(Bloomberg) — Undocumented workers in the U.S. are running out of options to help them survive the coronavirus pandemic.Largely left out of federal relief programs, undocumented families have relied on money from philanthropic organizations and local governments to help buy food and to pay their bills. But now some of those funds are drying up, exacerbating the public health crisis and further threatening an economic recovery that’s become shakier with the recent surge in virus infections and a renewed wave of layoffs.Programs backed by municipalities with support from community-based organizations in Minneapolis; Austin, Texas; Chicago; and Montgomery County, Maryland, are being halted or almost out of money. The programs, which have provided funds to help immigrants pay rent and other expenses, have not been able to keep up with such high demand.In California, a statewide effort to give $1,000 per family stopped taking applications in June. Nonprofits face funding challenges themselves, with some donors potentially becoming more tightfisted as the pandemic lasts longer than many expected.Undocumented immigrants in the U.S. often pay taxes but don’t have access to unemployment insurance or benefits like the stimulus checks the government has provided to many Americans. The $2 trillion stimulus that Congress passed earlier this year denied aid to 15.4 million people in mixed-status families, including 9.9 million unauthorized immigrants, 3.7 million children and 1.7 million spouses who are U.S. citizens or green card holders, according to the Migration Policy Institute.As Congress debates another round of financial support for Americans, House Democrats have proposed legislation that would give immigrants stimulus checks, but Senate Republicans — who have offered a $1 trillion virus relief package — oppose such aid.Margarita, an immigrant from Mexico and single mother of three, was laid off in March from her job working at a warehouse in New Jersey that ships Italian products. She said she struggled to pay rent and feed her children, ages 20, 15 and 4. She returned to her job in June but has continued to work with advocacy groups calling on lawmakers to extend relief to undocumented immigrants. She declined to provide her full name due to her citizenship status.“I’ve been out to marches and rallies, and banged pots and pans when we couldn’t go outside,” said Margarita, 39, who is a member of Make the Road New Jersey, a community group for immigrants. “No one should be left behind.”The mounting financial pressure on this group can impede efforts to contain the virus because they feel compelled to go to work when they are sick, according to Jill Campbell, director of the immigration and citizenship program at BakerRipley, a community development organization in Houston.“We have clients that call us and say, ‘I am terrified, terrified to go into work because I know that my coworkers have Covid right now but I have no other options,’” said Campbell, adding that because many immigrants live in multigenerational households they have a higher risk of spreading the virus to elderly family members.“They’re really choosing between their own health and their family’s health — and being able to pay the rent,” she said.Aiding immigrants throughout the pandemic is critical for the U.S. economic recovery because it means more people are working and spending money, said Cris Ramón, senior policy analyst at the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington. About 4.6% of U.S. workers are undocumented immigrants, according to Pew Research Center.Running out of fundsAustin’s program to help these immigrants has run out of funding and no longer accepting applications after previously providing $1.4 million in financial assistance. St. Paul, Minnesota, and Chicago have also stopped taking applications to their programs.Houston’s $15 million rental assistance program ran out of money within two hours of starting to take applications in early May. Harris County, which includes the city, passed additional funding for its program this week as demand for relief persists.Some organizations, including one in South Dakota and another in New Jersey, are still taking applications and raising money to support undocumented workers. But for those immigrants who do receive funds, it’s likely a one-time payment that doesn’t compare to unemployment benefits most Americans receive, said Muzaffar Chishti, senior fellow at the Migration Policy Institute.Putting food on the table has been especially difficult during the pandemic, even for undocumented immigrants who are employed. Demand has increased 40% since March at Manna Food Center, a food bank in Montgomery County that serves immigrants, according to Chief Executive Officer Jackie DeCarlo. The area’s emergency assistance program, which provided one-time payments of up to $1,450 to residents ineligible for federal aid, exhausted its funds in June.Rocio, an immigrant from Jalisco, Mexico, was laid off from her job at a Sacramento, California, buffet restaurant in March. She and her husband support three children, as well as her 80-year-old father in Mexico. Rocio has turned to a community center for help with food and has delayed paying rent. She also declined to provide her full name because she fears legal repercussions.“In three months our life changed,” said Rocio, 50. “Covid has brought an end to many years and many dreams.”For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
Good news for Kamala Harris: Voters are fine with ambitious women. So why do party gatekeepers still care?
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With the expected date of Joe Biden’s vice presidential decision growing ever nearer, the rumblings that campaign insiders are waging something of a shadow war against Sen. Kamala Harris have grown louder.
In late July, news reports emerged that certain supporters of the presumptive Democratic nominee felt that Harris was “too ambitious” for the job. “She would be running for president the day of the inauguration,” Florida bundler John Morgan told CNBC. The buzz was loud enough that Harris herself seemed to address it on Friday, while speaking via livestream at the the Black Girls Lead 2020 conference: “There will be a resistance to your ambition, there will be people who say to you, ‘you are out of your lane.’”
But it seems that voters might think that lane is actually a perfectly good place for Harris and other female politicians to be.
According to research published just last month, most people actually don’t mind ambition in female candidates for office. “Voters don’t have a problem with ambitious women,” says Ana Catalano Weeks, a University of Bath comparative politics professor and co-author of the July paper “Ambitious Women: Gender and Voter Perceptions of Candidate Ambition.” “This seems to be a problem on the party side.”
Catalano Weeks and co-author Sparsha Saha, a preceptor at Harvard, asked survey respondents to choose fictional candidates whose genders were specified, each with descriptions that suggested different levels of ambition.
The researchers defined ambition as perceived in political candidates a few ways: progressive ambition, or seeking office and subsequent higher office; personality traits like assertiveness and determination to succeed; and ambitious political agendas.
Catalano Weeks and Saha hypothesized that voters would penalize ambitious women running for office. But they found that wasn’t the case; voters did not treat ambitious women differently than they did ambitious men.
“Norms in society change,” says Catalano Weeks by way of explanation. The general public may have once seen ambition as a negative quality in women—but doesn’t anymore. Concerns over ambition in women from political gatekeepers may then be expressions of their own sexism, or outdated concerns over how voters will react, Saha says. “To what extent are gatekeepers sexist themselves?” Saha asks. “Are they taking action thinking voters will punish ambitious women? Are they really just thinking about electability?”
These academics were inspired to take on this research in 2017 after observing Hillary Clinton’s treatment in the 2016 election, including a hacked email in which Colin Powell described the Democratic nominee as having a “long track record” of “unbridled ambition.”
This cycle, Harris wasn’t the only woman in reported contention for Biden’s ticket to be described as ambitious. Former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams shocked the political establishment by openly stating that she would accept a VP offer from the Democratic nominee; she told other women of color not to let others “disqualify” their ambition.
The research conducted by Saha and Catalano Weeks did not address how race affects voters’ perception of ambition in candidates, but the pair hope future work will answer that question.
“I wish the story was, ‘Yay, Kamala Harris is ambitious. Isn’t that a great thing?’” Catalano Weeks says.
Adds her co-author Saha: “It’s just so absurd. Of course these people are ambitious.”
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Facebook purges ads for illegal wildlife in SE Asia as online trade surges
YANGON — An ad showing a civet cat cowering in a cage being offered for sale on Facebook was just one of hundreds that the social media giant has removed in a crackdown on Southeast Asia’s illegal wildlife trade during recent weeks.
“Not too wild, not too-well behaved. If interested, call…” the seller wrote on the post, using an account in Myanmar, a major source and transit point for the trade in wild animals.
Facebook has a ban on the sale of animals on its platform.
But, in the five months through May 2020, a report seen by Reuters showed World Wildlife Fund researchers had counted 2,143 wild animals from 94 species for sale on Facebook from Myanmar alone.
The vast majority of posts—92%—offered live animals, including birds of prey, while gibbons, langurs, wild cats, and hornbills were in high demand.
Wildlife charities said more than 500 posts, accounts, and groups were taken down in April and July after they alerted Facebook, which said its staffers remove content that breaches rules as soon as they become aware.
“We are committed to working with law enforcement authorities around the world to help tackle the illegal trade of wildlife,” a Facebook spokesperson said.
‘INCREASING IN EVERY COUNTRY’
Campaigners say the advent of zoonotic diseases like the novel coronavirus, which is suspected of having jumped from animals to humans, has not quashed demand from buyers.
Southeast Asia is a major hub in the multi-billion dollar global wildlife trade and, according to monitors, sellers are increasingly using social media due to its massive reach and private chat functions.
“It’s increasing in every country,” said Jedsada Taweekan, a regional program manager for WWF, adding that the volume of wildlife products sold online had approximately doubled since 2015.
Myanmar came under fire in recent weeks over reported plans to allow captive breeding of about 175 threatened species including tigers and pangolins. Naing Zaw Htun, a senior forestry department official, told Reuters social media had become “one of the major drivers of the wildlife trafficking,” and the aim of the captive breeding plan was to reduce poaching.
Fighting the illegal online wildlife trade poses a serious challenge for governments across the region, where many national laws lag behind, said Elizabeth John, senior communications officer for TRAFFIC, a non-government organisation.
She said Facebook had been “very proactive in trying to address the online trade” but faced a “considerable logistical challenge” monitoring posts.
A study by TRAFFIC published in early July found more than 2,489 ivory items for sale across Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam on Facebook and Instagram, which is owned by Facebook.
TRAFFIC said 557 out of 600 posts, groups and profiles subsequently flagged to Facebook were removed. WWF said four Facebook accounts and seven groups, each with thousands of members, were removed in response to their research in Myanmar.
The company says it uses a combination of technology and reports from NGOs and others to detect and remove content.
Relying on tip-offs isn’t good enough, said Michael Lwin, founder of Myanmar-based tech start-up Koe Koe Tech. “Social media platforms, in general, need a more systematic response,” Mr. Lwin said.
How a hair-care company went from salon supplier to sanitizer powerhouse
When AG Hair moved into its new, 70,000-sq.-foot, state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Coquitlam, B.C., two years ago, it was part of a plan to supercharge expansion of its hair care product line to salons in international markets. Europe was next on its list. Then COVID-19 hit.
Not only was the European expansion put on hold, but salons in major markets across Canada and the United States were temporarily closed. Very few were purchasing hair products, so manufacturing was halted in mid-March, leaving most of the company’s 82 employees out of work.
AG Hair could have waited out the pandemic but instead decided to lean into its entrepreneurial culture and make a sharp pivot. It began providing hand-sanitizing products for front-line health-care workers, addressing a global shortage.
“We realized there was this massive need for health-care professionals, and we wanted to make a difference and be able to provide them with the products they needed,” says AG Hair CEO Graham Fraser.
AG Hair received Canadian and U.S. approvals a week after applying for the licences needed to make sanitizer, and produced samples to show local authorities within 48 hours.
“That rapid response time, and the fact that we had gone through all of the Health Canada regulatory hurdles, showed [the local health authorities] that we were a partner they could trust and someone they could look to, to deliver the products they needed,” Fraser says.
Within a month, the company started pumping out the products, first for the health-care industry, then for consumers on its own website and on Amazon. About 10 per cent of AG Hair’s hand-sanitizer production also went to people in need, as identified by organizations such as United Way.
Parallel 49 Brewing Company is also using AG Hair’s Coquitlam manufacturing facility to produce its own blend of liquid hand sanitizer for front-line health and emergency workers, in partnership with the B.C. government.
Fraser credits his team for its energy and creativity in making the hand-sanitizer production happen, and helping put AG Hair staff back to work.
“We realized we had an opportunity . . . and then it became this incredible, almost war-room mentality and collaboration with our owners, our executive team and our people to say, ‘How are we going to get through this?’ ” Fraser recalls. “I think our success speaks to the type of people we have and the entrepreneurial spirit of pursuing every avenue we have, understanding how we can produce the products and making it happen.”
AG Hair’s commitment to investing in future growth is a big part of what makes it a Best Managed company, says Nicole Coleman, a partner at Deloitte and co-lead of its Best Managed Program in B.C.
“Capability and innovation come through quite strongly with this company,” says Coleman, who is also AG Hair’s coach at Deloitte. “I don’t think they would be able to pivot as quickly if they weren’t so strategic and had the internal capabilities to do it.”
The manufacturing facility was a big investment, but one Coleman says has already paid dividends.
“They were looking forward with a strategic plan in mind about future growth and how they could expand, rather than just focusing on the day to day,” she says. “Best Managed companies are always pushing the envelope and are conscious about planning for the future.”
AG Hair was founded in Vancouver in 1989 by hairstylist John Davis and graphic artist Lotte Davis. The husband-and-wife team began bottling hair products in their basement and selling them direct to salons from the back of a station wagon.
The company eventually moved its manufacturing off-site, to a third party. One day, John went to watch the operations and was surprised to see salt being poured into the mixture. Although he was told salt is commonly used as a thickener, he didn’t like the potential side effects of dry hair and skin.
It was at that moment John decided the company would oversee its own manufacturing. “Through that experience, John also became an expert in product development,” says Fraser, who came to the company in 2000 as director of sales.
After having worked for more than two decades at PepsiCo and Kraft Foods, Fraser was eager to work at a smaller, more agile company where he felt he could help make a difference.
“It was perfect because I got to bring a lot of structure and process that I learned in those organizations, but I also learned an awful lot about being an entrepreneur from John and Lotte: that sense of urgency, the decision-making process, the need to get things done and drive things forward and pursue opportunities,” he says.
Fraser has helped drive AG Hair’s expansion into the U.S. and internationally, including Australia, Taiwan, and Central and South America. A portion of its sales go to One Girl Can, a charity founded by Lotte that provides schooling, education and mentoring for girls in sub-Saharan Africa.
Fraser also oversees the development of new, trending products, including a new deep-conditioning hair mask made with 98 per cent plant-based and natural ingredients. Hand-sanitizing spray and gel will be the latest addition to the company’s product lineup.
“We don’t see the demand [for hand-sanitizing products] going away,” he says. “As the isolation policies start to get lifted, people are going to need forms of security and protocols as they get back into regular life and work. We see there’s going to be a need for these types of products long-term.”
This article appears in print in the June 2020 issue of Maclean’s magazine with the headline, “Working out the kinks.” Subscribe to the monthly print magazine here.
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