Solar storms and the lack of rent relief

in May 31st, 2021

Here's what we emailed out the week of May 31, 2021. Sign up for updates directly in your inbox.

Think of an Asian American you know, any Asian American. A friend, a colleague, a celebrity, or perhaps one of the founders of Below the Fold — hello from Anum and Vivian! According to a new survey, 42% of Americans cannot name a well-known Asian American (such as Vice President Kamala Harris). The survey of over 2,700 Americans is one of the first in 20 years to assess public attitudes towards the fastest growing racial group in the U.S. It is especially timely as we celebrate Asian Pacific American Heritage month following a year of anti-Asian sentiment.

And despite the rise in such sentiment and hate crimes against those of Asian descent, a third of white Americans and nearly half of Republicans also said they didn’t know such violence was increasing. On the front lines of this reporting were many incredible Asian Americans who had to balance their jobs with their own wellness given the subject matter. We highlight some of them in our latest blog post celebrating female Asian American journalists. Read about their contributions to American media and help us grow the list.


SOLAR STORMS

Solar storm 'season' and what to prepare for

Sat May 22

In case you missed it, the sun celebrated a burp-day last year. Solar storms occur when powerful "burps", or eruptions, from the sun's surface blast out plasma clouds at high velocities, which can quickly hit Earth's magnetic field. The gas released recently reached our magnetic field just this week, triggering the strongest geomagnetic storm in years — even though we likely felt nothing.

What happens when there’s a solar storm? 

  • While humans on land are mostly safe, those in air should be cautious. Airline crews can be exposed to dangerous levels of radiation that can lead pilots to develop cataracts. Past solar storms have also led to an increase in miscarriages for female flight attendants.
  • Power blackouts could occur as overwhelming electric currents pass through our infrastructure, even downing communications. And radio isn't immune either — a 2017 solar storm caused ham radios to go static at the most inopportune time: when a category five hurricane rippled through the Caribbean.
  • And the many technologies we rely on can be interrupted, including satellites, radios, and emergency communication channels. A 2015 solar storm knocked out global positioning systems (GPS) in the U.S. Northeast, which is worrying today for cars outfitted with self-driving features.

Both Obama and Trump’s administrations made strides towards preventing such disruptions to life and the economy, especially given one study claimed severe space weather could impact 66% of the population and cost $41.5 billion a day. There’s not much that can be done to shield all our infrastructure so the main solution is to improve forecasting technology. This would speed up preparation and reaction times to future storms, which is particularly crucial for utility companies. 

Some additional resources...


FEDERAL AID

Bureaucracy and inexperience choke the flow of rent relief

Thu May 20

Despite a highly welcomed $45 billion federal allotment in rent relief, very few Americans have received the aid — or even know they can apply. On the surface level, data shows less than a third of Americans missed a payment over the pandemic year. But dig deeper and see how renters have gone to great lengths to avoid eviction, from selling off all their belongings to maxing out credit cards to working round-the-clock. 

So why isn’t the federal rent relief helping? In short, a lack of knowledge, limited time, and strict bureaucracy.

  • Knowledge: Rent relief is a novel concept, which means states have no prior experience to lean on. Local governments had to hire staff, set up application websites, comply with federal regulations, and conduct outreach. The learning curve has left most renters across the country ignorant of the aid available to them.
  • Time: States are getting up to speed, but a mere few weeks are left until the federally mandated eviction moratorium is lifted in June, putting thousands of Americans at risk of eviction because they couldn’t get relief in time. In Delaware, just 0.02% of the rental assistance allocated has been distributed. Most other states show similarly dismal numbers.
  • Bureaucracy: Without initial federal guidance, states were left to figure out how applicants should prove their need. This led to slow, complicated processes that let those in need fall through the cracks. For example, Massachusetts required physical birth certificates and all household members to produce a month’s pay stubs from the exact same month.

It’s also the first time state governments have had to engage with their marginalized communities, revealing a gaping hole in how much states know about their own housing markets. Without data on who owns properties or what’s happening with them, state resources are unaware which tenants are struggling now or how much back rent is accumulating.

If you’re struggling with rent or getting assistance, know you’re not alone and refer to this resource for guidance on who qualifies and where to find the 364 programs trying to give money to renters in need. 

Some additional resources... 


BONUS CONTENT

Between Mental Health Awareness Month and Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, we’ve had our hands full with both subjects so near to our hearts. The former stresses the importance of having healthful news experiences while the latter speaks to the identity and struggles of our founders trying to build a high-impact newsletter business in a world where those who look like us have yet to. So, we put together some bonus content for you.

The first reveals the results of our second annual News Wellness study, where we share stats and trends around how we consume news and how news affects us.

>> News Wellness Study 2021

The second spotlights 11 female Asian American journalists who have made strides in the journalism field and been recognized for their contributions to the industry. We also include a form at the bottom for you to nominate the important Asian American journalists we missed.

>> 11 Asian American Journalists


ASCII OF THE WEEK
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Suns out, grid’s out!

Art Credit: JGS