Council President Pro Tem Elizabeth Brown Proposes Right to Recover Program
Columbus Urban League and CSS Our Lady of Guadalupe Center to ensure that those hardest hit by COVID-19 get financial help when missing work
[COLUMBUS, OH] Columbus City Council President Pro Tem Elizabeth Brown is leading legislation to ensure Columbus workers can count on some income even when forced to take time off of work to isolate, recover from and mitigate the risk of spreading COVID-19. The new Right to Recover program will provide income replacement for up 40 hours per week for two weeks at a maximum of $15/hr for those who qualify before December 31, 2020. The new initiative will be implemented by the Columbus Urban League and Catholic Social Services’ Our Lady of Guadalupe Center.
The program taps into $1.21 million of the City’s share of federal CARES Act funding. Eligible residents must either personally have tested positive for COVID-19 and earn at or below 150% of the federal poverty line ($39,300 annually for a household of four).
The agencies administering the funding are experts at reaching the communities most hurt by the pandemic. The Columbus Department of Health reports that among populations, Hispanic residents are four times more likely and Black residents twice as likely to contract COVID-19 compared to white populations. Experts attribute these disparities to a number of issues, including systemic racism, and that the industries that disproportionately employ workers of color are also the most likely to require in-person work and are least likely to offer paid time off or to pay wages that enable their employees to sustain a period of unpaid leave. This creates an impossible situation for these workers should they contract COVID-19.
“’Right to Recover’ is for workers faced with an impossible decision between protecting their health and receiving their next paycheck,” said Council President Pro Tem Elizabeth Brown. “Giving workers the financial assistance they need to follow safety guidelines following a positive COVID-19 test protects their health, the health of their families, and the health of our entire community during this pandemic.”
“You shouldn’t go broke because you got sick,” said Columbus Urban League President and CEO Stephanie Hightower. “Everything about COVID-19 has exacerbated long-standing deep inequities in our health care and economic systems. I applaud Council Member Brown for her leadership and I want the community to know we’re rolling up our sleeves to get to work so you can take care of yourself and your family.”
“Many of our clients were already living paycheck to paycheck,” said Alma Santos, Our Lady of Guadalupe Center, Pantry Coordinator, “and if one paycheck stops, everything else crumbles.” Santos added that the Hispanic population is afraid of getting tested for COVID-19 for fear of testing positive. “They can’t afford hospital bills or to stay home from work. If they are forced to stay home, they risk losing their job, their home, and possibly their children.”
Rachel Lustig, President and CEO of Catholic Social Services stated, “our Hispanic community in Columbus is resilient. Many have overcome tremendous hardships and continue to bring to our community a spirit of hopefulness, gratitude and a tremendous work ethic. But, there are limits to how resilient a person and a family can be. At Catholic Social Services’ Our Lady of Guadalupe Center, we are starting to see the limits of that resiliency as an increasing number of people deal directly with the health and economic impact of this virus. We are grateful to the Columbus City Council for stepping up to provide this support to help people prioritize their health, without putting their livelihood, home, and children at risk.”
City Council will take up the emergency measure at their October 12 meeting.
“We will continue focusing on programs that help the people impacted the most during the worst economic and health crisis in living memory,” said Pro Tem Brown. “I am grateful to our partners who help us to put people and families first as we continue to weather this storm together.”