Briefing for September 14-18, 2020 on COVID-19 and Low-Income Communities

Briefing for September 14-18, 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 September 18, 2020

Housekeepers face a disaster generations in the making: Ghosted by their employers, members of the profession are facing “a full-blown humanitarian crisis — a Depression-level situation.” 72% of them reported that they had lost all of their clients by the first week of April, according to a survey by the National Domestic Workers Alliance. The fortunate had employers who continued to pay them. The unlucky called or texted their employers and heard nothing back. 

CDC: Roughly 75% of children who die from COVID-19 are minorities: The coronavirus killed at least 121 people under 21 years old across the U.S. between Feb. 12 and July 31, according to a study published Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of those young people, roughly 3 in 4 were Hispanic, Black, American Indian or Alaska Natives, suggesting the virus is disproportionately killing young people of color, and especially those with underlying health conditions

Unable to pay rents, small businesses hope for a deal from their landlords: Nearly 98,000 businesses have closed permanently since the pandemic took hold, according to an analysis by Yelp. And the fate of many that remain open increasingly hinges on their ability to renegotiate their leases. A recent survey by Alignable, a social network for small-business owners, found that a quarter of those polled had fallen behind on their rent since the shutdowns began. For those in the fitness and beauty industries, the number rose to nearly 40%. 

In some distressed neighborhoods, D.C. teachers become emergency responders: Schools have long operated as hubs for community services, feeding hungry students and providing crucial health services, especially for low-income families. They are a place where students can access mental health resources. Those resources are more crucially needed now, as families face twin crises — the coronavirus pandemic and racial injustices epitomized by the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis over the summer. “Our students are confronted with two pandemics,” said Kenya Coleman, senior director of school mental health for D.C. Public Schools. “We have to understand that our students are seeing this and they’re dealing with this.” 

COVID-19’s impact on Hispanic families is much worse than expected, new poll finds: According to a poll published this month from NPR, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a large majority of Latino households (72%) said they’re facing serious financial problems due to the pandemic, compared to 60% of Black households and 55% of Native American households. Asian and white households report facing the same issue at drastically lower rates, 37% and 36% respectively. 

Seven thousand foster kids are coming back to school amid COVID-19 risks in West Virginia  Their caregivers often have little say about how: Now that schools are back in session, Yvonne Lee, lead social worker for the Healthy Grandfamilies Project at West Virginia State University, is hearing from grandparents with chronic health conditions who are worried about their health and that of their grandchildren. “It’s going to be like a petri dish for the virus,” she said. She’s also hearing from grandparents who feel their grandkids need to go back to school. “They’re scared of the children staying out of school, getting left behind, and not getting the education that they need.” In Appalachia, West Virginia is the state where children are most likely to live with seniors over 65, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation analysis. 9% of West Virginia’s school-age children live with seniors 65 and older, making it one of the top eight states in the country for percent of children living with seniors. 

Trump administration is pushing to make it harder for trans people to take shelter during the pandemic: The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is pushing to roll back legal protections barring shelter programs that accept HUD grants from discriminating on the basis of gender identity or expression. First implemented in 2012 and improved in 2016, the Equal Access Rule was welcomed by trans and housing advocates alike and continues to enjoy widespread support among domestic and sexual violence prevention programs. Despite this consensus, HUD Secretary Ben Carson is proposing to roll back the EAR — a move advocates and service providers are already opposing through public comments

The cities where gentrification and coronavirus collide: A look at the crises impacting people of color in Miami, Oakland, and Brooklyn, where residents fight to protect their communities

Briefing for September 17, 2020

Pandemic isolation has killed thousands of Alzheimer’s patients as families look on from afar: Beyond the staggering U.S. deaths caused directly by the novel coronavirus, more than 134,200 people have died from Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia since March. That is 13,200 more U.S. deaths caused by dementia than expected, compared with previous years, according to an analysis of federal data by The Washington Post. Overlooked amid America’s war against the coronavirus is this reality: People with dementia are dying not just from the virus, but from the very strategy of isolation that’s supposed to protect them. In recent months, doctors have reported increased falls, pulmonary infections, depression and sudden frailty in patients who had been stable for years. 
COVID-19 and student performance, equity and U.S. education policy: Emma Garcia and Elaine Weiss of the Economic Policy Institute offer a three-pronged plan for addressing the adverse impacts of COVID-19 on education and rebuilding stronger:

  • Relief: Give schools urgent resources so that they can provide effective remote instruction and support at scale during the pandemic. 
  • Recovery: Provide extra investments to help students and schools make up lost ground as they return to in-school operations. 
  • Rebuilding: Redesign the system to focus on nurturing the whole child, balancing cognitive with socioemotional skills development and ensuring that all children have access to the conditions and resources that enhance learning and development. 

‘Beyond negligent’ Census workers describe logistical nightmare as deadline approaches: The Census Bureau announced last month that it would end all of its counting efforts on Sept. 30, a month earlier than previously expected. And although a federal judge recently ordered the bureau to temporarily stop following its plan to wind down operations early, a leaked internal Census Bureau document sent to the House Oversight Committee and obtained by NBC News this month warned that the agency already has far less time and fewer resources to review the data than in previous years. The internal document warns that the “highly compressed” timeline, as well as limits on activities like door-knocking and data review, will lead to less accurate results. 

Death in Dalhart: After a farmworker in the rural Texas Panhandle died of complications from COVID-19, his family and federal investigators want answers. 

Navajo Nation has reduced COVID-19 cases by taking public health advice seriously: Earlier this year, the Navajo Nation Reservation was a major hot spot for coronavirus cases. Now, it’s seen a day without a single positive case, marking a major turning point in its battle against the virus. Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez attributes that to Navajo leaders and citizens heeding the advice of public health officials. “All we did as leaders and public health professionals is we accepted [the] recommendations from the CDC, NIH,” Nez told NPR. “We took one step more, putting those recommendations into public health emergency orders, making them law.” 

Low-income students are dropping out of college in alarming numbers: As the fall semester gets into full swing in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, schools are noticing a concerning trend: Low-income students are the most likely to drop out or not enroll at all, raising fears that they might never get a college degree. Some 100,000 fewer high school seniors completed financial aid applications to attend college this year, according to a National College Attainment Network analysis of Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) data through August. 

12 million people still haven’t received unemployment benefits: From Talk Poverty: “About 50 million adults have applied for unemployment benefits in less than six months, compared to about 37 million in 18 months during the Great Recession. What’s worse, almost 12 million people who applied for benefits have not received any. Poorer homes that were already living paycheck-to-paycheck were least likely to receive support: One third of households with incomes under $25,000 that applied for unemployment insurance haven’t received benefits. And, once again, people of color were less likely to receive the unemployment benefits they applied for: 30% of Black adults and 31% of adults of two or more races or other races who filed for unemployment insurance haven’t gotten their benefits. In comparison, 24% of Hispanic or Latino adults, 22% of white adults, and 20% of Asian adults also haven’t received any unemployment benefits.” 

Two takes on the 2019 Census data on poverty: To mark Tuesday’s release of the 2019 income, poverty, and health insurance coverage data from the U.S. Census Bureau, Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity invited reactions and analysis from across the ideological and policy spectrum. This analysis is from H. Luke Shaefer, PhD, the Hermann and Amalie Kohn Professor of Social Policy at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy and Director of Poverty Solutions at the University of Michigan. This analysis comes from Scott Winship, a resident scholar and director of Poverty Studies at the American Enterprise Institute.  

Briefing for September 16, 2020

Coronavirus most likely to kill minority children, new report says: Coronavirus is disproportionately killing minority children in the U.S., especially those with other underlying health conditions, according to a federal report that shows how devastation from COVID-19 among Black and Hispanic adults has carried down to their offspring. Children are much less likely than adults to contract coronavirus or fall seriously ill because of the infection, health records show, though vulnerability varies based on demographics. 
More Americans lacked health insurance even before the pandemic hit, Census reports: The ranks of the nation’s uninsured continued to grow last year, even before the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic that’s devastated the economy, new federal data show. Nearly 30 million Americans went without health coverage at some point in 2019, up by roughly 1 million from the previous year, according to new U.S. Census Bureau data. The figures show continued losses in health insurance under the Trump administration, slightly eroding coverage gains made following the passage of Obamacare a decade ago. There were some positive economic signs in the census report. Median household income leapt nearly 7% to a record-high $68,700 in 2019, while the poverty rate ticked down 1.3 percentage points to 10.5%. 
Prison inmates are twice as likely to die from COVID-19 than those on the outside, new study finds: The COVID-19 infection and mortality rates are significantly higher in prisons than in the general population, though the severity differs widely among states, a new study found. The COVID-19 mortality rate in state and federal prisons is twice as high as in the general population after adjusting for sex, age, and race/ethnicity of those in prisons, according to an analysis by Kevin T. Schnepel, an assistant professor of economics at Simon Fraser University. The infection rate is even more stark for inmates. The rate of COVID-19 cases in prisons is nearly 7,000 cases per 100,000 people in prison, more than four times the rate of cases per 100,000 people in the general population, Schnepel found. The analysis is based on data from The Marshall Project, the CDC, the U.S. Bureau of Justice and other sources. 
Racial disparities in flu vaccination  The potential impact on delivering a COVID-19 vaccine: Analysis of seasonal flu vaccination rates provides some insight into the potential barriers and issues to be addressed as part of COVID-19 vaccination efforts. Experts recommend an annual flu vaccination for all people age 6 months and older as the primary way to prevent sickness and death caused by the flu, and Healthy People 2030’s national health objectives set a goal of vaccinating at least 70% of this population. Despite being widely recommended and fully covered as a preventive service under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), data show that the overall flu vaccination rate remains low and that there are persistent racial disparities in uptake of the vaccine. Analysis of flu vaccination rates shows persistent gaps and racial disparities in flu vaccination among adults. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that the flu vaccination rate generally has been increasing over time but remains below the target level, with lower rates of vaccination among Black and Hispanic individuals compared to White individuals. These gaps and racial disparities in vaccination are concentrated among adults. During the 2018-2019 flu season, less than four in ten Black (39%), Hispanic (37%), and AIAN (38%) adults were vaccinated compared to nearly half of white adults (49%).
New study shows formerly red-lined neighborhoods are more at risk for coronavirus: People living in formerly red-lined neighborhoods are more susceptible to having COVID-19 complications, according to a new study by the National Community Reinvestment Coalition. In collaboration with researchers from the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee and the University of Richmond, the NCRC study found that neighborhoods where discriminatory lending practices once limited access to credit for Black, immigrant and poor Americans have higher rates of COVID-19 comorbidities, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes and obesity. 
How cities are closing the digital divide among students: Cities across the country are launching dozens of initiatives aimed at chipping away at the digital divide. With many school systems returning again to online instruction, they’re hoping to start the new year strong and allay fears that COVID-19 will only deepen an already troubling racial academic achievement gap. 

  • Last week, Washington, D.C. launched one of the most ambitious such efforts, called Internet for All. It’s aimed at paying 12 months of internet bills for 25,000 low-income families and is paid for with $3.3 million from the federal CARES Act.  
  • Philadelphia’s PHLConnectED initiative, which is a partnership with Comcast, will supply free broadband for public-school families who don’t already have it through June 2022. Residents need only call 211 to sign up
  • Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s Chicago Connected program is credited with getting more students online when school started last week. About 84% of students logged in on the first day of class — a lower attendance rate than usual for the first day of in-person school, but much higher than virtual schools saw in the spring. 

For many Chicago communities, there is no COVID safety net so teachers are stepping in: In Chicago, teachers across the city created mutual aid groups to help students and their families pay rent, buy groceries, or cover medical bills. By using their existing networks, social media, and apps like Venmo, groups have been able to raise thousands of dollars. One mutual aid group from Roberto Clemente Community Academy in Humboldt Park raised $34,288 in about six months. “If we don’t help, who will?” said Fatima Salgado, a special education teacher at Lara Academy. This story is part of a special COVID-19 collection curated by the Solutions Journalism Network. 

Migrant workers leave WA farms, risking poverty over coronavirus: Worried about a lack of COVID-19 safety precautions, visiting workers say they are prioritizing their lives in the midst of the pandemic

College towns feel financial impact of pandemic: College towns across the Ohio Valley face the same economic uncertainty as local governments with limited choices to recoup revenue shortfalls. Money from students, events and employees is not going to come in like it did before the pandemic.  

Briefing for September 15, 2020

The failure of Congress to pass another relief bill has had a devastating and predictable impact on minority groups: Congress has tightened the stimulus spigot as unemployment for people of color remains high.
Emails show the meatpacking industry drafted an executive order to keep plants open: Hundreds of emails offer a rare look at the meat industry’s influence and access to the highest levels of government. The draft was submitted a week before Trump’s executive order, which bore striking similarities. 
Medicaid rolls swell as pandemic’s economic toll continues, straining state budgets:  From Amy Goldstein for the Washington Post: “The unlikely portrait of Medicaid in the time of coronavirus looks like Jonathan Chapin, living with his wife and 11-year-old daughter in a gated community in the Sierra Nevada foothills. Chapin had a thriving Reno, Nev., production company, We Ain’t Saints, booking bands, managing weddings, hosting 600-strong karaoke nights at the Tahoe Biltmore Lodge & Casino. When the novel coronavirus came, forcing northern Nevada’s entertainment industry to go dark, he said, ‘everything I knew all disappeared.’ The family’s health insurance gone along with their income, Chapin applied online for Medicaid on April 1, the day after his wife’s job ended and three days before he needed a molar pulled. By the time his mouth was throbbing, Chapin and his family had become early additions to Nevada’s Medicaid rolls — rolls swollen now to record levels while pandemic-inflicted fiscal wounds have damaged the state’s ability to afford the safety-net health coverage.” 
Larger percentage of Black and Hispanic Americans report testing positive for COVID-19: Some groups of Americans are more likely than others to say they have personally tested positive for COVID-19. For example, larger shares of Hispanic (7%) and Black Americans (5%) report testing positive for COVID-19 or its antibodies than their White (2%) or Asian (1%) counterparts. 
Unemployment among young workers during the pandemic: Stephanie Aaronson and Francisca Alba of the Center for American Progress provide evidence that the labor market prospects of young workers have been particularly hard hit by the current economic downturn, especially young Black and Hispanic workers and young workers with lower levels of education. Their findings are consistent with research done by their colleagues in the Metropolitan Policy Program who find that the most vulnerable workers are disproportionately young and have less formal education
Healthcare coverage during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond: The Shriver Center on Poverty Law offers six things that Congress and the Trump administration could do right now to create more equitable healthcare and access

  • The Trump Administration should immediately enact a Special Enrollment Period (SEP) so that people can enroll in comprehensive coverage through the federal health insurance Marketplace ( regardless of whether they have recently lost job-related coverage. 
  • The federal government should temporarily boost advanced premium tax credits (APTC) for all eligible to no less than the lowest cost Bronze plan for the remainder of the calendar year. 
  • Congress and the Administration should assure the states that the federal government will reimburse them for COVID-19 testing, treatment and related services (including a vaccination when available) for all uninsured individuals — including immigrant and undocumented populations. 
  • Congress should require all plans to guarantee coverage for all medically necessary care related to suspected COVID-19. 
  • Congress should provide substantially more fiscal relief to the states to better avert the looming budget shortfalls that states will face.  
  • Congress and the Administration should provide further increases in Medicaid funding to states through matching funds paid according to the Federal Medical Assistance Percentages (FMAP)

Pandemic, unpaid bills test utilities’ social justice vows: Corporate vows to fight for racial and social equity are being tested as many state disconnection protections fade and fears of unpaid bills and spiraling customer debt climb. Utility companies are trying to balance pandemic leniency with for-profit business models in the midst of two ongoing U.S. crises — the reckoning that followed the death of George Floyd, a Black man, at the hands of police in Minnesota and the economic devastation tied to COVID-19. For many people of color facing the threat of losing electric service, the crises are intertwined. Nationwide, utility past due balances are multiplying as unemployment remains high and customers struggle to make ends meet. 

Local community media flourishes on cable during crisis: A survey of cable-access channels across the U.S. shows that these small institutions played a big role in helping communities respond to the pandemic. They helped fill the void in technology expertise, public events, news coverage, and more. 

California farmworkers say they didn’t get masks during wildfires: Even as the state distributed millions of N95 masks, many farmworkers say they didn’t receive them during recent wildfires. Few file complaints, fearing employer retaliation. 

Briefing for September 14, 2020

Mental health care was already severely inequitable then the coronavirus pandemic came: A new report from Azza Altiraifi and Nicole Rapfogel at the Center for American Progress lays out the existing barriers to accessing affordable and affirming mental health services and considers the impact of COVID-19 on an already strained and inequitable mental health system. It also recommends that local, state, and federal governments take the following actions: 

  • Provide an immediate increase in funding to Medicaid providers and in-need communities. 
  • Increase funding for peer support and community-based services. 
  • Address the social determinants of mental health.
  • Commit to permanently funding these policies. 

BIPOC entrepreneurs have been hit hard by the pandemic but they’re also giving back as they fight to save their businesses: Entrepreneurs who are Black, Indigenous or People of Color shoulder an extra layer of economic uncertainty, an increased risk of dying from COVID-19 and a personal stake in conversations about systemic racial inequity that have rocked the country. Yet despite those challenges, or perhaps because of them, many are finding that community aid can be a key part of a pivot to survive the pandemic — a move that’s both sincere and strategic

59% of U.S. parents with lower incomes say their child may face obstacles in digital learning: Communities across the United States are facing challenges of remote learning as K-12 schools have shifted to online classes or been forced to go remote after students or staff tested positive for COVID-19 early in the term. Many of these schools faced similar problems in the spring. A new analysis of Pew Research Center data collected in early April finds that 59% of parents with lower incomes who had children in schools that were remote at the time said their children would likely face at least one of three digital obstacles asked about. Overall, 38% of parents with children whose K-12 schools closed in the spring said that their child was very or somewhat likely to face one or more of these issues. In addition, parents with middle incomes were about twice as likely as parents with higher incomes to report anticipating issues. 

How the pandemic is deepening the digital divide for students of color: According to the Alliance for Excellent Education, 30.6% of Black households with one or more children age 17 or younger lack high-speed home internet — affecting over 3.25 million Black children. NYC Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams tells Yahoo Finance that he is all too familiar with the digital divide along racial lines. “It’s no surprise that any issue that’s affecting the community, you’ll see the Black and Brown community getting hit harder. So, it was COVID, homelessness, security, all the things that we see magnified. And with remote learning, unfortunately, many of the communities don’t have access to the same resources, whether it’s the hardware that’s needed or the internet service that’s needed.” 

Texas schools see steep decline in students getting free meals: Nearly 3.65 million Texas students were eligible for free or reduced-price school meals last year, according to the Texas Department of Agriculture. Data for the current school year is not available yet, but tens of thousands more students will likely be eligible this year as the number of families qualifying for unemployment and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits are at record highs, experts said. But some Texas school districts say they’re feeding far fewer students than they did before the pandemic hit. Pflugerville Independent School District, just outside of Austin, is serving nearly 10,000 students a week, compared with 125,000 at the same time last year. In Premont ISD, a rural district in south Texas, roughly 50 of the 200 students doing remote learning are getting their grab-and-go meals. Houston ISD used to serve 250,000 meals a day. Now the number hovers around 30,000. 

People of color are missing from COVID-19 vaccine trials: Black and Latino populations are disproportionately underrepresented in vaccine trials. Scientists and researchers are working to have them participate in the COVID trial, but a history of mistreatment doesn’t help. 

Six months of the coronavirus in Black America: Emergency physician Uché Blackstock talks to Slate about why the virus has been a perfect storm in Black communities. 

The loss of football in Mississippi could eliminate one path out of poverty for some players: While the majority of Mississippi’s 138 public school districts have pushed forward with fall athletic seasons, 10 have bucked that trend, heeding the advice of public health officials and canceling fall activities. And these 10 school districts have a lot in common: All are among the lowest-performing in the state, all are overwhelmingly poor and all but one have a student body that is at least 93% Black. As a result, some players and coaches argue that a decision that should protect students is, instead, taking opportunity from those who need it the most

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