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Together Louisiana Demands Action from Congress to Safely Re-Open Schools

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

Together New Orleans Demands That Local Police Be Required to Release Body Camera Footage Upon Demand

Together New Orleans, in partnership with Together Louisiana, is calling on the City Council of New Orleans to change Police Department policy to allow for immediate review of body camera footage, on demand.  While a process does exist for footage release, it usually requires a public records request and internal process that often results in release of essential footage years after an event.

Together New Orleans Asks Council to Take Action on NOPD Body Camera Release PolicyWDSU

DAI, TMO, IAF Raise Alarm on Impact of Executive Order on Undocumented Immigrants


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]

DAI Raises Alarm That Undocumented Immigrants are Self-Evicting


“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]

Central Texas Interfaith & Austin Apartment Association Call for $100 Billion in Emergency Rental Relief


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

COPA Leverages $2 Million for EsperanzaCare - Healthcare for Low-Income Undocumented in Monterey County


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

As Tax Deadline Approaches, California IAF Celebrates Inclusion of Some Undocumented Families in State Tax Break Program

[Excerpts from various articles]

In initial talks with state legislatures, the organizers and leaders of Communities Organized for Relational Power in Action, or COPA were not too sure that the state would budge on who would qualify for California's Earned Income Tax credit, or CalEITC. The tax credit, is intended to give cash back to the poorest working families, but as Covid-19 hit it was clear the threshold to qualify for the credit was not reflective of who the poorest were in the state.

In COPA's eyes, structural change was needed in the form of extending the tax credit to more taxpayers, including undocumented workers. The monetary relief the state circulated to lessen the economic blow of Covid-19 was a one time payment of up to $500 per individual and the deadline to qualify for the aid ended in June 30. This is in to comparison to the Federal CARES Act which provide a one time payment of $1,200.


Faith and community leaders with the California Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF) celebrated a victory Tuesday after Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a budget that includes an expansion of the California Earned Income Tax Credit (Cal EITC) to undocumented workers with young children.

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 6 who pay their taxes using an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). Some households may receive up to $2,600 each year, depending on their income and family size.

According to IAF, undocumented immigrants represent 10% of the California workforce, and their labor has largely fallen into work deemed “essential” throughout the pandemic — in agriculture, food distribution and service, elder care and child care, among other occupations....

On May 5, more than 1,200 California IAF leaders, along with 10 Bishops and nine state legislators, convened on Zoom to press Newsom to expand the Cal EITC. More than 1,000 faith and community leaders signed on to a letter in support of the expansion, and in the thick of budget negotiations they organized hundreds of leaders to send letters to the governor and to the top leadership of the senate and assembly....

“We commend Gov. 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.”

[Photo Credit: Erika Mahoney, 90.3 KAZU]

Faith, Community Leaders Praise Tax Break for Undocumented Workers, Good Times by: Johanna Miller [pdf]

California Tax Breaks Extended To Undocumented Families, NPR, KAZU 90.3 [pdf]

California Approves a Tax Credit to More Low-Income Families, Including Undocumented Workers, Monterey County Now Weekly [pdf]


Changing What I Cannot Accept: An IAF Organizer's Story Of Understanding Mississippi Racism


....there was a moment when I had to fight back tears of rage as I listened to my son sobbing about an experience he had while playing with a white boy at a nearby park. The boy’s dad had seen the two together and called him over to tell him that he couldn’t play with Black kids. When my son tried to re-engage the boy, he told him what his father said. He was 7.

I was angrier than ever.

By this time, I had begun dealing with my anger through my broad-broad organizing with Working Together Jackson, the local affiliate of the Industrial Areas Foundation, which engages in the building of power through institutions. Having returned to the South, I had started to understand my work as an organizer as a reckoning of sorts.

Indeed, I was here working to deal with the same evils that drove my family away from here long ago, “evils” that now present in the form of disinvestment in poor Black communities, failing to adequately fund public schools, failing to expand Medicaid (“because … Obama”), and other issues that keep Mississippi in last place.

State Flag: ‘Hell Did Not Freeze Over’

For 126 years, that evil was embodied in the state flag. And while many try to claim otherwise, indisputably, the battle flag has racist origins. It was a constant reminder of the collective pain, trauma and the systematic subjugation of Black people, my people.

So for me, bringing down the flag marks a new season for Mississippi. And it gives me a renewed sense of hope for Mississippi, because if we can do this now, so much more is within our grasp. When the votes came in on Sunday, I exhaled both literally and spiritually. A weight was lifted from my consciousness that I had not realized was so heavy.

I also felt a tremendous amount of pride. As the senior organizer with Working Together Mississippi, our statewide organizing vehicle, I worked with clergy from various faith traditions across the state in the fight to remove the flag. We worked with Jews, Muslims and Christians from many different denominations, such as Catholics, Methodists, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Mennonites, COGIC, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, and Southern and Missionary Baptists. It was the honor of a lifetime, an ode to the ancestors and others who championed this cause long before me.

Changing What I Cannot Accept: My Story of Understanding Racism in MississippiMississippi Free Press

California IAF Wins Victory for Essential Workers: $65M in Added Funding for Undocumented Families

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]

Amidst Deliberation Over $14.7M Taxpayer Subsidy for Tesla, Central TX Interfaith Calls for Living Wages

[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]