Jul 9, 2020

Axios Cities

By Kim Hart
Kim Hart

Happy Thursday!

Happening now: Join Axios' Alexi McCammond and Dion Rabouin today at 12:30pm ET.

  • They'll have conversations with California Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis, Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs, and Cupcakin' Bake Shop founder Lila Owens for the second virtual event in a six-part series on small businesses during the coronavirus outbreak.
  • Register here.  

Today's edition is 1,558 words, a 6-minute read.

1 big thing: Schools confront broadband crisis

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

School districts are taking it upon themselves to help families get connected to the internet as they face down a long future of virtual learning.

Why it matters: In the COVID-19 era of education, broadband is an essential service that families need to stay connected — and that school systems require to equitably educate children in their districts.

The biggest hurdle: Most schools don't even know which students are lacking internet service, and the neediest families are often the hardest to reach.

Driving the news: The Trump administration is pushing schools to fully reopen in the fall despite surges of COVID-19 cases in multiple states. At the same time, many districts — including the country's largest in New York City — are working on hybrid plans that combine limited classroom instruction with virtual learning.

Perhaps the most ambitious initiative is a $50 million, public-private partnership in Chicago, which aims to provide 100,000 public school students with home internet service for four years.

  • That’s a big undertaking in a city where, in some neighborhoods, nearly half of households with school-aged children do not have in-home broadband, according to Kids First Chicago.

How it works: Chicago Public Schools (CPS) is using students' addresses to determine who lacks internet, then gives families a unique code to sign up directly with an assigned service provider.

  • United Way of Metro Chicago will handle paying the bills for the households.
  • Philanthropy donors, including Citadel CEO Ken Griffin and Crown Family Philanthropies, are providing bridge funding for the first two years of service. CPS will cover the costs for the last two years.
  • Local organizations will help families understand how to use the broadband service and hook up the devices needed for online education.

Other efforts are also underway:

  • Missouri Gov. Mike Parson announced last week that the state would use $10 million in CARES Act funding to reimburse schools for improving internet connectivity for K-12 students, about 20% of whom were not able to access online coursework during the spring.
  • In North Dakota, state agencies worked with local internet providers to connect 1,762 homes to broadband service.
  • The Racine, Wisconsin, school district mobilized secretaries and teachers this summer to call or visit families — including those in temporary housing and shelters — to identify those who do not have adequate internet service or devices.

Between the lines: The most successful districts have maximized their purchasing power by partnering with other nearby districts or municipalities, said Ellen Goldich, program director at EducationSuperHighway, a nonprofit that is working with school districts on data collection and procurement.

  • "Service providers want to meet this need for their communities," Goldich said.
  • "But they're better at meeting that need when schools frame it in terms of a business opportunity."
2. Census 2020 counting push begins next week

Photo: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

U.S. Census Bureau field workers may appear in areas with low response rates next week as part of the next push to boost participation in the count.

Why it matters: The pandemic interfered with door-to-door canvassing. So far nearly four in 10 U.S. households have not yet responded.

What to watch: Starting next week, workers will be stationed with tablets outside grocery stores, pharmacies and libraries in areas with low participation rates.

  • The following week, door knocking will begin for households who've not yet filled out a form.
  • The nationwide door knocking campaign will begin Aug. 11.
  • The extended deadline for the completed count is Oct. 31.

The big picture: This is the first year the census form can be filled out online, but those who have not yet responded are less likely to do so digitally. Door-to-door efforts have been most effective at reaching hard-to-count communities in past years.

Bureau officials noted in a press call Wednesday that it has obtained 40 million PPE items — including 2.5 million masks and 48,000 gallons of hand sanitizer — for field staff. About 500,000 temporary workers will be stationed across 248 local offices.

Households can respond by mailing back the paper questionnaire they received, by responding online at 2020census.gov, or by phone at 844-330-2020.

3. Young adults are most likely to have moved due to COVID-19
Reproduced from Pew Research Center; Chart: Axios Visuals

One in five U.S. adults say they've either moved because of the COVID-19 pandemic or know someone who did, per new Pew Research Center data.

Why it matters: The pandemic has sparked a migration out of dense cities and cramped apartments and into roomier suburbs or the homes of family members, where many people continued to work or take classes remotely.

By the numbers: In June, 3% of respondents said they moved because of the pandemic, and 6% said someone moved into their household.

  • Young adults were the most likely to move — 37% of 18-29 year-olds said they knew someone who moved because of COVID-19, including 9% who had moved themselves.
  • 47% of those who had someone move in reported the new arrival was an adult child or spouse of an adult child. For 18%, the new arrival was a parent or in-law.

Where they are going: Among adults who relocated during the pandemic, 60% say they relocated to a family member's household. 13% went to a second or vacation home. 7% moved in with a friend.

What to watch: As the pandemic drags on, temporary escapes could turn into long-term geographic shifts.

  • This could affect the 2020 census.
  • College students have been instructed to respond using their usual college housing address. But that may not be so straightforward for people who moved and are not sure where they'll be living in the future, notes Pew's D'vera Cohn.
4. Midwest ramps up efforts to snag professionals

Tulsa, Oklahoma, skyline. Photo: Jumping Rocks/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Heartland cities are looking to take advantage of young professionals' sudden willingness to change addresses.

One America Works, which recruits for tech companies outside of Silicon Valley, is expanding into two new cities: Columbus and Indianapolis.

  • The plan is to start holding virtual recruitment events to connect local tech companies with out-of-town talent interested in relocating.
  • This expansion follows One America Works' success in recruiting talent to Pittsburgh during the pandemic.

Tulsa Service Year, a yearlong paid talent-development program for 2020 graduates, launched this week in Tulsa, offering $40,000 salaries and a $1,500 bonus to assist with relocation fees.

  • Tulsa is already a hub for remote workers, thanks to its Tulsa Remote program that incentivizes workers who can work remotely to relocate to the city.

Venture capital firm Revolution announced a minimum follow-on commitment to startups that received funding from its Rise of the Rest Seed Fund, which invests in startups outside the usual well-funded tech hubs.

  • "This policy will be in place for the next six months, to help bridge the companies we've backed, and maximize the number of jobs that can be created (or at least saved), as they focus on not just recovering, but reimagining a New Normal," Revolution CEO Steve Case wrote in a blog post.
5. Black communities trust their tap water less
Reproduced from Morning Consult; Note: ±2% margin of error; Chart: Axios Visuals

Black and Hispanic communities are less likely than white communities to trust the safety of their tap water, according to Morning Consult survey data out this week.

Why it matters: There's now a greater understanding of the links between the environment and health — and the role systemic racism has played in the distribution of pollution across communities of color.

  • "These environmental inequalities aren't the result of any one action, but rather the layering of local, state and federal policies that segregated communities and incentivized white people to leave urban centers," writes Morning Consult reporter Lisa Martine Jenkins.

By the numbers: Among all adults, 42% reported high levels of concern about local pollution's impact on their health.

  • That number jumps to 61% among Hispanic respondents.
  • 56% of Black adults are extremely or very concerned.

When it comes to tap water, the disparity is even more striking. A poll found a 22-point gap between white and Black respondents on trusting the quality of their tap water (62% vs. 40%).

  • Just 53% of Hispanic respondents said they trust their tap water.
  • Black respondents were twice as likely as white ones to say they don't trust their water but drink it anyway.
  • Meanwhile, 38% of Black adults and 33% of Hispanics purchase water separately, compared to 27% of white people.

The big picture: The water-quality controversies in cities like Flint and Newark have led to a larger distrust of the government's handling of local environmental issues plus a deep skepticism of a community's infrastructure.

Go deeper:

6. Urban files

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Coronavirus is squeezing the "sandwich generation" (Axios)

Local rollout of contact tracing apps can help combat skepticism, experts say (Route Fifty)

Cities are no longer escalators of opportunity, MIT study finds (Bloomberg Businessweek)

San Francisco’s beloved cable cars won’t run again until a coronavirus vaccine is ready (SF Chronicle)

How the coronavirus pandemic changed mobility habits, by state (Axios)

7. 1 😷 thing: A mask-wearing streetcar

Kansas City's #MaskupKC Streetcar to encourage use of face coverings. Photo: KC Streetcar Authority

A Kansas City streetcar has donned a custom vinyl mask graphic on both ends , as a way to encourage people to use face coverings on public transit and anywhere social distancing isn't possible.

The big picture: Public transit ridership has suffered tremendously during pandemic-induced shutdowns, and commuters are generally wary of crowded vehicles.

Details: Face coverings are required on Kansas City streetcars, and the KC Streetcar Authority has given out more than 1,000 free face masks to riders in partnership with local nonprofit WeCan KC and the Downtown Community Improvement District.

  • The initiative has been well received, the KC Streetcar Authority tells me, and so far everyone has been in compliance with the face mask requirement.

My thought bubble: Now, if only we can get some mask-wearing subways, trams, buses...

Kim Hart

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