November 18, 2022

The Berke-Weiss Law Weekly Roundup: Black Pregnancy in New York City and School Reopening Reversals

We’re now a week into the expiration of the enhanced unemployment benefits of the CARES Act and the news is not good. Congress and the White House remain at least a trillion of dollars apart on a new deal, with the Senate GOP split, though their prized bit of the CARES Act, the corporate bailout, did not have an expiration date, unlike those parts aimed at protecting workers, such as the PUA and eviction moratoriums. Thus, with depressing predictability, there were a spate of alarming stories this week echoing the fears that tenant unions and activists have been voicing for months: by ending employment relief we are hurtling toward a cliff, over which lies massive, nationwide evictions. Erika D. Smith, writing in the Los Angeles Times, for example, reported on Friday that as many as 1 million families could be homeless if something isn’t done. The Aspen Institute reported that as many as 23 million people, roughly 40% of renters could face evictions by the end of September. Indeed, in many municipalities, activists have taken more militant measures to prevent evictions, including occupying eviction courts or physically blocking landlords or their lawyers from commencing eviction proceedings. 

We have major blog post about another recent group of articles pronouncing this recession the first women-led one, so for the weekly roundup, we’re sticking with the parenting track with some updates about fall school openings (or not) and Black pregnancy in the time of coronavirus.

Pregnant While Black in New York

As we’ve noted in previous blog posts, pregnant Black women face significantly higher mortality rates during childbirth. And while the national averages are Black women are 3 to 4 times more likely than white women to die in childbirth, in New York City Black women die at an astounding 8 to 12 times the rate of white women, while black infants are three times as likely to die. The global pandemic has certainly had no positive effect on these horrifying numbers, and this week the New York Times has a long piece about what Black expectant mothers have faced since the lockdown; hospitals being overwhelmed by Covid-19 patients has exacerbated already poor maternal outcomes deeply affected by institutional racism. 

Chicago’s Volte-Face on School Reopenings

Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot is reversing her decision to require in-person classes when schools open in a few weeks. Although Lightfoot is adamant that it is an uptick in coronavirus cases in Chicago driving her decision, it is difficult not to think that this is an attempt to sideline the Chicago Teachers Union, one of the more militant and active teacher’s unions, which was prepared to strike if classes weren’t shifted online. The CTU clashed just last year with Lightfoot over a contract dispute, which resulted in a 14-day strike, with many residents blaming Lightfoot

With the Chicago Public School system, the nation’s third largest, opting to start the year online, this leaves only New York City’s public schools as one of only two of the 15 largest systems forging ahead with in-person plans. The spring shift to online public school education was nothing short of disastrous, but as the summer wears on it is becoming more clear that many parts of the country simply cannot safely open schools, something many teachers have pointed out. This obviously leaves parents in a dire position, and, like can be said for most of the pandemic, we’re basically stuck between a rock and hard place.

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