Will Jobs Come Back?
As New York continues its “re-opening” in the face of Covid-19, those who lost employment wonder if their jobs will come back. For immigrants, the jobs were often low-paid, seasonal and/or insecure to begin with. Former employers may be unable to regain their customers quickly, as in the restaurant industry, so their need for workers may shrink.
We already see evidence in federal job reports that gains are likely to be slowest or even negative for this segment of the workforce. Income insecurity, and the need for assistance, will linger on. But the social safety net of unemployment compensation, emergency relief, and so on, will remain unavailable to our friends. So UIDN will continue raising and distributing help for the foreseeable future.
Will Housing be Safe, Affordable, and Available?
Our immigrant friends are typically limited to rental housing which is “unaffordable,” meaning that it claims over 30% of their income, leaving too little for other needs. That same housing is usually run down, overcrowded, and sometimes with water supplies that are unsafe for human consumption.
Immigrants are not the only people in Ulster County with these problems, and there are no quick fixes on the horizon. Often, landlords are also squeezed by the cost of maintenance and mortgage payments. In short, the market for low-income renters works very badly for meeting human needs in most parts of the U.S.
It gets even worse when some of that housing is withdrawn by speculators and replaced by new “gentrified” units serving a higher income population. Such actions displace existing renters and add to the number of homeless individuals and families.
These persistent housing needs have motivated many groups across New York to coalesce and work for state-level reforms of the low-income housing market and for public investment in truly affordable housing.
While UIDN will continue, within our limited means, to support the immediate housing needs of immigrants, we know that we cannot resolve this problem with donations and volunteers. We are therefore exploring with other advocate groups how to push for important public policy changes around housing.
Will there be School in the Fall?
As the current school year comes to a frazzled end, few plans are in place to use the summer for catching up on all that kids missed since March. If schools reopen in September, will they be safe for kids and teachers and their families? If schools remain closed, how will school systems work proactively to ensure that immigrant children can access effective online technologies?
Immigrant households do not often have access to social media that school systems relied on this spring. We will be watching to see where we can make a difference. When schools do fully reopen, our after school volunteers will go back to Chambers Elementary and maybe some additional sites. For that, we’ll need more volunteers. Apply here if you are interested.