July News Briefs

Press releases compiled, arranged and edited by Makena Huey

New SANDAG report finds Black and Hispanic communities hardest hit by COVID-19 

As the San Diego region’s labor market continues to experience a historic decline, Black and Hispanic communities are most impacted, according to a new SANDAG Data Science and Analytics report, “COVID-19 Impact on the San Diego Regional Economy: Black and Hispanic Communities Hardest Hit.”

Since the stay home order began in mid-March, SANDAG has closely monitored the economic impact of the pandemic on the San Diego region. 

The new SANDAG report finds that when compared to the White population, Black and Hispanic populations are more than four times as likely to live in areas that have been impacted by COVID-19 and unemployment. More than two-thirds of the region’s Black (67%) and Hispanic (70%) populations reside in ZIP Codes with higher than average unemployment rates. Approximately half of Black (52%) and Hispanic (49%) residents live in ZIP Codes with higher than average COVID-19 cases.  

 White and Asian communities have been less impacted, with 14% and 24% respectively residing in areas experiencing high rates of unemployment and COVID-19 cases. 

The report found that Black and Hispanic employees are overrepresented in the high contact and essential workforces. Hispanic employees account for 32% of the overall workforce but represent 46% of those working in the food service industry, and 37% of those working in the retail sector (excluding grocery and drugstore). Black employees account for nearly 5% of the overall workforce but represent more than 7% who work in childcare and social services, 9% in trucking, warehouse, and postal service, and nearly 20% of public transit workers. 

Californians report over 800 incidents of anti-AAPI hate since COVID-19  

As of July 1, Asian Americans in California have self-reported 832 incidents of discrimination and harassment in the last three months, including 81 incidents of assault and 64 potential civil rights violations, according to Stop AAPI Hate, the leading aggregator of incidents against Asian Americans during the pandemic. Stop AAPI Hate released the findings in a press  briefing, during which California Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi and David Chiu, chair of Asian Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus, made specific and urgent policy demands of the California state legislature.  

Discrimination and harassment of Asian Americans in California has drawn national attention recently after a series of videos in Torrance, California featured a woman using racist language against Asian Americans. The videos have received millions of views, and they reflect just a handful of the incidents reported to Stop AAPI Hate in California.  

President Donald Trump’s repeated use of the term “kung flu” in recent rallies and Twitter comments scapegoating China for the United States’ failure to control the coronavirus have also stoked further Anti-Asian American harassment.  

Stop AAPI Hate has been advocating since April for the state to establish a Racial Bias Strike Team to further investigate the widespread and growing problem of COVID-19-related hate against the Asian American community in California and determine the most effective policies to address this problem. Nonetheless, California’s state budget excluded specific funding for initiatives advocated for by the Asian American community in California.  

A new report shows that incidents of racism and discrimination are not isolated to any particular area but are a statewide problem: Asian Americans have reported incidents in 34 counties so far. Incidents are reportedly taking place in California in retail stores, in the workplace and online. 

The Stop AAPI Hate coalition sent Governor Newsom another letter recommending the establishment of a Racial Bias Strike Team comprised of key state agencies and departments that have jurisdiction over public education, implementing state and federal civil rights laws, overseeing workplace and employment discrimination, providing mental health services to vulnerable communities, and offering support to local Asian American-serving community-based organizations. 

Surveys reveal struggles community college students face during COVID-19  

San Diego Community College District (SDCCD) students are facing overwhelming needs caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, including job losses that are making it more difficult to afford rent and a lack of computer and internet access for classes that transitioned online, according to SDCCD surveys. 

The hardships have prompted a sharp increase in students dropping their classes. A total of 18,577 withdrawals were recorded between the spring semester’s sixth and fifteenth weeks, which came during the heart of the pandemic, and they accounted for 17% of all enrollments. That compares the 10,834 withdrawals accounting for 9% of all enrollments recorded last year. 

The primary challenge students at City, Mesa and Miramar colleges face are financial, with 29% of students at City, 24% of students at Mesa and 18% percent of students at Miramar saying they can’t afford to pay the rent, mortgage or utility bills. Eighteen percent of students at City College, 16% of students at Mesa College and 13% of students at Miramar College said there isn’t enough food at home. Numerous students are asking for mental and emotional support; many expressed concerns about exacerbating mental distress post COVID-19. 

There also was ample gratitude for the services the SDCCD has extended during the crisis. Staff at City, Mesa and Miramar colleges and San Diego Continuing Education, for example, have distributed hundreds of laptops to students shortly after classes moved online; WiFi hotspots are being offered at college parking lots; scholarships and emergency funding is being provided with the support of donors; a variety of counseling and student services are now available online; and deadlines for withdrawals were extended. In addition, all the institutions have ramped up communications to ensure students are aware of available resources. 

San Diego County neighborhoods are at risk of not being fully counted in 2020 Census 

Sierra Club Outing

Local community leaders and representatives of over 150 nonprofits and municipalities who are members of the non-partisan Count Me 2020 Coalition are set to activate a “Week of Action” from July 6 through July 10 to encourage individuals to respond to the Census who live and work in neighborhoods which currently have a low Census response rate. 

This Spring, the stay-at-home orders during the COVID-19 pandemic forced many members of the Count Me 2020 Coalition to adjust not only their mission-centric operations but also their planned Census outreach efforts in the community. As time went on, community leaders determined it was important to provide a rapid response to essential services and programs, while at the same time continuing to encourage Census participation. They have also prioritized delivering meals to seniors, distributing emergency boxes of food and staples, and performing other acts of compassion to help neighbors in need. 

Their efforts have paid off. As of June 25, there is a 67.4% self-response rate for the 2020 Census in San Diego County, which is higher than the current California response rate of 62.8%. But there are still neighborhoods that need a more intense focus on Census education and promotion. 

Count Me 2020 Coalition’s Week of Action aims to increase the 2020 Census self-response rate to at least 68.2%, which was the final 2010 Census response rate for San Diego County, It also aims to keep the momentum going to achieve a full population count by the end of the Census response period, which is Oct. 31, 2020. 

Although the City of San Diego’s Census response rate is ranked second nationwide in cities with populations of more than 1 million, there are still some neighborhoods and other cities in our region with extremely low participation rates.  

Count Me 2020 officials can access Census response rate data down to a neighborhood block area, called Census tracts. The following communities are at risk of not being fully counted: Oceanside – Camp Pendleton; Escondido; in the City of San Diego: Normal Heights, Barrio Logan, Sherman Heights, Logan Heights, City Heights, Downtown/San Diego City College; National City; Otay Mesa; Lemon Grove/La Presa; Chula Vista; Unincorporated areas in San Diego County: El Cajon, Campo/Morena Village/Jacumba/Boulevard, Santa Ysabel/Warner Springs. Additional communities also include the Pala, Pauma, and La Jolla Reservations. 

California, and the San Diego region in particular, faces a number of unique challenges to ensure a complete Census count which include but are not limited to the diversity of our population, trans-border identities, language barriers, computer literacy, limited broadband connection, and a distrust in the federal government. Count Me 2020 leaders take into account these and other nuances to create effective outreach strategies to encourage populations identified by the State of California as “hard-to-count” to respond to the 2020 Census

Various outreach tactics are planned across the Week of Action and will be implemented by Count Me 2020 Coalition members and municipal agencies to bring the community together in a safe and responsible way, building connection and solidarity.  

Activities include virtual town halls, social media “thunderclaps” and neighbors calling neighbors — a phone-banking effort to make personal connections and conduct conversations with friends and family members to complete the 2020 Census. Organizers also intend to host car caravans in various neighborhoods in a safe, physically distant manner. A full schedule of events for the Count Me 2020 Coalition’s Week of Action will be shared on their social media channels and on their website, countme2020.org

To complete the 2020 Census visit http://www.my2020census.gov/ or call the U.S. Census Bureau, where specific hotline numbers have been established for preferred in-language response over the phone. A full list of these phone numbers is available on the Count Me 2020 website. The questionnaire takes less than 10 minutes to complete, and responses are protected by law and cannot be shared with, or used by, any governmental agencies. 

San Diego attorneys form pro bono program to help civil litigant in face of COVID-19 crisis 

Amidst COVID-19-induced shelter-in-place orders, the San Diego Superior Court closed for all civil matters – creating a backlog of over 8,000 missed hearings, dozens of trials and an inability to move cases forward. In response, San Diego lawyers have joined forces to create RESOLVE Law San Diego (RLSD), poised to be the largest legal pro bono program in San Diego history. 

Designed to streamline the law and motion and mediation process, the program — created by San Diego County Bar members and supported by virtually every bar association in the County — will help move civil cases forward by providing local attorneys a free venue for dispute resolution outside of the constrained court system.  

The new program will offer litigants the opportunity to connect with a retired judge or a qualified local attorney to hear matters free of charge. Hearings are conducted by telephone or video conferencing and briefing is limited. The program is scheduled to last for 120 days while the San Diego Superior Court grapples with the backlog of cases after a two-month closure.  

The over 240 lawyers and retired judges who have volunteered to participate in the program can be accessed at http://www.resolvelawsandiego.com.