COVID-19 Action

The Covid-19 Pandemic is unlike any challenge we’ve faced in recent history. In order to slow the onset of the disease in our community, one of the few tools we have is social distancing. The very idea of distancing presents challenges for our institutions, our congregations, schools and associations, which all value human connection, not distance. As we face the prospect of widespread human suffering, both from the disease itself and the remedy, we need to understand and address what is happening in our community.

For 45 years, the West/Southwest IAF has used the practices and habits of organizing to assert the common good in public life. Over those years, in the midst of addressing serious issues, our best strategies have emerged when we work together.  As a network, we are employing these same strategies, sometimes with new technological tools, in the coronavirus crisis. 

Deploying a Relational Response to this Crisis:

  • Listen and caucus:
    Leaders in West / Southwest IAF Institutions are forming teams to listen and learn what is happening with people. Teams are then working with West / Southwest IAF Organizations to caucus safely via phone or online and reflect on what they’ve heard.
  • Conduct Research Actions:
    To understand this moment and how it is impacting us and our communities, West / Southwest IAF Leaders will meet, online and by telephone, with experts and public officials. 
  • Act strategically:
    West / Southwest IAF Organizations will act collectively on the local, state and federal level.

As West / Southwest IAF leaders and institutions, we are called to maintain the bonds of community and act decisively to respond to the needs of our families and neighbors.


THE LATEST


With the state of Louisiana continuing to reel from the impact of the coronavirus, parent and community leaders of Together Louisiana are calling on Congress to invest the funds needed to safely reopen schools.   Parents and teachers worry that students' return to in-person classes without necessary health and safety precautions will spread the virus further and expose people with pre-existing conditions to lethal risk.  

Building on online civic academies with experts including Tulane epidemiologist Dr. Hassig and Danielle Allen of Harvard University, leaders are turning to Congress to finance the cost of ensuring health safety at schools.  Measures proposed by Together Louisiana include funding to: 

  1. bridge the digital divide with school districts providing broadband internet free of charge for every public school student who needs it;
  2. hire more teachers, aids & tutors to decrease class size for districts where contagion levels make in-person school safe;
  3. make a "pod school" model accessible to low and moderate- income families, not just the wealthy, for districts where in-person school is *not* safe;
  4. build in-school testing capacity with same-day-results, so that EVERY child gets tested before school starts and periodically throughout the year;
  5. extra bus routes and drivers to allow for social distancing in transit; and
  6. create a school-based contact tracing operation, with adoption of masks and where appropriate, PPE.

Together Louisiana Calls on Congress to Provide Dollars to Ensure the Safe Reopening of Schools, Fox News


[Excerpts]

Whenever [TMO leader] Father Carmelo Hernandez makes a live appearance on his church's YouTube channel, he asks the same question each week: "Have you filled out your census form?"

The parishioners of St. Leo the Great Catholic Church in Houston are largely Hispanic, undocumented or of mixed status, living in one of the most diverse cities in the nation. Hernandez has spent months using his pulpit to demystify the census, disentangle the misinformation and quiet the fears that congregants have about being counted.

But news that President Trump signed a memorandum Tuesday that would exclude many of his parishioners from congressional apportionment is enough to scare them back into invisibility, he said. To them it is proof — against Hernandez's many efforts to the contrary — that the census is a trap and should be avoided.
....

Tuesday’s memo comes as the Census Bureau begins outreach to the nation’s hardest-to-count groups, including immigrants. If the government is seen as trying to disadvantage them, some might be less likely to respond to the survey, immigrant advocates said.

“This is an order designed to sow fear and mistrust between peoples and becomes a matter of life and death as the US battles a deadly pandemic,” said a statement from the Industrial Areas Foundation, a group that works with churches and organizers in the West and Southwest to educate and support minority communities.

....

Soco[rro] Perales, an organizer with Dallas Area Interfaith, said that organizers will continue to encourage immigrant families to cooperate with the Census.

“That information cannot be shared” with immigration authorities, she said. “Everybody still needs to be counted and it is still safe.”

[Photo Credit: Mandel Ngan, AFP / Getty Images]

Some in Texas Fear Trump Ban on Undocumented Immigrants in Census is Scare Tactic to Suppress CountWashington Post [pdf]


[Excerpt]

“When they want to ask for help from a nonprofit, and the staff only speaks English, they feel intimidated and don’t want to go on,” said Adriana Godines, a volunteer for Dallas Area Interfaith, a community group made up of religious congregations, schools and other nonprofits. “Even if I tell them that there will be no problem and they won’t ask for your Social Security, they prefer not to [ask for help].”

And even people who go to the justice of the peace courts, where eviction cases are heard, face similar hurdles.

“A lot of JP courts won’t have bilingual speakers,” said Lizbeth Parra-Davila, a housing fellow at the University of Texas School of Law. “Throughout Texas, that has been the case where I’ll call JP courts and they’ll say, ‘Yeah, we don’t have any Spanish speakers. We don’t have any Spanish interpreters.’”

Many undocumented people have been counting on their families, friends and churches.

Godines has seen homes with 12 people living together as people who self-evict move in with loved ones.

“It’s people of all ages. Kids, adults, sometimes senior citizens,” she said.

Godines has worked with families searching for rental assistance, and she said that funds are running low among nonprofit organizations that are allowed to serve undocumented immigrants.

“We want to do more, but we don’t have more resources,” Godines said. “But the little that we have in this community, we give it.”

Auxiliary Bishop Greg Kelly of the Catholic Diocese of Dallas explained that many priests and churchgoers have pooled together resources to pay for rent and food for undocumented migrants. But he, too, worries how long such resources will last.

“I don’t think we know yet how serious this is or how long it will last. When the city assistance program opened, the help available was overwhelmed in the first couple of hours,” Kelly said. “It could be a very lengthy situation. There’s so much uncertainty.”

[Photo Credit: Pu Ying Huang, The Texas Tribune]

DAI Raises Alarm That Undocumented Immigrants are Self-Evicting, Texas Tribune [pdf]


[Excerpt]

After distributing $1.2 million in May, the City of Austin’s Neighborhood Housing and Community Development Department announced Tuesday $17.75 million will be available to help renters in the second round of the Relief of Emergency Needs for Tenants (RENT) Program.

...

The city will use a lottery system to pick funding recipients, so for people like Carlota Garcia with Central Texas Interfaith, the worry is about those who won’t get picked.

“No longer are we able to borrow from friends or borrow from family, savings accounts have been pillaged, there is no cushion left for people,” she said. “This moment has the potential to become disastrous.”

She said the state and the federal government should create a plan that gets those in need help beyond the next six months.

“In order for us to be able to prevent families from falling into starvation, or worse, we really need to have the federal government step up, as well as the statewide government..."

[Photo: Footage by KXAN]

$17 Million to be Available Soon to Help Austin Renters Affected by COVID-19, KXAN Austin [pdf]

Joint Statement on Emergency Rental Relief, Central Texas Interfaith & Austin Apartment Association


[Excerpt]

What started out in 2015 as a $500,000 pilot from Monterey County became a bonafide $2 million health initiative to cover the uninsured in 2017. Esperanza Care gives basic healthcare to undocumented residents who are not covered by state or federal subsidized insurance, and was renewed by the&nbsp Board of Supervisors in the 2020-2021 county budget. Esperanza Care came about thanks to efforts of community groups like the local branch of Community Organized for Relational Power in Action (COPA).

COPA leader María Elena Manzo  says that Esperanza Care came out of the county trying to fill a major hole in Medi-Cal, and relentless advocacy work:

“We have it because we kept showing up. [The county supervisors] couldn’t ignore us,”

she says. Esperanza Care costs $2 million annually.

The Buzz 07.16.20, Monterey Weekly


After more than 1,200 leaders gathered online, signed petitions and pressed upon state legislators the importance of expanding access to state Earned Income Tax Credit benefits to undocumented taxpayers, California IAF leaders declared a victory for essential workers.

“We commend Governor Newsom and state legislators for investing in families, especially during a deficit year,” said Rabbi Susan Leider with Congregation Kol Shofar, Marin Organizing Committee. “We know they have faced enormous pressure to cut back, and instead they have paid in. This tax credit is not just a one time handout, but will help families year after year. Our leaders have been working for months to make sure our essential workers aren’t left behind, and this is a huge step forward.”

While not a full expansion to all undocumented workers, the tax credit will help tens of thousands of families with at least one child under the age of six who pay their taxes using an ITIN. Some households may receive up to $2,600 each year, depending on their income and family size, a significant investment in some of the most vulnerable families impacted by the pandemic.

Allies also celebrated the victory, including Senator Maria Elena Durazo:  “Under the states’ current economic situation, we are happy to be able to expand the Earned Income Tax Credit program for ITIN filing California families.... Thank you to the California IAF members for continuing to push for this inclusion, which United Way sees as a fundamental tool to move families out of poverty. With your continued advocacy, California will move out of this global pandemic, a more united and inclusive state.”

Faith, Community Leaders Praise Tax Break for Undocumented Workers Included in State Budget, The Pajaronian

California IAF Declares a Victory for Essential Workers, California IAF

No Relief HereVoices of Monterey Bay 

The Fight to Shore Up The Safety Net for Undocumented WorkersKAZU [pdf]

Immigrant Workers Face Economic Uncertainty During Covid-19 ShutdownAmerica Magazine [pdf]

Lideres Religiosos Piden Mas Apoyo Para la Comunidad Inmigrante, Telemundo Bay Area [pdf]  [VIDEO]


[Excerpts from Community Impact & Austin Monitor]

Travis County commissioners continue to consider a plan to offer electric automaker Tesla millions of dollars in economic incentives to build a factory in eastern Travis County, but with no date yet announced for a decision on the matter. If approved, Tesla could receive nearly $14.7 million in property tax rebates across 10 years with additional rebates in the 10 years following.

At the commissioners' June 30 meeting, Travis County community members again phoned in to voice support and concern regarding the proposed incentives. Several speakers encouraged the county to leverage for greater worker wage and protection commitments.

"We are skeptical. Numerous studies have shown that local governments rarely if ever receive benefits commensurate with what incentives cost, and, despite what they say, businesses rarely if ever give incentives much weight when deciding where to locate," said [Rev.] Michael
Floyd, who spoke on behalf of Central Texas Interfaith....

Floyd...pointed out that even at the average wage cited by Tesla, a family of three would still qualify for Travis County Rental Assistance. Currently, people earning 150 to 250 percent of the federal poverty income guidelines, or $31,580 to $54,300, qualify to receive rental assistance from the county due to an expansion in eligibility requirements resulting from Covid-19.

[Photo Credit: Courtesy Tesla via Community Impact]

Travis County Continues Tesla Deliberations With No Date Set for Vote on Economic Incentives, Community Impact [pdf]

County Development Incentive for Tesla Sees More Support, Austin Monitor [pdf]


As COVID-19 cases in North Texas rise again, Dallas Area Interfaith leaders and Catholic Auxiliary Bishop Gregory Kelly fight for relief for undocumented immigrants.

Says Bishop Kelly:  "They don't have any access to any kind of support -- any kind of stimulus support -- and so they have to work..."

Recovered Covid-19 Patient Lives with Survivor's Guilt, CNN


[Excerpt]

Friends, loved ones, and fellow union members gathered in Greeley Sunday to remember the six JBS employees who died due to COVID-19. The memorial event was held by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 7, which represents many employees at the meat packing plant.
The JBS plant in Greeley was home to one of the state’s earliest and largest coronavirus outbreaks. Since the beginning of April, 281 employees at the plant have tested positive for COVID-19 and 6 have died. According to state data, one employee from the corporate office also died....

“They had a name, they had a face, they had a heartbeat, they had a soul,” said Kim Cordova, president of UFCW Local 7. “We should never let anybody forget what happened to these workers.”

“Employers like JBS must answer for not protecting its vulnerable workers,” said Jorge Montiel, an organizer with the Colorado Industrial Areas Foundation. “City and county and state officials must answer for not ensuring our public health.”

‘They Had a Name, They Had a Face’: Union Honors JBS Workers Who Died Of Coronavirus, CBS Denver


[Excerpt below]

The most important part of this COVID-19 pandemic has been making sure our local hospitals have enough bed space for anyone who comes in.

Well, Spokane Alliance, a non-profit organization, is helping that by assisting people who test positive for COVID-19 before they need emergency care. To top it off, their work is all done over the phone and it is free thanks to funding from the Innovia Foundation and Washington State University.

When a person in Spokane County tests positive, they can opt-in to Spokane Alliance’s program.

If they do, they’ll be paired with a trained volunteer who calls them every day for about two weeks.

“It’s basically just a way to connect people in the community, and work towards alleviating the pressures and stress that covid has brought to our community,” Community Organizer Chloe Sciammas said.

They’ll make sure the infected person has everything they need while self-isolating, connecting them to food, housing and medical resources with help from county officials.

Many COVID-19 patients who need hospital care are there for oxygen support. That’s why each patient in the program gets a “pulse oximeter”, which tracks their oxygen levels as if they were in the hospital.

“We can do that for someone at home when we call them everyday, so when someone says ‘oh it’s 85’, then we know they need to get medical care,” Clinical Professor Dr. Luis Manriquez said.

[Photo credit: footage from KXLY]

Spokane Alliance Eases Stress on Hospitals, Community with COVID-19 Volunteer Effort, KXLY [pdf]

'Working During the Pandemic Has Been Beyond Stressful', Governor Inslee Met With Frontline Workers During Spokane Visit, KREM2 [pdf]

News and Updates on the Covid-19 Pandemic in Washington State, KUOW [pdf]


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