On June 16, Common Ground held a civic academy with over 80 leaders, who learned together about strategies to strengthen testing, tracing, and supportive isolation efforts to contain COVID-19. In the research leading up to their academy, they learned that the county would receive $46.5 million in CARES Act funding throughout the state.
When leaders approached county officials about how these funds would be spent, they were met with surprise — no one seemed to know about the funds.
Common Ground leaders immediately initiated meetings with state legislators, county supervisors, and other officials. They organized house meetings and developed a budget of investments needed to support the needs of Solano county families and workers — including funding for TTSI as well as funds for rental assistance and a promotores outreach program to Spanish-speaking families.
When the budget passed, thanks to the urging of Common Ground leaders, it included double the original proposed amount for rental assistance.
COPA Leverages Extension of Eviction Moratorium PLUS $1M for Struggling Renters & Landlords in Santa Cruz Co.
The Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors took two important steps today to respond to the pressure on renters unable to earn a living because of the impact of the pandemic on their jobs and businesses. The Supervisors extended the moratorium on evictions to keep tenants housed while providing funds for landlords to cover missed rent payments. Speaking in support of the Board’s actions, COPA leader Jorge Savala said, “Families have abided by the government call to shelter-in-place to reduce the spread of Covid-19, bearing the consequence of lost income, only now to be faced with losing the roof over their heads. Today’s decision to extend the moratorium on evictions will help to prevent a new pandemic of homelessness.”
Landlords are also feeling the pinch when rents are unpaid. As a result of meetings with COPA in June, Supervisor’s Leopold and McPherson sponsored a $1 million rental assistance program from CARES Act funds for inclusion in the 2021-22 budget. Supervisor Leopold, having initiated the original moratorium on evictions at the start of the pandemic, added; “I recognized the severity of the problem in our community and worked hard to find the money to help people during their time of need.”
COPA Leads Community Effort to Extend Renters Protections and Funding for Landlords, Communities Organized for Relational Power
California IAF Leverages Covid-19 Relief for Undocumented Immigrants Using Old-School Practices on New Technologies
When politics, like most other activities, was forced to migrate online, the IAF didn’t seem an obvious winner. For 80 years, the group has embraced one-on-one conversations and “house meetings” to create organized communities whose strong bonds endure beyond a single campaign. These relationships, forged in person, smoothed the transition to digital organizing.
After the virus hit, a flurry of texts, calls and social media outreach followed as California’s IAF groups scrambled to get their people on Zoom calls. The news was grim: Budgets were tight and layoffs widespread. Undocumented people, often the hardest-hit population, were excluded from most forms of aid. The Cal-EITC push emerged from these digital house meetings. “It came from the lament of the people,” said the Rev. Arturo Corral of Our Lady Queen of Angels / La Placita Catholic Church in Los Angeles, a One LA leader.
In late April, local leaders began gathering Zoom participants from their local networks. Meanwhile, organizers sought out influential lawmakers, focusing on three Budget Committee members: State Assembly members David Chiu and Eloise Gómez Reyes and State Sen. Maria Elena Durazo. All three pledged to work to expand the tax credit.
The IAF groups were “not at all” confident that the tax credit expansion would end up in the governor’s budget. “Most people told us this was not going to happen,” [One LA Lead Organizer Robert] Hoo said. But after weeks of further organizing, it was included in Gov. Newsom’s June 30 budget.
[Photo Credit: Brent Stirton/Getty Images]
Marin County supervisors have extended a ban on renter evictions through the end of September in an effort to prevent tenants from losing their homes during the coronavirus pandemic. Supervisors voted unanimously on Tuesday to approve the two-month extension. The temporary ban was first enacted in March and extended in April, May and June. It was set to expire July 31.
Under the countywide moratorium, a landlord cannot evict a residential tenant who is unable to pay rent due to financial losses stemming from the pandemic. Those can include increased child care expenses because of school closures, or lost wages due to reduced hours or layoffs.
Julia Kiely, a member of the Marin Organizing Committee, urged the supervisors to bolster funding for legal services for tenants facing eviction. She said the moratorium is “not self-enforcing.”
“Safe, secure housing is critical to both healthy outcomes and controlling community spread of the virus,” Kiely said.
Lucie Hollingsworth, a senior attorney with Legal Aid of Marin, urged the supervisors to consider ways to help renters who are unable to pay back missed rent after the ban expires to “stem the tidal wave of evictions that looms.”
“An extension only serves as a temporary Band-Aid,” Hollingsworth said. “Expecting tenants to come up with thousands of dollars in back-rent when the moratorium expires is unrealistic.”
[Photo Credit: Marin Independent Journal]
Marin County Extends Eviction Ban Through September, Marin Independent Journal [pdf]
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  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]
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.”
California IAF Declares a Victory for Essential Workers, California IAF
No Relief Here, Voices of Monterey Bay
Immigrant Workers Face Economic Uncertainty During Covid-19 Shutdown, America Magazine [pdf]
In mid-April, Governor Gavin Newsom allocated $75 million in emergency assistance to undocumented immigrants impacted by the pandemic. Philanthropic organizations and private donors pledged an additional $50 million.
But, undocumented immigrants still don’t qualify for the federal stimulus checks and can’t apply for unemployment insurance. They are also barred from the state’s tax credit program for low-income workers.
“Governor Newsom has come out many times to talk about the value of the immigrant community, a recognition that the undocumented are part of California and deserve to be part of the California dream. And this... this is contradictory to leaving people out of that tax break,” said McManus....
Immigrant advocates say they’re not giving up, especially now.
“At the same time that we can see the disparity right now. We also can see how much we benefit from them,” said Maria Elena Manzo, a COPA leader.
COPA’s Tim McManus says this fight is about recognition through policy, and putting money in people’s pockets.
“So forgetting about what you think about fairness or justice or morality, this is an economic stimulus. We're gonna recover stronger if all of California can land back on their feet sooner,” he said.
[Photo Credit: Claudia Meléndez Salinas, Voices of Monterey Bay]
No Relief Here, Voices of Monterey Bay
Sami Mericle, a representative of the Marin Organizing Committee, thanked the board for acting to further protect vulnerable renters during the health emergency but urged supervisors to “continue to explore ways to keep workers housed for the duration of the public health crisis and the economic recession that is already upon us.”
“An additional month of breathing room will still not be enough time for households who have lost several months of income,” Mericle said. “Even once the shelter-in-place is fully lifted, we expect the demand for jobs such as gardeners, house cleaners and restaurant workers will still be diminished, leaving many people unemployed.”
Marin Supervisors Extend Moratorium On Residential Evictions, Marin Independent Journal [pdf]
On Tuesday evening, May 5, over 1,200 California IAF leaders, 10 Bishops and 7 state legislators converged on Zoom and Facebook Live to demand the Governor and legislature provide immediate relief for essential workers left out of state and federal relief.
"There are millions of California workers who take care of our elders, our children, grow our food, and get it to the stores. Many of them are undocumented, but their work contributes billions of dollars to the California economy," said Rev. Dr. Julie Roberts-Fronk, Co-Chair of the action and a leader with ICON.
Undocumented immigrants represent 10% of the California workforce, pay over $3 billion in state and local taxes and add $180 billion to the economy. They comprise 33% of agricultural workers and 32% of healthcare workers in California, working at great personal risk during the Covid-19 pandemic.
"During this pandemic, there is a tendency to throw people to the margins, to throw them into the shadows,"said Bishop Jaime Soto, of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Sacramento.
"What we need to do is develop a culture of encounter, a culture of solidarity to beat back the coronavirus and to create a healthy and safe network. We need to recognize the flaw in the Cal EITC. It leaves out California workers and taxpayers, which not only jeopardizes their lives, it also jeopardizes the well being of the entire state of California."
"Immigrant workers are not draining our economy, they are subsidizing it," said Senator Maria Elena Durazo. "We would not be the fifth largest economy in the world without them."
Earlier this month, the California IAF and the California Catholic Conference wrote letters to Governor Newsom, urging him to expand the California Earned Income Tax Credit (Cal EITC) to include ITIN filers, many of whom are undocumented. The tax credit would put much needed dollars quickly back into the hands of working families. Studies show that for every 1 dollar invested in workers, the local economy generates 2 dollars.
Maria Elena Manzo, a leader with COPA has worked with a group of women in Salinas for many years to spread the word about the Cal EITC.
"When they first learned about the tax credit, they were very excited. One woman said, 'this is going to come at a perfect time, the agricultural season has not started yet and we are struggling right now.' Her hopes vanished when she learned she wasn’t going to get the credit, but it did not stop her from helping others."
Leaders secured commitments from state legislators to work with their six organizations to advance the legislation during upcoming budget hearings, and to press the Governor to find the money. They also committed to meeting with local organizations within two weeks, and joining regional civic academies on the issue to build a larger constituency.
Immigrant Workers Face Economic Uncertainty During Covid-19 Shutdown, America Magazine [pdf]
Faith Leaders Call on State to Support Undocumented Immigrants, The Pajaronian [pdf]