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.
...during the early portion of an Aug. 11 meeting of Pitkin County commissioners... representatives of the Mountain Voices Project — a consortium of more than 25 nonprofits, faith-based organizations and other entities in the Roaring Fork Valley — sought financial support for a new “landlord-tenant recovery fund” designed to assist low-income families struggling to make ends meet amid the economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Lindsay Lofaro, executive director of The Buddy Program in Aspen, was one of several speakers advocating for Pitkin County’s support of the fund. She got involved in facilitating the discussion, she said, because her nonprofit mentoring organization is a member of Mountain Voices Project (also known as MVP) — and also because of her familiarity with Pitkin County officials and local fundraising sources.
According to information provided by MVP, the overall request is for $1 million to get the program started this year...
The general plan calls for families to receive three months of rental assistance. MVP will supply one-third of the payments to landlords. The families themselves will pay one-third. The balance would be foregone by the landlords themselves, should they agree to participate. The Uncle Bob Foundation, a nonprofit arm of the Garfield County Housing Authority, will serve as fiscal agent for the fund.
[Photo Credit: Andre Salvail, Aspen Daily News]
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
Voters will be asked to approve a 1/8-cent sales tax to fund job training and college degrees for San Antonians who lost their jobs because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The money also would help participants pay rent and other living expenses while they complete those programs.
The sales tax revenue would be dedicated to those purposes for four years....
“Today, San Antonians need this investment more than ever,” Virginia Mata, a leader of the grassroots coalition COPS/Metro told council members Thursday. “It is not only the right thing to do but also the right investment. The seeds that you plant today will have a lasting effect and will help San Antonians rise from the shadows to the light.”
[Photo Credit: Billy Calzada, San Antonio Express-News]
'We Need Action Now': Sales Tax Proposal for San Antonio Economic Recovery Now in Voters' Hands, San Antonio Express-News [pdf]
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]
....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 Mississippi, Mississippi Free Press