What to do this week of May 3, 2020
181 weeks down, 26 weeks to the presidential election.
The AoC Checklist features clear, well-researched actions for Americans who value democracy, equality, voting, and respect. To stay engaged through challenging times, we practice gratitude, self-care, and celebration.
I value democracy.
With respect and collaboration, we work to create a nation that welcomes all people, expands freedoms, and upholds the Constitution. Each citizen must be able to freely and fairly elect those who represent their values.
Action 1: Make a self-care plan.
It’s more important to prioritize self-nourishment during times of crisis. Get support and clarity in ten minutes with this worksheet.
Action 2: Tell Congress to fully fund election safety and security. [h/t Brennan Center]
The previous stimulus package included $400 million for elections—much less than the $4 billion needed to fully fund vote-by-mail efforts, protect polling places and poll workers, and expand voter registration online.
Action 3: Advocate for expanded voter registration in your state. [h/t Institute for Democracy & Higher Education]
Call or email: Your state election officials (look up).
Script: Hi. I’m from [ZIP] asking you to commit to a secure and accessible election this November in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. I’m asking you to extend voter registration deadlines and offer same-day registration in [STATE] in preparation for government shutdowns, online access difficulties, and the possibility that some voters will be unable to leave their homes. Thank you.
Action 4: Keep track of the primary election in your state and vote! [h/t Vote.org]
Check: To ensure that your normal polling place is open (important due to rapidly changing coronavirus-related closures).
Check: Has your state recently expanded access to voting by mail?
Check: Vote411.org/coronavirus for real-time state-by-state updates to primary election dates, mail voting, early voting, and more, published in both English and Spanish.
Check: Ballotpedia’s list of changes to election dates and procedures (updated every weekday).
If your state’s primary election is still upcoming, make sure to request a mail-in ballot if possible, and vote!
I value equality.
Support the dignity of your rainbow of neighbors from every religion, race, ethnicity, culture, gender, sexual orientation, economic status, age, and ability.
Action 5: Call for additional pandemic protections.
Email: Your two senators and one House rep (look up).
Script: I’m writing from [ZIP] because I care about the pandemic’s effects on the most vulnerable Americans. Specifically, I ask you to support the following in the next coronavirus bill:
- Increases in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program minimum benefit to $30/month and the maximum benefit amount by 15%, as well as suspension of all rules that would end or cut benefits.
- Dedicated funds to support services for youth experiencing homelessness, including emergency shelters, transitional living programs, rental assistance, street outreach, and a six-month cessation on aging out of the foster system, with protections against discrimination for LGBTQ youth.
- Authorization of virtual visits under the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program (MIECHV) so that households at risk for substance abuse and domestic violence can stay connected to support resources.
- Increasing funding for Medicaid, entailing the extension of Medicaid coverage for pregnant and postpartum women to provide them with accurate information on the pandemic and their rights, continue coverage past 60 days postpartum, and increase access to pre- and postnatal mental health services; as well as home- and community-based services to ensure older people and people with disabilities can remain in their homes and communities.
Script: I’m writing from [ZIP] because I care about the pandemic’s effects on the most vulnerable Americans. I’m asking that our state:
- Access the $4 billion in flexible Emergency Service Grants included in the CARES Act to immediately support placement of homeless people in temporary housing, including hotels, to prevent spread of COVID-19.
- Use our share of discretionary Child Care and Development Block Grant funds to support child care providers and families of essential workers.
- Take steps to streamline Medicaid eligibility and enrollment as provided under federal emergency orders.
Action 6: Protect health care and civil rights in the judiciary. [h/t Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights]
Email: Your two senators (look up).
Script: I’m writing to oppose Justin Walker’s nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia circuit. Not only is his opposition to health care access for all indefensible during a pandemic, but he has no judicial experience and the American Bar Association deems him “not qualified.” I’m asking [NAME] to vote against his confirmation. Thank you.
Tribal governments were awarded $8 billion in the Coronavirus Relief Fund. Treasury Secretary Mnuchin attempted to award part of these funds to “Alaska Native corporations,” but a federal court blocked this plan, temporarily ruling that for-profit companies are not tribal governments. The Treasury secretary continues to hold all CARES funds while waiting for a final opinion, thus depriving federally recognized tribal governments of urgently-needed and life-saving funds.
Donate: To Native American Rights Fund to support their continued advocacy for tribal governments and immediate distribution of funds to federally recognized tribal governments.
Action 8: Advocate for equal protection from discrimination. [h/t Human Rights Campaign]
Email: Your two senators (look up).
Script: I’m writing from [ZIP] because I value civil rights. Regardless of how the Supreme Court rules on upcoming cases, it’s time for Congress to explicitly include sexual orientation and gender identity in our nation’s civil rights laws. Marriage equality was just the beginning. All citizens should be protected from firing, eviction, and denial of public services, but the LGBTQ+ community is not. The House already passed the Equality Act (H.R. 5). I’m asking you to help it get to the Senate floor and vote for its passage. Thank you.
Action 9: Advocate against proposed process revisions that would burden immigrant families in America. [h/t AILA]
The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has introduced changes to immigration Form I-864/Affidavit of Support (and related forms) that would require U.S. citizens and resident sponsors to provide in-depth bank account information in addition to the extensive tax documentation requirements already in place. The proposed revisions would also require all related forms to be notarized by a notary public—an unnecessary and inconvenient regulation with no legal basis. The proposed changes would impose needless burdens on immigrant families, and would not contribute to the improvement of our current immigration system.
Action 10: Call for fair compensation of all essential farm workers during the pandemic. [h/t United Farm Workers]
Call: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi at (415) 556-4862.
Department of Labor Secretary, Eugene Scalia at (202) 693-6000.
Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue at (202) 720-2791, or live chat through USDA.
Script: Hello, I’m calling from [ZIP] because I oppose unfairly targeting H-2A “seasonal guest workers” for pay cuts during the COVID-19 crisis. While these essential farm employees are working to put fresh food on our tables, our leaders are demanding wage reductions. This could lead to depressed wages and thus fewer people doing farm work. I would like [NAME] to join farm and labor organizations calling for allocating some of the $9.5 billion dollars for COVID-19 aid to protect the essential workers who keep our food supply intact.
Action 11: Support access to COVID-19 resources for everyone in the country. [h/t RAICES]
Call: Your two senators and one House rep (look up).
Script: Hello, I’m calling from [ZIP] to express my support for the Coronavirus Immigrant Families Protection Act. When the $2 trillion CARES Act passed, it left out immigrant families and aspiring Americans who pay taxes and hold essential jobs. I’m asking [NAME] to support the Coronavirus Immigrant Families Protection Act and commit to providing critical relief for all people in this country, because COVID-19 doesn’t care about immigration status, and when it comes to helping those negatively affected by this pandemic, neither should our government.
Action 12: Call (again) for the release of all detained aspiring Americans as COVID-19 spreads. [h/t Detention Watch]
Email: Your state governor (look up).
Script: Hello, I’m writing (again) from [ZIP] with deep concern for the safety of people currently detained by ICE. With limited space and resources in detention centers, proper hygiene and social distancing are impossible and confirmed cases are rising. It is unjust to allow the virus to spread unchecked to staff and people in detention. I am calling on you to protect Americans and aspiring Americans alike by using your emergency powers to evacuate all detention centers in [STATE] immediately. I am confident you share my concern for the welfare of all people. Thank you.
Action 13: Sew masks for aspiring Americans released from detention. [h/t Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project]
As COVID-19 spreads across America, citizens, lawyers, and human rights groups have called on ICE to release detained aspiring Americans from the cramped and crowded detention centers where the virus is more likely to spread. Detainees are slowly being released, and many will not have access to masks or the resources to obtain them. The Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project is asking for donations of hand-sewn nonmedical masks for their clients to wear upon release.
Email: email@example.com for details about how you can help.
Acts of Gratitude
Get out your stamps, postcards, and sparkle markers for some gratitude mail.
Thank Sec. of State Bev Clarno (R–OR) for certifying that vote-by-mail is secure and popular with Oregonians. [Share why affirming the security of mail-in voting matters to you.]
Address: 900 Court Street NE, Capitol Room 136, Salem, OR 97310-0722
Thank Gov. Larry Hogan (R–MD) for praising the life-saving efforts of immigrant workers during the pandemic. [Share why uplifting the good works of all U.S. residents is important to you.]
Address: Gov. Hogan’s Contact the Governor online portal.
Thank CBS News correspondent Steve Hartman and his family for producing Kindness 101, a virtual children’s class providing stories to ease the anxiety of living through a pandemic. [Share why affirming values like gratitude, optimism, and courage matters to you.]
Address: CBS Evening News, 524 West 57th Street, New York, NY 10019
Decent people everywhere are speaking up and working together. Just look. #GoodNews
- Congress passes and the president signs a $484 billion coronavirus relief bill, which provides funding for COVID-19 testing, hospitals, and small businesses.
- U.S. House creates an oversight panel with subpoena power to track more than $2 trillion in coronavirus aid.
- Ninth Circuit court finds that certain aspiring Americans whose release or removal is not imminent must be provided an individualized bond hearing after six months of detention.
- Bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee validates the accuracy of the January 2017 intelligence report affirming that Russia interfered to help elect the current president in 2016.
- Federal court orders ICE to identify, track, and consider releasing all detained individuals at an elevated risk of COVID-19 complications regardless of their immigration status.
- SCOTUS rules that the Sixth Amendment’s guarantee of a unanimous verdict by jury to convict a defendant of a serious crime applies to state criminal trials.
- United States Postal Service confirms it will deliver completed mail-in ballots that lack postage.
- U.S. District Courts rule in three separate decisions that USCIS has been denying H-1B visa applications for invalid, “arbitrary and capricious” reasons.
- Federal court rules that a nationwide class action lawsuit challenging ICE’s systemic failure to provide standard physical and mental healthcare and disability accommodations may proceed.
- Court orders that the Adelanto detention center must not accept any new detained individuals and must release at least 150 people to allow six feet of physical distancing.
- Plaintiff sues the president for excluding certain American citizens whose spouses lack social security numbers from eligibility for coronavirus relief checks.
- A bipartisan group of 27 senators and 175 representatives call on the administration to waive states’ FEMA cost-sharing requirements while state budgets face growing costs of pandemic response.
- The number of aspiring Americans in ICE family detention decreases 39% during the week of April 13.
- Navy recommends reinstating Capt. Brett Crozier, who was fired for requesting help from Navy leadership regarding a COVID-19 outbreak on the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt.
- Federal Reserve will buy the debt of cities with at least 250,000 residents and counties with 500,000-plus residents.
- CA: Gov. Gavin Newsom signs an executive order providing food industry workers with two weeks of supplemental sick leave during the coronavirus pandemic.
- CT Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities prohibits employers and insurers from denying healthcare coverage for patient needs relating to gender transition.
- MA passes a bill pausing evictions and foreclosures until after the pandemic abates.
- OK: Court rules that the governor’s attempt to ban abortions during the coronavirus pandemic cannot be enforced.
- OR Secretary of State Bev Clarno certifies that the state’s mail ballot-only system is secure and popular with voters.
- RI Secretary of State’s office mails absentee voter applications to every registered voter in the state in preparation for a primarily mail-in primary election June 2.
- RI, in partnership with Brown University, provides free, single-occupancy dormitory housing to frontline workers.
- RI: Gov. Gina Raimondo signs an executive order relaxing red-tape barriers so Rhode Islanders can access health care in a timely manner during the pandemic.
- TX excludes abortions from its updated list of medical procedures prohibited during the coronavirus shutdown.
- TX: Court rules that all registered voters in the state can request to vote via mail-in ballots due to COVID-19 health concerns.
- VA: 62 incarcerated individuals out of 100 approved for early release leave state prisons as the state works to ease COVID-19 risk among prison populations.
- Elected officials in Durham and Raleigh, NC donate their coronavirus stimulus checks to Siembra NC, an advocacy group distributing aid to aspiring Americans ineligible for federal checks.
- Luzerne County, PA sends mail-in ballot applications to all registered voters ahead of the state’s June 2 primary election.
- Milwaukee Common Council mails absentee ballot applications to all of the city’s registered voters.
- Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms urges city residents to stay home whether or not Gov. Kemp chooses to reopen certain businesses amid COVID-19 closures.
- School districts around the country (including Anderson, SC) deliver free breakfast and lunch to students during COVID-19 school closures.
- Austin Independent School District deploys 110 WiFi-enabled buses to neighborhoods with limited internet access while students are distance learning.
- San Marcos, TX City Council passes a cite and release ordinance directing police to issue citations for certain low-level offenses instead of arrest-and-detain.
- Shake Shack returns a $10 million government loan meant for small businesses.
- Ruth’s Chris restaurant chain returns a $20 million loan allocated for small businesses.
- IFC Films will allow cinemas to screen 200 of its titles for free when theaters reopen.
- Ocean State Job Lot provides free fabric to customers to create homemade face masks, aiming to distribute enough fabric for two million masks.
- Alamo Drafthouse will not open Texas theaters until it is safe to do so amid the COVID-19 outbreak, even as the governor reopens some Texas businesses.
Groups and organizations
- The U.N.’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights urges the U.S. to release aspiring Americans being “held for processing” in high-risk detention centers and camps.
- We Fight 2 Live collective (F2L) sets up a support fund to provide LGBTQ+ people of color incarcerated in New York State with commissary support for six months.
- Immigration law nonprofit Vecina trains and mobilizes volunteer attorneys to provide remote legal representation to people seeking asylum, including those forced to remain in Mexico under the administration’s so-called Migrant Protection Protocols.
- The #signitover campaign encourages better-resourced Americans to donate 50-100% of their pandemic stimulus checks to someone in need, a registered charity, or a local small business.
- Students at Carnegie Mellon University create a scholarship as an alternative to the scholarships offered by Palantir, a company that enables ICE’s inhumane practices.
- Over 550 organizations urge Congress to ensure that the next COVID-19 relief package extends healthcare and economic assistance to all families regardless of citizenship status.
- Masks for America sends 6,000 N95 masks to Puerto Rico and delivers over 2,000 masks each to four New York City hospitals and medical centers.
- Wahida Popal and other people resettled from Afghanistan make thousands of masks for volunteer organizations to distribute to communities.
News with heart
- Volunteers sew face masks using extra fabric from the national AIDS Memorial Quilt project.
- Lifespan Hospitals in RI play the Rocky theme in celebration when a recovered COVID-19 patient is discharged.
- Forty-three factory workers voluntarily live in their factory for 28 days to optimize their output of personal protective equipment in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- A 5-year-old with a traumatic brain injury and his family are freed from immigration detention.
- Restaurant owners Brady Wood and Dr. Megan Wood and executive chef Anastacia Quiñones-Pittman create sack lunches for workers at two Dallas hospitals treating coronavirus patients.
- Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda and his education partners release EduHam at Home, an online educational tool based on the history-rich musical, offering free access through August.
- Community celebrates automobile enthusiast Daniel Breault’s 13th birthday with a drive-by classic-car parade.
- Gas station owner Muhammad Shariq drops the price of gas to 99 cents per gallon on Easter Sunday as a gift to the community.
- Jackie Hewes and her wife leave a basket of treats on their lawn daily for delivery drivers and other essential workers to enjoy.
- Local musician Israel Malek plays music for Mystic Aquarium’s beluga whales, providing enrichment for them while aquarium visitors are not permitted.
- One World: Together at Home charity concert raises $127.9 million for the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund.
- Family designates sidewalk as “Ministry of Silly Walks” area to bring laughs during lockdown by encouraging neighbors to walk by Monty Python-style.
- A COVID-19 antibody test to check whether someone has been infected with the virus is certified for use across Europe.
- Theater stars perform Stephen Sondheim songs online to celebrate the composer’s 90th birthday while raising money for ASTEP (Artists Striving to End Poverty).
- Volunteers work to distribute discarded surplus potatoes to communities in need.
- Jen’s message: Need a boost? Read this week’s Inspiring Message.
- Sign up: Get the weekly Americans of Conscience Checklist here.
- Get inspired: Complete the Self-Care Worksheet.
- Stay focused: Complete the Action Worksheet (or Kelly Wooten’s artistic version).
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