Briefing for April 6-10, 2020 on COVID-19 and Low-Income Communities

Briefing for April 6-10, 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 April 10, 2020

Pandemic lays bare the grocery shopping class divide: While many adults can access groceries and food-delivery services, food stamp recipients are limited in these options. Recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, as well as advocates for low-income Americans, are questioning why most states still lack a critical internet-based service for food delivery.

Rural hospitals were closing even before the outbreak began: According to a report released this month by the Chartis Center for Rural Health, nearly half of rural hospitals were already operating in the red before the COVID-19 crisis.

Targeted assistance needed for the LGTBQ community: The coronavirus crisis threatens to compound the disparities that LGBTQ people already experience in health care, as well as the community’s high rates of poverty

Housing for domestic violence survivors: San Francisco Mayor London Breed and District Attorney Chesa Boudin announced Thursday they’re teaming up with the city’s largest landlord Veritas Investments to provide temporary housing for survivors of domestic violence during the coronavirus outbreak.

Baltimore establishes diaper delivery service: On Thursday, ShareBaby, a Baltimore-area diaper bank, began distributing 500,000 diapers to nearly 10,000 vulnerable young children across the city.

A Facebook group matches RVs that are sitting idle with health care workers who need places to isolate after long hospital shifts: Doctors on the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic are able to isolate themselves from their families to avoid possible transmission of the virus thanks to a Facebook group that helps match medical professionals with nearby RVs, trailers, and campers. The idea for RVs for MDs originated in Texas, but thanks to a large volunteer group, they’ve been able to implement the program nationwide. This story comes from the Solution Journalism Network’s COVID-19 story tracker.

Banks brace for new wave of small business applications: In the week since applications began being accepted, banks have struggled to keep up with the demand for loans from the Paycheck Protection Program.

New Senate relief package hits snag: The Senate adjourned on Thursday without a deal to deliver coronavirus aid, as bad blood between Democrats and Republicans upended any notion of quick action to provide billions of dollars more in pandemic relief.

Federal disaster relief program at near standstill: The Economic Disaster Relief Program is drowning in requests. The program is supposed to offer loans of up to $2 million, but many recent applicants said the S.B.A. help line had told them that loans would be capped at $15,000 per borrower. 

Grocery workers are risking their lives for little pay: They make roughly half the average national income, and they’re at risk of COVID-19 exposure as they continue to work to ensure shelves are restocked and communities fed.

Reinforce the housing safety net by adopting universal vouchers for low-income renters: There already is a system for helping low-income renters, the federal Housing Choice Voucher Program. But because of underfunding, only one in five households qualifying for housing assistance receives it. If housing assistance were available to everyone who qualified for it before the pandemic, managing a sudden income loss would be easier to navigate.

Missed rent payments threaten real estate industry: About $81 billion in commercial rent comes due in a typical month in the U.S. The delay of a sizable portion of that will put an enormous strain on the complex systems for financing real estate.

The coronavirus could make California’s affordable housing crisis even worse: Experts fear the pandemic will only increase the demand for affordable housing in California while also severely depressing government tax revenue, leaving less money available to finance new construction and increasing the need to overhaul how low-income housing gets built.

Will local news be a coronavirus casualty? Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the local news industry was “a patient who already had all the underlying health conditions,” says Mi-Ai Parrish, the former publisher of the Arizona Republic. Now, local news is a patient in critical condition.

An overview of the unemployment benefit response: The American Enterprise Institute reviews the federal response to historic levels of unemployment.

Briefing for April 9, 2020

New congressional relief package hits roadblocks: Republicans’ plans to fast-track $250 billion in new aid to small businesses on Thursday have been upended by Democrats’ push to tack on $250 billion more for hospitals and local governments. Politico reported that the White House opposes approving the new money Democrats are seeking this week.

6.6 million new jobless claims: Thursday’s new unemployment numbers brought the three-week total during the coronavirus pandemic to 16.6 million.

Most of the jobs endangered by the pandemic are filled by low-wage workers: According to an analysis by McKinsey Global Institute, up to 86% of vulnerable jobs paid less than $40,000 a year, and almost all (98%) of at-risk jobs paid less than the national living wage for a family of four ($68,808).

The coronavirus is infecting and killing African Americans at an alarmingly high rate: A Washington Post analysis of available data and census demographics shows that counties that are majority-black have three times the rate of infections and almost six times the rate of deaths as counties where white residents are in the majority.

People of color suffer disproportionately in New York City: Black and Hispanic people in NYC are twice as likely to die from COVID-19 according to data released on Wednesday.

Roughly one-third of U.S. renters didn’t pay April rent: The coronavirus pandemic reduced rent payments in April: 69% of tenants paid some rent between April 1-5, down from 81% in the first week of March and 82% in April 2019.

$100 billion in rent supports needed: A research study from the National Low Income Housing Coalition estimates that $100 billion in federal aid would provide rental assistance to cover all current and projected housing cost-burdened extremely and very low-income renters.

Millions of Americans may miss out on stimulus checks: There are as many as 10 million low-income, childless adults in the United States who are eligible for the $2,400 in payments from the CARES Act but are at risk of losing out on the money because they are not required to file income tax returns.

America’s social safety net wasn’t ready for the coronavirus: FiveThirtyEight offers three stories showing how woefully unprepared the country’s unemployment support systems were for the COVID-19 crisis.

Chicago guarantees access to coronavirus aid for immigrants, refugees: Mayor Lori Lightfoot signed an executive order that she said would guarantee immigrants and refugees in Chicago access to all of the benefits the city is offering to residents and businesses in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Undocumented immigrants do not qualify for the checks being provided to individuals as part of the CARES Act.

We’re going days without food — you don’t know what’s gonna happen’A disabled Houston couple has to take turns eating because of the closure of their closest food bank.

New York City cancels summer jobs program: The decision is a setback for tens of thousands of young people who rely on the minimum wage jobs for income to help their families and gain professional skills.

Retirement worries mount: The Urban Institute lays out seven ways the pandemic could undermine retirement security.

Next COVID-19 rescue package should include aid for journalists: A group of Democratic senators and Independent Sen. Angus King (ME) sent a letter to Senate leadership asking for ailing local newsrooms to get relief in the next coronavirus aid bill.

Protecting vulnerable groups in your community: Fidelity Charitable, in collaboration with the United Way, Feeding America and National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), is presenting a webinar at 12:30 ET Thursday on learning how to combat some of the broad-reaching hardships COVID-19 is causing in communities across the nation.

Coronavirus and COVID-19 funds: Giving Compass and the National Center for Family Philanthropy (NCFP) are working together to curate a comprehensive list of vetted COVID-19 relief funds. 

Briefing for April 8, 2020

Small Business Administration struggles to process loans: The SBA, lightly staffed and working with aging technology, has been caught unprepared for the onrush of demand from desperate small-business owners urgently seeking $350 billion in loans. 

Senate prepares to add more funds for small businesses: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said he will work with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to get the Senate to approve another influx of cash on Thursday. McConnell did not say how much the Senate would try to approve by unanimous consent — but Small Business Committee Chairman Marco Rubio (R-FL) said “at least” another $200 billion to $250 billion would be necessary to keep the Payroll Protection Program afloat.

Democratic priorities: Democrats released their own demands for a new relief proposal on Wednesday, including $250 billion in aid for hospitals and state and local governments.

More help for small businesses: The Kauffman Foundation offers a guide for small businesses – both those who qualify for CARES Act relief and those who don’t.

4 in 10 teens aren’t attending classes online: A poll of 849 teenagers, by Common Sense Media, conducted with SurveyMonkey, found that as schools across the country transition to some form of online learning, 41% of teenagers overall, including 47% of public school students, say they haven’t attended a single online or virtual class.

Most Americans who get food stamps must shop at physical stores, risking COVID-19 infection: 
Only six states allow online purchases with benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Of those, Alabama and Nebraska launched online shopping only in recent weeks as the coronavirus outbreak erupted.

Nonprofits struggle to meet surge of demand for services: “You’re going to see an increase in hunger, need for access to medical services, increases in things like domestic violence,” said David Greco, CEO of Social Sector Partners, which works with small nonprofits, to the Chronicle of Philanthropy. “The very groups that provide critical services are understaffed, under-resourced, and they’re just not going to be able to respond in the way that our communities need them to.”

Young renters and renters of color should be the focus of COVID-19 housing policies: America’s 44 million renter households, particularly the 21 million who devote at least 30 percent of their income to rent, need immediate relief for rent payments amid the COVID-19 crisis. 

The pandemic has become a vehicle for bigotry and scapegoating: As reports of harassment and assault against Asian Americans increase, community advocates are finding new ways to tackle the spread of xenophobia.

‘Those numbers take your breath away’: Chicago’s African-American neighborhoods are being pummeled by COVID-19.

Florida coronavirus testing varies widely, often by income: USA TODAY examined testing rates in each of Florida’s 67 counties. The review shows that some communities far lag others in aggressively testing, even when patients arrive showing symptoms of COVID-19. Income and remoteness may be part of what’s driving the outcome

Coronavirus could deepen Washington D.C.’s class divisions: The sudden shutdown of large sectors of the local economy will widen the gap in the capital region between affluent households and those living paycheck to paycheck, according to urban experts, economists and other analysts.

Urgent steps needed to protect youth in juvenile detention: 
Almost a dozen youth and employees in detention centers across Louisiana have tested positive for COVID-19.

Asset limits can be a poverty trap in the COVID-19 age: Lawmakers, economists, and advocates are renewing calls to eliminate asset tests in public assistance programs. These tests—which require applicants and beneficiaries to have resources below a certain threshold in order to qualify for benefits—have been particularly harmful for people with disabilities.

Senior caregivers endangered in Appalachia: COVID-19 threatens not only West Virginia’s elderly, but also the children they care for.

A gendered employment crisis in Mississippi: In Mississippi, women dominate the workforces of some of the hardest hit industries. These include the health care workers directly tackling the virus, the retail store employees bagging supplies for those sheltering at home and food service workers losing their jobs all together.

Supporting communities in the face of a pandemic: Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity looks at the work Community Renewal International is doing to help families cope with the COVID-19 outbreak.

Briefing for April 7, 2020

The fears of wearing a mask: A first-person essay in the Boston Globe raises questions about the safety of African Americans who follow safety guidelines and wear a face mask. “I will not be covering my face until I am able to obtain a face mask that is unmistakable for what it is,” writes Aaron Thomas. “Let me be clear: This is not because I do not trust the advice of the CDC — I do. I believe in science, and I have followed all of its guidelines up to this point. I know masks work, and I trust the CDC’s recommendation. What I do not trust is the innate biases and lack of critical thought about the implications of these decisions.”

Absenteeism soars as schools go online: The absence rate appears particularly high in schools with many low-income students, whose access to home computers and internet connections can be spotty.

The unemployment rate could be as high as 13%: “The jobless rate today is almost certainly higher than at any point since the Great Depression. We think it’s around 13 percent and rising at a speed unmatched in American history,” writes the New York Times.

Floridians could wait weeks for unemployment checks: The state already has a backlog of more than 560,000 applications, and potentially hundreds of thousands of other Floridians have been unable to apply because of problems with the state unemployment office’s website.

Automaker layoffs continue: Nissan announced it will furlough 10,000 hourly workers at plants in Tennessee and Mississippi.

How public health authorities failed nursing homes: At least hundreds of long-term facilities have COVID-19 infections.

Some shelters are closing to protect homeless, staff: Homeless shelters in at least 17 states plus the District of Columbia have closed due to the pandemic.

Grocery workers are beginning to die: Major supermarket chains are beginning to report their first coronavirus-related employee deaths, leading to store closures and increasing anxiety among grocery workers as the pandemic intensifies across the country.

COVID-19 forced migration could impact Census: Residents fleeing their homes to better shelter in place could bring disastrous repercussions in the Census count for the communities they have left.

Rural areas could be ravaged: As the pandemic moves from urban centers to rural America, a population that is older, poorer and less healthy could be hit hard.

Bureaucratic delays render New Orleans renters homeless: Avoidable delays from New Orleans’ housing authority have forced low-income renters to pile into cars or cram into overcrowded family homes even as officials urge social distancing to help slow the spread of coronavirus.

What do you do when you work for an “essential business” that isn’t really essential? People who believe their workplaces are not essential have been begging governors, police, health departments and others to shut them down.

Wisconsin voters of color face election day dilemma: Black and brown voters in Wisconsin tried to balance a history of disenfranchisement with the very real safety concerns of voting in Tuesday’s primary election.

High risk, few tests at the Texas-Mexico border: While many places across the country are struggling to get enough testing, the problems are magnified in the Rio Grande Valley. It has among the highest poverty rates in the state, as nearly half of its residents don’t have health insurance and chronic health conditions are rife.

Briefing for April 6, 2020

CARES Act rollout hits major roadblocks: Banks were overwhelmed, technical glitches were rampant and many lenders weren’t ready for the flood of applications and inquiries that began on Friday for more than $300 billion in small business loans.

The Payroll Protection Program is crucial: The American Enterprise Institute makes the case for why the federal support program can’t fail.

Thirty-seven million Americans work in industries directly impacted by COVID-19: As of 2018, immediate-risk industries employed a total of 37.2 million people, or 23% of the total U.S. workforce. These industries include those facing near-term impacts from measures taken to combat the spread of the coronavirus, such as retail, passenger transportation, arts and entertainment, accommodation, restaurants and bars.

Coronavirus unemployment guide: The Washington Post offers a guide to what you should do if you get furloughed or laid off.

Nonprofit health providers under siege: Community health centers have become crucial lifelines for COVID-19 patients in low-income communities, but they are being battered by ferocious crosswinds as routine medical care — including dental work, a primary source of revenue — has been put on hold to conserve resources and keep the coronavirus from spreading.

Coronavirus suffering isn’t colorblind: How racial health disparities will play out in the pandemic.

African Americans face higher infection rate: As of Friday morning, African Americans made up almost half of Milwaukee County’s 945 COVID-19 cases and 81% of its 27 deaths in a county whose population is 26% black.

We could get wiped out’: Native Americans brace for rapid spread of coronavirus.

Essential and unsafe:  Frontline workers of color face compounded risks.

South Florida housing crunch gets worse: More than 55,000 South Florida renters were living on the edge before the pandemic hit.

The unbanked face extra hurdles: In the South, 7.7% of the population does not have a bank account, making it even more difficult to access relief resources for the pandemic.

How disabled children are being left behind: Schools are struggling to serve the 7 million children who receive special education services without physical classrooms.

Daycare centers are closing: Providers fear they will never reopen.

Domestic violence calls on the rise: Isolation and financial stress can contribute to domestic violence, police and advocates say.

Class determines location: While lower-income workers continue to move around and increase possible exposure to coronavirus, the wealthy are able to shelter in place the most.

Federal government should provide free hand sanitizer: The federal government must contract with companies throughout the country to widely produce and distribute free soap and hand sanitizer.

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