Briefing for May 26-29, 2020 on COVID-19 and Low-Income Communities

Briefing for May 26-29, 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 May 29, 2020

The coronavirus’ unequal economic toll: Kaiser Family Foundation President Drew Altman outlines new KFF polling for Axios: “As the coronavirus pandemic wears on, almost half of all African American, Latino, and low-income Americans are having trouble paying their bills, including medical bills. The findings from our latest KFF polling suggest that even if Congress’ relief efforts are helping, they’re not nearly enough.” Some details:

  • Almost a third (31%) of the American people say they’ve experienced problems paying their rent or mortgage, or for food, utilities, credit card bills or medical costs as a result of the coronavirus.
  • Among African Americans, that number climbs to 48%. Among Latinos, it’s 46%.
  • And 47% of households with an annual income below $40,000 say they’ve had trouble paying their bills because of the pandemic. 
  • 45% of black adults and 39% of Latinos say they’ve either skipped meals or relied on charity or government food programs such as SNAP since February — compared with just 18% of white adults. Most of those people said their experiences were a direct result of the coronavirus’ financial impact.

How redlining decades ago set up communities for greater coronavirus risk: Few people have focused on how neighborhood characteristics, or environmental factors, might play a role in virus transmission. Is it possible that neighborhoods themselves are making people sick?

A World War II-era solution to the pandemic: New America Foundation policy analyst Ivy Love writes: “Nearly 80 years ago, the United States faced an enormous health crisis. World War II was devastating the globe, creating a dire need for nurses. In response, we created a program called the Nurse Corps. From 1943 to 1948, 124,000 nurses received expedited training to provide life-saving care to soldiers, sailors, and civilians worldwide. Today, the COVID-19 pandemic has created another nightmarish shortage of front-line health care workers. It’s time to revive the Nurse Corps for the modern age.”

Where you live in Texas may determine your access to testing: NPR investigated the location of public testing sites in Texas, one of the first states to reopen after the coronavirus lockdown, to see how they were distributed between predominantly white and predominantly minority areas. The investigation found that in four out of six of the largest cities in Texas, testing sites are disproportionately located in whiter neighborhoods.

House Democrats call on administration to stop rushing deportations of migrant children: Democratic congressional leaders expressed alarm at the sudden acceleration and requested the government “cease this practice immediately.”

With three generations under one roof, pandemic risks multiply: The Golinelli family is among many Texas households navigating working in a pandemic while trying to keep high-risk older relatives safe from the coronavirus.

Pandemic stalls efforts to help people with felony convictions vote: In six states, reforms have restored voting rights to more than one million people since 2018. But efforts by many public agencies to assist them are lagging, and the pandemic has dealt a blow to grassroots plans to pick up the slack.

Los Angeles eyes rental assistance plan: If you’re a renter in the city of Los Angeles who earns $63,100 or less, City Hall might help pay your rent. Los Angeles City Council President Nury Martinez is moving to put $100 million in federal coronavirus relief dollars into a local renters assistance program. The city would pay up to half of your rent — up to $1,000 each month — for two months, and the checks would go directly to landlords. The goal is to get the program up and running by July 1. To qualify, renters would need to prove that they have been impacted by the pandemic. They would also need to meet income requirements: 80% of the area’s median income, which varies based on family size, but is $63,100 for a single household and $90,100 for a family of four.

Endangered rural grocers see signs of possible rebirth: Small town rural groceries have found ways to serve customers as larger chain stores have scrambled for supplies. “Rural grocers have been able to serve their communities in a way that their big box counterparts cannot,” said Sandra Renner, Farm and Community Director with the Center for Rural Affairs.

Telehealth and COVID-19 in rural areas: The Bipartisan Policy Center will hold a virtual discussion on June 4 moderated by former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN). Scheduled panelists: Alan Levine, Executive Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer, Ballad Health; Jennifer McKay, M.D., Medical Information Officer, Avera Health; and Kripa Sreepada, Health Policy Advisor, Sen. Tina Smith (D-MN).

Briefing for May 28, 2020

Survey shows big remote learning gaps for low-income, special needs students: Four out of 10 of the poorest U.S. students are accessing remote learning as little as once a week or less, according to a new survey from ParentsTogether, an advocacy group. By contrast, for families making more than $100,000 a year, 83% of kids are doing distance learning every day, with the majority engaged over two hours a day, the survey found.
Poll shows black and Latino Americans nearly three times more likely to know someone who died from COVID-19: Black Americans and Latinos are nearly three times as likely to personally know someone who has died from the virus than white Americans, according to a new ABC News/Ipsos poll. 30% of black adults and 26% of Latino adults in the country said they know a victim of the coronavirus who died either from the disease or from complications related to the virus. For white adults, the corresponding figure is 10%.
New bill would provide $50 billion in childcare support: Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) on Wednesday released the Child Care Is Essential Act, a new bill that would provide $50 billion in additional federal child care funding for states through the Child Care Development Block Grant program. A companion bill will be introduced in the U.S. Senate next week by Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA). The legislation follows a recent Center for American Progress analysis that shows the United States could lose nearly 4.5 million licensed child care slots as a consequence of the coronavirus pandemic.
‘I need the food’: USDA food box program beset by delays: A small company in San Antonio has highlighted flaws in a U.S. Department of Agriculture program to feed the needy during the pandemic.
The farm-to-food bank movement aims to rescue small-scale farms and feed the hungry: Across the country, grassroots and regional programs are paying farmers to harvest surplus crops to meet skyrocketing demand. This story comes from a special collection curated by the Solutions Journalism Network.
2.1 million new unemployment claims filed last week: The ten-week total for claims reached 40.8 million, suggesting about a quarter of the workforce has lost jobs during the coronavirus pandemic.
School doubles as home for some San Francisco students: A wave of evictions could put even more pressure on the San Francisco school district, which already is facing a budget deficit that could more than double to $86 million next year even as officials work to teach, serve and feed students and their families with schools closed during the pandemic.
Concerns grow that immigrants are avoiding coronavirus testing and care: Many immigrants are avoiding testing and coronavirus treatment amid worries about being deported or hurting their chances of becoming legal permanent residents. State and national policymakers say they’re increasingly concerned about the public health implications of this — especially as the case data starts to show the disproportionate toll that the novel coronavirus is taking on Latinos across the United States. “We are seeing a reduction in services used by the Latino population,” Milwaukee’s Health Commissioner Jeanette Kowalik told the Washington Post in an interview.
New Orleans sanitation workers strike for hazard pay, better protection: On May 5, trash collectors in New Orleans went on strike, demanding $15 an hour, $150 a week in hazard pay, proper personal protective equipment, and that broken trucks be fixed. “A garbage truck worker is a frontline worker,” Jerry Simon, who works as a hopper — riding on the back of the truck and hopping off to collect garbage — told The Appeal. “We feel like we need some kind of compensation for us dealing with this.”
Tenants fear mass evictions as moratoria expire: As the coronavirus pandemic began to take a grip on the country in March, dozens of states passed eviction moratoria that protect tenants from being removed from their homes. But landlords in most states are still able to file eviction notices, meaning some tenants only have until the day their state’s eviction orders expire until they have to leave their homes.

  • In Texas, where the pause on eviction proceedings ended on May 19, a local CBS affiliate found that landlords in North Texas had filed at least 1,111 eviction petitions between March 16 and early May
  • Eviction protections expire in Iowa on May 28
  • Residents in Florida could begin facing eviction as soon as June 3, and in Washington state eviction protections are lifted on June 4
  • In California and New York, eviction protections expire in late June

Life at the intersection: Older adults need a response to COVID-19 grounded in equity: Justice in Aging offers key principles for caring for older adults in the wake of the pandemic:

  • Denounce racism
  • Acknowledge heightened needs
  • Be culturally competent
  • Include outreach strategies for various languages and cultures

Briefing for May 27, 2020

Hunger program’s slow start leaves millions of children waiting: Child hunger is soaring, but two months after Congress approved billions to replace school meals, only 15 percent of eligible children had received benefits. The program, Pandemic-EBT, aims to compensate for the declining reach of school meals by placing their value on electronic cards that families can use in grocery stores. But collecting lunch lists from thousands of school districts, transferring them to often-outdated state computers and issuing specialized cards has proved much harder than envisioned, leaving millions of needy families waiting to buy food.
The federal government fiddles while coronavirus ravages Native Americans: Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Rep. Deb Haaland (D-NM) write in the Washington Post: “For generations, the federal government has failed to honor its promises to Native American people. Now, COVID-19 is ravaging Native communities, killing young people and elders alike, and devastating tribal economies.” 
COVID-19 infections and deaths among Native Americans are being underreported: While 80 percent of state health departments are recording race as part of their COVID-19 statistics, around half are not including Native-Americans and are simply labeling them as “other.”
An avalanche of evictions could be bearing down on U.S. renters: The economic downturn is shaping up to be particularly devastating for renters, who are more likely to be lower-income and work hourly jobs cut during the pandemic.
What it’s like to live in the Philadelphia airport during the pandemic: A photo essay from the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Does the Earned Income Tax Credit really deliver? As millions of low-wage workers lose their jobs, and potentially their tax benefits, a debate over the EITC’s merit has taken on new importance.
For some, $600 unemployment benefit makes it hard to go back to work: Economists at the University of Chicago estimate that more than two-thirds of the workers on unemployment insurance are making more in jobless benefits than they did at work — in some cases two to three times as much. It’s a stark reminder of just how low the pay is in many hard-hit industries such as restaurants and retail.
Returning to childcare: Guidance on preparing for childcare transition during COVID-19: Suggestions from the Bipartisan Policy Center on how childcare centers and parents can help children transition back once lockdown restrictions ease.

  • Communicate early and often
  • Help children learn new health and safety requirements
  • Make building trust a top goal for all
  • Prepare to be flexible

Summer youth programs are a mix of open, closed and virtual: Across the country, summer youth programs have been disrupted by the COVID-19 outbreak. Program leaders are making decisions about whether to open their programs and how to run them differently if they do. “Everyone is working on this. Everyone is trying to figure this out,” said Aaron Philip Dworkin, Chief Executive Officer of the National Summer Learning Association.

Lockdown at Terminal Island Federal Prison curbs deadly coronavirus outbreak: The worst known COVID-19 prison outbreak occurred at the California facility. An aggressive testing program helped tame the crisis. This story comes from a special COVID-19 collection from the Solutions Journalism Network.

When waters rise, how will schools stay open? With at least 6,444 schools at high risk of flooding and families retreating to safer ground, educators struggle to serve those who stay.

The coronavirus is threatening diversity in academia: Colleges are laying off their adjunct faculty, who mostly are women and people of color.

The Black Belt needs more than $1,200 to survive the pandemic: Lindsey Hallingquest, of the Economic Security Project, writes in Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity that in future coronavirus relief legislation “direct payments of $2,000 a month with automatic triggers tied to economic conditions, in combination with economic interventions like rent and mortgage suspension, will give Americans necessary support for the current economic crisis while also setting the stage to improve millions of lives once the public health crisis is over.”

Pandemic may be lowering completion rate of college financial aid applications: According to myFutureNC, North Carolina’s 2019 completion rate of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid was 64%, ranking the state 19th in the country. So far this year, however, only about 50% of high school seniors have completed the FAFSA.

Briefing for May 26, 2020

White House looks at Opportunity Zone expansion in wake of pandemic: The White House is looking at extending a tax break for investments in certain low-income neighborhoods as it tries to find ways to address the devastating impact of the coronavirus on communities of color. A provision in the 2017 tax cut law allows investors to defer and lower their capital gains taxes through 2026 if they invest their profits into designated “opportunity zones” — areas struggling with high unemployment and low wages. White House adviser Ja’Ron Smith told NPR that the administration is looking “at ways that we can extend the legislation.”

On the front lines of the pandemic, many grocery store workers are in the dark about risks: Despite the pandemic, grocery stores generally are not required to publicly disclose coronavirus cases involving employees or report them to local health departments. As states now move to reopen, many grocers are being criticized by health officials, lawmakers and store employees for not being more open with the public and their own workers about outbreaks within their stores. The Washington Post interviewed about 40 current and former employees at more than 30 supermarkets who alleged that the companies had not disclosed cases of infected or dead workers, retaliated against employees who raised safety concerns, and used faulty equipment to implement coronavirus mitigation measures.

State reopening plans collide with shuttered child-care centers: Without day care, people — mostly women — can’t go back to work.

‘I thought I could wait this out’: Fearing coronavirus, patients are delaying hospital visits, putting health and lives at risk.

U.S. slow to collect complete data on race, ethnicity of coronavirus patients, civil rights group charges: Months into the pandemic that has killed black Americans at a disproportionate rate, the head of a civil rights group said the federal government is still unable to provide more complete data about testing, infection and mortality rates by race and ethnicity. Kristen Clarke, Executive Director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said she was disappointed in the response from Robert R. Redfield, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which cited uneven reporting by state health departments as the reason for the lack of more comprehensive data. Clarke told the Washington Post she is “deeply concerned” about the lack of information “because it means that officials are shooting in the dark when it comes to making important policy decisions like when do you lift the stay-at-home orders or when do you tell employers it’s safe for employees to come back to work.”

Black coronavirus patients land in hospital more often, study finds: Among those seeking medical care for COVID-19, black patients were hospitalized at nearly three times the rate of white and Hispanic patients, according to an analysis of patient records from a large health care system in Northern California. The disparity remained even after researchers took into account differences in age, sex, income and the prevalence of chronic health problems that exacerbate COVID-19, like hypertension and Type 2 diabetes.

How the coronavirus exposed health disparities in communities of color: To assess which communities could be more vulnerable to COVID-19, the Washington Post analyzed chronic health and social vulnerability estimates. The analysis looked at census tracts with above-average rates of six chronic health indicators: heart disease, diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and obesity. The analysis uses data provided by PolicyMap, a data analytics company, who used methods developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to estimate health risk across the nation, and data from the CDC’s social vulnerability index. Social vulnerability is defined as a community with a risk of being severely affected by a hazardous event like a natural disaster or disease outbreak.

Crowded housing and essential jobs — why so many Latinos are getting coronavirus: Latinos, who make up about 10 percent of the population in the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia, make up about a third of the coronavirus cases in the region, according to a Washington Post analysis of jurisdictions that track the race and ethnicity of patients with COVID-19.

Study finds communities hard-hit by COVID-19 are also suffering economically: “If it wasn’t bad enough that the health impacts from this crisis were falling on these neighborhoods — poor neighborhoods, communities of color — but it’s also the economic impact,” said Jonathan Bowles, a researcher with the Center for an Urban Future. “Lack of income because of the economic crisis is disproportionately affecting the very same neighborhoods that are seeing the brunt of the health crisis,” Bowles said. “It really is a double whammy.”

Public youth sports concerned about long-term COVID-19 impact: The future of publicly funded youth sports is a growing concern in the sea of problems created by the COVID-19 crisis. Community leaders see a struggling economy leading to lower municipal tax revenue and private donations that help fund their organizations. Rising unemployment means fewer families will be able to afford their programs, and fewer slots because of social distancing measures is another financial blow. “This is an existential threat to the youth sports landscape as we know it,” said Wayne Moss, the Executive Director of the National Council of Youth Sports.

Will coronavirus spike the rise of poverty among retirees? David Rae writes in Forbes: “America was already facing a retirement-planning crisis long before the coronavirus shut down the world economy. Layoffs may lead many people nearing retirement age to throw in the towel and just retire early. Being forced to retire early during the coronavirus recession will likely have a devastating effect on their incomes during retirement. It could also lead to a spike in the rate of poverty among retirees.”

COVID-19 is driving students away from community colleges — perhaps forever: “I have, in the 25, 30 years I’ve been in education, never seen such stresses on students,” said Pam Eddinger, President of Bunker Hill Community College in Boston. “The huge switch online, which holds great opportunity for us in the future, was one of the worst things I’ve ever experienced.”

Forty-three states have record unemployment: See where your state ranks.

They lost their jobs and insurance in the pandemic. Now they’re slipping through the Texas health care safety net: Texas had the highest uninsured rate of any state before the outbreak. It’s also among a minority of states that have declined to expand Medicaid coverage to people with incomes near or below the poverty line.

At hotels for homeless in Seattle, fear and frustration outside but relative calm within: In an approach being tested across the West Coast, King County paid to put the equivalent of an entire downtown shelter into a hotel to protect the residents — some of the most medically fragile and mentally ill people living without homes — from COVID-19. At this hotel, the emergency move appears to have also demonstrated, at least through data from the first month, the benefits of an approach that houses people before asking them to get an income or agree to change their behavior.

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