philanthropy on how to connect to local foundations offering help on COVID-19.

The coronavirus could be an extinction event for media:The toll of the coronavirus on the news media could be worse than the 2008 financial crisis, which saw newspapers experience a 19% decline in revenue, Ken Doctor, a news industry analyst, tells Buzzfeed.

Endangered workers consider strikes: A strike by a group of sanitation workers in Pittsburgh concerned about exposure to COVID-19 could be the first of many by unionized workers still on the job.

Worries for small farmers: Farm sales will decline up to $689 million, resulting in a payroll drop of $103 million. The total economic loss could hit $1.3 billion from now through May.

Farmworkers lack protection: Many agricultural laborers are continuing to work with few safety protections – endangering them and potentially the food supply.

Getting seniors tested: Emergency medical workers with the City of Miami Fire-Rescue are being authorized to enter the homes of seniors experiencing symptoms of the virus and administer the COVID-19 test.

Getting seniors food: New York City is hiring sidelined Uber and Lyft drivers to help deliver food to older residents.

April 1 deadline looms for renters: President Trump has spoken of his deadlines for sending the nation back to work – but renters across the country face a real decision point in less than a week when rent checks come due.

Youth advocates call for changes to detention facilities: As cases of COVID-19 spike across the country, advocates and lawyers for detained juveniles are pushing for changes in the facilities that hold an estimated 43,000 juveniles in custody across the nation.

Resources for kids: Leading for Kids is compiling a list of resources for children and parents during the coronavirus crisis.

Empty hotel rooms become safe havens: Cities across the country are using vacant hotel rooms to house the homeless and coronavirus patients.

Tracking the trackers: Freedman Consulting is keeping a full list of existing resources tracking the COVID-19 response efforts by philanthropy, the private sector, government (national, state, and local), and other entities. 

Briefing for March 25, 2020

Senate deal reached: Senate leaders announced agreement early Wednesday morning on a $2 trillion coronavirus rescue package that would give a one-time check of $1,200 to Americans who make up to $75,000. Individuals with no or little tax liability would receive the same amount, unlike the initial GOP proposal that would have given them a minimum of $600. The bill also includes $500 billion for a corporate liquidity program through the Federal Reserve, $367 billion for a small business loan program, $100 billion for hospitals and $150 billion for state and local governments. The Senate is expected to vote on the package later Wednesday.

COVID-19 and homelessness: The National Alliance to End Homeless offers action steps and considerations for local officials looking for best practices on how to keep homeless residents safe from the coronavirus.

Cities scramble for safe housing for homeless residents: Chicago officials are using 5 local hotels to house homeless Chicagoans who have tested positive for COVID-19.

Housing policy options: Local Housing Solutions has put together a running list of homelessness outreach efforts, eviction moratoriums, and other housing-related advice that localities across the country are using to keep their communities safe.

Foster children increasingly have nowhere to go: The foster care system, built on frequent movements of children from one family to another and regular in-person supervision, has been especially wracked with confusion and dread by the coronavirus crisis.

Infection hitting jails is a ‘disaster waiting to happen’: New Jersey alone began freeing hundreds of inmates this week — and the federal prison system is coming under intense pressure to take similar measures.

Why coronavirus in jails should concern everyone: Research shows that infections that hit incarcerated populations pose significant risks for the community at large as well.

Keep the focus on workers: Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum (R) calls on Congress to keep working families at the forefront of ongoing negotiations about federal coronavirus aid.

One Fair Wage emergency fund: One Fair Wage has set up a fund to provide cash assistance to restaurant workers, car service drivers, delivery workers and personal service workers.

Child care crisis for health care workers: The Center for American Progress advocates child care help for health care workers who, while risking their lives during the coronavirus pandemic, “will likely find themselves without reliable child care, which will impede their ability to perform their critical work.”

Risks for dialysis patients: Patients with severe kidney disease, already vulnerable because of their life-threatening illness, are worried that receiving dialysis in large facilities with dozens of other people could expose them to infection.

Coronavirus is the latest threat to asylum seekers fleeing violence: Migrants still streaming into Mexico – with hopes of continuing to the United States – say they fear violence at home in countries such as Honduras more than COVID-19.

A stimulus package for journalism: Free Press calls for a $5 billion emergency aid package from Congress to help public media, nonprofit newsrooms and struggling dailies and weeklies.

Briefing for March 24, 2020

The coronavirus economy will devastate those who can least afford it: Axios looks at the impact on low-income workers, the disabled, the mentally ill, older residents of rural areas, single parents, parents of special needs children and incarcerated persons.

Young people and minorities are particularly at risk: People of color and younger workers are at the most risk of becoming unemployed.

State unemployment funds were already stretched: Just as unemployment claims are expected to skyrocket, a number of states – including California, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, Ohio, and Texas – were already worried about trust fund solvency.

Hopes rise for Tuesday vote on rescue package: Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said they were close to agreement on a $2 trillion relief package and hoped for a vote sometime Tuesday.

Rural hospitals struggle to survive: Even before the COVID-19 crisis, rural hospitals faced the fear of closure due to a “combination of narrowing Medicare reimbursements, a larger share of patients lacking high-paying private insurance and the hollowing out of rural America,” NPR reports.

‘Poverty is the virus that puts us all at risk’: Former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu and the Rev. William Barber, II, write in USA TODAY that “preparation is vital to a successful response. But the reality of poverty in this country means half of us do not have the resources to prepare.”

New Jersey to release 1,000 people from county jails: A chief state judge in New Jersey ordered the release of hundreds of inmates in county jails by Tuesday “based on the dangers posed by coronavirus disease 19.”

Pay your housekeeper anyway: Now is not the time to cut back, writes Stephanie Land, the author of Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Woman’s Will to Survive.

WIC recipients hit by grocery hoarding: Participants in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women and Children say grocery shelves are often empty of items they are allowed to buy under WIC guidelines.

Insurance impact: Projections show the coronavirus crisis could drive up insurance premiums for millions of Americans.

Keeping connected despite the crisis: Free Press Action called on Congress “to allocate up to $100 billion in subsidies, rebates and tax relief targeted toward broadband that would benefit people, not just companies.”

Homebound college students face digital divide: A second-year law student at Harvard writes of the difficulty keeping up with classwork from his home in rural Kentucky.

Local journalism at risk: Nineteen small Michigan weeklies have temporarily suspended publication because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Alt weeklies also decimated: Alternative weeklies were already suffering, but the coronavirus outbreak is shuttering or suspending publication at many.

Briefing for March 23, 2020

Twenty-four million workers are vulnerable: An interactive chart from Politico that looks at the key occupations among the 15 percent of the American workforce who make $35,000 a year or less.

Millions of Americans at risk: USA Today offers a state-by-state look at the number of adults who face particular risks for coronavirus infection because of age, underlying medical conditions, lack of insurance and economic hardship.

Covid-19 Local Action Tracker: Bloomberg Philanthropies, in partnership with the National League of Cities, has launched a new initiative to identify, catalogue and track – in real time – actions being taken by U.S. mayors and city governments.

Negotiations continue on Senate rescue package: Talks continued Monday morning after Democrats blocked an initial proposal they said was weighted too heavily towards corporate interests, including a $500 billion fund that could be allocated largely at the discretion of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

The workers feeding America: From Axios: “America isn’t running out of food. But there’s increasing strain on the supply chain as the workers who produce and deliver our groceries are sheltering at home, quarantined or are (justifiably) too spooked to show up for work.”

Eviction fears loom: From the Washington Post: “While some governors, mayors, city councils and judges are taking action, most state- and municipal-wide moratoriums on evictions last only a few weeks.”

Fears grow for homeless populations: Homeless residents in at least five states have tested positive for COVID-19; a look at efforts to support unhoused neighbors in San Antonio, TX.

Protecting the vote: The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights’ Voting Rights Task Force is urging Congress to appropriate at least $2 billion and to adopt a number of key policy measures to ensure “an inclusive and fair voting process for 2020 primary and general elections.”  

Hard times in the Crescent City: The French Quarter was essentially deserted this weekend, and many of New Orleans’ iconic restaurants were in danger of going out of business – an unthinkable trial for a city already tested by Hurricane Katrina.

NYC COVID-19 Fund launched: Bloomberg Philanthropies, Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Ford Foundation and a host of other philanthropies and foundations have launched a $75 million fund to help New York City-based social services and arts and cultural organizations impacted by the pandemic.

Helping hourly workers: Journalist Yashar Ali has raised over $300,000 through a GoFundME campaign that will funnel donations to the Robin Hood Foundation in New York and Tipping Point Community in the Bay area.

COVID-19 scams: The FCC has received reports of scam and hoax text message campaigns and scam robocalls offering free home testing kits, promoting bogus cures and selling insurance.

A plan to save small businesses: The American Enterprise Institute’s Michael Strain and R. Glenn Hubbard write that the key to federal response should be “to replace a large portion of the revenue (not just the payroll expenses) those businesses would have generated in the absence of being shut down due to the coronavirus.”

The looming food crisis: Chef Jose Andres, whose World Central Kitchen is working to provide nutrition in hard-hit areas, outlines three key strategies for dealing with a lack of food supplies during a crisis: support the private sector and activate kitchens to feed hungry people; repurpose and redeploy community facilities like kitchens and arenas; solve the informational and logistical challenge.

Schools struggle to continue feeding at-risk students: School systems across the country are trying to implement interim nutrition programs during the coronavirus crisis, but many are being overrun. A harrowing scene from the New York Times from Brenham, TX.: “With her six hungry children in the car, Summer Mossbarger was one of the first in line for lunch at the drive-through. Not at a fast-food restaurant, but outside Alton Elementary School.”

NYC food pantry crisis: Dozens of the city’s food pantries and soup kitchens are closing in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.

Churches try to continue ministry in new ways: Churches play a particularly important role in times of crisis for many people of color and in Connecticut, of group of predominately Latino and African-American congregations have created a new consortium to pool resources and share ideas.

One-stop shop for Coronavirus news: Google News is collecting stories and videos in real time.

Telling the story in Appalachia: How publications across Appalachia are covering the coronavirus story.

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