Resources for Economic Empowerment Programs: Responding to COVID-19
The Promoting Employment Opportunities for Survivors of Human Trafficking (PEOST) Project is closely monitoring the impact COVID-19 is having on the economy and employment opportunities available to survivors of human trafficking. This page will be continually updated with new information and resources to support the safety and economic security of survivors as they become available. For specific questions or needs, please reach out to email@example.com.[Updated 04.24.2020]
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INDUSTRIES MOST IMPACTED BY COVID-19
Workers in the hospitality and retail sectors face the highest risk of job loss during this pandemic as states and local governments try to slow the spread of the virus by closing non-essential businesses and mandating people stay at home. Because jobs in these sectors are often low-wage and without benefits, workers in these industries – the majority of whom are women, people of color, and immigrants – are particularly vulnerable to such economic shocks.
The scale of these job losses vary greatly by region and are not necessarily related to the severity of COVID-19 within a state. A state’s reliance on retail, leisure, and hospitality makes them more vulnerable to job loss than the impact of the number of COVID-19 cases in that state. Projections from the Economic Policy Institute suggest that states like Nevada, Hawaii, Alaska, Mississippi, and Delaware will be among the states with the highest share of unemployment claims due to the composition of industries within their states.
A vulnerability index, created by economists at Chmura, can provide a better sense of what to expect at a local level: http://chmuraecon.com/interactive/covid-19-economic-vulnerability-index/.
RELIEF FOR WORKERS WHO HAVE EXPERIENCED JOB LOSS
More than 22 million workers have applied for unemployment benefits since mid-March; these numbers are expected to rise with the Federal Reserve Bank estimating that the unemployment rate will reach 32.1 percent at the peak of this health crisis. In response, a number of new resources have been made available to help support workers who have experienced job loss or a reduction of income as a result of COVID-19.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act)
- Economic Impact Payments: the CARES Act will provide a one–time payment of $1,200 to adults with annual incomes up to $75,000 ($2,400 for couples earning up to $150,000) plus another $500 per child under 18 years of age. These payments are based on 2019 tax filings and recipients must have a Social Security Number. Not everyone is eligible to receive these payments; individuals who have ITINs and college students who are claimed as dependents are excluded from receiving this stimulus payment.
- The IRS has up-to-date information on the economic impact payments here: https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/economic-impact-payments-what-you-need-to-know
- The Center for Law and Social Policy has a list of 10 things you need to about the economic impact rebate payments: https://www.clasp.org/blog/10-things-know-about-economic-impact-rebate-payments
- For information on how filers and not filers can get their payments, visit: https://www.irs.gov/coronavirus/economic-impact-payments
- Emergency Sick Leave: The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) supplemented by the CARES Act includes a number of emergency sick and family leave protections for workers who need to take leave as a result of COVID-19. Eligibility for these new protections vary.
- The U.S. Department of Labor describes these new sick leave provisions here: https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/pandemic/ffcra-employee-paid-leave
- The National Employment Law Center in partnership with Family Values @ Work developed this helpful flowchart to determine eligibility: http://www.nelp.org/wp-content/uploads/FVAW-NELP-COVID-19-flow-chart-042020.pdf
- The National Partnership for Women and Families created a Know Your Rights factsheet available here: https://www.nationalpartnership.org/our-work/resources/economic-justice/know-your-rights-emergency-paid-sick-days-and-paid-leave.pdf
- The Center for Law and Social Policy provides a detailed explanation of these benefits here: https://www.clasp.org/publications/fact-sheet/paid-sick-days-and-paid-leave-provisions-ffcra-and-cares-act
- Expanded Access to and Benefits from Unemployment Insurance: The CARES Act expands access to unemployment insurance for workers who are partially employed, now unemployed, or unable to work due to COVID-19. Eligible employees under state unemployment programs are entitled to receive an additional $600 a week in unemployment benefits and expands the number of weeks an individual can receive benefits. The CARES Act also created Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits which expanded eligibility to gig workers, independent contractors, and freelancers, who are not normally covered under state employment programs.
- Unlike the paid leave provisions provided under the FFCRA, the expansion of unemployment benefits under the CARES Act are available to immigrants who have work authorization and ITINs. Applying for unemployment insurance also does not implicate the “public charge rule,” because unemployment is an earned benefit.
- The National Employment Law Project has provided a detailed factsheet on unemployment insurance benefits under the CARES Act here: Unemployment Insurance Provisions in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act
- Read a synopsis on unemployment insurance under the CARES Act here: https://www.vox.com/2020/4/3/21199689/how-to-get-coronavirus-unemployment-insurance-furlough
- Watch a recording of a live Q&A session hosted by the Aspen Institute on these new unemployment insurance provisions: https://www.aspeninstitute.org/events/live-qa-covid-19-and-unemployment-insurance-a-discussion-with-rebecca-dixon-executive-director-national-employment-law-project/
- The National Immigration Law Center has this analysis of the FFCRA and CARES Act for immigrant communities: https://www.nilc.org/issues/economic-support/impact-of-covid19-relief-bills-on-immigrant-communities/
Worker Relief Funds
- The Good Jobs Institute has a list of worker relief funds by industry and state, as well as relief funds for small businesses: https://goodjobsinstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Good-Jobs-Lens-on-COVID-19-Responses-3.17.2020.pdf
- Legal Aid at Work and UndocuScholars are maintaining lists of relief funds and other resources for individuals who lack a social security number and are ineligible for resources provided under the FFCRA or CARES Act (California specific) : https://legalaidatwork.org/blog/relief-funds/ and https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/18p9OSlLpSYanIoUC-gEbhVbRMYVUfw4wyrixa9ekGdc/edit#gid=0.
- The Protect Immigrant Families Campaign has also developed quick reference guide on the federal public programs available to support individuals and families: https://protectingimmigrantfamilies.org/immigrant-eligibility-for-public-programs-during-covid-19/
- Workers Lab has created a COVID-19 Rapid Relief Fund to support workers impacted but without access to benefits: https://www.theworkerslab.com/the-workers-fund
- Restaurant Opportunities Center United and the One Fair Wage Campaign have compiled a list of emergency relief programs available for workers in the food services industry: https://rocunited.org/stop-the-spread/coronavirus-support/ and https://ofwemergencyfund.org/
- The Domestic Workers Alliance has a list of resources available for home care workers, nannies, and house cleaners: https://domesticworkers.org/coronavirus-care-fund
- The National Day Laborer Organizing Network has established an Immigrant Worker Safety Net Fund: https://ndlon.org/immigrant-worker-safety-net-fund/
Relief for Small Businesses
- The Small Business Administration has a summary of the benefits and supprt for small businesses created under the CARES Act here: https://www.sba.gov/page/coronavirus-covid-19-small-business-guidance-loan-resources.
- Vox also has provided an accessible description of available relief programs and how to apply. Get the details here: https://www.vox.com/2020/4/3/21196191/cares-act-apply-small-business-loans-grants-ppp-eidl
INDUSTRIES SEEING JOB GROWTH
In response to changing consumer needs as a result of social distancing and stay-at-home mandates, some industries and businesses are hiring. Most of these positions can be found within the gig economy such as Instacart, pharmacy retail including CVS and Walgreens, and grocery store chains.
Individuals looking for work should consider the potential health and safety risks of being in the public and potentially exposed to the virus versus the benefit of these job opportunities. These positions are generally low-wage, often lack benefits, and there are increasing reports of a lack of personal protective equipment being provided to workers or other safety and health measures being taken by some businesses during the pandemic. In addition, many of the employers who are hiring are businesses with over 500 employees, as such, workers employed by these businesses are not eligible for the leave benefits under the FFCRA.
To find local job openings, visit American Job Centers online at https://www.careeronestop.org/LocalHelp/AmericanJobCenters/american-job-centers.aspx to search by location and keyword.
For more information on connecting survivors to workforce development and employment opportunities, visit Opportunities for Survivors of Human Trafficking Through the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA): A Primer.
WORKING SAFELY DURING COVID-19
COVID-19 has exposed workers to new risks to their health and safety. In addition to health workers, there are many other occupations that have a heightened risk of exposure to COVID-19 due to job duties that put them in close contact with the public or public areas, like janitors, transit workers, and grocery store cashiers. There are increasing reports that some workers are not being provided with gloves, masks, cleaning supplies, antibacterial gel or wipes, and other personal protective measures while working.
To help support these workers, the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health has compiled guidance on workers’ safety and health rights here: https://nationalcosh.org/coronavirus (English) and https://www.coshnetwork.org/SP-coronavirus (Español).
Workers who are fortunate enough to be able to work from home may face increased threats of violence from abusive partners. Learn more about how to support these individuals from the National Resource Center for Workplaces Respond to Domestic and Sexual Violence at https://www.workplacesrespond.org/page/covid19supportingworkers/ (English) and https://www.workplacesrespond.org/page/covid19apoyoparalostrabajadores/ (Español).
OPPORTUNITIES TO BUILD SKILLS ONLINE
While job training programs and workforce development programs have mostly shut down, economic empowerment programs can continue to help survivors build their skills and prepare for employment once the crisis has passed and businesses are able to safely reopen. Consider an individual’s identified career pathway and collaborate with that individual to identify the skills they have and what skills can develop or strengthen to better position them enter or advance in those chosen careers. Try to identify skill building opportunities that offer industry recognized credentials. Connect with your local community college or American Job Center to learn about available online training programs. Other free online trainings are available through:
- https://alison.com/courses ALISON provides credentialed training programs for essential workplace skills online.
- https://edu.gcfglobal.org/en/ Funded by the Goodwill Community Foundation, GCFLearnFree provides free online computer, technology, and life skills training programs.
- http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/training/default.aspx Microsoft offers free online training tutorials to help learners use the Office Suite including Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.
- https://www.edx.org/ Founded by Harvard and MIT, edX offers over 2,500 accessible courses in multiple languages.
- https://nrffoundation.org/riseup The National Retail Federation Foundation offers free online training for individuals seeking opportunities in retail.
- https://www.ed2go.com/canyons ED2GO is an online course catalog offered by College of the Canyons with educational courses starting at $30 up to $200.
If a survivor is uncertain of their desired career path, now is a good time to explore potential careers that match their interests, skills, and income needs. The U.S. Department of Labor has developed a comprehensive to help job seekers explore careers. O*Net Online, https://onetonline.orgis a robust resource for workforce development professionals and job seekers that helps to explore and analyze career opportunities based on a range of criteria including interest, skills, job type, growing opportunities, and much more. Learn more about how to use this power tool at the O*Net Academy: http://www.onetacademy.org/view/3001024770249316148/info.
This may also be a good time for individuals who are interested in entrepreneurship to learn more about developing business plans to pursue their dreams. There are a number of online resources, including the educational resources listed above, that can help potential entrepreneurs explore their business concepts, learn about basic operations, and develop their business models.
- https://www.samaschool.org/ SamaSchool helps prepare individuals to pursue and succeed in independent/freelance work.
- https://entreskills.org/ Developed by the New York Small Business Development Center, EntreSkills helps potential entrepreneurs develop their business concepts.
- https://www.sba.gov/learning-center The Small Business Training Network, created by the U.S. Small Business Administration, offers online training to help developing and existing small business owners.