Briefing for November 8-12, 2021 on COVID-19 and Low-Income Communities

Briefing for November 8-12, 2021 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 a news service summarizing relevant stories, which you can read below. As of September 13th, the team has switched this effort from a daily format to publishing every Monday.

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Briefing for November 8, 2021

With cases piling up, eviction crisis unfolds step by step: The New York Times reports: “In Indianapolis, eviction courts are packed as judges make their way through a months-long backlog of cases. In Detroit, advocates are rushing to knock on the doors of tenants facing possible eviction. In Gainesville, Fla., landlords are filing evictions at a rapid pace as displaced tenants resort to relatives’ couches for places to sleep or seek cheaper rents outside the city. It is not the sudden surge of evictions that tenants and advocates feared after the Supreme Court ruled in August that President Biden’s extension of the eviction moratorium was unconstitutional. Instead, what’s emerging is a more gradual eviction crisis that is increasingly hitting communities across the country, especially those where the distribution of federal rental assistance has been slow, and where tenants have few protections. ‘For months we all used these terms like eviction tsunami and falling off the cliff,’ said Lee Camp, an attorney who represents tenants facing eviction in St. Louis. But those simple terms missed the complexity of the eviction process and the lack of reliable statistics to track it, he said. ‘It was not going to happen overnight. Certainly it would take weeks and months to play out.’ And even now, experts say, the available numbers dramatically undercount the number of tenants being forced from their homes either through court-ordered evictions or informal ones, especially as rising rents make seeking new tenants increasingly profitable for landlords.” 
COVID long-haulers struggle to work amid labor shortage: CNN looks at the potential impact of so-called “long haul COVID” on the nation’s ongoing labor shortage: “Dr. Greg Vanichkachorn and his team at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, are treating and studying post-COVID syndrome. ‘Work issues have been one of the most significant problems we’ve encountered in our patient population,’ Vanichkachorn said. ‘Up to about 40% of our patients are not back to work several months after their infection.’ Looking at data from their clinic and several other studies, they’ve noticed a troubling trend. ‘We estimate that approximately 1.3 million individuals are out of work right now due to long haul COVID symptoms,’ he said. Though it’s just an estimate, Vanichkachorn says that could mean more than a million Americans are out of the labor force as the country deals with a worker shortage and more than 10 million open jobs as of August. ‘I think it’s entirely plausible,’ Mark Zandi, chief economist of the economic research organization Moody’s Analytics, said about the estimate. ‘A lot of those jobs aren’t being filled because people are struggling with COVID,’ Zandi told CNN. ‘Long COVID is increasingly a significant headwind to the labor market, for businesses to get operations up and running, and, ultimately, for the broader economy to kick into high gear.'” 
Democrats’ spending bill would cover low-income uninsured adults — to a point: The New York Times reports from Albany, Ga.: “After giving up on their goal of creating a new Medicaid program to cover two million poor adults, Democrats are aiming to provide them with free private coverage as part of the party’s social policy bill. But there is a catch: The benefits would last only four years. Even with that expiration date, the legislation cannot come fast enough for people like Evelyn Davis, who suffered two heart attacks and has high blood pressure and diabetes. A former home health care aide, she lost coverage when she got divorced two years ago. She has chest pains and heart palpitations but said she cannot afford to see a cardiologist. ‘If I can’t get any medicine, I just get Tylenol PM when I sleep,’ Ms. Davis, 63, said, ‘and just pray to God when I wake up that I won’t be in pain.’ She is among an estimated 2.2 million American adults who lack insurance because they live in one of the 12 states where Republicans have refused to expand Medicaid, which is jointly financed by the federal government and states, under the Affordable Care Act. Too poor to qualify for subsidized private insurance through the Obamacare exchanges yet not poor enough for Medicaid, they navigate a byzantine system of charity care — and often skip care altogether.” 
Opposition to Medicaid expansion in the deep South follows a troubling tradition: The Center for Public Integrity kicks off a series looking at how Medicaid expansion — or the lack of it — has impacted two southern cities. A dozen states, including Mississippi, Texas, and six others in the South, have refused to expand Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act. As a result, the twelve are turning down federal financial incentives and are not helping their working poor afford health insurance. So far, 38 states and the District of Columbia have approved Medicaid expansion. According to Laura Harker, a senior policy analyst with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a think tank dedicated to reducing inequality, many of these states “have a long history of policy decisions, based on racist views of who deserves to get health services.”  
Strong majority of likely voters support increased funding for WIC: A new nationwide poll released by the National WIC Association (NWA) and Alliance to End Hunger reveals strong, bipartisan support for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) among likely 2022 voters. Conducted by ALG Research/McLaughlin & Associates in September 2021, the study confirmed voters would support increasing funding to WIC and further reforms to expand access, which currently serves about 6.2 million mothers, babies, and young children nationwide. Specific findings include: 

  • 83% support the WIC program, including 75% of Republicans, 79% of independents, and 91% of Democrats. 
  • 76% support expanding the value of the WIC food package, including 62% of Republicans, 76% of independents, and 90% of Democrats. 
  • 76% support extending postpartum eligibility to ensure women have more consistent nutrition support, including 62% of Republicans, 72% of independents, and 91% of Democrats. 
  • 74% support modernizing WIC services, including telehealth/remote appointments and online shopping options, including 60% of Republicans, 68% of independents, and 89% of Democrats. 
  • 65% support expanding overall eligibility so that more families can qualify, including 48% of Republicans, 56% of independents, and 83% of Democrats.  

Alabama takes two-generation approach to child care: Some may have been surprised to read a recent syndicated column by progressive icon and former Texas Agriculture commissioner Jim Hightower with the headline: “Can the Rest of the Nation Follow Alabama?” But the subject of Hightower’s praise was the state of Alabama’s much-lauded, two-generation approach to providing quality child care for all of its residents. Faye Nelson, deputy commissioner for Alabama’s Department of Human Resources, spoke with Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity recently about the state’s child care approach and the challenges it faced during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

How are children’s issues portrayed by the media? The FrameWorks Institute and Leading for Kids analyzed a sample of 186 current and historical print news articles to identify framing strategies used to discuss children’s issues. The resulting report highlights seven key findings and recommendations for those striving to elevate public discourse on — and action for — children’s health and wellbeing. The research shows that when reporting on children’s issues, the media tends to: 

  1. Hold government responsible for children’s wellbeing 
  2. Use a “broken systems” narrative that portrays government as ineffective in safeguarding children’s wellbeing 
  3. Portray children as vulnerable and in need of protection 
  4. Rarely discuss racial equity in relation to children’s issues 
  5. Avoid talk about child development 
  6. Focus on the effects of policy on parents, not kids 
  7. Compare the United States unfavorably with other countries on children’s issues 

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