COVID-19: Open Letter to Our Public Officials
Dear public officials:
As philanthropic institutions who strive for a racially and economically equitable region, we thank you for your leadership during this unprecedented crisis caused by the COVID-19 coronavirus. We appreciate the actions that you have taken already to protect residents of DC, Maryland, and Virginia, including declaring a state of emergency and ensuring our residents have access to meals while schools remained closed. As the crisis continues to evolve, it is likely that other measures will need to be taken. We write this letter to emphasize some key issues that are of concern to many members of the region’s philanthropic community.
This crisis has revealed the challenges of a region and country divided by a racialized wealth and income gap so wide that large numbers of our residents – the majority of whom are people of color lacking economic stability and well-being before this crisis – will struggle to survive this even in the short-term from both a health and financial perspective. The potential spread of the virus, and the accompanying changes in work schedules and status, lack of sufficient paid sick leave for all workers, and rapid changes in income will put many individuals and families into financial crisis. As the crisis continues, it will make it even harder on our most vulnerable residents, and we encourage you to consider every means necessary to protect our community.
We have long-term systems work to do to address the inequities in our region that, in part, are exacerbating the crisis today. But in the short-term, these are some of the critical ideas that we think will help avoid pushing more people into financial distress and possible homelessness, including:
- A moratorium on evictions, mortgage foreclosures, utility shut offs, and new late payment fees now and for at least six months after the end of the pandemic
- A moratorium on homeless sweeps now and for at least six months after the end of the pandemic
- Expanded paid sick leave for all workers for the duration of this crisis
- An expansion of support and services for low-wage, contract, hourly, and gig-economy workers whose hours are reduced or whose jobs have been eliminated
- An extension of unemployment benefits for workers affected by the coronavirus or whose business is affected by the coronavirus and waiver of work search requirements for at least the next two months
- Coverage of costs for more residents for testing and treatment of coronavirus
- Removal of barriers to unemployment benefits and public benefits like SNAP
- Halting of debt collection activities by public and anchor institutions now and for at least six months after the end of the pandemic
- Emergency lending for small business
- Funding for rental assistance and childcare
- Full payment for permanent supportive housing services and advance payments on social services contracts to nonprofits now and for the next three months
- Increased funding for nonprofit organizations, many of whom have increased services while sacrificing revenue
- Removal of restrictions on grants to nonprofits to allow them maximum flexibility now and over the next six months
We believe these ideas can help provide a necessary framework of supports for our neighbors as we simultaneously think through how we co-create a region where our mutual well-being and public health are centered around equity, caring, and humanity for all. Local philanthropy is galvanizing to provide critical philanthropic support during this crisis – individually and collectively – but we know that the government’s resources and ability to address some of the barriers to people’s well-being far exceeds ours. We stand ready to support these efforts however we can.
Mizrahi Family Charitable Fund