Eviction Prevention Fundraisers: 28 Million Americans are at risk of eviction this summer. We’ve got to help now.

As new cases of COVID-19 cases continue to skyrocket across the countries, many cities and states are beginning to roll back re-opening plans and re-issue stay-at-home orders. As if that wasn’t enough of a calamity, tens of millions of Americans (up to 28 million!) will soon be at risk of being evicted from their homes and not having anywhere to go in the middle of a deadly pandemic. Combined with a federal government unwilling to provide any further relief, we’re on the verge of a historic catastrophe.

Here’s where things stand right now:

While most cities and states issued eviction moratoriums at the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, those orders have begun to expire and many more will be over by the end of July. While a federal government pause on kicking people out of Fannie and Freddie Mac-backed buildings doesn’t run out until August 31st, it only covers about 30 to 40% of renters, and as The Washington Post reported last week, it’s been largely up to residents to figure out if they’re qualified; only 15 states require landlords to verify it. Elsewhere, landlords have been caught pursuing evictions despite their residents being technically protected, and because they’re generally the ones with attorneys at these hearings, it often works.

For those who owe back rent, things are only going to get worse. The enhanced unemployment benefits provided by the CARES Act expire at the end of the month, and as of now, neither Donald Trump nor Mitch McConnell seems willing to continue them in any significant way. Economists suggest that would be disastrous, especially with states starting to close up again and the economy at risk of a further major collapse (but as we know, they don’t care). With only a few states and cities having extended their eviction moratoriums, we’re barrelling toward a head-on collision. Already, 32% of Americans haven’t made their July housing payments. And as with everything else in the US, the looming crises will disproportionately impact Black and brown people.

This week at Progressives Everywhere, instead of asking you to donate to an (amazing) candidate or policy ballot initiative, I’m raising money for an even more urgent situation. We can’t wait until new lawmakers are sworn in next year to deal with the imminent eviction crisis, especially in the middle of this resurgent pandemic. Below are a number of non-profits working to keep people in their homes through legal aid, grants, and other tactics. Any help you can offer will make a huge difference.

Coalition for the Homeless (NYC)

Eviction filings began in New York City in June, with an estimated 50,000 or more already primed for submission and execution once the moratorium lifts. To assist in eviction protection, The Coalition for the Homeless provides one-time $1000 cash grants to people who are behind on rent and facing eviction, but with some help, would be able to recover and pay rent in the future. The organization also assists those in need by helping them access funds from other non-profits and government programs.

Donate to NYC Here!

Eviction Defense Network (LA)

The LA-based organization is a community non-profit made up of lawyers and advocates who provide advice and legal representation to anyone facing eviction in the downtown LA courthouse and counseling to anyone in LA County.

Donate to LA Here!

HomeStart (Boston)

Through expertise, mediation, legal services, and financial grants, HomeStart helps families who are at risk of losing their homes avoid eviction and being forced into shelters.

Donate to Boston Here!

Star-C (Atlanta)

This program works with landlords and tenants alike to provide matching-fund grants that help residents in less affluent communities catch up on rent and stay in their homes. The fund offers two payments of up to $750 each.

Donate to Atlanta Here!

Community Advocates (Milwaukee)

Community Advocates provides over 30 different programs and services for the neediest members of the community. This includes eviction prevention and rental assistance. Evictions have already started in Wisconsin, making this one of the most essential organizations to help right now.

Donate to Milwaukee Here!

Legal Services of Greater Miami (Miami, FL)

A non-profit collection of pro bono lawyers who offer free legal counsel and representation to low-income community members in Miami-Dade and Monroe Counties. Before 2020, they helped 20,000 clients a year; this year, demand for their work should rise exponentially.

Donate to Miami Here!

Down Home is organizing the rural south and overcoming the legacy of racism

The Democratic Party made much of its inroads in 2018 by picking off low-hanging fruit, flipping some legislatures and half of Congress by winning districts with big demographics shifts, mainly in urban and large suburban areas. It was a huge first step, but any hope of a sustained majority and transformative progress is going to require success in more rural areas, which have become the bright-red homes to some of the most unhinged right-wing Republican lawmakers.

North Carolina is a perfect example. Democrats, powered by new voters in cities like Charlotte and Raleigh, won more votes in the state in 2018, and were able to break the GOP supermajority, but Republicans still won more seats in the state legislature and a whopping 10 out of 13 Congressional seats. Why? In a vile cycle of systemic evil that took decades to install, Republicans took control of rural areas, seized the state government in the 2010 wave election, and then gerrymandered the hell out of the state map. The NC GOP is a melange of unhinged reactionaries, and has been advancing blatantly anti-democratic, anti-human laws ever since, from voter ID to the ignominious anti-trans bathroom bills.

The 2018 election was a good first step for Democrats in the state, but the modest gains could prove short-lived if the 2020 election isn’t even better. “If it’s not divided at least between a majority in the two state houses,” explains Todd Zimmer, the co-founder of the activist group Down Home North Carolina, “the Republicans will be able to draw all the maps again right after the 2020 census and put us right back where we were 10 years ago.”

Democrats need to pick up five seats in the State Senate and six in the State House to take back the majority in each chamber, and now the road to restoring sanity and building equality in North Carolina runs through the still-red rural parts of the state. Down Home NC is helping to lead the charge. They’re working to build grassroots power 365 days a year, with an eye on winning elections at the local level up through the US Senate (North Carolina has a top-tier race in 2020), by organizing working people on a county-by-county level.

“We set out to start building permanent long-term infrastructure, including candidate pipelines,” Zimmer says. As a county-based organization with a state-wide umbrella leadership, Down Home North Carolina right now has three main chapters, two in Appalachian Mountain West and one in the central Piedmont of North Carolina. This will be a year of rapid expansion, with two more planned for 2019, one in the Appalachians and another Piedmont chapter closer to Charlotte. Unlike many groups, the local infrastructure is less a tool for disseminating top-down messages and priorities than rallying grassroots energy tailored to regional needs.

“When we enter a community, we do a several thousand door listening survey to find out what the top issues are for low-income people of all political stripes, and what their top solutions are,” Zimmer says. “We turn that into a platform and our members evaluate potential candidates based on that platform. We are really only trying to support candidates who are speaking to the top issues of rural communities.”

Continue reading “Down Home is organizing the rural south and overcoming the legacy of racism”

Vote Local is creating a model for turning Appalachia blue again

As Democrats continue to rebuild their state and local parties, they would be wise to look to Virginia. Once a solid red state, it has become reliably blue on both the national and state government level, giving its electoral votes to Democrats and sending Dems to both Congress and the Governor’s Mansion. The party even looks poised to flip the state legislature this fall, aided by new court-ordered nonpartisan maps. In broad strokes, Virginia is a major success story.

But drill down a little further and you’ll find an extreme partisan stratification that mirrors much of what we are seeing across the country. The Democratic waves have been powered mostly by the affluent suburbs of northern Virginia, while the more rural southwest, which is more impoverished Appalachia than planned communities of federal contractors, has become a Republican stronghold. The party has a lock on the state’s ninth Congressional District and many counties in the area; if Democrats ever want to improve conditions for people and compete nationally there, it will require a major injection of both support and fresh faces.

Enter Andrew Whitley and his new organization, Vote Local. He is a Virginia-based campaign veteran who has spent nearly a decade in the state’s progressive political infrastructure.

In 2017, Whitley ran Chris Hurst’s high-profile and ultimately victoriouslegislative campaign. Hurst was a young local TV anchor who pivoted to politics after his wife, a fellow reporter, was shot to death on air; he ran as a gun control advocate and defeated a card-carrying member of the NRA, a credit to both his personal touch and Whitley’s campaign skills.

After going out west in 2018 to manage a successful Lt. Governor race in Nevada, Whitley is returning home to southwestern Virginia with designs on rebuilding the Democratic Party in the region. Vote Local is building from the ground up, putting together a slate of candidates on the county level that can install progressive policy and eventually move on to bigger offices. The initial goal is flipping two seats on the Republican-held Board of Supervisors in Montgomery County this fall.

The group has announced one candidate so far, Robbie Jones, a former head of the Montgomery County Education Association and long-time community activist. Whitley gave Progressives Everywhere his pitch for the group earlier this month.

Virginia is trending blue — but the south has gone from blue to red. What’s Vote Local going to do about it?

I’m a southwest Virginia guy, born and bred there. That’s the area of the state that could benefit from and needs Democratic progressive policies the most, but rejects them the most. A lot of folks talk about how we can take back the ninth [congressional district] and unfortunately I’m subscribed to the mindset that it’s not possible right now. We’re not going to be able to take back a congressional seat and we’re not going to be able to win too many more legislative seats in the ninth right now. So where do we go from here? It’s local.

My goal is to find good, qualified, progressive candidates who are well-respected in their communities, run them for some of these local seats, and maybe after a few years of serving and showing that they’re good, outstanding citizens we can eventually have the take the step up, run for delegate, run for state senator, and over time, change the attitude and the perception of the Democratic Party in southwest.

People will see that there are people that you voted for that actually work for you, and these policies are a result of you electing them. Hopefully, it’ll make the difference. It’s not going to be an overnight thing, but we’re definitely gonna give it a shot this cycle.

CLICK HERE to donate to Vote Local via Progressives Everywhere’s ActBlue page!

There are still some local Democratic office-holders in the area — why haven’t they made the leap? Why not work with them?

I think that these local officials, they know all too well that if they make that leap and if they do announce, they’re going to be left unsupported. They’re gonna have to raise a lot of money. And I’m not blaming the state party or the caucuses for this, but generally, the candidates have to do a lot on their own and they don’t get the support they need. So in [the officials’] minds, why would I leave an office that I’m doing really good in right now to take a chance to run for something that I’m probably not going to win and I’m not going to be supported in?

My hope is that if they look at this new wave of local candidates, they will see that they will get support and here’s how we can help them, then maybe they will take the step. And also, the good that they will do in these local seats, it can’t be understated. When I managed Chris’s race, I naively did not understand the power that local government has in Virginia, in the county Board of Supervisors.

Thanks to the Republicans on that board, schools haven’t been funded the way that they should. Teachers haven’t received the raises that they should. So even if they don’t run for higher offices, the good that we can do by getting some of these boards flipped with good candidates, I think is worth it.

How bad is the Democratic brand there?

I’ll speak anecdotally. The county that I’m from, Smyth County, it’s right near the Tennessee border. It has a Democratic sheriff, all the constitutional officers are Democrats. There are a couple of Republicans on the Board of Supervisors, but it’s dominated by Democrats. Then you get Scott County and other counties that are the opposite. So it’s definitely not one or the other. There’s still a really good crew of candidates, of local office holders there that proved that you can elect these local Democratic offices.

CLICK HERE to donate to Vote Local via Progressives Everywhere’s ActBlue page!

Chris Hurst ran as a gun control advocate, but he had a very unique story. Do you see him as a blueprint or an anomaly?

His story is obviously very unique, but one of the things that we did is we didn’t make the issue about guns. He wasn’t afraid to say what his position was when asked — and he was asked many times — but we talked about education. That was our big issue. Making sure the kids had a quality education. We talked about improving education, transportation, and local issues that make a difference in everyday people’s lives. And it resonated. So yeah, I do think that he is somewhat of a blueprint. If you get the right candidate to talk about the right issues, then it’s possible.

Some of these races are pretty inexpensive, maybe $3,000 to run a decent campaign. How do you plan on spending the money, what’s the campaign strategy?

I talked to a couple of friends of mine that are in the campaign world, and we’re going to focus on mail and we’re gonna focus on digital. I’m paying myself like a small stipend monthly to work on it as well. I think it’s like 90 percent of the budget is going directly to the candidates and campaign efforts. I’m going to be kind of their go-to guy to help guide them through any press stuff that they might have or if they need any help with fundraising themselves or if they want to do meet and greets or when you help with knocking doors.

I wanted to start small and keep the test study small, stick to Montgomery County to not overwhelm myself and also show that if we’ve got a good blueprint here, which I think we do, we can take the success that we have this cycle and move it forward to other localities.

So tell me about Robbie Jones.

She was a former Montgomery County Educational Association President, the first person to ever be elected president of the local MCEA that’s not an actual educator.

She’s head custodial staff. She’s a blue-collar worker, fits the district really well, cares about public education. Her opponent has done nothing but oppose what the school board has asked for. Our candidates care about the county. They care about our issues and they want to move it forward.

CLICK HERE to donate to Vote Local via Progressives Everywhere’s ActBlue page!

How to make sure your vote isn’t stolen

The confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court is disheartening; the manner in which it went down, with misogynist aristocrats ramming through their classless manchild nominee and spitting in the face of women and assault survivors nationwide, was downright infuriating.

So let’s use that fury to change the country. First, make sure you are registered to vote HERE. In New York alone last month, there were legions of people who thought they were registered but has their names missing from the voter rolls when they went to cast a ballot in the primaries. Georgia and Ohio have purged over a million registered voters alone in the last few years. Other states are doing the same. So check to make sure you are registered, the send it to everyone you know.

If you find you aren’t registered, HERE is the registration deadline for every state in the country. Many still accept registrations.

And once you make sure you’re registered, it’s time to do help turn out the vote. Now that we are just a month away from Election Day, I want to focus on GOTV efforts. I’ve been wary of public polling, because they have been so often off the mark. But several polls released last week caught my eye not because they tracked any one race, but because they were meant to gauge voting habits by age and gender.

Continue reading “How to make sure your vote isn’t stolen”

Candidates who support Medicare for All

Here’s a list of candidates for Congress in 2018 that support Medicare for All. You can donate to all of them by CLICKING HERE.

Ammar Campa-Najjar (CA-50)

Liz Watson (IA-9)

Andy Levin (MI-9)

Rob Davidson (MI-2)

Ilhan Omar (MN-5)

Randy Wadkins (MS-1)

Kara Eastman (NE-1)

Deb Haaland (NM-1)

Perry Gershon (NY-1)

Liuba Grechen Shirley (NY-2)

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14)

Dana Balter (NY-24)

Nate McMurray (NY-27)

Phillip Price (NC-11)

Scott Wallace (PA-1)

Madeleine Dean (PA-4)

Mary Gay Scanlon (PA-5)

Susan Wild (PA-7)

Jess King (PA-11)

Marc Friedenberg (PA-12)

Joe Cunningham (SC-1)

Beto O’Rourke (TX-Sen)

Veronica Escobar (TX-16)

Gina Ortiz-Jones (TX-23)

Eric Holguin (TX-27)