The Open Letter
Justice for the poor
The battle against the poverty pandemic
Healing Grove Health Center and a coalition of faith leaders, non-profit leaders and community members are calling on Silicon Valley to alleviate the suffering of tens of thousands of families cast into abject poverty by the shelter-in-place order. San Jose’s Extremely Low Income (ELI) households have been forced to forfeit more than $268,040,517 in lost wages in order to keep our community safe from COVID-19. The sectors that experienced high unemployment (hospitality, restaurant, construction, trades) also happen to be sectors that employ our lowest-income households. Our data indicates that we must launch a battle against the poverty pandemic as we continue our collective struggle against the viral pandemic. Shelter-in-Place has been tremendously effective in protecting our community against COVID-19. However, as the shutdown continues, the lethal impact of poverty is taking a crushing toll on Silicon Valley’s families.
We are calling out this profound economic injustice: the majority of middle class families have been able to hold onto a paycheck by telecommuting to their jobs, while the majority of the extremely low-income households lost nearly everything. Our data shows that San Jose’s ELI families that were making just $26,106 a year before COVID had their monthly income slashed to an abysmal $204 a month by SIP. More data is available in this infographic above.
Silicon Valley’s poor have shouldered an enormous burden to keep us all safe from COVID-19. Now it’s time for us to return the favor and launch a long term battle against the poverty pandemic. Our community tackled COVID-19 with vigor, determination and resources, and as a result our community largely stayed safe; we now need to tackle the poverty pandemic with the same vigor, determination and resources.
We are calling on Silicon Valley to implement the following in the battle against the poverty pandemic:
We are calling on faith communities, churches, social organizations and individuals to practice radical generosity in the battle against the poverty pandemic, generously giving to churches, nonprofits and individuals.
We are calling on the Santa Clara County Public Health Department to adjust public health orders to include the lethal impact of poverty caused by SIP. Our data suggests that 5 times more people will die from SIP-induced poverty as have died from COVID. Public Health orders need to strike a balance between protecting our community from COVID and protecting our community from the lethal effects of poverty.
We are calling on the County Board of Supervisors and local municipalities to develop policy to boost the industries that employ our ELI households, using job creation as a tool for poverty alleviation in a way that protects workers from COVID-19. Those industries include: restaurants, construction, hospitality, service, beauty & cosmetology, and entertainment.
We are calling on business leaders to find creative ways to employ ELI households with a living wage.
As a community we commit to fighting for justice for the poor among us remembering the words of the prophet Isaiah:
Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? (Isaiah 58:6-10)