Briefing for September 8-11, 2020 on COVID-19 and Low-Income Communities

Briefing for September 8-11, 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 11, 2020

A pandemic, a motel without power and a potentially terrifying glimpse of Orlando’s future: Greg Jaffe for the Washington Post: “The aging motels along Florida’s Highway 192 have long been barometers of a fragile economy. In good times they drew budget-conscious tourists from China, South America and elsewhere, whose dollars helped to pay the salaries of legions of low-wage service workers; the people who made one of the world’s largest tourism destinations — “the most magical place on earth” — run. In tough times, the motels degenerated into shelters of last resort in a city where low-income housing shortages were among the most severe in the nation and the social safety net was collapsing. Now they were fast becoming places where it was possible to glimpse what a complete social and economic collapse might look like in America. The pandemic had heaped crisis on top of crisis. The 2008 housing collapse and recession had caused the tourist market to tank at the exact moment the foreclosure crisis was forcing thousands of homeowners and overburdened renters from their homes. Struggling motel owners began renting rooms to the only customers they could find: those who had no place else to go.” 

Voting is a challenge for the homeless  Advocates are trying to make it easier: While homeless advocates are registering people to vote in a polarizing election held during a pandemic, they are also registering a population traumatized by, in some cases, years on the streets. It’s these barriers to voting that Pathways to Housing DC, which has registered more than 60 voters since launching the voter drive last month, is trying to overcome. Some are battling mental illness and addiction. Others are illiterate — or simply might not have a pair of reading glasses they need to fill out a form. 

Immigrant-led food startups face uphill climb in pandemic: Immigrant food entrepreneurs are among the most vulnerable to disruptions caused by the coronavirus, according to Leticia Landa, deputy director of the food incubator La Cocina in San Francisco. “Anybody who doesn’t have a lot of savings isn’t going to be able to invest in the business in the way that it’s going to need to [adapt],” she says. “Businesses that are just getting started, or families that are in business together and there’s not any outside source of financial stability, that’s also challenging.” 

COVID-19 has exposed the consequences of decades of bad housing policy: The recent order from the Centers for Disease Control that prevents most evictions for renters through the end of the year does nothing to address the root cause of this eviction crisis — a half century of federal retrenchment from providing low-income housing and the rejection of traditional multifamily public housing as a viable and effectual anti-poverty program. Very low-income Americans have been left at the mercy of landlords and private rental companies, and COVID-19 has exposed the consequences

How economic factors are putting people of color more at risk for coronavirus: Yamiche Alcindor reports for the PBS NewsHour: Black and Latino Americans are suffering disproportionately from the coronavirus pandemic — both in terms of health and economic harm. These groups are three times as likely to contract the virus as white Americans and nearly twice as likely to die from it. Meanwhile, people of color are feeling the recession keenly, with many reporting job or income loss.

Fed shapes Black wealth, Black employment and Black lives: A renewed focus on economic inequality in the U.S. is putting pressure on the Federal Reserve to more explicitly examine how its policies affect specific racial groups. 

Rural officials should release race-specific COVID-19 data, study says: A new study in The Journal of Rural Health calls on state and county health departments to release more race-specific information on COVID-19 cases to create a fuller picture of the pandemic’s impact on people of color in rural areas. The study, published September 7, finds that rural COVID-19 mortality rates are highest in counties with the largest percentages of Black and Hispanic people. Researchers compared county mortality rates and consulted county demographic data, but did not calculate race-specific mortality rates. 

Newsom weighs aid for undocumented Californians weathering pandemic without safety net: California lawmakers have sent two bills to Gov. Gavin Newsom that would provide modest financial assistance to undocumented Californians: one would provide immediate relief with $600 in grocery assistance, and the other would let undocumented tax-filers receive the state’s tax credit for low-income workers starting next spring.  

Briefing for September 10, 2020

Black college enrollment down in coronavirus summer of 2020: College attendance among Black students dropped a whopping 8% during the summer of 2020, compared with the summer of 2019, according to the first “Stay Informed” report published in September 2020 by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. Low-income students of most races and ethnicities — Black, white and Latino — were far less likely to attend a summer term than they had in the past, as measured by enrollment declines at community colleges, rural institutions and for-profit schools. By contrast, higher-income students were more inclined to hit the books during the summer of COVID-19 — just the opposite of their low-income peers. 
Addressing the childcare crisis: The New Deal Forum’s Renewing America Task Force is out with a series of policy suggestions to begin to address the childcare crisis that has only been made that much worse by the pandemic. Some key principles: 

  • Reframe childcare as a community and economic issue, and as a public good rather than a service that should be controlled by the market.  
  • Prioritize resources for children 3 and under — historically, preschools have received a lot of investment, leaving licensed childcare slots for younger children even more scarce.  
  • Begin collecting state- and city-level data on childcare availability, costs, and other metrics, or improve data collection to make it more easily reportable.  
  • Partner with Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies and other organizations to bridge gaps, connect families with care, and more efficiently distribute state grant money and other funds.  
  • Set an example by improving childcare options or support for government employees.
  • Support providers and the childcare workforce directly, with assistance reopening during the pandemic and improving quality of care while keeping costs affordable.
  • Supplement federal support for families with targeted funding.
  • Make high-quality providers more accessible for low-income children, and incentivize providers with many low-income children to improve quality.
  • State governments should use flexibility around federal program payouts to improve how they reach parents and providers.

How to save restaurants: Priya Krishna writes for The New York Times: “It’s unfathomable to imagine a country without restaurants, but even more unfathomable to imagine a successful economic recovery that doesn’t include restaurant employees. As such a large slice of the American work force, they are not only essential to growth. How we support them will be a litmus test for whether the United States can ever build a fair, equitable economy.” 

COVID-19’s disproportionate impacts are not a story about race — They’re a story about racism: Connecticut emergency medicine physician Jennifer Tsai writes for Scientific American: “In this pandemic, data are taking a back seat to racial prejudice. The irrational racist surveillance that leads to the brutalization of Black Americans in their neighborhoods is spilling into public health and medical care. Fueled by a president who continues to blame a faceless China for the pandemic’s miseries, citizens and caregivers of color face fear and disdain. Simultaneously, re-emerging myths of genetic racial differences scrutinize bodies of color as sources of disease, all while obscuring the deadly climate of injustice that hastens breathlessness. America’s racism is rampant, and it’s shaping the response to this pandemic to the detriment of us all.” 

Pandemic has plunged more people of color into food insecurity: In 2018, about 20% of Black households and about 16% of Hispanic households were food-insecure, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s food insecurity survey. About 8% of white households were. But the figures have increased since the pandemic. Black and Hispanic households have been disproportionately affected, according to research by the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University. The institute relied on a Census survey that was taken between April 23 and May 19. According to the research, 36% of Black households and 32% of Hispanic households said they were food-insecure during that time period. That’s compared to 18% of white households. 

‘Little kids can’t speak for themselves’: Philip Fisher, Philip H. Knight Chair and Professor of Psychology at the University of Oregon, directs the RAPID-Early Childhood survey, which is an ongoing survey of families with young children that assesses child, caregiver, and family well-being and needs and provides immediate feedback to communities and partners during the coronavirus crisis. Fisher spoke to Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity about the work of the RAPID-EC survey

As COVID-19 hit Georgia meatpacking plants, the industry tried to shift blame: Nationwide, there have been outbreaks at nearly 500 meat processing plants, with more than 41,000 workers infected, according to numbers compiled by the Food and Environmental Reporting Network (FERN). At least 200 workers have died. Yet Georgia, the top poultry producing state in the country, has only rarely released data on COVID-19 cases in the state’s meat processing plants.  

Briefing for September 9, 2020

‘I don’t want to live like this forever’ — A 14-year-old’s story of ‘hidden homelessness’ during the pandemic: Even before the coronavirus pandemic hit, almost 12 million children in America were estimated to be living in poverty — a burden disproportionately borne by kids who are Black or Latino. Kyah is one of them. Her story unfolds in Growing Up Poor in America, a new FRONTLINE documentary that follows children in three families — one Black, one mixed-race and one white — in the battleground state of Ohio as they struggle to make ends meet. 

Poll — Half of residents in four largest U.S. cities report financial struggles during pandemic: The survey, released Wednesday from NPR, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, explores COVID-19’s impact on households in the nation’s four largest cities: New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago and Houston. At least half the households in all four cities report facing serious financial problems in the midst, and because, of the pandemic. The study, conducted July 1-Aug. 3, found many households’ savings are drained. It also showed many are struggling to pay rent, pay major bills and ensure the household has enough to eat. More than half are reporting serious problems caring for their children. 

Small businesses are losing confidence in their survival: Small businesses have largely exhausted their federal funding and are starting to lay off workers, with many worrying about having to shut their doors for good, according to a new survey from Goldman Sachs provided exclusively to Axios. 

Majority-Black nursing homes suffer higher death rates during pandemic: Nationwide, the coronavirus has taken a heavy toll on African Americans, a disparity that continues to alarm health researchers, lawmakers and community leaders as the country charts a path toward reopening. Experts say they are particularly concerned about majority-Black nursing homes, where a confluence of factors — an elderly population living in close quarters, often with shortages of staff and protective gear — have left African Americans already at increased risk of infection even more vulnerable. 

Will the coronavirus exacerbate inequality for women entrepreneurs? According to new data released by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, women-owned businesses have been more heavily impacted by the coronavirus, and they are less likely to anticipate a strong recovery in the year ahead. Despite the pandemic, the majority of male entrepreneurs still rank the health of their business as “good,” while less than half of women entrepreneurs felt the same, a 22% decline since January. 

The Trump administration is trying to make transgender discrimination legal again: Former HUD secretaries Julian Castro and Shaun Donovan, and singer Cyndi Lauper, co-founder of True Colors United, write in the Los Angeles Times: “The need for universal access to safe, stable housing may have never been more urgent. The grave health risks faced by those experiencing homelessness are only made more severe by this pandemic. Los Angeles, which has one of the highest rates of unsheltered homelessness in the country, has seen numerous COVID outbreaks among unhoused communities, and experts predict that Los Angeles may be facing an increase in homelessness of up to 16% due to COVID. The most marginalized among us are left particularly vulnerable to both the virus and its lasting economic impact. This is particularly true for transgender Americans, who are disproportionately afflicted by poverty and homelessness even in better years. But instead of strengthening support for the trans community, the Trump administration has taken steps to weaken it. In July, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, under the leadership of Secretary Ben Carson, proposed a dangerous new rule that would allow taxpayer-funded emergency shelters to discriminate against transgender people.” 

It’s not easy to get a coronavirus test for a child: As schools reopen, many parents still can’t find a test nearby, impeding the fight against the virus. 

The Navajo Nation and White Mountain Apache Tribe chase down a virus: Both the White Mountain Apache and nearby Navajo Nation in Arizona experienced some of the country’s worst infection rates, yet both began to curb their cases in mid-June and mid-July, respectively, due to their existing health department resources and partnerships, stringent public health orders, testing and robust contact tracing. “We’ve seen a significant decline in cases on the reservation at the same time that things were on fire for the rest of the state,” said Dr. Ryan Close, an epidemiologist and physician at Whiteriver Indian Hospital, an Indian Health Service facility. This story is part of a special COVID-19 collection curated by the Solutions Journalism Network. 

Briefing for September 8, 2020

Harvest of shame  Farm workers face coronavirus disaster: Six months into the pandemic, according to a POLITICO analysis, farm workers appear to be victims of the worst of the COVID-19 crisis. For several weeks, many of the places that grow the nation’s fruits and vegetables have seen disproportionately high rates of coronavirus cases — a national trend that, as harvest season advances in many states, threatens already vulnerable farmworkers, their communities and the places they work. From Oregon to North Carolina, counties with the highest per capita rates of coronavirus are some of the top producers of crops like lettuce, sweet potatoes and apples. In California, six out of seven of the state’s most COVID-ridden counties, per capita, are in the Central Valley, which produces the lion’s share of America’s fruits and vegetables. 

Census response in poor and minority neighborhoods is undermined by coronavirus: A USA TODAY analysis finds response rates fell in tracts with high concentrations of Black or Latino residents and places with limited internet. 

Working from home poses hurdles for employees of color: Without the networks and encounters that offices provide, companies must foster the visibility of Black and Hispanic workers, diversity experts say

The great divide: Only eight miles apart, the Streeterville and Englewood neighborhoods of Chicago have a life-expectancy gap of roughly 30 years. The pandemic has made that disparity even worse. 

Why researchers are worried about stress and COVID-19: Could stress be another preexisting condition that makes coronavirus infections worse

The service economy meltdown: As companies reconsider their long-term need to have employees on site, low-wage workers depending on office-based businesses stand to lose the most

New data show negative economic impact of reopening on LGBTQ people: The Human Rights Campaign Foundation released new data outlining how the first phases of reopening have mostly failed to mend the devastating economic impact of COVID-19 on the LGBTQ community while giving rise to new economic problems. Released in partnership with PSB Insights, the research builds on prior reports showing the negative economic impact of the pandemic on LGBTQ people, especially LGBTQ people of colortransgender and LGBTQ people of color and Black LGBTQ people.  

Landlords receive millions in coronavirus relief while quarantined students have to pay for vacant apartments: As the coronavirus pandemic closes college campuses across the country, students — and their parents — are still stuck paying rent for vacant apartments even as many of those property owners receive pandemic assistance. Some landlords near campuses aren’t allowing students to break their leases and aren’t passing any of the assistance they receive onto their students. 

How to make telehealth more permanent after the pandemic: Suggestions on how to continue the growing reliance on telehealth from Nicol Turner Lee and Niam Yaraghi at the Brookings Institution: 

  • Broadband networks (especially 5G) will be critical. 
  • Support nationwide interoperability. 
  • Institute new fraud detection methods. 
  • Continue lenient rulemaking and favorable policies. 
  • Leverage telehealth to address health disparities. 

NYC cut 40,000 youth summer jobs when they were needed the most: New York’s Summer Youth Employment Program had its budget slashed because of the pandemic. For those who didn’t get a slot, it was yet another letdown in a difficult and disappointing year. 

Alabama rated worst state to work in during pandemic: Alabama is the worst state in the nation to work in during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a survey that rates the states based on their policies to protect working families. Oxfam America, a nonprofit agency dedicated to ending poverty, used 27 different data points in three areas of state assistance: worker protections, healthcare protections and unemployment support. 

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