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.
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.
In late December, COPA leaders celebrated the unanimous decision by the Monterey County Board of Supervisors to invest nearly $5 million in a six-month Community Outreach & Education pilot program targeting neighborhoods hardest hit by COVID-19. This program will hire 100 community health workers -- trusted people from community-based organizations -- starting January 1, 2021. These trained workers will help educate families, as well as connect people who test positive with needed services, including temporary housing for quarantine or isolation, cash assistance, food, medical care and information about employment rights. Workers will target the hardest hit Census tracts.
The program proposal, created by COPA’s “Breaking the Chain” team, was based on more than 2,000 conversations with Monterey County families impacted by COVID-19, and is similar to other programs in California. In the midst of the pandemic, leaders from COPA’s 28 member institutions launched a listening campaign in which they heard stories about the need for rental assistance; access to testing, tracing, and supported isolation; and access to education and distance learning resources.
Allies spoke in support of the proposal including Building Healthy Communities, Center for Community Advocacy, California Rural Legal Assistance, the Monterey County Farm Bureau, Catholic Diocese of Monterey and the Hospitality Industry Association.
Monterey County Board of Supervisors Approves Nearly $5 Million for COVID-19 Program, The Californian [pdf]
Monterey County Supervisors Approve Pilot Project to Help Those Disproportionately Impacted by COVID-19, KION [pdf]
Supervisors Approve Nearly $5 Million to Put Trusted Health Workers into Neighborhoods Suffering Under Covid, Monterey County Weekly [pdf]
County Supervisors to Consider $2.3 Million to Fund Pilot Program Targeting Neighborhoods Hit Hardest by Covid, Monterey County [pdf]
COPA Press Release
Grocery store workers belonging to United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7 made their case Wednesday for reinstating hazard pay and safety protocols during COVID-19...
Union leadership, Coloradans for the Common Good faith leaders and the family member of a worker killed by COVID-19 [jointly called] a virtual press conference to address the conditions grocery store employees throughout the state are facing.
“Leaders of CCG are here today out of our concern for grocery store workers who are essential workers and have been a particular risk during this pandemic," Marilyn Winokur of CCG said. "We believe we need to do everything in our power to protect them and our communities while they continue to work.”
Winokur noted that CCG wrote letters to both Steve Burnham, president of King Soopers, and Todd Broderick, president of the Denver Division of Albertsons Companies, to ask for a meeting to discuss the concerns surrounding grocery store employees.
Both CCG and UFCW Local 7 noted the two main asks are for stores to reinforce hazard pay and safety measures to keep workers, customers and communities safe.
[Photo Credit: CBSN Denver]
'From Heroes to Zeros': Grocery Store Employees Seek Return of Hazard Pay as COVID-19 Ramps Up, Pueblo Chieftain [pdf]
Colorado Grocery Store Workers Ask for Reinstated Hazard Pay, KOAA News55 [pdf]
Grocery Worker Union Wants Reinstatement of Hazard Pay, CBSN Denver [pdf]
Press Conference Video, [pdf]
Led by Coloradans for the Common Good, the organizations convened virtually last week, concerned primarily about the roadblocks that stand in the way of families being able to fully access the meals that Jeffco Public Schools has been distributing this fall. Problems with scheduling and transportation mean some kids and their family members may be going hungry.
“Our schools, for better or worse, have become a central part of our social safety net, and our social safety net is already deeply frayed in our country,” said Reagan Humber, a member of the group’s steering committee and pastor at House for All Sinners and Saints in Denver. “And so kids are depending even more on that food.”
Members of Coloradans for the Common Good worry that the district doesn’t operate enough distribution sites across communities so that all families in need can pick up food nearby, including those who are limited by transportation. They’re just as concerned that the sites don’t offer the kind of flexible hours that cater to families’ schedules.
Humber would like to see Jeffco Public Schools bus food across the community, noting that drivers have agreed to transport meals to students so that they don’t have to walk miles to pick up food. He is also urging the district to ensure a school in every town it serves offers meal distribution and that every neighborhood serving a population of students who attend a Title I school has nearby access to school meals.
[Photo Credit: Brandan Robertson/Colorado Sun]
About a Third of Jeffco Students Qualify for Subsidized Meals. There Are Fears Many Can't Access Them During Coronavirus, Colorado Sun [pdf]
Thousands of Arizonans could lose their homes in January after the CDC’s eviction moratorium expires at the end of the year. Rabbi John Linder with the Arizona Interfaith Network, along with leaders from the local Episcopal, Catholic and Presbyterian community, called on Gov. Ducey and the state’s elected leaders to impose an eviction moratorium in Arizona.
"This is not just a public health issue, this is a moral issue," Linder said. "So we gather today as leaders of communities of faith to call on our elected officials to meet the gravity of the moment. If a vaccine can be created in record time, we can work collectively to keep the most vulnerable in their homes."
At the beginning of the year, there were about 7,500 people experiencing homelessness in Maricopa County, and public, private and faith-based homeless service resources were already strained. Reverend Jennifer Reddall, the Episcopal bishop of Arizona and member of the Valley Interfaith Project, says the religious community is not equipped to handle a six-figure surge of newly homeless individuals. She led the Interfaith network’s plea to Gov. Ducey to impose another eviction moratorium as the pandemic continues to tear through Arizona.
Linder said it's entirely within the governor's power to take proactive action to solve this crisis.
“It’s not as though resources are not available," he said. "Resources are available, it’s a matter of political will now. We’re not going to be passive here. This is a crisis as every story has made clear."
Nearly A Quarter Million Arizonans Could Be Evicted In January. Religious Leaders Want Ducey To Do Something About It., NPR/KJZZ [pdf]
Audio Clips from NPR/KJZZ Story:
Testimony by Rabbi John Linder
Testimony by Bishop Jennifer Reddall
After 'Coloradans for the Common Good' and educator union leaders engaged their membership around the impact of the digital divide on teachers and students, they organized virtual summits to publicize what they learned and to begin to build a constituency for change.
Behind the scenes, state lawmakers began crafting legislation to address some of those frustrations, ultimately passing a bill that will provide $20 million in grants for districts to broaden internet access to their students. The monies are part of a state stimulus package developed in a special legislative session.
At its third virtual summit on the subject, the short-term stimulus was announced and celebrated. However, CCG leaders understand that the grants won’t ensure every young Coloradan has reliable access to the internet and plan to continue working for longer-term support.
[Photo Credit: Valerie Mosley/Colorado Sun]
Tens of Thousands of Colorado Kids Lack Internet Access. State Stimulus Dollars Will Only Offer a Short-Term Fix, Colorado Sun [pdf]
Colorado Special Session: Lawmakers Approve Millions to Support Child Care Providers and Remote Learners, Chalkbeat Colorado [pdf]
Access to Remote Learning a Challenge in Rural Communities, Colorado Springs Indy [pdf]
Before the coronavirus pandemic thrashed the country, Maria Ramirez and her husband made plenty of money to afford their modest two-bedroom apartment in northeast Dallas.
Now they owe more than $4,000 in back rent and late fees.... They applied for aid without success.
With tens of thousands of similar stories across North Texas, housing advocates are worried that money set aside by the state and local governments to help people pay for housing is not reaching the most vulnerable....
What’s more, advocates are worried that millions of dollars will be sent back to Washington because local and state governments will not meet the Dec. 30 congressional deadline to spend the money.
"When people can't pay their rent, there are all sorts of consequences,´ said Josephine Lopez Paul, the lead organizer for Dallas Area Interfaith, a nonprofit that advocates for working families. "We should feel shame that we're not able to meet the tremendous amount of need in our city. It's becoming a shell game of shifting pots of money."
The interfaith group estimates as much as $20 million of the city's rental assistance programs, which first began in April, has not been spent."
"For four months, millions of these funds have wafted around the corridors of City Hall while each day vulnerable families are threatened with evictions," said Jon Lee, a retired pastor of King of Glory Lutheran Church, demanding the city ease restrictions and get money to residents now.
[Photo Credit: Vernon Bryant/Dallas Morning News]
North Texas Has Millions in Unspent Aid For Renters During the Pandemic, Yet 75% of Applicants are Denied, Dallas Morning News [pdf]
On Nov. 3, 77 percent of San Antonio voters approved Proposition B, Ready to Work SA, and 73 percent approved Proposition A, Pre-K for SA. These outcomes clearly indicate San Antonio’s desire to invest in its most important resource, its people.
COPS/Metro and our sister organizations in the [Texas] Industrial Areas Foundation, or IAF, made it possible for both to be on the ballot by authoring the state’s Better Jobs Act in 2001. This law allows cities to invest sales tax dollars in early childhood education and job training. Passing Ready to Work SA is the latest in a series of victories in COPS/Metro’s decades-long strategy to invest in human development. Others include the creation of Project QUEST, Palo Alto College and the San Antonio Education Partnership.
COPS/Metro created a program that blossomed into a nationally recognized model because of its extraordinary results for its participants. We named it Project QUEST.
The wraparound services, tutoring and counseling provided for every single participant produced remarkable results. On average, 90 percent of Project QUEST participants graduate and are placed in higher paying jobs with benefits.
COPS/Metro’s leaders delivered more than 50,000 voters in support of Ready to Work SA because we believe in investing in people. This commitment has propelled the city of San Antonio into a national leadership role for COVID-19 recovery.
[Photo Credit: Kin Man Hui/San Antonio Express-News]
Commentary: Accountability Key to Workforce Program, San Antonio Express-News [pdf]
When the pandemic struck, it was hard for anyone to know what to do in the face of a whole new kind of uncertainty. Community organizer Maria Elena Manzo did what she knew how to do best: She organized. Manzo works for COPA, Communities Organized for Relational Power in Action. She and her COPA colleagues began early in the pandemic meeting twice a week via Zoom to figure out how they would help mostly Latino workers in the hospitality and agriculture sectors get through the crisis.
Through COPA’s connections, mainly through the group Mujeres en Acción, Manzo and others have made more than 1,600 phone calls since March. They listen to the stories people tell and write them down.
“There were all these stories of how people didn’t know where to go to get tested, or once they got tested they didn’t know what to do or where they could go,” Manzo says. “The list goes on and on.”
COPA volunteer Adriana Molina lost her 65-year-old father to Covid-19 in September. The family believes he contracted the virus at work in the fields.
“Sometimes we asked him to stay home, but he says, ‘I’m fine. I need to work for my rent,’” Molina recalls him saying before his illness.
COPA organizers contacted the County Board of Supervisors and the Health Department over the summer, “so they can see where the gaps are,” Manzo says.
Since then, they’ve met with Health Officer Edward Moreno and Epidemiologist Kristy Michie strategizing how COPA and the Health Department could work together. From there, a wider group with other county representatives and representatives from agriculture and hospitality was formed that they call “Breaking the Chain of Infection.”
Because of the state’s Health Equity Metric, identifying gaps matters to everyone in Monterey County who wants to reopen. As COPA organizers have been working, so have leaders in the Monterey Peninsula’s hospitality sector, whose fate is now tied to controlling the virus in farmworker communities in the Salinas Valley.
[Photo Credit: Parker Seibold/Monterey County Weekly]
The Only Way Monterey County Reopens During The Pandemic is if All Voices Are at The Table to Find Solutions, Monterey County Weekly
The San Juan Diego Catholic Parish in northwest Dallas was a flurry of activity Saturday afternoon.
The nonpartisan political nonprofit is one of several groups in Dallas and across the state working to get Latinos to the polls. The goal is to boost candidates who are more likely to support progressive policies that would expand health care and police reform as well as establish drivers licenses for immigrants without documentation.
The group has targeted six statehouse races in North Texas where they hope to energize voters to pick candidates who support their agenda.
Margarito Garcia Jr., 32, is one of those volunteers making phone calls, despite the fact he cannot vote in this election. He lives in the U.S. under the DACA program, which was put in place by President Barack Obama to give young immigrants brought here as children the ability to remain in the country.
“A citizen isn’t someone who is born here, but someone who cares about the community they live in,” he said about his work in the political process.
When Latino voters come out, he said, it reminds candidates that they are part of this country.
“Latinos have a voice,” he said. “Politicians need to know that when they make decisions, we are important and that we exist.”
[Photo Credit: Jason Janik/Staff Contributor]
Latino Voters Could Make a Difference in National and North Texas Races, Dallas Morning News [pdf]
“The unwarranted provocation, aided and abetted by fringe group extremists, is an affront to the democratic process," said clergy and religious leaders of the Arizona Interfaith Network. Prior to the election, they reminded "all citizens that it is important to vote, regardless of your party affiliation, and to vote with confidence."
Arizona Election Updates: More Ballot Results Expected Friday Morning, Arizona Republic [jump to 5:15 update] [pdf]
Letter to the Editor by Pima County Interfaith: Count Every Vote, Arizona Daily Star [pdf]
VIP/AIN Statement Against Unwarranted Electoral Provocation, Valley Interfaith Project
Vote With Confidence- Arizona Runs Election Well, Arizona Capitol Times [pdf]