Briefing for October 25-29, 2021 on COVID-19 and Low-Income Communities

Briefing for October 25-29, 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 October 25, 2021

Dems weigh ditching Medicare expansion and paid leave in 11th-hour talks: Politico reports that congressional Democrats are “haggling over whether to drop two of the most popular elements of their social spending bill as negotiations reach the zero hour, according to a half-dozen sources close to the discussions. While high-level talks on the $1 trillion-plus package are ongoing, lawmakers, staffers, advocates, and lobbyists said that a plan to expand Medicare with dental, vision, and hearing benefits for tens of millions of seniors — as well as a pitch to guarantee paid family and medical leave to all U.S. workers — is now in danger of getting cut from the bill entirely. Democratic sources addressed the current status of the talks candidly on condition of anonymity, amid conflicting reports from those involved that speak to the closely guarded and sensitive nature of the back-and-forth as the party pushes for a deal in the next few days. President Joe Biden and Democratic leaders are racing to lock in centrist Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) without alienating other major players, including Medicare-expansion proponent Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). One senior Democratic aide said discussions on Medicare and paid leave were ‘in flux’ as negotiations continued through the weekend. The White House and Senate leadership aides, meanwhile, denied that the provisions were on their way out. ‘This is untrue, on both counts,’ said Andrew Bates, a White House spokesperson. The threat to these two centerpieces of the bill comes as Democrats push for an agreement on a framework for the broader social spending measure as soon as possible. Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer have said they want a deal by the end of this week, though Manchin and the White House still don’t see eye to eye on a topline number for the bill; Manchin has consistently said he supports $1.5 trillion.” 

Child Tax Credit splits Democrats: From Politico: “Democrats’ signature achievement — their expansion of the Child Tax Credit — is suddenly a major headache. Lawmakers had already been contending with quixotic demands by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) to undo changes to the break Democrats pushed into law only months ago. But word that the White House is now proposing a one-year extension of the initiative — far shorter than what most lawmakers had contemplated — threatens to become a bigger problem, even as Democrats scramble to work out their differences on the overall reconciliation package. Many Democrats, who have lofty ambitions for the provision, immediately pushed back against the White House proposal. ‘Big mistake,’ said House Appropriations Chair Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.). ‘Not good for the country.’ It would be a surprising casualty of Democrats’ push to slim down their next big legislative package — one that would put much of their initiative at risk. Should Republicans win control of either chamber of Congress next year, they could kill much of Democrats’ expansion of the provision without even having to take a vote by simply allowing it expire. Not just that. The administration proposal threatens to subject Democrats to awkward questions about why they would only extend their biggest legislative achievement thus far, one they’ve spent months trumpeting, for a single year.” 

New survey data raises questions about expanded CTC:Angela Rachidi of the American Enterprise Institute writes that new data from a long-term longitudinal survey of working-class adults found that less than half of Child Tax Credits recipients reported spending a majority of the benefit and only 45% supported making the expansion permanent. “If the goal of the expanded CTC payments is to help families cover childrearing expenses, our survey results suggest they are not well targeted because a sizeable share of families reported that they saved the payments or that the payments were not that important in meeting their day-to-day expenses. The results also show that most adults do not support making the CTC expansion permanent, and many have concerns that the payments will keep people from working.” 

Where are the workers? Cutoff of jobs aid spurs no influx: The Associated Press reports: “Earlier this year, an insistent cry arose from business leaders and Republican governors: Cut off a $300-a-week federal supplement for unemployed Americans. Many people, they argued, would then come off the sidelines and take the millions of jobs that employers were desperate to fill. Yet three months after half the states began ending that federal payment, there’s been no significant influx of job seekers. In states that cut off the $300 check, the workforce — the number of people who either have a job or are looking for one — has risen no more than it has in the states that maintained the payment. That federal aid, along with two jobless aid programs that served gig workers and the long-term unemployed, ended nationally Sept. 6. Yet America’s overall workforce actually shrank that month. ‘Policymakers were pinning too many hopes on ending unemployment insurance as a labor market boost,’ said Fiona Greig, managing director of the JPMorgan Chase Institute, which used JPMorgan bank account data to study the issue. ‘The work disincentive effects were clearly small.’ Labor shortages have persisted longer than many economists expected, deepening a mystery at the heart of the job market. Companies are eager to add workers and have posted a near-record number of available jobs. Unemployment remains elevated. The economy still has 5 million fewer jobs than it did before the pandemic. Yet job growth slowed in August and September. An analysis of state-by-state data by The Associated Press found that workforces in the 25 states that maintained the $300 payment actually grew slightly more from May through September, according to data released Friday, than they did in the 25 states that cut off the payment early, most of them in June. The $300-a-week federal check, on top of regular state jobless aid, meant that many of the unemployed received more in benefits than they earned at their old jobs.” 

Trump administration used its food program for political gain, congressional investigators find: From ProPublica: “A $6 billion federal program created to provide fresh produce to families affected by the pandemic was mismanaged and used by the Trump administration for political gain, a new congressional report has found. As a ProPublica investigation revealed last spring and as the new report further details, the Farmers to Families Food Box program gave contracts to companies that had no relevant experience and often lacked necessary licenses. The House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, which released its report last week, found that former President Donald Trump’s administration did not adequately screen contractor applications or identify red flags in bid proposals. One company that received a $39 million contract was CRE8AD8 LLC (pronounced ‘Create a Date’), a wedding and event planning firm. The owner compared the contract to his usual work of ‘putting tchotchkes in a bag.’ In response to the report, the firm’s CEO said in a statement, ‘We delivered far more boxes/pounds than many other contractors and as a for-profit company, we’re allowed to make a profit.’” 

The work of school and public health nurses has never been more important: Angie Millan, former president of the National Association of Hispanic Nurses from 2010 to 2012, and Donna Mazyck, executive director of the National Association of School Nurses, write for Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity that the pandemic has underlined the key role school and public health nurses play in many communities. “Because of the pandemic, policymakers have a greater appreciation for school and public health nurses. The American Rescue Plan has allocated $500 million to health departments to fund school nurses and $7.6 billion to expand and train the public health workforce. We urge state and local leaders across the country to invest those dollars immediately in expanding our services so we can ensure under-resourced communities are getting the support they need to be healthy and well. But this support must be sustained far beyond the pandemic. One way to bolster this effort: invest in collecting data on the health and well-being of communities and measuring the impact of school and public health nurse services on those outcomes. We need these data to understand what interventions work, what communities require, and where more support is needed. There is no one-size-fits-all solution — we must listen to and honor what each community and individual needs.” 

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