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Coronavirus

State’s Top Educator to Families: “Translate Fear into Action” as Schools Reopen

Millions of students are returning to in-person classes at California’s public schools, amid parents and teachers’ fears about the inability to vaccinate children under 12 and the spread of the COVID Delta variant.

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Back to School/Shutterstock

Millions of students are returning to in-person classes at California’s public schools, amid parents and teachers’ fears about the inability to vaccinate children under 12 and the spread of the COVID Delta variant.

During a briefing hosted by Ethnic Media Services and California Black Media, California State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond asserted that the districts have implemented all “safety and COVID mitigation measures” to resume in-person instruction.

“The state allows independent study for those who have a medical need or need an alternative to in-person instruction. But we have learned that our students have suffered from a lack of educators and peers, while mental health needs have increased and our learning gaps have been exacerbated,” said Thurmond, speaking from the campus of the Girls’ Academic Leadership Academy (GALA).

Students of color and low-income students have been the most affected by the pandemic, not only in terms of loss of human life within their families and the trauma that this entails, but also because of their difficulties in accessing online education. 

One million students statewide still lack access to high-speed internet. Thurmond said California is creating “infrastructure for more broadband” in rural and border communities.

“We recognize that many students have experienced the trauma of the pandemic,” Thurmond said. “There is more than $4 billion available for mental health services for youth up to age 25, more than $3 billion for community schools to have comprehensive mental health support, and support for families with universal meals.”

Other initiatives include hiring more staff to work with students in literacy programs, one-on-one tutoring, professional development, special education, and multilingual learning.

The superintendent acknowledged that “our families are skeptical and scared,” but he invited them to “translate that fear into action” by vaccinating their children and relatives older than 12. 

He said that last week the district contacted 500,000 California households to spread a message in several languages: vaccines are available and free for everyone regardless of immigration status or health insurance. They have even awarded $100 gift cards to some of those vaccinated.

 “While (vaccines) are new to most of us, they are not new to scientists,” Thurmond reiterated.

Messengers such as California General Surgeon and pediatrician Nadine Burke Harris, labor rights leader Dolores Huerta, activist Karen Korematsu, daughter of Fred T. Korematsu, who was detained at a Japanese internment camp, and former professional basketball player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, have been talking about the importance of people across all racial groups and backgrounds getting vaccinated. 

“We’ve given money to our schools to support outdoor classrooms, air purification and air filtration systems, improving ventilation, and access to PPE (personal protective equipment), ” Thurmond said. His office is also providing support to families with students in schools affected by fires and natural disasters.

Due to fears that some students and parents have of going back to school because of the hate crimes that have occurred since the beginning of the pandemic, especially in the Asian American community, Thurmond launched an initiative called “education to end hate” that provides implicit bias training to educators.

Thurmond acknowledged that the system hasn’t done enough for all students. 

This is our moment to build it better, to ensure equity at the center… We have the way to begin the work that we need to close those learning gaps that we were dealing with historically, and the ones that have been exacerbated by the pandemic,” he said.

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Activism

Oakland City Council Approves Funding for African American Healing Hubs

The economic, physical, and spiritual damage, coupled with the pandemic crisis, must be met with healing and love, said Dr. Wade Nobles, a co-founder of the Black Psychologists Association. “Black people must save ourselves, for no one is coming to our rescue. Therefore, we are working towards constructing an African American Healing Hub that embraces African-centric mental wellness modalities utilizing a holistic approach.”

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Dr. Wade Nobles says the healing hubs proposed by Oakland Front Line Healers will be a first in addressing specific traumas African Americans experience daily living in a racist environment.
Dr. Wade Nobles says the healing hubs proposed by Oakland Front Line Healers will be a first in addressing specific traumas African Americans experience daily living in a racist environment.

By Tanya Dennis

Last week, the Oakland City Council approved $250,000 to assist the East Bay Association of Black Psychologists (EBABP) and Oakland Frontline Healers (OFH) open two emergency mental health centers, one at True Vine Ministries and BOSS in East Oakland.

Oakland Frontline Healers, a collaborative of Black-led non-profits and medical doctors that joined together in April of 2020, to combat COVID-19 in the African American community by providing free PPE, testing, vaccines and support services.

Last October the collaborative, after assessing their successful frontline status in serving the African American community determined they must address other critical issues. They decided to address Black mental health.

Reaching out to the East Bay Association of Black Psychologists, Oakland Frontline Healers discovered that providing mental health services specifically to Black folks would be more detailed then simply securing a space and providing services.

Dr. Wade Nobles, a co-founder of the Black Psychologists Association, revealed that the European model had done a disservice to the African American community. In October 2021, the American Psychologists Association offered a public apology to the African American community with a commitment to “shed racist and colonial roots to embody the principles of equity, diversity, and inclusion to become an actively antiracist discipline.”

With that knowledge, both EBABP and OFH committed to creating an African-centered mental wellness model.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has glaringly illuminated the disparities in America that compromises Black health daily,” Nobles said. “Unfortunately, incarceration or worse is presented as the only recourse as resources addressing Black trauma is extremely limited and for many non-existent.

The economic, physical, and spiritual damage, coupled with the pandemic crisis, must be met with healing and love, he continued. “Black people must save ourselves, for no one is coming to our rescue. Therefore, we are working towards constructing an African American Healing Hub that embraces African-centric mental wellness modalities utilizing a holistic approach.”

Vice-Mayor Rebecca Kaplan spearheaded the City Council to approve $250,000 of City funds towards the training of “culturally congruent” behavioral specialists and frontline workers to support mental wellness in the African American community.

Vice-Mayor Rebecca Kaplan spearheaded the City Council to approve $250,000 of City funds towards the training of “culturally congruent” behavioral specialists and frontline workers to support mental wellness in the African American community.

Vice-Mayor Rebecca Kaplan agreed after attending the group’s town halls and submitted a proposal to award $250,000 to the project for culturally congruent training for behavioral specialists and frontline providers.

“The City Council’s vote of confidence and support is amazing! Their vote aligns with the African-centric tenet that it takes an entire community to ensure the wellness of the village,” said OFH facilitator Tanya Dennis.

The Association of Black Psychologists and Oakland Frontline Healers are currently working with Alameda County on the healing hubs and a healing center that has been in planning since 2015.

Dr. Lawford Goddard, an EBABP representative says, “We are committed to wellness, and treating the whole person and the whole community. Our project with the County, once complete, will also serve as a representative of our culture.”

They envision a space for meetings, conferences and banquets, a place where self-care like yoga, Reiki, urban gardening, massage, dance, drumming, healing circles and fun activities that promote wellness are offered.

“Unfortunately, our project with the County is three years or more in the future and we cannot wait,” Goddard said. “We must help our people now, by working with Oakland Frontline Healers and their emergency healing hubs enabling us to provide services within months.”

The County has committed $19 million toward the purchase of a site to establish a larger complex that will embody African American wellness as envisioned by EBASP.

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Activism

Alameda County Awards $4 Million in Grants for Licensed Early Care & Education Providers 

“Childcare keeps Alameda County working, and these awards are one step to supporting equity and social justice in a field where the workforce is held predominantly by women of color,” said Ford. Since March 2020, the Alameda County Emergency Child Care Response Team (ECCRT), a cross-sector collaborative of eight county-wide stakeholder agencies, has convened and concentrated its efforts to plan and align its immediate County COVID-19 response to support the ECE field.

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Women of color dominate the workforce providing childcare. iStock photo image.
Women of color dominate the workforce providing childcare. iStock photo image.

The Alameda County Board of Supervisors approved the distribution of $4 million in one-time federal relief grants to support local Early Care and Education (ECE) system needs and infrastructure made possible by the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).

“The COVID pandemic has highlighted the critical role of childcare in the United States and especially in Alameda County. Childcare is a key economic driver for families, employers, and communities to thrive,” said Supervisor Keith Carson, president of the Alameda County Board of Supervisors.

To apply for grants, licensed childcare providers will be required to complete a general County online application to verify they are currently active, licensed and providing care. Applications are available in the County’s threshold languages and can be found at this link.

The application portal for federal relief funds will be promoted by local resource and referral agencies like BANANAS, 4Cs and Hively, First 5 Alameda County, Emergency Child Care Response Team and the ECE Planning Council.

Large Family Child Care (FCC) and center-based licensed programs will qualify for a minimum award of $3,350 and small licensed FCC’s will qualify for a minimum award of $2,350.

“While the ECE field has shown tremendous creativity and resilience to keep their doors open to support children and families, they have also been severely impacted by the challenges of COVID-19 and struggle to keep their doors open,” said Andrea Ford, interim agency director for the Alameda County Social Services Agency.

“Childcare keeps Alameda County working, and these awards are one step to supporting equity and social justice in a field where the workforce is held predominantly by women of color,” said Ford.

Since March 2020, the Alameda County Emergency Child Care Response Team (ECCRT), a cross-sector collaborative of eight county-wide stakeholder agencies, has convened and concentrated its efforts to plan and align its immediate County COVID-19 response to support the ECE field.

Led by the Alameda County Social Services Agency, partner agencies include Alameda County Early Care & Education Planning Council, Alameda County Office of Education, Alameda County Public Health, BANANAS, Community Child Care Council (4Cs) of Alameda County, First 5 Alameda County (F5AC) and Hively. The goal is to ensure the grants funding reaches most if not all licensed ECE providers throughout the County.

The pandemic continues its impact on the ECE system. Nationally, nearly half of childcare providers closed at the beginning of the pandemic, and while many have reopened, data shows that, “86% are serving significantly fewer children than they were prior to the pandemic; on average, enrollment is down by 67%. Two out of five childcare providers are certain that they will close permanently without additional public assistance.”1

Alameda County tremendously values the local ECE field and is honored to provide some relief as we collectively work towards the long road to recovery,” said Ford.

For more information, ssachildcaregrant@acgov.org.

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Bay Area

Board Bars Evictions Related to COVID-19

Several times during the COVID-19 public health emergency, the Board has passed resolutions barring evictions for nonpayment of rent arising directly from the coronavirus. Preventing evictions for nonpayment due to financial hardship related to COVID-19 allows the County and its partners to continue making funds available for tenants who have struggled to pay rent. Since spring 2020, nearly 1,260 local households have received County-sponsored COVID-19 rental assistance.

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The County budget is balanced and structurally sound, although national economic indicators are showing signs that the recovery is slowing down.
The County budget is balanced and structurally sound, although national economic indicators are showing signs that the recovery is slowing down.

Protections intended for those experiencing hardship because of pandemic

Courtesy of Marin County

Determined to prevent housing displacement for residents financially hampered by the ongoing pandemic, the Marin County Board of Supervisors took another action June 21 to prohibit residential renter evictions in unincorporated Marin effective July 1 through Sept. 30, 2022. The State of California’s eviction protections are scheduled to expire June 30.

Several times during the COVID-19 public health emergency, the Board has passed resolutions barring evictions for nonpayment of rent arising directly from the coronavirus. Preventing evictions for nonpayment due to financial hardship related to COVID-19 allows the County and its partners to continue making funds available for tenants who have struggled to pay rent. Since spring 2020, nearly 1,260 local households have received County-sponsored COVID-19 rental assistance.

The County is continuing to assist tenants who have applied for rental assistance and working with community partners to assure an equitable distribution of federal funds earmarked for eviction prevention. All renters have been protected by state or local laws, regardless of a person’s citizenship status, during the public health emergency. The County continues to process rental assistance applications as quickly as possible with added staff over the past year to accommodate assistance applications.

Rental assistance priority has been given to households that are considered extremely low income, which in Marin would be a family of three with an income of no more than $43,550. Nationally, communities of color have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic and are often at the highest risk of housing displacement. The County recognizes that those most in need of eviction protection experience barriers to access such a program. While more than two-thirds of non-Hispanic white residents are homeowners in Marin, roughly three-quarters of both Black/African American and Hispanic/Latinx communities in Marin are renters.

Between state and federal funds, the County’s pandemic rental assistance program was awarded $36,414,871 of which $23,970,885 has been distributed to 1,260 local households in need. There is a remaining balance of $8,579,705, which will serve the remaining applicants and waiting list and is anticipated to be spent by September 30, 2022.

Clearing accumulated debt is designed to provide a lifeline to the hardest-hit families and provide income stability for landlords. Several local agencies, such as Canal Alliance, Community Action Marin, and North Marin Community Services, are assisting applicants with the process.

Property owners may call the District Attorney’s Consumer Protection Unit at (415) 473-6450 for assistance on rights and responsibilities. Renters are encouraged to contact Legal Aid of Marin at (415) 492-0230, extension 102, for inquiries on eviction protections.

Anyone needing help with the online application may call (415) 473-2223 or email staff to learn more about the Emergency Rental Assistance Program. More information about the County’s eviction moratorium is on the County’s COVID-19 Renter Protections webpage.

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