Tag Archives: COVID-19 Pandemic

Safety Not Stigma: A Pandemic Portrait Campaign to Fight Racism

by Sharon H. Chang

COVID-19 Safety Not Stigma is a portrait campaign by South Seattle photographer Sharon H. Chang to combat increased racism against people of color during the coronavirus pandemic; raise awareness about the disproportionate impacts of the coronavirus on communities of color; and prioritize safety instead of stigma by the public. Portraits show Asian and Black Americans wearing masks and are shared online with humanizing words, as well as news and updates. The campaign, supported by 4Culture, launched on social media April 7. You can see more on Sharon H. Chang’s Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

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OPINION: Lawmakers Must Invest in a Cash Stimulus for the People Who Drive Our Economy

by Emily Vyhnanek and Margaret Babayan

(This piece was originally published on the Washington State Budget & Policy Center blog.)

COVID-19 has exposed just how many people across the state were one paycheck away from being unable to meet their basic needs. People who were experiencing economic hardship before this crisis are falling further behind. Federal action to expand unemployment protections and provide stimulus payments were important first steps, but too many people — especially undocumented workers — were excluded, and much more needs to be done to ensure everyone can meet their needs while staying safe.

A Recovery Rebate can ease Washington’s recovery

The scale of this economic crisis warrants bold, unprecedented action from state leaders. Now is the time for lawmakers to invest in a statewide Recovery Rebate — modeled after federal stimulus payments. A Recovery Rebate would allow for people with low incomes — including people who use an Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN) to file taxes — to receive a one-time stimulus payment based on tax-filing information. Putting cash directly into the pockets of the people who drive our economy and who have been most impacted by the public health and economic fallout of COVID-19 is a smart investment.

Lawmakers should create a short-term Recovery Rebate to get cash into the pockets of people immediately. Long term, legislators should leverage this Recovery Rebate model to create a permanent system that would aid our state in future economic recoveries. A permanent, annual Recovery Rebate can be modeled after the Working Families Tax Credit, our state’s version of the highly successful Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).

Flexible cash assistance bolsters and complements existing support systems

Critical supports like WorkFirst/Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) work best when accessed as part of a larger system. A Recovery Rebate would expand Washington’s system of support by giving residents the financial flexibility they need to pay for necessities not covered by other public benefits. While important lifelines, programs like TANF and SNAP impose strict eligibility requirements and limitations on how funds can be used. These restrictions prevent people from covering the full costs of their needs or other essential expenses, like the technologies for school or car repairs.

Cash promotes health and well-being in times of crisis

The strongest antidote to economic insecurity is cash. People who have suddenly lost work, income, and employer-sponsored health coverage face another type of public health challenge — financial instability. The research is clear: People have better physical and mental health outcomes when they are not worrying about putting food on the table or having a safe place to live.

Direct cash stimulus is especially important for families with children, as children are particularly harmed by economic hardship. Experiencing childhood poverty can have negative consequences for children’s development that continue long into adulthood. But income boosts and other public supports can help put children in families experiencing economic hardship on a path to success. For example, extra income from federal and state tax credits have been shown to lift children out of poverty and support positive developmental and educational outcomes for kids in families that receive these credits. Investing in people and their families now can help ensure the next generation grows up to be as strong and healthy as possible.

A cash stimulus is an equitable investment

A cash stimulus would overwhelmingly support communities that are being disproportionately impacted by the spread of the novel coronavirus and who are also the most likely to be devastated by this economic crisis. Persistent and historically oppressive systems have meant that communities of color — especially Latinx communities, immigrants, and refugees (including those who are undocumented) — people with disabilities, and communities in rural areas are more likely to live on lower incomes. These communities would therefore see outsized benefits from a state Recovery Rebate.

Additionally, by structuring a stimulus to include taxpayers who use an ITIN, our state’s lawmakers can fill gaps left by the federal government. This will help this important group of taxpayers — which includes undocumented immigrants, certain student visa holders, spouses and children of people with visas tied to employment, and survivors of intimate partner violence — better support themselves and their families through this crisis.

We can speed up the economic recovery by investing in communities now  

Flexible cash payments to people with low incomes generate local economic activity that can support small businesses and the economic recovery as the state reopens. In fact, one analysis found that every dollar of a recipient’s Earned Income Tax Credit refund generated $1.5 to $2 in economic activity.

Households with low incomes are also more likely to spend stimulus dollars quickly and on essentials in local economies. Households with less than $500 in savings that received federal stimulus checks in spring of 2020 spent almost half of their payments on necessities within 10 days of receipt, according to a recent analysis.

There is enough wealth in the state to meet community needs 

In the short-term, lawmakers can use a portion of the Coronavirus Relief Fund or the low-interest federal lending options created by the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to create and fund a Recovery Rebate. To fund a long-term, annual Recovery Rebate, lawmakers should enact much-needed progressive taxes that yield additional state revenues. They can do this by passing a state capital gains tax for the ultra-wealthy and removing unnecessary tax breaks for big corporations.

Communities can’t wait any longer. All of us deserve the opportunity to get through this recovery. Lawmakers can leverage the immense wealth of our state to raise revenue for important and needed investments like a Recovery Rebate.

Emily Vyhnanek is the Working Families Tax Credit campaign manager and Margaret Babayan is a policy analyst at the Washington State Budget & Policy Center, an organization that works to advance the economic well-being of people in Washington.

Featured image by Paul Sableman.

State Institutes More Protections for Agricultural Workers, Considers Creating Relief Fund for Undocumented Workers

by Carolyn Bick

Washington State Gov. Jay Inslee said in a press conference on May 28 that the state will be instituting additional protections for agricultural workers, and that his office is looking into the possibility of creating a relief fund for undocumented workers who do not have access to unemployment benefits, despite paying taxes.

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Y-WE Hosts Virtual Health Care Injustice Panel

by Thea White

“Young Women Empowered seeks to amplify young women’s leadership and role as courageous change makers. We believe in a world where justice is for all and we strive to make that a reality.” 

—Victoria Santos

Last Saturday, May 23, Young Women Empowered (Y-WE) hosted a virtual panel titled Y-WE Care: Exploring Health Care Injustice, to speak on the injustices this global pandemic highlights in the U.S. health care system. The panel was moderated by Y-WE’s Co-Executive Director, Victoria Santos. Santos, who battled COVID-19 in March, took some time to speak on the impact this pandemic has had among BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) communities.

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OPINION: Mayor Durkan, if You Care about Public Health, Stop the Sweeps

by Julianna Alson, Omid Bagheri Garakani, Miranda Vargas

Dear Mayor Durkan,

We are Seattle-based public health practitioners and homeless service providers imploring you to stop the removals of homeless encampments. We also endorse Councilmember Morales’ Council Bill 119796 to limit encampment removals during the state of emergency. Seattle is under the national spotlight of pandemic response. You have the choice to set an example for the country with evidence-based public health strategies that truly protect public health and safety.

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COVID-19 in Native Communities: Recalling Past Trauma and Present Hope

by Matt Remle

“Within these late years, there hath, by God’s visitation, reigned a wonderful plague, the utter destruction, devastation, and depopulation of that whole territory, so as there is not left any that do claim or challenge any kind of interest therein. We, in our judgment, are persuaded and satisfied, that the appointed time is come in which Almighty God, in his great goodness and bounty towards us, and our people, hath thought fit and determined, that those large and goodly territories, deserted as it were by their natural inhabitants, should be possessed and enjoyed by such of our subjects.”

—King James I, The Charter of New-England 

The Great Dying

Every Thanksgiving, classrooms across the country learn about a group of religiously persecuted Christian reformers fleeing England in order to worship freely in the New World. These Pilgrims likened themselves to the Israelite exodus from Egypt, a people chosen by God to be guided across the Atlantic to find, conquer and lay claim to their promised land. Upon arrival in what would become Plymouth Colony, the Pilgrims found a “promised land” that did not need to be conquered like that of Canaan, but rather a ghost town littered with untended fields, empty villages and skeletal remains of the original inhabitants. For the Pilgrim colonizers this was proof of God’s divine plan.

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Lessons Learned From Celebrating Ramadan During a Pandemic

by Amina Ibrahim

What was once a month filled with community gathering, food and nightly congregational prayers now has an eerie sense of loneliness that has Muslims around the world mourning the loss of traditions held dear during the holy month of Ramadan. 

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Citywide Campaign Seeks to Bring Socially Distantancing Seattleites Closer

by Elizabeth Turnbull

Seattle Together, a community response plan run by the City of Seattle, launched today, May 21, as a way for residents to share stories, resources, events, and connect virtually during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the City. 

“The short version is Seattle Together is a city-wide campaign to sort of combat feelings of isolation while we’re all forced to socially distance,” Randy Engstrom, the Director of Arts and Culture for the City of Seattle, told the Emerald in a phone interview. 

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Folklife Continues to Connect Communities With Virtual Festival, “From Home to Home”

by Alexa Peters

Celebrating its 49th year in 2020, Northwest Folklife Festival is no stranger to surprising situations. As managing director Reese Tanimura says, festival staff are regularly asked to respond to some unusual radio calls — be it a Scottish bagpipe competing with the Balkan choir on the Fisher Green Stage, a band of pirates that needs a better mic, or a farm animal that’s made its way into the crowd.

“The best radio call I ever got while working at the Northwest Folklife Festival was, ‘Uh, this is Tom from the Fountain Lawn Stage. I’m just radioing to let you know there is a chicken on my stage. I repeat, there is a live chicken on my stage,’” said Devon Leger, who booked for the festival until 2010.

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Washington National Guard to Staff COVID-19 Contact Tracing Program Only Until June 24?

compiled by Emerald Staff

Wednesday, Governor Jay Inslee announced Washington State’s COVID-19 contact tracing program. Over 700 National Guard members have been trained to do much of this labor-intensive work — at least until June 24. 

Tuesday, national media revealed that over 40,000 National Guard members’ deployment across the country ends on June 24 — one day short of qualifying for early retirement or education benefits. This includes the 700-plus Guard members already trained and starting to conduct contact tracing here in Washington. 

Continue reading Washington National Guard to Staff COVID-19 Contact Tracing Program Only Until June 24?