Category Archives: Healthcare

Congress Must Pass Vital COVID-19 Relief Package Before End of Year

Congress Must Pass Vital COVID-19 Relief Package Before End of Year

Audrey Carroll
December 7, 2020

The Advent and holiday season is a time of hope and celebration in preparation for the new year. However, COVID-19 is making celebrating the season difficult as families, essential workers, and those on the frontlines struggle to put food on the table and pay rent. People are being forced to choose between risking their health or their paychecks due to the lack of action from Congress to provide a robust pandemic relief package. This virus has affected millions of households of all backgrounds and it is time for Congress to act now.

More than 270,000 people have died from COVID-19, and millions are set to lose vital benefits and protections when the stimulus packages expire at the end of the year. As the pandemic worsens, so does the economy– which will continue to backslide without action from Congress.

Congress must pass a COVID-19 Relief Package that:

  • Increases maximum SNAP benefits by 15%
  • Allocates more money for housing and assistance for those experiencing homelessness
  • Extends the moratorium on evictions
  • Extends expanded unemployment assistance
  • Expands the EITC and Child Tax Credit
  • Authorizes an additional economic impact payment

Call your Senators and tell them we need COVID-19 relief NOW! We are running out of time to protect our people and their benefits.

Join our Tweet Storm on Thursday at 1 PM Pacific/4 PM Eastern by tweeting this message. Or share NETWORK’s Facebook post, and tag your Senators in the comments!

Advent 2020: Waiting for Health Care Justice

Advent 2020: Waiting for Health Care Justice

Audrey Carroll
November 24, 2020

In the Catholic tradition, Advent is the sacred season of waiting. During Advent, we are called to reflect and hope for what new life may bring us. In this case, the newly elected Biden/Harris administration has created a world of opportunity for advancing policies that are needed to protect the common good.

We have been waiting four years for the Trump administration to atone for their attacks on our nation’s health care, but they have remained consistent in their efforts to strip vulnerable people of care, while encouraging the increasing profit margins of private insurance companies. President-elect Joe Biden has promised to protect and expand the Affordable Care Act and create a more accessible health care system. During this period of transition and season of waiting, we continue to hope for equitable health care for all.

After four years of undermining the Affordable Care Act, the Trump Administration has driven coverage rates into the ground while health care costs skyrocket. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of uninsured Americans rose by 2.3 million from 2016 to 2019, including 726,000 children. The rising number of uninsured people  is the result of actions taken to attack the ACA, like repealing the individual mandate and the Trump administration’s restrictions on Medicaid. The administration’s utter failure to control the COVID-19 pandemic has also led to rising uninsured numbers, as people lose their jobs and essential workers are left without benefits.

According to health economist Emily Gee, While the pandemic has depressed economic activity this year in most industries, insurance companies’ profitability to date has topped last year’s, “and they will continue to increase profit if Trump follows through on his executive order to shift more Medicare beneficiaries into private plans.” Despite the recent losses in coverage, Trump still managed to move forward with an ACA Repeal Lawsuit and push through the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. It’s been made clear that the Trump Administration values the health of the market over the health of the people, and a lot of work must be done  to reverse the harm they have done.

President-elect Biden has made improving the nation’s health care system a priority for his incoming administration. He has promised to build on the Affordable Care Act by giving every American access to affordable health insurance, creating a more accessible and less complex system, lowering prescription drug costs, and emphasizing health care as a human right. Biden’s plan offers hope for the millions of vulnerable Americans and health care advocates who have been fighting for comprehensive, life-saving coverage.

According to the Pew Research Center, health care was the second-most important issue to voters in the 2020 election, and it’s essential for these healthcare voters to continue their advocacy during the Biden Administration. While Biden’s plan certainly seems like it will move the health care system in a forward-moving, positive direction, we must hold the new administration accountable to guarantee that while we increase access to care, we are also addressing  and eliminating health care disparities, especially in communities of color.

The lives lost to COVID-19 and health care disparities in the U.S. show that we have waited far too long for health care justice. During this political transition period and Advent season, we must continue to hope and pray that the wait ends with the incoming administration. We can use this time to recharge and renew our spirits so that when the time comes, we are ready to keep fighting for equitable health care for all people.

Amy Coney Barrett, the Supreme Court, and COVID-19: A Case of Misplaced Priorities

Amy Coney Barrett, the Supreme Court, and COVID-19: A Case of Misplaced Priorities

Laura Peralta-Schulte
October 12, 2020

Right now, families and communities across the United States are in crisis. With the COVID-19 pandemic spiraling out of control and a pronounced economic slowdown, the nation’s health and economic security are at high risk. The new Census Household Pulse Survey data released last week shows that since late August the overall number of adults struggling to cover usual household expenses such as food, rent or mortgage, car payments, medical expenses, or student loans is expanding rapidly. Nearly 77 million adults – 1 in 3 – reported it was somewhat or very difficult for their household to cover usual expenses in the past seven days, according to data collected September 16-28. Meanwhile, federal supplemental unemployment benefits have run out for millions of people who have lost their jobs, many permanently. Without federal action, jobless workers grappling with sharply reduced incomes will face growing challenges paying their bills. As Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said recently: “Too little support would lead to a weak recovery, creating unnecessary hardship for households and businesses…Even if policy actions ultimately prove to be greater than needed, they will not go to waste.”

It is against this backdrop that President Trump and Senator McConnell announced this week they are stopping negotiations with Speaker Pelosi and House leadership on a COVID-19 relief package and instead focusing solely on plans to confirm Trump’s nominee Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. The Senate has failed to provide any meaningful coronavirus relief legislation since April 2020 – nearly half a year has passed with unnecessary suffering and death due to this lack of response. Urgent action should be taken to alleviating the suffering and economic distress of the people experiencing this crisis, but instead the Senate is engaged in high stakes partisan politics.

NETWORK strongly opposes a hasty confirmation process the Senate is conducting so close to a national election in which many Americans will have already cast their ballot. The timing disregards the voice of the electorate and undermines trust in our democratic institutions, which is already fragile. There is a real cost to tarnishing the national perception of Congress and the presidency by focusing on expediting a Supreme Court nominee while failing to attend to the protracted national suffering.

During this fragile time in our nation, it is vital that our national leaders act with prudence rather than political posturing. Our democratic institutions are maintained by norms and tradition to uphold the balance of powers between the three branches of government. There is no precedent for allowing a president to have such extraordinary influence over the outcome of the next federal election, which he is already threatening to contest. The one at risk of facing judgment should not get to choose the judges.

A fast-tracked confirmation process of Judge Barrett is a clear abdication of the Senate’s constitutional advice-and-consent function. It jeopardizes the rights and lives of the most vulnerable among us and it undermines the integrity of our most basic democratic norms and institutions.

October 2020 feels like a tipping point for our democracy –the fatigue and hardship of the people, the cynicism and division of the civic body, the disinformation inundating the public is palpable. Just because one party has the constitutional right to seize power in a situation does not justify the damage it will do to our civic fabric.  The rush to hold Supreme Court hearings at this time, before this particular election is ill-advised and unnecessary.  There is no constitutional requirement for the timing of this process and we urge Senator McConnell and members of the Judiciary Committee to wait until after the election has been certified.

By forcing this nomination through, in this manner, President Trump and Republican leadership are endangering what remains of our civic trust and putting our very democracy at risk instead of doing the right thing, the just thing, of meeting the real needs of our people in these difficult times.

NETWORK Joins Partners in Supporting Pregnant Workers Fairness Act Vote

NETWORK Joins Partners in Supporting Pregnant Workers Fairness Act Vote

Sister Quincy Howard, OP
September 15, 2020

National policies must ensure family-friendly workplace protections in order to respect the needs of each individual. Workers, especially women of color, must have a work environment where everyone can balance work and family responsibilities. NETWORK Lobby joined its faith and religious organization partners on Friday, September 11th in signing on to a letter to the House of Representatives supporting the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (H.R. 2694).

The letter read: “Our faith traditions affirm the dignity of pregnant individuals and the moral imperative of ensuring their safety. We also affirm the dignity of work and the obligation to treat workers justly. It is immoral for an employer to force a worker to choose between a healthy pregnancy and earning a living. By passing the bipartisan Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (H.R. 2694), Congress will ensure that workers who are pregnant will be treated fairly in the
workforce and can continue earning income to support themselves and their families.”

Read the letter of support below:

“Dear Representative,

On behalf of the undersigned religious and faith-based organizations representing a diversity of faith traditions and communities across the nation, we write today in support of healthy workplace environments and conditions for pregnant workers. We urge you to pass the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (H.R. 2694). People of faith across the ideological spectrum understand that prioritizing the health and safety of pregnant workers should not be a partisan issue. The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act would ensure that pregnant workers can continue safely working to support their families during a pregnancy. The bill requires employers to make the same sort of accommodations for pregnant workers as are already in place for workers with disabilities.

Our faith traditions affirm the dignity of pregnant individuals and the moral imperative of ensuring their safety. We also affirm the dignity of work and the obligation to treat workers justly. It is immoral for an employer to force a worker to choose between a healthy pregnancy and earning a living. By passing the bipartisan Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (H.R. 2694), Congress will ensure that workers who are pregnant will be treated fairly in the workforce and can continue earning income to support themselves and their families. Efforts to distract from the central goal of ensuring pregnant workers can maintain their health and the health of their pregnancies by inserting unnecessary, harmful, and politically divisive language into this bill undermines our obligation to protect pregnant workers across our country.

While many pregnant individuals continue working throughout their pregnancies without incident, there are instances when minor accommodations are necessary at the workplace to ensure the safety of the expecting mother and the baby. All too often, requests for simple workplace accommodations like a stool to sit, a water bottle, or a bathroom break are denied. Within the COVID-19 context, such critical accommodations might include proper protective equipment, telework, or staggered work schedules that offer employees commute times which avoid crowded public transportation and increased exposure. Currently, pregnant workers may continue to work without necessary accommodations because they fear losing their jobs and need the income, thus endangering their health or the health of their pregnancy. Without these protections, it is not uncommon for pregnant workers to be let go or forced out onto unpaid leave for requesting accommodations. Many others must quit their job to avoid risking the health of their pregnancy.

Passing the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act is a moral and economic imperative; two-thirds of women who had their first child between 2006 and 2008 worked during pregnancy, and 88 percent of these first-time mothers worked into their last trimester. Keeping these women healthy and in the workforce is paramount to family economic security. Nearly 25 million mothers with children under 18 are in the workforce, making up nearly 1 in 6 of all workers. And about 3 in 4 mothers in the workforce are working full time. Millions of families rely on their earnings. In 2017, 41 percent of mothers were the sole or primary breadwinners in their families, while 23.2 percent of mothers were co-breadwinners. Whole families suffer when pregnant workers are forced out of a job.

The undersigned religious and faith-based groups are united in support of the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act. We strongly urge you to vote for the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, and to vote against any motion to recommit that may be offered.

Sincerely, the undersigned:
Ameinu
Arizona Jews for Justice
Aytzim: Ecological Judaism
Bend the Arc: Jewish Action
Catholic Labor Network
Church World Service
Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach
Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd, U.S. Provinces
Faith Action Network
Faith Action Network – Washington State
Franciscan Action Network
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Keshet
Jewish Alliance for Law and Social Action
Jewish Family & Children’s Service of Greater Boston
Jewish Women International
Justice Revival
National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd
National Council of Churches
National Council of Jewish Women
Network of Jewish Human Service Agencies
NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice
Pax Christi USA
T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights
United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries
Union for Reform Judaism
Uri L’Tzedek
Women of Reform Judaism

Read the letter here

Our Nation’s Political and Moral Response to a Global Pandemic

Our Nation’s Political and Moral Response to a Global Pandemic

Seeking Justice in the Face of Both a Health and Economic Crisis

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused illness and death and led to widespread unemployment and an entirely new daily reality in the United States and across the world. NETWORK quickly shifted lobbying priorities, advocating for workers and families to be prioritized in every coronavirus response package passed by Congress. We knew that those with the least would be the ones hurt the most by this crisis, as is often the case.

The COVID-19 pandemic is both a public health crisis and an economic one, and people of color have been disproportionately affected on both counts. Families and individuals, especially in communities of color, will continue to experience the negative financial effects of this crisis for months and even years to come. We need structural solutions. Congress must recognize the challenges facing those at the economic margins during this difficult time and choose people over profit in all of their policy decisions.

COVID-19 has given new urgency and significance to our moral mandate to provide health care for all, to protect the rights and health of workers, to ensure sufficient affordable housing, and to mend the gaps in all other areas of our society. As we continue our advocacy, we recognize the undeniable truth that during this pandemic, and at all times, the wellbeing of our nation depends on the wellbeing of each and every person.

So far, three main pieces of legislation have become law, with some provisions supporting health and the common good, and others giving tax breaks and other benefits to the wealthiest people and corporations. Further action must still be taken, however, to provide sufficient financial resources for families and individuals to be able to afford their rent and other necessities. In May, the House passed another large package with billions of dollars that would go toward those most affected by this crisis. The Senate must act to pass similar legislation to respond to the needs of our nation.

 

This story was originally published in the Third Quarter 2020 issue of Connection magazine. Read the full issue

The Forgotten Ones

The Forgotten Ones

Maria Gomez and Bibi Hidalgo
June 5, 2020

The majority of eligible Americans have now received stimulus checks through the CARES Act, except for the excluded workers — the forgotten ones — who we depend on in many facets of our lives. These forgotten — but essential — workers pick the ripe fruits we eat; they cook the warm meals at our favorite take-out restaurants; and they sanitize checkout devices at grocery stores late into the night so that we will be less afraid of COVID-19 when we shop. Regardless of their legal status, they disinfect our surroundings and feed us.

As one of the 1,400 Community Health Centers across the country that serves families below the poverty line, Mary’s Center in the Washington, D.C. region is on the frontlines of this crisis. We have seen the health and job insecurity that our nation now confronts through the eyes of the 60,000 adults and children we have served annually since 1988. Each day the people who reach out to us are seeking life-saving medicines, health care, shelter, food and income. Our telemedicine team ensures that line cooks and sanitation workers have access to hypertension and asthma medications. Our counselors talk with them when they experience emotional hardships. Thousands of people — 54,000 to be exact — had a total of 270,000 visits to our five centers in 2018 and that number is now growing significantly.

Across the U.S., community health centers serve 29 million people, which is close to 10 percent of the population. No hospital system in the U.S. serves a number that size. Yet as it stands today, millions of low-wage workers and their families are in danger of collapse, unless we can work together as a whole society — philanthropy and big business, local and state government, families and communities — to ensure everyone overcomes the COVID-19 crisis and that we build a more resilient society.

In the absence of a unifying government, we need to do this ourselves.

We can accomplish this by having federally qualified community health centers in major cities partner with business executives and philanthropies to create a national plan that will stem this crisis and help rebuild the country. Last week Congress passed another stimulus measure providing small businesses loans through the Paycheck Protection Program. It remains to be seen whether any of the small and micro-businesses in our community that hire our clients gain access to the program. Up until now that hasn’t been the case. In the meantime, their workers are facing the despair of day-to-day survival.

National nonprofits, foundations and government bodies are having urgent calls daily to determine how they can provide relief to community organizations in addition to any stimulus operating support. If the 2008 financial crisis is any lesson though, it is time we flip the script and have community organizations lead the national conversation about what is sorely needed.

Ten million families still lost their homes despite the 2.7 million families who benefited from mortgage modifications supported by the 2008 Troubled Asset Relief Programwhich took a top-down approach to problem-solving. By the time resources arrived to community organizations providing housing counseling to Latinx and African-American families who had been misled by lenders to take out subprime mortgages, it amounted to table crumbs that did not leverage local knowledge of how to build trust, engage and serve the most economically vulnerable.

Community Health Centers across the nation are eager to collaborate with the private sector and state and local governments to find solutions. We can help large corporations track the patterns we see on the ground with the pandemic and the resources that are needed to rebuild communities and ultimately a robust economy. Pharmaceutical companies can ensure that frontline community health centers across the United States have a steady supply of diabetes, asthma and life-saving medications available. Health care distributors can ensure we have medical supplies, such as masks, bandages and thermometers.

Together with major grocery chains and wholesale companies, we can ensure that low-wage workers who did not receive a stimulus check have provisions to feed their families. By working together, we can create a stabilization supply-chain to feed, clothe and shelter the forgotten ones. The ones who are ultimately indispensable to you, me and all of us as a nation.

Maria Gomez is president and CEO of Mary’s Center, a Washington D.C. region Community Health Center, and Presidential Citizen Awardee @MarysCenter.

Bibi Hidalgo is co-founder of Future Partners LLC and served as an economic policy appointee in the Obama White House and U.S. Treasury @BibiHidalgo.

Originally published at TheHill.com.

How To Organize During a Pandemic

How To Organize During a Pandemic

Alex Burnett
May 27, 2020

Recently, journalists have written extensively about the anti-lockdown protests gripping our nation. During the past month, The New York Times published at least 15 stories about anti-lockdown protesters, highlighting their propensity to carry assault weapons, flaunt social distancing, display Confederate flags, and secure funding from prominent conservative donors. This reporting is crucially important, especially since many of these demonstrators espouse white supremacist rhetoric and actively participate in neo-Nazi organizations, like The Proud Boys.

Despite its significance, this reporting can eclipse stories about progressive activists who are struggling for a socially just COVID-19 response. Workers in at least 7 states organized strikes involving more than 1,000 people in March and April, but the media largely ignored their historic organizing and instead focused primarily on the anti-lockdown crowd.

In this blog post, I want to highlight some progressive activists—specifically, The Poor People’s Campaign (PPC) and National Nurses United (NNU). Both NNU and PPC are building grassroots support for a COVID-19 response that advances racial and economic justice, while recognizing we cannot “return to normal” if this pandemic abides. By demanding immediate COVID-19 relief alongside permanent systemic change, PPC and NNU are demonstrating how other justice-seekers can effectively organize during the coronavirus lockdown.

The Poor People’s Campaign: Working Towards a “New Normal”

A national coalition led by Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II and Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, The Poor People’s Campaign quickly recognized why coronavirus hit the U.S. remarkably hard. The PPC condemned the federal government’s reckless and uncoordinated response,” but maintained, “The current emergency…results from a deeper and much longer-term crisis”—the “evils of racism, economic exploitation, and militarism,” described by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in May 1967. To fully address the COVID-19 crisis, the PPC argued that the U.S. must eliminate racism, poverty, and our environmentally destructive wartime economy.

Approximately 50 years after Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. led the Poor People’s March on Washington, Dr. Barber revived Dr. King’s efforts at building a mass, multiracial movement of working-class people intent on transforming American society. Since 2017, the PPC organized 43 state committees, comprised of low-income people and faith leaders, lobbied federal and state policymakers around their Moral Agenda, and coordinated civil disobedience nationwide. With support from dozens of social justice organizations, including NETWORK, the PPC is now turning their attention to the COVID-19 crisis, hoping to bring the kind of pressure that many lawmakers haven’t felt since the 1960’s civil rights revolution.

To accomplish this ambitious goal, the PPC is working closely with local organizers, explained Adam Barnes, who coordinates the PPC’s faith partnerships and The Rights & Religions Program at The Kairos Center for Religions, Rights, and Social Justice. Since January, the PPC mobilized its members to support local responses to the COVID-19 crisis—including rent strikes, mutual aid networks, workplace walkouts, and anti-hospital closure demonstrations. These expressions of “non-cooperation,” Barnes emphasized, are faithful responses to the coronavirus pandemic. Since half the U.S. population lived in poverty before coronavirus eliminated a single job, the PPC believes these actions are urgent.

Crucially, the PPC’s local organizing amplifies their national advocacy. On April 3rd, the PPC sharply criticized COVID-19 relief legislation for funneling trillions of federal dollars into investment banks without guaranteeing healthcare, income, and housing for all Americans. To bolster their message, the PPC organized a National Week of Action, scheduled for May 21st (5/21). On May 21st, justice-seekers can call or email Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and ask them to support the PPC’s Moral Agenda and COVID-19 demands, which would provide immediate COVID-19 relief and reduce racial and economic inequality. Additionally, as part of this week of action, religious communities can host special services amplifying the PPC’s message and mourning the 250,000 people killed by poverty each year. Click here to learn more about the May 21st week of action.

Much of this activism is building towards the PPC’s Mass Poor People’s Assembly and Moral March on Washington. NETWORK is proud to join the Poor People’s Campaign as a mobilizing partner for the Mass Poor People’s Assembly and Moral March on Washington Digital Justice Gathering, on June 20, 2020. At this historic event, which PPC organizers hope will be the largest digital gathering of low-income people in U.S. history, PPC speakers will denounce what “normal” looked like before the pandemic—140 million people living in poverty, an irredeemably racist criminal justice system, widespread voter suppression in communities of color, and unsanitary deportation camps, which separate immigrant families. After offering solutions to these “normal” problems and the COVID-19 crisis, PPC speakers will help participants develop plans for building grassroots power in their communities. To RSVP for the PPC’s June 20th event, click here.

“We’ve seen how broken our system really is,” Adam Barnes told me. “I can guarantee you that the people in power are going to push for us to ‘return to normal,’ but this is a chance for us to do things differently.” Adam is right. By supporting innovative groups, like NNU and the PPC, we can struggle for a solution to this crisis that pushes us towards something better than “normal.” Hopefully, it will resemble justice.

National Nurses United & The Long Struggle for Health Justice

The largest labor union of registered nurses (RNs) in the United States, National Nurses United responded to COVID-19 months before it dominated headlines. On January 30, 2020, NNU sent a letter to the World Health Organization (WHO), which demanded better COVID-19 protections for healthcare workers. By mid-March, the union had lobbied most federal health agencies, spoken with dozens of Members of Congress, and organized a national day of action, in which thousands of nurses demanded more personal protective equipment (PPE) and coronavirus testing. Crucially, NNU emphasized that our nation’s broken healthcare system was not prepared for a pandemic requiring mass testing and hospitalization. According to a March 2020 NNU analysis covering 48 states, over 70% of hospitals did not have sufficient PPE or a plan for treating COVID-19 patients.

Over the next 2 months, NNU continued pressuring policymakers and employers to prioritize people over profit in their coronavirus response. Besides demanding the Cook County Department of Corrections release incarcerated people from jails and prisons, NNU continually stressed that COVID-19 disproportionately harms low-income people of color. With these stakes in mind, nearly 100,000 NNU nurses organized May Day actions across 13 states, during which they called on the Occupational Health & Safety Administration (OSHA) to better protect healthcare workers and their patients. Most recently, NNU brought the heat to the White House, where nurses coordinated a vigil-protest honoring 88 recently deceased nurses.

NNU’s flurry of activity offers a model for progressives interested in organizing during the coronavirus lockdown. By combining digital actions, vigils, and confrontational protests, NNU created many avenues for participation, leading to remarkably high levels of turnout. Additionally, NNU did not limit their demands to one branch of government or a single negligent employer. Through pressuring federal and state policymakers alongside the private sector, NNU demonstrated that our entire healthcare system bears responsibility for the harm wrought by coronavirus. A longtime advocate for safe staffing levels and patient protections, NNU was ideally positioned to make this clear.

To learn about upcoming NNU actions, visit their website.

For A Better COVID-19 Relief Plan, Let’s #FundFamilies

For A Better COVID-19 Relief Plan, Let’s #FundFamilies

Ness Perry 
May 12, 2020

On Thursday, May 7, 2020, NETWORK Lobby and our partners Moms Rising, Children’s Defense Fund, First Focus, and The Coalition on Human Needs gathered virtually for a tweet storm encouraging Congress to #FundFamilies. This digital action aimed to ask for increased, consistent cash assistance for families and an expansion of the Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit in response to the COVID-19 crisis. Social media is key to putting pressure on Members of Congress while in-person lobbying and hill visits are no longer an option.

NETWORK participated in the #FundFamilies tweetstorm because our faith teaches us to care for people at the margins in our country. Our economic recovery package should support those who need it the most, which is why we call on Congress to provide cash payments to every adult until the pandemic is over. This should be given to households that did not receive prior support from the CARES Act. This includes low- or no-income families that do not file tax returns, and families with ITINs including mixed-immigration status households.

Families need direct aid, as well as credits in the coming tax season. We know that the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit works, therefore we must expand it to provide aid for more families. The Child Tax Credit leaves behind more than 1/3 of children in families who earn too little to get the full credit — including 1/2 of Black and Latinx children. In order to mend the racial wealth and income gap, we must call on Congress to provide relief for all families, especially families of color.

Here are some highlights from the event:

https://twitter.com/RepBarbaraLee/status/1258442973332869124

COVID-19 Illustrates and Amplifies Racism

COVID-19 Illustrates and Amplifies Racism

Alex Burnett and Colleen Ross
April 24, 2020

NETWORK’s advocacy is rooted in ensuring all have what they need to live healthy, dignified lives. COVID-19 is a new, global challenge to this mission. Both the health dangers as well as the economic ramifications of COVID-19 are very real threats to human life, but these threats do not affect everyone living in the United States the same way.

Due to centuries of systemic injustice, people of color in the United States are experiencing additional hardship as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our federal government’s response must take this into account and prioritize assistance for communities of color in ongoing legislation.

Higher Rates of Infection and Death for People of Color

Across Washington, D.C. and every state that has collected coronavirus data by race and ethnicity, people of color are suffering and dying from COVID-19 at higher rates than white people.

For the Black community especially, the number of people who have been infected with COVID-19 and died as a result of COVID-19 is vastly disproportional. Majority black counties have three times the rate of infections and nearly six times the rate of deaths as majority white counties, according to analysis done by the Washington Post. Data collected from the states by Mother Jones further illustrates the disparity for the Black community:

  • In Wisconsin, Black people represent 6% of the population and nearly 40% of COVID-19 fatalities
  • In Louisiana, Black people make up 32% of the state’s population but almost 60% of fatalities
  • In Kansas, 6% of the population is Black and yet Black people account for more than 30% of COVID-19 deaths

These higher rates of COVID-19 infection and death for the Black community are a direct reflection of the systemic racism present in our nation’s healthcare, housing, workforce, and society. Centuries of denying Black people access to quality health care, as well as other social determinants of health, have led to more Black people having chronic illnesses or underlying health conditions that lead to negative COVID-19 outcomes. COVID-19 is putting a spotlight on the deeply embedded racial inequities that impact health and well-being in the United States with or without a pandemic.

Workers of Color: Increased Risk, Cuts, and Unemployment

While many white professionals can work remotely during this crisis, a disproportionate number of people of color continue working public-facing, “essential” jobs. The Labor Department reported 30% of white workers and 37% of Asian American workers could work from home in 2017 and 2018, while 20% of Black workers and only 16% of Latinx workers could do so.

Despite anti-discrimination legislation, the U.S. labor market remains highly racially segregated, with more people of color in low-wage positions in health care, food service, childcare, public transportation, and shipping. Because these industries sustain the U.S. economy, “stay-at home” orders haven’t applied to their largely Black and brown workforces, meaning “essential” workers of color face heightened danger. According to a March 2020 report from the Economic Policy Institute, 80.3% of Black workers and 83.8% of Latinx workers cannot practice safe social distancing by working from home.

Within two months, the coronavirus crisis has left thousands of workers of color sick, dead, unemployed, and uninsured. In New York City, Black and Latinx people are dying from COVID-19 at twice the rate of whites, partially because many cannot work remotely. In majority Black cities and on Native American reservations, employers are firing workers of color at skyrocketing rates, leaving thousands without health insurance and income amidst a global pandemic.

Despite these circumstances, workers of color are leading movements for occupational safety and improved benefits. In Rhode Island, frontline healthcare workers, who are largely women of color, have repeatedly rallied for higher hazard pay, better personal protective equipment (PPE), and safer staffing levels. Amazon warehouse workers, who are primarily Black and Latinx, have organized numerous walkouts since the COVID-19 pandemic escalated, demanding safer working conditions. These movements demonstrate that workers of color are actively pressuring lawmakers and employers to mitigate COVID-19’s racist impact. As justice-seekers, we support these efforts and call for elected officials and business leaders to value people over profits.

Greater Economic Losses for People of Color

The COVID-19 virus is both a public health crisis and an economic one, and people of color are disproportionately affected on both counts. NPR found the U.S. March jobs data showed worse rates of unemployment for people of color, with the share of white people who are employed falling by 1.1%, while Black people had a 1.6% drop, Asian Americans 1.7%, and Latinos 2.1%.

Long term economic fallout from this crisis will likely hit communities of color hardest, expanding the already-significant racial wealth and income gap in the U.S. Hispanic, Black, and Native American families lost the most in wealth and income during the Great Recession, with homeownership and wealth never fully rebounding for these communities.

Now, the effects of economic downturn will impact communities of color again, both in the long term as well as the short term. In these uncertain times, families, especially families of color, are struggling to stay housed as well as put food on the tables.

For immigrants, especially undocumented immigrants and mixed-status families, the federal government’s response to COVID-19 has left them out. The CARES Act stimulus checks for individuals and families do not accept an ITIN (Individual Taxpayer Identification Number), which prevents up to 20% of Latinx people from receiving this assistance, according to Orson Aguilar, executive director of UnidosUS Action Fund. NETWORK is advocating for Congress to extend this assistance to taxpayers using ITINs, and to include them in future financial assistance.

Both the short and long-term economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic must be taken seriously, and the racial realities must be addressed to prevent further growth of the racial wealth and income gap.

Escalation of Anti-Asian Racism and Prejudice

Following the emergence and spread of the COVID-19 illness, there has also been a rise in anti-Asian racism in direct words and actions. In the United States, racist incidents have been reported across the country. At the same time, President Trump and his administration have deliberately used incorrect, racist terms to refer to the virus. Using incorrect, racist terms instead of the official name for the virus: COVID-19 or the coronavirus, creates undue hardship and diverts attention and energy that needs to go toward protecting all people from illness and additional suffering.

This anti-Asian racism is not new, but a re-emergence of long-standing racism and xenophobia toward Asian Americans, many of whom have lived in the U.S. for centuries. Now, faith leaders and elected officials, as well as actors and athletes have stepped in to renounce this racism and call our nation to a more just, more inclusive way of being during this difficult time. Anti-Asian racism, whether from an average person or from the President, have no place in our response to this global pandemic.

Serious Risks for Incarcerated and Detained Individuals

Because coronavirus spreads through touching, coughing, and sharing close physical space, the pandemic is wreaking havoc on U.S. prisons and detention centers, where Black, Latinx, and Native American people comprise over 60% of the population. In many prisons, including the Federal Correctional Complex in Oakdale, Louisiana, administrators have not released people or implemented social distancing measures, putting incarcerated people at considerable risk of contracting COVID-19. Such inaction, combined with already widespread medical neglect and unsanitary conditions, caused hundreds of incarcerated people across the country to contract and die from coronavirus in March and April.

As of early April, in federal prisons, seven inmates have died of COVID-19, and almost 200 more inmates, as well as 63 staff, have been infected. Migrants detained in San Diego’s Otay Mesa Detention Center feel particularly afraid of dying from coronavirus-related medical negligence, citing lack of testing kits and soap, according to Buzzfeed News.

Disturbed that COVID-19 is exacerbating already unsafe medical conditions, incarcerated people and their allies are organizing for freedom, justice, and safety. In Michigan and Arizona, hundreds of cars rallied outside of prisons, demanding the immediate release of every incarcerated person. In Illinois, Pennsylvania, and California, incarcerated people and detained migrants launched hunger strikes to advocate for their release from medically unsanitary conditions. Thankfully, some of these activists have won victories. After a staffer at the Plymouth County Correctional Facility in Massachusetts possibly contracted COVID-19, Mario Rodas Sr., an incarcerated migrant, worked with the ACLU to secure his release. The ACLU is litigating similar cases in Maryland, California, Pennsylvania, and Washington.

Additional Reading:

To learn more about the impact of the coronavirus on communities of color, we recommend the following:

Stop Blaming Black People for Dying of the Coronavirus
By Ibram X. Kendi published in the Atlantic April 14, 2020

4 reasons coronavirus is hitting Black communities so hard
By Eugene Scott, published in the Washington Post April 10, 2020

Latinos disproportionately dying, losing jobs because of the coronavirus: ‘Something has to change’
By Marco della Cava, published in USA Today April 18, 2020

How the coronavirus is surfacing America’s deep-seated anti-Asian biases
By Li Zhou, published in Vox April 21, 2020

The Economic Fallout of the Coronavirus for People of Color
By Connor Maxwell and Danyelle Solomon at the Center for American Progress, April 14, 2020

Mass incarceration could add 100,000 deaths to US coronavirus toll, study finds
By Ed Pilkington, published in the Guardian April 22, 2020

NETWORK Calls for Just Response to COVID-19

NETWORK Calls for a Just Response to COVID-19

This webpage will be updated with the latest developments as the United States faces the COVID-19 pandemic. We urge all elected officials to prioritize those who are most vulnerable and those at the economic margins as they respond to this crisis.

Share your story with NETWORK

Tell us what you, your family, and your community are going through. We will make sure our nation’s elected officials know what families across the country are experiencing, and advocate for policies that heal our nation, not further harm.

Friday, April 24, 2020
President Trump Signs Coronavirus Package Aimed At Small Businesses

Today, President Trump signed the latest COVID-19 related legislation, the result of negotiations between Speaker Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader McConnell, and Senate Minority Leader Schumer. The agreement provides nearly $500 billion in interim funding to small businesses, to hospitals, and for COVID-19 testing. NETWORK supports this funding, but there is still significantly more work to be done to make our nation healthy.

Read NETWORK’s press release after the agreement was reached. Also, continue signing up to “meet” with your Senators’ offices to communicate our priorities for additional legislation — including more funding for SNAP, unemployment insurance, and more!

Monday, April 20, 2020
Take Action: Congress Is Home, Working On Additional COVID-19 Legislation

While Members of Congress remain in their districts, there is still much that remains to be done to address the suffering caused by COVID-19 in the United States. Our priorities for the next legislative package include: protections for immigrants and additional support for individuals experiencing homelessness, incarceration, or food insecurity.

Now, we need to communicate those priorities to our Senators. Sign up here to schedule an in-district phone meeting with your Senator(s) or their staff.

Monday, April 6, 2020
NETWORK Webinar: The COVID-19 Response

On this webinar, NETWORK’s Government Relations team will review the three packages and explain what Congress still needs to do to ensure that all people are cared for and receive access to the medical and financial assistance they need.

Friday, March 27, 2020
Congress passes Coronavirus Economic Package

After critical negotiations, both the Senate and the House have passed the $2 trillion bailout package for workers and hospitals. This package will begin to provide security for many in this time of crisis, while ensuring that no tax-payer dollars go to corporate stock buy-backs or executive raises and bonuses.

Read NETWORK’s press release responding to the legislation.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020
Senate Nearing Vote on Economic Package

NETWORK urges all Senators to vote yes on S.3548, The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, immediately. We are pleased this bill includes many of NETWORK’s recommendations and approves much needed funds for hospitals, state, and local governments; extends unemployment insurance for workers; and puts conditions on business assistance, in the interest of workers and the economic stabilization and financial security of their families. In short, this bill puts people first

Read the letter NETWORK sent to Senators.

Monday, March 23, 2020
Political Leaders Still Have Not Reached Agreement on Economic Stimulus Plan

Today, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin continue negotiating a $1.6 trillion-plus emergency rescue package, hoping to reach agreement and pass a bill before the end of the day. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is releasing her own plan today.

Read more from Politico.com.

While the negotiations continue, NETWORK and our advocacy partners supported Members of Congress who signed onto a letter written by Representative T.J. Cox (CA-21) calling for immigrants to be included in access to COVID-19 testing and treatment regardless of immigration status.

Read the letter.

Friday, March 20, 2020
Economic Stimulus Negotiations Continue

Following Senate Republicans’ release of their proposed economic stimulus package yesterday, Senators from both parties were in negotiations to come to an agreement before midnight tonight. This afternoon Senate Finance Democrats proposed their own legislation. Negotiations are ongoing — call your Senators now using the phone number above and tell them to support workers and families in this economic stimulus package!

NETWORK calls for Congress to:

  1. Issue full value cash assistance to low- and moderate-income individuals and expand the EITC and Child Tax Credit to more low-income households;
  1. Strengthen, expand, and modernize Unemployment Insurance in order to provide higher benefits and greater flexibility, account for the changing workforce (such as the gig economy), and cover workers who may lose their jobs or face new caregiving responsibilities due to the virus;
  2. Boost nutrition benefits and flexibility for all households receiving the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP);
  3. Increase Medicaid funding for states by fulling covering the state share to adequately address the increased demand for health care and related costs;
  4. Increase homelessness assistance funding. Individuals experiencing homelessness are at increased risk of serious infection because they often live in congregated communities (like shelters and encampments), cannot self-quarantine, and often lack access to running water and other methods to prevent infection;
  5. Expand paid sick leave for every person, regardless of employer or employer size;
  6. Give special care and attention to individuals at increased risk of infection, including incarcerated individuals, immigrants and children in detention, tribes and Native communities, and people experiencing homelessness;
  7. Require funding for corporations to be focused on ensuring that people continue to be paid and receive benefits. Strong guardrails need to be in place to ensure that families and those who need it most get assistance and that companies in the future do not recklessly profit off of taxpayer funding at the expense of workers; and
  8. Expand federal funding for Tribes and Tribal Organizations for robust health services access in Indian Country.

Additionally, regarding the individual payments proposed in the Republican plan, ITEP estimates that only 20% ( $215 billion) out of a $1 trillion bill would be spent on individual payments, demonstrating that the Republican stimulus chiefly benefits businesses.
Read more from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy.

Thursday, March 19, 2020
Third Package Negotiations Heat Up

The Senate is rapidly writing their third response package and needs to hear from you now.  Please call using the phone number above. Right now, Senator Mitch McConnell is leading the GOP in the Senate in developing the “economic stimulus” package. Our concern is that they are not correctly viewing what KIND of stimulus is needed since this is not a “normal” market crash and will have unknown, long-term impacts on peoples’ lives.  They need to understand that people oppose another big-business bailout predicated on trickle-down economics.

While the need to address industry-wide economic fall-out is important, stimulus aid must have conditions attached to ensure that workers are supported rather than only subsidizing financial markets or corporate profits. In 2008, the federal government provided hundreds of billions of dollars to Wall Street to respond to the financial crisis, with no strings attached. The results for Wall Street were tremendous – a quick return to profitability, large executive compensation packages, major stock buy-backs, and more. The results for working families were disappointing, and most never fully recovered. Financial support this time should be targeted and contingent upon maintaining protections for workers.

Direct benefits to low- and moderate-income households is a powerful and effective economic stimulant. We support a targeted measure to support households most in need. A payroll tax cut does not make sense for this crisis, but refundable tax credits targeted to low- and moderate-income individuals and families could have a powerful stabilizing effect. Expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit would give families and individuals additional relief over time.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020
NETWORK Priorities for Third Coronavirus Package

After finalizing the first two packages responding to coronavirus, the Senate focuses on a third package, an “economic stimulus” package. NETWORK supports including the following financial supports in this economic stimulus. Read all of NETWORK’s recommendations for an economic stimulus package here.
To support people:

  • Target rebate checks and refundable tax credit to low- and moderate-income individuals
  • Strengthen, expand, and modernize Unemployment Insurance and paid medical and family leave
  • Boost nutrition assistance
  • Increase homelessness assistance funding
  • Halt evictions and foreclosures
  • Give special attention to at-risk communities

To support states, municipalities, and health care:

  • Increase Medicaid funding for states and stabilization funds for Community Health Centers and critical related programs

To support business:

  • Ensure federal funds given to support businesses reach workers
Senate Passes Families First Coronavirus Response Act, President Trump signs it into law

The Senate voted to approve the Families First Coronavirus Response Act with a 90-8 vote. President Trump signed the bill into law Wednesday evening.

Read more from www.nbcnews.com.

Monday, March 16, 2020
NETWORK Recommends Senators Vote Yes on H.R.6021

At the conclusion of a 3-day Senate recess, NETWORK sent the following vote recommendation to U.S. Senators calling on them to pass H.R.6201, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.

Read NETWORK’s Senate vote recommendation.

Saturday, March 14, 2020
House Passes Families First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R.6021)

In a letter to all Members of Congress, NETWORK urged Congress to ensure coronavirus testing is affordable, expand paid sick leave, increase assistance for low-income workers and families, and give special attention to groups with increased risk of infection in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.

Read NETWORK’s letter to Congress.