After hearing stories from Iowans facing the stress of unemployment amidst a shifting economic environment, AMOS (A Mid-Iowa Organizing Strategy) began researching how to help workers get back to work in living wage jobs.
"Losing a job is a trauma for workers and their families," said AMOS leader Rev. Dr. Benjamin Bell Jr. "We know that workers need not only training to be able to access higher-wage work, but also support for that trauma, childcare access and assistance to help them complete a training program and be ready to re-enter the workforce."
Since May, AMOS leaders had been meeting with business, government, and community stakeholders to formulate a job training proposal to address the coronavirus crisis. In July, 100 AMOS leaders convened a Workforce Summit calling on Governor Reynolds to invest in intensively supported job training which was built on a model pioneered by the West / Southwest IAF. This initiative will ensure workers have the training and support they need to get back to work, strengthening their families and better able to support the communities they live in.
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.
Low-income families, residents in the country illegally, victims of domestic violence and children aging out of foster care are the target audience for a $15 million coronavirus relief fund Harris County Commissioners Court created Tuesday.
The fund, proposed by Precinct 1 Commissioner Rodney Ellis, aims to assist residents who are ineligible for federal aid through the CARES Act or for whom the $1,200 stimulus payments are insufficient.
Minister Jacqueline Hailey of the New Hope Baptist Church [which is a member of TMO] said housing is a particular area of need, as Friday marks the second time rent will come due since the pandemic reached the Houston area in March.
“There are 70,000 Houston renters who were unable to pay their rent last month, and there will be even more in May,” Hailey said.
[Photo Credit: Jon Shapley, Houston Chronicle]
Speakers who testified in support of this local aid included Bishop Edward Burns and Auxiliary Bishop Gregory Kelly of the Catholic Diocese of Dallas, Bishop Michael McKee of the North Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church, Bishop Erik KJ Gronberg of the Northern Texas - Northern Louisiana Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America and Rabbi Kimberly Herzog-Cohen of Temple Emanu-El.
Funding will come directly from the CARES Act (and other federal funding the city has available) and will be targeted at households making 80% or below of the area median income and are left out of the federal stimulus CARES Act. DAI leaders argued that with 50,000 renters in danger of not being able to pay the rent, a large local aid package would be essential.
The City of Dallas expects to start accepting applications as soon as May 4.
Gov. Gavin Newsom announced plans on April 15 to make $75 million available to help undocumented workers left out of unemployment relief programs like the CARES Act, but California Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF) organizations say this is not enough. One LA-IAF leaders, with the rest of the state network, are calling on Governor Newsom to do more for undocumented immigrants.
"Our immigrants make California a beautiful state," said Father Arturo Corral of Our Lady Queen of Angels / La Placita. "We need to always ask [the governor] to do his best."
Leaders with [COPA-IAF, One LA-IAF, Inland Communities Organizing Network (ICON), Bay Area IAF, and Common Ground are calling] for several initiatives to help undocumented workers including: expanding the eligibility of State Disability Insurance to workers unemployed because of Covid-19 but ineligible for unemployment insurance; sending $1,200 to any Californian who qualified for the California Earned Income Tax Credit last year or this year; expanding no-cost to low-cost hotel options to agricultural workers; making more money available to food banks and school districts feeding students.
[Photo by Chava Sanchez, LAist]
Newsom Announces Covid-19 Relief For Undocumented Workers; Advocates Say It's Inadequate, Monterey County Weekly [pdf]
California Bishops Ask Governor to Increase Aid to Undocumented and Low-Wage Workers During Pandemic, California Catholic Conference of Bishops [pdf]
Letter to Governor Newsom, California IAF
Update: As a result of AMOS' public action, Iowa Workforce Development Office announced it would hire an additional 100 temporary workers to handle calls, change its website and phone system, and address language barriers and eligibility questions.
Out of the 50 refugee clients she’s helped file for unemployment, Abigail Sui said only 20 of them have received money from claims so far.
Language barriers, troubles navigating Iowa Workforce Development’s website and phone complications have left some members of Iowa’s refugee community without the money they need to support their families while they’re temporarily laid off from work due to COVID-19, Sui said.
These are some of the struggles A Mid-Iowa Organizing Strategy, also known as “AMOS,” hopes to bring to light during a virtual day of action with its members on Tuesday over Zoom.
AMOS, an organization made up of churches and non-profit groups is hosting a “virtual accountability action,” so local legislators can hear about some of the barriers Iowans face filing for unemployment.
“We knew there were people really struggling to navigate the system,” said Sally Boeckholt, a leader with AMOS and a member of First Unitarian Church of Des Moines. “There are real people being affected and sometimes those are the stories that don’t really get heard.”
[Photo by Charlie Neibergall, AP Photo]
Group Seeks Solutions for Iowans Struggling To File For Unemployment, Iowa Capital Dispatch [pdf]