Briefing for March 30-April 3, 2020 on COVID-19 and Low-Income Communities

Briefing for March 30-April 3, 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.

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

Briefing for April 3, 2020

Banks signal small business loans may not be ready: President Donald Trump pledged to kick off a $350 billion small business loan program on Friday despite widespread warnings from banks that they aren’t ready to deliver the desperately needed aid.

Administration scales back paid leave eligibility: The New York Times reports that the Trump administration has increased exemptions to the paid leave eligibility established in the CARES Act to the point that 70% of American workers are employed by companies that are exempt.

Some won’t get $1,200 checks until September: The Internal Revenue Service plans to send electronic payments as soon as late next week to millions of Americans as part of the $2 trillion CARES Act, a week sooner than expected, according to the Washington Post. However, $30 million in paper checks for millions of other Americans won’t start being sent out until April 24, as the government lacks their banking information. And some of those checks won’t reach people until September.

Understanding the CARES Act: webinar today at 1 p.m. from the Economic Innovation Group focuses on the Payroll Protection Program.

Immigrants on the front lines: New data provided to Axios shows the outsized role immigrants play on the high- and low-skilled ends of the economy, keeping Americans alive and fed during the coronavirus crisis.

Problems for non-English speakers: Hospitals have left many COVID-19 patients who don’t speak English alone, confused and without care.

Homeless shelter hazards: Providers say a lack of protective equipment endangers workers and clients.

Suddenly unemployed and without healthcare: Broke in Philly looks at thousands of low-wage workers in the Philadelphia area who have lost both their jobs and their healthcare.

Growing calls for a national moratorium on evictions and foreclosures: More than 400,000 people have signed a ParentsTogether Action petition calling on Congress to suspend rent, mortgage and utility payments and order a full moratorium on evictions and foreclosures.

App matches volunteers with people in need: In San Francisco, city officials have launched an app to connect trained volunteers with seniors or disabled residents who need assistance.

Pilot program allows food stamps to be used online: In Nebraska, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program recipients can now use their benefits online as part of a trial that is part of a larger pilot program by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The heroes: Many Americans don’t have the option of sheltering in place – and the New York Times Magazine profiles some of the firefighters, flight attendants and pharmacists who are risking their lives every day.

The threat to childcare providers: Many childcare providers fear that their businesses will never reopen. An early March survey conducted by the National Association for the Education of Young Children found that 17% of child care providers said they would not survive a closure.

Smart ideas to deal with the pandemic: The Washington Post has 16 to start and is keeping a running list.

Terror at Trader Joe’s: Workers fear that even if a store itself is not contaminated, they may have been infected with the virus by a sick colleague.

Home release and quarantine may not be enough to keep federal prisons safe: Sanitation issues and exceptions to new guidelines mean incarcerated people still face significant dangers.

Tracking state actions on prison populations: A state-by-state tracker from The Appeal.

Census problems: Pandemic-based migration could undermine an accurate count.

Food banks hit by perfect storm: Since the coronavirus outbreak began, food banks have seen demand increase by as much as 50 percent in some places, says Claire Babineaux Fontenot, CEO of Feeding America.

Briefing for April 2, 2020

Unemployment claims hit new record: Jobless claims topped 6.6 million for the week ending on March 28.

Twenty million jobs could be lost by July: The Economic Policy Institute has a new study estimating potential state-by-state job loss due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Treasury reverses tax filing requirement: After a torrent of criticism, the Treasury Department ruled late Wednesday that Social Security recipients who don’t normally file a tax return will still get the $1,200 cash payments from the CARES Act. Earlier in the week, the Internal Revenue Service said recipients of the emergency payments would have to file a tax return, prompting members of Congress from both parties to voice concerns that the practice could create extra hurdles for an already vulnerable population.

Getting the money to people who need it: The Trump administration is scrambling to be sure the government has the technical bandwidth to get coronavirus recovery checks out to Americans who need them as quickly as possible.

Understanding the Paycheck Protection Program: An overview of the relief available for small businesses in the CARES Act from the American Enterprise Institute’s Michael Strain.

What’s in the CARES Act for the homeless? An overview from the National Alliance to End Homelessness.

The view from the front lines: The Rev. June Cooper talks with Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity about the gaps in services for homeless Boston residents City Mission is trying to fill.

Basic rights and protections for delivery workers: In a letter to the CEOs of Uber, Instacart, DoorDash, and Grubhub, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) called on the gig companies to provide workers with “basic rights and protections” that might protect them during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The larger safety net debate: Emergency coronavirus relief for low-income communities only deepens a long-running debate about the future of U.S. aid and assistance programs

States begin using Medicaid waivers: Following President Trump’s declaration of a national emergency, Florida became the first state to get approved for an 1135 Medicaid waiver in response to coronavirus. The waivers allow the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to set aside administrative requirements to increase access to medical services when a national emergency is called. Prior authorizations can be waived, care is allowed in alternative settings from a hospital or doctor’s office and it’s easier for out-of-state providers to see patients.

Feeding hungry seniors in Sacramento: Some of the city’s top-rated restaurants are providing meals for a program to feed 725 seniors. Funding comes from the City Attorney’s Justice for Neighbors program, which is funded by fines levied on properties that host nuisance businesses like drug or prostitution enterprises.

Where to find financial relief: The Simple Dollar has a comprehensive roundup.

How to head off a coronavirus housing crisis: Former HUD Secretary Julian Castro tells CityLab that expanding the Housing Choice Voucher program, which provides rental aid to low-income households, as a fully funded federal entitlement for every eligible adult in America is one measure that should be considered.

Briefing for April 1, 2020

Rent’s due; now what? The first day of April brings new fears for a housing crisis.

A tale of 2 Americas’: A new Axios/Ipsos survey shows the “coronavirus is spreading a dangerous strain of inequality. Better-off Americans are still getting paid and are free to work from home, while the poor are either forced to risk going out to work or lose their jobs.”

Who’s most vulnerable? These charts produced by NPR and the Center for Public Integrity show that because health and wealth in the U.S. are so often linked, the coronavirus could hit low-income populations much harder.

How to access small business loans: The Washington Post has a step-by-step guide on how to apply for the $350 billion in loans for small businesses available through the $2 trillion CARES act passed last week by Congress. Small businesses, nonprofits and tribal business concerns that meet the Small Business Administration’s standard business size definition and veterans organizations organized under 501(c)(19) with fewer than 500 employees are eligible for loans under the program. Self-employed individuals, independent contractors and sole proprietors are also eligible. To receive a loan, your company must have been in business as of Feb. 15.

Other resources, helpfully curated by the Schusterman Family Foundation:

Worker unrest continues: Strikes continue by Amazon, Instacart and Whole Foods workers concerned about safety conditions and a lack of hazard pay.

Nearly 3 million Californians won’t get cash payment aid: The $2 trillion package passed by Congress last week will not offer aid to undocumented residents, creating a potential health hazard as many of them continue to have to show up for jobs.

Ease access to all federal aid programs: During a moment of unprecedented crisis, federal and state officials should be providing a higher level of information about and ease of access for standard safety net programs such as SNAP, unemployment benefits or Medicaid.  

The pandemic spreads beyond urban centers: 
Coronavirus has spread to more than 50% of U.S. rural counties.

Class and the crisis: Richard Reeves and Jonathan Rothwell of the Brookings Institution look at how the less affluent face double risks.

Fertile ground for COVID-19 in the South: Beset by poorer health, curbed health care access and skepticism of government, the South may be in for a reckoning.

Civil aid groups face unprecedented crunch: The pandemic could all but wipe out legal help for the nation’s poor.

Controversial soda tax provides crucial relief: Seattle is using revenue from its tax on sugar-sweetened beverages to fund emergency $800 grocery vouchers for 6,250 families.

What should be in the next coronavirus relief package: A massive public works project among other investments, according to the American Prospect.

Briefing for March 31, 2020

Increase SNAP benefits: Authors of a new paper on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program argue that increasing benefits permanently as part of the coronavirus response is a “no-brainer” for Congress.

Walkouts, strikes and sick-outs at key delivery companies: Employees at Amazon, Instacart and Whole Foods are staging job actions to call for hazard pay and better health protections.

Florida farmworkers face a COVID-19 ‘time bomb’: Health risks to tens of thousands of farmworkers pose a threat to their safety and to America’s food chain.

‘The situation is dire’: Economic Policy Institute President Thea Lee gives Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity an overview of the response thus far to what she calls “an unprecedented crisis.”

Blacks, Latinos and Native-Americans face particular dangers: The prevalence of underlying health conditions in communities of color put them at added risk for complications from COVID-19.

Black businesses are being left behind: The federal response thus far to the coronavirus outbreak could lead to an uneven recovery.

Virtual forums on COVID-19 and the black community: Color of Change will host an April 1 virtual town hall and Third Way plans a policy briefing on the same day.

‘Jails are petri dishes’: Many jails are releasing inmates in the face of the COVID-19 crisis but experts say it’s not happening fast enough.

Chicago jail crisis: More than 100 inmates have tested positive for COVID-19 in Cook County Jail.

Rent freeze in Los Angeles: Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced that landlords would not be able to raise rents for hundreds of thousands of renters in the city.

Immigrant communities on edge: In Mississippi, immigrant communities already rocked by federal raids last summer are now trying to cope with the coronavirus outbreak.

‘Just another daunting challenge’: Rural school districts long used to having to do more with less embrace creative solutions amid coronavirus closures.

Closing the digital divide: Public-private partnerships are helping school districts keep students connected to online lessons.

Food security hotline: In Kingston, N.Y., city officials have created a hotline where residents in need can call and immediately be connected to a grocery or restaurant delivery service.

For parents, a new normal: Buzzfeed profiles 5 working parents who are trying to navigate having their kids at home.

Briefing for March 30, 2020

Despite pandemic, USDA moves to appeal court rejection of food stamp cuts: The Agriculture Department will appeal a federal judge’s ruling that it would be “arbitrary and capricious” to move ahead during the COVID-19 crisis with food stamp changes that could force hundreds of thousands from the program.

“We have lost it all”: Millions of newly unemployed Americans are in shock.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo urged to release more inmates: In a New York Times op-ed, former New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett, Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez and Ford Foundation President Darren Walker warn of a crisis inside New York prisons that “is not only an issue about the health of people in prisons, but also a public health crisis that threatens to become a humanitarian disaster.”

White-collar quarantine highlights class divide: The gulf between rich and poor has never been clearer than during the scramble for services and safety during the coronavirus crisis.

Coronavirus compounds inequality and endangers communities of color: Amid this major public health crisis, the compounding effect of existing inequities puts people of color in an increasingly precarious situation.

“It’s like doomsday”: Layoffs are disproportionately impacting black and Latino workers.

Further Census delay: Census officials announced this weekend that field operations will be suspended for at least two additional weeks, until April 15.

The rural coronavirus crisis to come: Cities have been the epicenter so far, but rural areas with scant resources are bracing for impact as well.

Crisis for Native Americans: Millions of dollars of anti-coronavirus aid have not yet reached Native-American tribes.

Experts fear reservations could become hot spots: Lapses in federal health policy and reliance on fractured tribal structures raise fears the virus could hide on Native American reservations long after America goes back to work.

More help for renters: The Urban Institute makes the case for additional federal help for the nation’s 44 million renters – 21 million of whom are already cost burdened.

Congress needs to offer more help for the disabled community: The Center for American Progress’s Rebecca Cokley lays out ways in which a fourth congressional coronavirus aid package could help disabled Americans, including easing or eliminating asset limits for federal aid.

Homeless newspaper vendors lose income: For the first time in 17 years, Street Sense Media, which publishes a “street paper” that focuses on housing and income inequality in Washington, D.C., has shut down its print publication. The closure leaves 130 homeless vendors without the $780 they normally earn per month.

Recovering addicts lose crucial support: Twelve-step support groups and services have become difficult to access for many recovering addicts, creating a particular crisis in parts of the country impacted by the opioid epidemic.

Single parents struggle with home schooling: Across the country, single parents have seen their support systems crumble at a time when they need them most.

Home schooling children during the pandemic could have long-term negative implications: A former state education official in Tennessee argues in the Washington Post that the shift to online instruction could set back a generation of students.

Coronavirus comes to immigration court: Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Kamala Harris (D-CA) have called for a freeze on immigration hearings for children – but the alternative poses risks as well.

Highlighting poverty as an issue in the presidential race: The pandemic could give anti-poverty proposals a larger profile as the fall campaign heats up.

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