Author: lafocus

Black Leaders: J&J Vaccine Pause Takes State Vaccine Efforts “Three Steps Back”

LA Focus Staff Report

Some Black leaders in faith communities across California are expressing concerns after the U.S. Centers of Disease Control issued an urgent recommendation to health care providers across the country this week, directing them to pause the administration of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.

“It is alarming. We cannot continue to emphasize enough that the Black Community and the Brown community are scarred from decades of getting the short end of the stick when it comes to vaccines — the Tuskegee experiment; when it comes to vaccines that rolled out in the ‘70s; when it comes to the three-in-one shot that some scientists say causes an autistic reaction in our young Black boys,” said the Rev. Michael Fisher, pastor of the Greater Zion Church in Compton.

Fisher, who said he took the J&J vaccine, said just as his congregants were beginning to trust the COVID-19 vaccines, the CDC announced the pause.

“We just took three steps back,” he said. “Immediately when this broke our phones just lit up. I started getting phone calls. They started DM’ing me on Instagram and Facebook.

Officials say they came to the decision after six reports surfaced of “rare and severe blood clots” occurring in people who had received the only FDA-approved vaccine in the country that has a one-shot dose. The other two vaccines the feds have greenlighted, Pfizer and Moderna, require an initial vaccination followed by a booster shot three or four weeks later.

One of the women has died.

“In these cases, a type of blood clot called cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST) was seen in combination with low levels of blood platelets (thrombocytopenia),” said Dr. Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, and Dr. Anne Schuchat, Principal Deputy Director of the CDC, in a statement.

“All six cases occurred among women between the ages of 18 and 48, and symptoms occurred 6 to 13 days after vaccination,” the doctors continued.

Fisher and other Black clergymen who jumped on a call after they heard the news to discuss their concerns. The biggest concern, he said, the congregants shared is that officials seemed to be downplaying the death of the one fatality among the women with blood clots.

“Until that one death, or those six women happen in your local congregation, you don’t know the pain. I just lost my mother a month ago. That’s just one person, but to my family that’s my mama. I have a right to be concerned.

The same day the CDC announced the pause, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), announced that it is adhering to the CDC’s advice. The agency is also conducting an investigation of its own into the information the federal government is providing regarding the safety of the vaccine.

“The state will convene the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup (WSSRW) to review the information provided by the federal government on this issue,” said Dr. Erica Pan, a California epidemiologist whose work has been focused on the pandemic.

The governors of California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington created the committee made up of public health experts, immunologists and scientists to do independent analyses and reviews of vaccine-related information and federal approval process for the three shots.

So far, 6.8 million J&J vaccines have been administered across the United States. The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) has not yet provided details on how many Californians have received the shot — or the exact number of the treatments the state has in its inventory. But the vaccine, state officials say, accounts for only 4 % of the shots the state gives to people each week.

According to the CDC statement, using drugs that are typically used to treat blood clots might be dangerous in patients after they have been vaccinated for COVID-19.

“Usually, an anticoagulant drug called heparin is used to treat blood clots. In this setting, administration of heparin may be dangerous, and alternative treatments need to be given,” the doctors said.

On April 14, Gov. Newsom said he does not expect the pause to “materially” impact the state’s vaccination goals or its plans to reopen the economy on June 15.
“It has no side effect whatsoever,” Gov. Newsom said, speaking about his experience after taking the J&J shot. In fact, someone asked me which arm I got the shot in the next day, and I honestly couldn’t remember.”

Fisher says he met with the governor and his staff and asked important questions that he feels are still unanswered.

“As leaders, gatekeepers in our community, we need to be brought to the table – not as errand boys – but with full disclosure. Then we can rightfully be able to make the decision about whether or not vaccines like Johnson & Johnson are right for our particular community,” he said. recommending a pause in the use of this vaccine out of an abundance of caution. This is important, in part, to ensure that the health care provider community is aware of the potential for these adverse events and can plan for proper recognition and management due to the unique treatment required with this type of blood clot. Gov. Gavin Newsom says

SACRAMENTO – Today the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) issued a statement from Dr. Erica Pan, state epidemiologist, regarding the Johnson & Johnson/Janssen COVID-19 vaccine.
“Today, the CDC and FDA have recommended a temporary pause in the use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine out of an abundance of caution. Of over 6.8 million doses administered nationally, there have been six reported cases of a rare and severe type of blood clot with symptoms occurring 6 to 13 days after vaccination.

“California is following the FDA and CDC’s recommendation and has directed health care providers to pause the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine until we receive further direction from health and safety experts. Additionally, the state will convene the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup to review the information provided by the federal government on this issue. As the federal government has said, we do not expect a significant impact to our vaccination allocations. In California, less than 4% of our vaccine allocation this week is the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.” 
For more information about the adverse effects, and what to do if you are experiencing symptoms, please contact your healthcare provider. We will provide additional details on what this means for our state efforts as they become available.


The joint CDC and FDA statement can be found here.

Cleaning House: California Black Business Spotlight

Linnea Willis-Smith, a small, woman-owned-minority proprietor, is a prime example of how some businesses have thrived under the COVID-19 pandemic. 
 
Willis-Smith, a licensed attorney by trade, is the owner of Quality Cleaning Professionals (QCP). QCP specializes in cleaning, janitorial services, day porters, and other services for businesses.
 
The California Department of General Services (DGS) small business certification has been vital in facilitating Willis-Smith’s ability to obtain contracts with various state departments and other government municipalities.
 
“I have responded to a lot of invitations for bids (IFBs) in the state of California,” Willis-Smith said in a video produced by the California Department of General Services. “My advice to small businesses is to go to local small development centers and procure technical assistance centers. Those different agencies will help you get started, give you resources on how to have the right foundation, financial support, and everything else you need to have a successful business.”
 
QCP is a certified small business with the state of California and has a lot of contracts with various government agencies and departments in the State of California. It continues to be awarded contracts because of its stellar reputation for providing quality services and being responsive and communicative.

 
Willis-Smith learned about DGS’s certification program by using local small business development centers and procurement technical assistance centers to assist her with establishing her business.
 
DGS’s Office of Small Business and Disabled Veteran Business Enterprise Services (OSDS) administers the state’s Small Business, Small Business for the Purpose of Public Works, Disabled Veteran Business Enterprise (DVBE), Nonprofit Veteran Service Agency certifications, and Nonprofit recognition programs.
 
The purpose of the certification program is to promote and increase participation in state contracting for small and DVBE businesses.
 

The DGS OSDS supports the state of California’s goal to spend 25 percent of contract dollars with small businesses and 3 percent of contract dollars with DVBEs through targeted outreach events, workshops, webinars, instructional videos, personal assistance, and working groups.

For more information on DGS’s California State Government Marketplace – Cal eProcure, where businesses can register and get certified, visit https://caleprocure.ca.gov
For further assistance, interested parties can email [email protected]

General Motors Announces 400 Percent Increase in Ad Spending with Black-Owned Media

Stacy Brown, NNPA

General Motors, a longtime corporate partner of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), announced increasing advertising spending in Black-owned media by 400 percent.

According to a news release, the company said it would grow spending from 2 percent to 8 percent of its total budget by 2023.

By that estimate, General Motors’ advertising spending would jump from about $45 million to approximately $180 million.
Several Black-owned media officials recently pressed General Motors CEO Mary Barra for a meeting after determining that the company was not doing enough to promote economic inclusion.

Reportedly, a meeting between Barra, and a contingent led by Byron Allen of Allen Media Group, was postponed.

General Motors officials said it would be more productive to host a series of meetings involving a more extensive mix of Black-owned media publishers and executives.

“To ensure that our conversations are both substantive and constructive, we are going to postpone [the originally scheduled meeting] and reschedule it into a series of smaller conversations that take place over the next few weeks,” GM global Chief Marketing Officer Deborah Wahl told the executives.

“We also intend to expand the dialogue to invite our existing Black-owned media partners currently in the GM portfolio.”

For years, the company has been a corporate sponsor to the NNPA, the trade association representing 230 African American newspapers and media companies in markets throughout the country.

Also, General Motors’ Chevrolet brand and the NNPA have partnered since 2016 to provide deserving HBCU students with the exciting opportunity to “Discover the Unexpected” about themselves and their communities via a journalism fellowship program.

The Discover the Unexpected Journalism Fellowship (DTU) provides six HBCU students with scholarships ($10,000 each), stipends ($5,000 each), an eight-week fellowship with the nation’s leading Black news publications, and the “road trip of a lifetime” in an all-new Chevrolet Blazer or other Chevrolet vehicle.

Each year, a selection of four NNPA Publishers provides the fellows with the opportunity to gain real-world journalism experience during the eight-week Fellowship Program.

“General Motors has been taking steps to deal with systemic racism,” said NNPA President and CEO Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. “It doesn’t happen overnight or in one year.”

LA COUNTY HELPS HOMEOWNERS HIT BY COVID COSTS – NEW PROGRAM OFFERS UP TO $20,000 RELIEF

By Mark Hedin, Ethnic Media Services

Early on in the pandemic Los Angeles County put safeguards in place for tenants struggling to pay rent.  A year later, those safeguards are still in place, and new measures are being added.

At a press telebriefing on April 12, Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl (3rd District) cited a UCLA study conducted in the spring of 2020 that estimated 120,000 Los Angeles County households were at risk of eviction because of income losses due the pandemic.

“We simply could not let that happen,” she said, and the five-member county board of supervisors enacted a moratorium on evictions, which it has extended several times. 
Now the county is also launching a ground-breaking program providing mortgage assistance grants of up to $20,000 to help small-scale property owners staff off foreclosures.

“The Foreclosure Prevention and Mortgage Relief Program (https://tinyurl.com/COVIDforeclosurerelief) is the first program of its kind in the state to provide relief to owners of single-family and two-to-four-unit homes,” said Rafael Carbajal, director of the Department of Consumer and Business Affairs, who followed Kuehl at the news conference

The new program, which has begun accepting applications for its $4 million mortgage assistance budget, can be accessed by phone, at (888) 895-2647, or online at nhslacounty.org\mortgagereliefprogram. 

Carbajal added that counseling is available to anyone needing it, whether they qualify for the payment program or not.

“I’m proud to work with this board of supervisors that took the initiative to make this investment in homeowners,” Carbajal said, citing the lack of similar investments so far at the federal level.

“Particularly for our immigrant community and our communities of color,” he said, “this has been a traditional way for our communities to build wealth.

“We work, we toil, we invest, we cobble our money together and we buy a little property…Typically, we live in one, or maybe I move and my mother stays in that one, and it’s how we keep this wealth within our family.” 

“We’re worried about…the inability of our families to maintain this wealth because of this pandemic.
 
“We’re hoping that by leading by example, a lot of counties in the state and even at the federal level decide to pick up the mantel and provide some additional support to our homeowners.”

Dana Pratt, deputy director of the DCBA’s housing and tenant protections division, described the county’s COVID-19 Rent Relief program which, she said, “can mean the difference between housing and homelessness.”

Funded by $2.6 billion from the federal government, the program is open to both landlords and tenants. Landlords have to agree to forgo 20% of the outstanding rent due, and can receive the remaining 80% from the state.

If a landlord declines to participate, tenants are still eligible for help with up to 25% of what they owe, whether or not their landlords participate. Applications are available here (https://tinyurl.com/COVIDrentrelief) and via phone at (833) 430-2122.
Her department oversees implementation of the eviction moratorium, which protects residential, commercial and mobile home tenants from eviction if they fall behind on their rent for COVID-related reasons. 

Currently, the moratorium is set to expire at the end of June. But Kuehl emphasized that the Board of Supervisors may extend it further, as the Board has done in the past. 

Once the moratorium is lifted, Pratt noted, tenants will have a year to make up arrears.  “If tenants are posing a health or safety risk, they may still be evicted at any time,” Pratt warned.

“We’ve seen an uptick in retaliation because of the COVID-19 protections and illegal lockouts,” she said. “The county’s moratorium also has provisions, fines and penalties to protect tenants against that,” but it’s important that the word gets out.

Inquiries or calls to the department requesting assistance once numbered up to 70 or 80 per day but hit 40,000 over the past year due to the pandemic. Help is still available, she noted, in multiple languages, at no cost, and regardless of immigration status, at (833) 223-7368.

Jenny Punsalan Delwood, of the Liberty Hill Foundation, described the “Stay Housed LA” collaboration which involves 14 community based organizations, nine legal service providers, the county DCBA and city governments. 

She cited studies finding that 90% of tenants who wind up in court over housing disputes do so without a lawyer, whereas landlords are represented 90% of the time.

“It’s not an even playing field,” she said. But, “when a tenant has an attorney and a community based organization on their side, they’re 70% more likely to prevail.”

So far, the collaborative has been able to provide legal assistance to more than 9,000 tenants.

Stay Housed LA  (www.stayhousedla.org) has an English and Spanish-language hotline: (888) 694-0040. For Asian languages, call (833) 225-9415. 

Rounding out the telebriefing, Dr. Eloisa Gonzalez of the County Department of Public Health gave the latest data on vaccination efforts. 

In the past nine days, she said, an average of 78,000 people have been vaccinated daily in the county, for a total of 4,715,894. Of county residents 16 or older, 37.1% have had at least one dose of vaccine, as have 70.2% of seniors.

As of April 15, eligibility for the free vaccines, offered regardless of immigration status, will be extended to everybody in Los Angeles County age 16 or older, although minors will need parental consent.

Target Makes $2 Billion Commitment to Black-Owned Businesses

Staff

Last week, officials at Target Corporation announced a commitment to spend more than $2 billion with Black-owned businesses by the end of 2025. In that commitment is a pledge to add products from more than 500 Black-owned businesses and engage more Black-owned companies in its retail operations and on its shelves in the more than 1,844 stores around the country.

The nation’s eighth-largest retailer is also promising to introduce new resources to help its Black-owned vendors grow and successfully scale their businesses in mass retail with the introduction of a program dubbed Forward Founders. With increased access to subject matter experts and educational workshops earlier in the startup process, Forward Founders is designed to help Black-owned businesses increase their potential for long-term success in retail. 

“We have a rich history of working with diverse businesses, but there’s more we can do to spark change across the retail industry, support the Black community and ensure Black guests feel welcomed and represented when they shop at Target,” said Christina Hennington, executive vice president and chief growth officer, Target. “The bold actions we’re announcing today reflect Target’s ongoing commitment to advance racial equity for the Black community. They also represent significant economic opportunity for hundreds of new Black-owned companies, who we look forward to doing business with for years to come.” 

The pledge is part of the commitment Target made to social justice and racial equity with its establishment of a Racial Equity Action and Change (REACH) Committee, comprised of senior leaders from across the company who represent a diverse range of perspectives and expertise and guide the retailer’s efforts to engage in the fight to end systemic racism in the U.S. and drive lasting impact for the Black community. The Minneapolis-based firm had previously made a commitment to increase its representation of Black team members by 20% over the next three years.

Through existing opportunities like Target Accelerators and events like the Black-Owned Business Vendor Fair, Target has brought in diverse businesses who have products ready for sale at retail. For more information about Target’s potential business and partnership opportunities or to register your diverse business, visit corporate.target.com

Will Smith Moves Production of Next Film Out of Georgia in Protest

Staff

The shooting of the Will Smith’s slave thriller, Emancipation, just became the latest revenue hit in the fallout over Georgia’s new restrictive voter legislation. Instead, Smith and famed director Antoine Fuqua (The Equalizer, Training Day) have decided to move production of their upcoming film to Louisiana.

“At this moment in time, the Nation is coming to terms with its history and is attempting to eliminate vestiges of institutional racism to achieve true racial justice,” said Fuqua and Smith in a prepared statement. “We cannot in good conscience provide economic support to a government that enacts regressive voting laws that are designed to restrict voter access. The new Georgia voting laws are reminiscent of voting impediments that were passed at the end of Reconstruction to prevent many Americans from voting. Regrettably, we feel compelled to move our film production work from Georgia to another state.”

Ironically, it was the sensitive subject matter of the film that became the deciding factor, overriding the efforts of those like Stacy Abrams and Tyler Perry to sideline boycott efforts.

In the film, Smith plays a slave who has fled a plantation in Louisiana after being brutally whipped and his perilous journey north. Based on a true story, Smith’s character then joins the Army where during a routine medical examination the scars of his beating are exposed, subsequently photographed and published as indisputable proof of the cruelty and barbarity of slavery. The images—widely distributed—came to be dubbed as “The Scourged Back”.

California Lifts Pandemic Limits on Churches

Chez Hadley

In the wake of a Supreme Court ruling that has struck down COVID-19 public health mandates, the state of California officially lifted the occupancy limits on indoor worship services on April 12.

“In response to recent judicial rulings, effective immediately, location and capacity limits on places of worship are not mandatory but are strongly recommended”, the state’s revised guidance for houses of worship stated.

In what is the fifth time the Supreme Court has rejected the Ninth Circuit’s analysis of California’s COVID re-strictions on religious exercise, the 5/4 decision concluded, “Where the government permits other activities to proceed with precautions, it must show that the religious exercise at issue is more dangerous than those activities even when the same precautions are applied. Otherwise, precautions that suffice for other activities suffice for religious exercise too.

“I’ve always felt that each individual church should be able to make a decision of what’s best for their ministry and community, but the reality is we’re still living in a pandemic and we should not politicize this issue because a lot of our members and their families have been drastically affected especially in the black and brown community,” K.W. Tulloss, President of the Baptist Minister’s Conference of Los Angeles.

With one of her deacons advising that they would not be returning to Sunday services due to pre-existing conditions, Apostle Beverly “Bam” Crawford of Bible Enrichment Fellowship International says she is proceeding with caution.

“Some people are not ready to come back. They are still afraid,” Crawford said. “Vaccines don’t mean you can throw caution to the wind. They just minimize the symptoms, so I’m still going to adhere to what I believe to be great health protocols. We’re going to ask people to wash their hands, wear their masks and social distance. We just want people to be safe.”

The California Department of Public Health guidelines is still strongly discouraging indoor gatherings, advising churches in the orange tier—which includes Los Angeles— to limit their capacity to 50%. According to state guidelines, those who are singing or chanting in Sunday services “must wear face coverings at all times and must maintain physical distancing from congregants and other performers. 

Houses of worship are still being asked to improve ventilation as much as possible.

Governor Gavin Newsom—who has set June 15 as the date the state will fully reopen—tweeted out California’s positivity rate of 1.5%, citing “Not only is that the lowest in the nation — it’s the lowest positivity rate in CA since the beginning of the pandemic.”

LA County Officials Say They’ll Return Land to Bruce Family

Stephen Oduntan

The question of how to rectify a long and brutal history of racism deeply embedded in the United States’ social fabric has drawn more urgency for conversations, especially after people took to the streets nationwide last summer to protest George Floyd’s death. But as the country grapples with the role of systemic racism, in Los Angeles County, officials have taken the lead in returning two parcels of land to a Black family wrongly seized by Manhattan Beach through the city’s racist eminent domain policies nearly a century ago.

“This is the story of an American Dream that turned into a nightmare”, said Fourth District Supervisor Janice Hahn, who represents Manhattan Beach. “But hopefully, all of us here can begin to right a wrong that happened 100 years ago, right here where we’re standing.”

Hahn is referring to Willa and Charles Bruce, along with a handful of other Black families, who settled in California seeking better economic opportunities in what was then a relatively isolated beach town.

Hahn opened the press conference describing how Bruce’s white neighbors had undermined the couple’s quest for property ownership. She delicately explained how a Black couple who despite the demeaning environment of Jim Crow, managed to purchase a beachfront site in 1912 and established Bruce’s Beach as a popular destination for Black Angelenos, who were denied access to most Southern California beaches.

The Supervisor made the comments at a press event she hosted on Friday alongside L.A. County Supervisor Holly Mitchell, State Senator Steve Bradford, State Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi, L.A. County Fire Department Chief Daryl Osby, former Manhattan Beach Mayor Mitch Ward, Justice for Bruce’s Beach Founder Kavon Ward, and Bruce family representative Chief Duane Yellow Feather Shephard.

To give those in attendance some context, Hahn quoted a 1912 Los Angeles Times article in which Willa Bruce said, “Wherever we have tried to buy land as a beach resort, we have been refused. But I owned this land, and I’m going to keep it.”

But their white neighbors were determined to enforce the city’s de facto segregation, vandalizing the vehicles belonging to Black visitors or, in other instances, roping off the beach in front of Bruce’s Lodge with “No Trespassing’ signs, forcing the people to walk a mile and a half around the oceanfront parcel to access Bruce’s resort.

“What would compel a group of people to suggest it appropriate that another group of people have to walk a mile and a half to enter something none of us own: the ocean and sand?” Supervisor Mitchell asked rhetorically.

At the time, the Ku Klux Klan had established a strong presence in the area as well. The white supremacist group flexed its muscle, reportedly setting the property on fire, but the Bruce’s remained resilient under increasing pressure and continued operating their small enclave.

The final blow came in 1924 when the city seized the property through eminent domain and paid the couple a fraction of their asking.

There was a crescendo moment when Chief Shepard, a descendant of the Bruce family, spoke at the press conference overlooking the parcel near the Strand and 26th Street.

“People say I’m angry. Yeah, I am,” said Shepard. “I am the generation from the generation that Charles and Willa Bruce prayed for. We’re going to stay here until the job is done. We want restoration of our land. Restitution for the loss of enterprise, and punitive damages for the collusion of the institutional racism in this city that railroaded our family out of here.”

For now, Los Angeles County officials say they are working with state lawmakers on competing proposals that would return the property – worth possibly $75 million – to the family.

Senate Bill 796 would make it easier for the county to transfer the land back to the Bruce family. If passed by the legislature and signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, SB 796 would take effect immediately.

“The bill will finally allow Bruce Beach to be returned to its rightful owner,” said Democratic Senator Bradford of Gardena, chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus, who authored the bill.

Meanwhile, towards the end of the press conference, one resident of the Bruce’s Beach area spoke out against the idea of returning the Bruce’s Lodge property to its founders’.

“I’m a minority. I was born in Shanghai,” said Anne Marie Pearson, the Bruce’s Beach resident. “I’ve been lucky enough to live in this beautiful spot for over 50 years. I bought my property in 1981, for $58,000, and it’s worth millions now. Can the owner of the property that sold me the property for $58,000 come back and ask for the property back? I mean, what is going on here? I’m a minority; I’ve never been discriminated against in this community, but it hurts me that the people here are trying to spoil what we have.”

“I’m glad that you have had a good experience here, but this was historically a wrong,” replied Hahn. “There are a lot of us here that feel it was an injustice.”

LA COUNTY HELPS HOMEOWNERS HIT BY COVID COSTS – NEW PROGRAM OFFERS UP TO $20,000 RELIEF

By Mark Hedin, Ethnic Media Services

Early on in the pandemic Los Angeles County put safeguards in place for tenants struggling to pay rent.  A year later, those safeguards are still in place, and new measures are being added.

At a press telebriefing on April 12, Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl (3rd District) cited a UCLA study conducted in the spring of 2020 that estimated 120,000 Los Angeles County households were at risk of eviction because of income losses due the pandemic.

“We simply could not let that happen,” she said, and the five-member county board of supervisors enacted a moratorium on evictions, which it has extended several times. 
Now the county is also launching a ground-breaking program providing mortgage assistance grants of up to $20,000 to help small-scale property owners staff off foreclosures.

“The Foreclosure Prevention and Mortgage Relief Program (https://tinyurl.com/COVIDforeclosurerelief) is the first program of its kind in the state to provide relief to owners of single-family and two-to-four-unit homes,” said Rafael Carbajal, director of the Department of Consumer and Business Affairs, who followed Kuehl at the news conference

The new program, which has begun accepting applications for its $4 million mortgage assistance budget, can be accessed by phone, at (888) 895-2647, or online at nhslacounty.org\mortgagereliefprogram. 

Carbajal added that counseling is available to anyone needing it, whether they qualify for the payment program or not.

“I’m proud to work with this board of supervisors that took the initiative to make this investment in homeowners,” Carbajal said, citing the lack of similar investments so far at the federal level.

“Particularly for our immigrant community and our communities of color,” he said, “this has been a traditional way for our communities to build wealth.

“We work, we toil, we invest, we cobble our money together and we buy a little property…Typically, we live in one, or maybe I move and my mother stays in that one, and it’s how we keep this wealth within our family.” 

“We’re worried about…the inability of our families to maintain this wealth because of this pandemic.
 
“We’re hoping that by leading by example, a lot of counties in the state and even at the federal level decide to pick up the mantel and provide some additional support to our homeowners.”

Dana Pratt, deputy director of the DCBA’s housing and tenant protections division, described the county’s COVID-19 Rent Relief program which, she said, “can mean the difference between housing and homelessness.”

Funded by $2.6 billion from the federal government, the program is open to both landlords and tenants. Landlords have to agree to forgo 20% of the outstanding rent due, and can receive the remaining 80% from the state.

If a landlord declines to participate, tenants are still eligible for help with up to 25% of what they owe, whether or not their landlords participate. Applications are available here (https://tinyurl.com/COVIDrentrelief) and via phone at (833) 430-2122.
Her department oversees implementation of the eviction moratorium, which protects residential, commercial and mobile home tenants from eviction if they fall behind on their rent for COVID-related reasons. 

Currently, the moratorium is set to expire at the end of June. But Kuehl emphasized that the Board of Supervisors may extend it further, as the Board has done in the past. 

Once the moratorium is lifted, Pratt noted, tenants will have a year to make up arrears.  “If tenants are posing a health or safety risk, they may still be evicted at any time,” Pratt warned.

“We’ve seen an uptick in retaliation because of the COVID-19 protections and illegal lockouts,” she said. “The county’s moratorium also has provisions, fines and penalties to protect tenants against that,” but it’s important that the word gets out.

Inquiries or calls to the department requesting assistance once numbered up to 70 or 80 per day but hit 40,000 over the past year due to the pandemic. Help is still available, she noted, in multiple languages, at no cost, and regardless of immigration status, at (833) 223-7368.

Jenny Punsalan Delwood, of the Liberty Hill Foundation, described the “Stay Housed LA” collaboration which involves 14 community based organizations, nine legal service providers, the county DCBA and city governments. 

She cited studies finding that 90% of tenants who wind up in court over housing disputes do so without a lawyer, whereas landlords are represented 90% of the time.

“It’s not an even playing field,” she said. But, “when a tenant has an attorney and a community based organization on their side, they’re 70% more likely to prevail.”

So far, the collaborative has been able to provide legal assistance to more than 9,000 tenants.

Stay Housed LA  (www.stayhousedla.org) has an English and Spanish-language hotline: (888) 694-0040. For Asian languages, call (833) 225-9415. 

Rounding out the telebriefing, Dr. Eloisa Gonzalez of the County Department of Public Health gave the latest data on vaccination efforts. 

In the past nine days, she said, an average of 78,000 people have been vaccinated daily in the county, for a total of 4,715,894. Of county residents 16 or older, 37.1% have had at least one dose of vaccine, as have 70.2% of seniors.

As of April 15, eligibility for the free vaccines, offered regardless of immigration status, will be extended to everybody in Los Angeles County age 16 or older, although minors will need parental consent.

As Cal Drops Age for COVID Shot, Black and Brown Nonprofits Demand Bigger Role

Bo Tefu | California Black Media

In Los Angeles County last week, 211 LA, a local non-profit organization that provides health-related information and services to residents, announced that it had reached an important milestone.

Celebrating its success, the community-based organization shared with California Black Media that it has been instrumental in helping more than 100,000 Angelenos sign up for vaccines since the state started rolling out its COVID-19 vaccination plan. Most of the people 211 LA helped get vaccinated were minorities living in greater LA communities that COVID-19 has hit hard.

“211 LA County has been there to connect people in our county with essential services for decades,” said Maribel Marin, executive director of 211 LA. “As we face a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic, it was natural for us to partner with the County in helping people access the vaccinations that will help them get their lives back again.”

As California prepares to lower the state’s vaccine eligibility age to 16 by the middle of this month, community-based nonprofits around the state like LA 211 are demanding a bigger and more formalized role in California’s vaccination rollout, touting their unique ability to reach residents through long-established communication channels and because of trust they have earned over the years in the communities they serve. A history of racial disparities in the healthcare system has caused issues of mistrust and misinformation in Black and Latino communities, the community organization leaders say.

Earlier this year, the state launched a $30 million grant program for 180 community-based organizations to engage with underserved communities in efforts to boost health equity and counter vaccine hesitancy. But the leaders of many of those organizations say their work – and as a result the state’s vaccine plan — would be more effective if they state integrated them more into the structure of the state’s vaccination program and charged them with a broader scope of responsibility.

Rhonda Smith, the executive director of the California Black Health Network, said the news of vaccine expansion is great, but the road to widespread immunity has a number of barriers.

“The challenge still is accessibility,” Smith said. “Even though we’re opening up to a broader age range, there’s still the challenge of getting an appointment, and the accessibility and the ease of getting an appointment.”

Fortunately, she said, faith-based and community-based organizations have launched pop-up vaccination sites to address the issue of accessibility, particularly in regions of the state where large numbers of Black Californians live.

Last Thursday, Gov. Gavin Newsom received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Prior to taking his shot, the governor announced the state’s plans to expand vaccine eligibility for people 50 years and older starting April 1, and people 16 years and older on April 15. Approximately 18 million vaccine doses have been administered since the announcement.

The state’s partnership with community-based organizations has boosted equity and vaccine efforts across California, state officials say.

Isaiah Antoine agrees. He is the community impact director of California Human Development, a nonprofit that runs a number of anti-poverty and human development programs throughout Northern California.

Antoine said vaccine expansion is necessary for low-income communities with predominantly Black and Brown populations. But to successfully implement it, the state would need to partner with groups that are rooted in the most affected communities.

According to state data, 46 % of COVID-19 related deaths were Latino Californians. Reports also show that Black and Latino people have been the most affected by the health and socioeconomic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Vaccine expansion is the first step in ensuring these groups are receiving the protection and care they deserve,” said Antoine.

Andie Martinez Patterson, the vice president of government affairs at the California Primary Care Association, said the relationship between community health and public health agencies has not been strong across the state. She believes California needs to formalize those partnerships.

“For community-based organizations and the churches, there have been casual relationships, but not a strong network for when there’s a crisis,” said Martinez, adding that if that was the case, “you would immediately know what to do and which person to call.”

“The pandemic underscored the need to have a tighter social network surrounding the patients in the community, that should be prioritized, and we need to do a better job,” she continued.

“The pandemic was a learning curve for leaders in local organizations, primary healthcare, and public health to nurture relationships that will eventually save lives through quick and equitable response,” Martinez said.

Dr. Jeffrey Reynoso, executive director of the Latino Coalition for a Healthy California, said the state’s vaccine expansion has the potential to increase access for Latinos Californians, too. However, health disparities among Latinos and the challenges of race and immigration status will be barriers to an effective vaccination program.

“There are implementation challenges on the ground, just because the guidelines say that those over the age of 16 will have eligibility for the vaccine that doesn’t mean that they have access,” said Reynoso.

Several community partners say they have kickstarted rapid response campaigns that have provided resources for economic assistance and information sessions on COVID-19 and vaccinations.

From Smith’s perspective, sharing vaccine success stories would be helpful because they will encourage people in the community to get vaccinated. Smith said understanding Black and Latino people, “geographically, mentally, physically, and spiritually,” is key to knowing how to best serve their communities.

“Going into the community and showing up is one way to build trust,” she said.

California Black Media’s coverage of COVID-19 is supported by the California Health Care Foundation.


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