Advocacy groups urge local and county officials for a holistic COVID-19 response

March 13, 2020

The letter sent to officials offer solutions that promote effective practices in institutions such as public housing, jails, and public education

AUSTIN, Tex. — 10 advocacy organizations sent a letter Friday afternoon to local and county officials regarding social distancing restrictions and what can be done to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 in Central Texas and will be holding an e-press conference on Monday, March 16 at 11am. Join by clicking here at the meeting start time.

While local and county officials are releasing plans of action to limit the spread of the virus, community advocates stress the importance of providing effective solutions that help the most vulnerable populations, from people in prison, the elderly, and unsheltered people to people with disabilities. Given that we face an unprecedented situation with the COVID-19 pandemic, community advocates believe it warrants an unprecedented, swift, and necessary response from local and county authorities with the power to save and protect as many of the most vulnerable people as possible.  

“We shouldn’t have to choose between our health and our safety,” said Claudia Muñoz, acting executive co-director at Grassroots Leadership. “If the Austin community is expected to be as prepared as possible and keep our most vulnerable safe, we need county and city officials to ensure that all community members feel safe to ask for help and limit interaction with law enforcement as much as possible, whether it’s on the streets, in court, or in jails. This includes ensuring everyone—regardless of immigration status—feels safe to seek treatment without fearing ICE presence and not being exposed to hazardous conditions inside jails. Other cities have taken bold action, it’s time we do the same.”

“It shouldn’t take a pandemic for us to realize that no one should choose between their family’s health and their livelihood, but here we are,” said Erika Galindo, organizing program manager at Lilith Fund in Austin. “This is an unprecedented event and we need a response that is unprecedented in both scale and vision. Lilith Fund believes that the vision offered to us by reproductive justice is the place to start. It is a vision that says the right to be healthy and safe should be guaranteed to all.  In particular, the inability to take time off work as a barrier to abortion care as been known to reproductive justice activists for years. Now COVID-19 has shown us all how this problem impacts every worker and every family. Austin can do better and so we must.”

“Four million workers in Texas do not have access to paid sick leave, including over 200,000 workers in the greater Austin area. Tragically, a lawsuit pursued by Attorney General Ken Paxton and other corporate interests has prevented the City of Austin’s 2018 paid sick leave ordinance from going into effect,” said Ana Gonzalez, Policy Director at Workers Defense Project. “This, however, should not stop our local government leaders from urging area businesses to provide the necessary protective equipment to working employees and to implement emergency paid sick leave policies now.  The health and safety of their employees, their customers, and our entire community depend on it.”

The organizations that signed on to the letter are Grassroots Leadership, MELJ Center, Central Texas National Action Network, Austin EMS Association, Lilith Fund for Reproductive Equity, NARAL-Pro Choice Texas, GoAustinVamosAustin, Community of Color United for Racial Justice, Workers Defense Project, and Youth Rise Texas. 

The full letter can be found here.


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Grassroots Leadership is an Austin, Texas-based national organization that works for a more just society where prison profiteering, mass incarceration, deportation, and criminalization are things of the past. Follow us @Grassroots_News.

Lilith Fund, founded in 2001, provides financial assistance and emotional support while building community spaces for people who need abortions in Texas—unapologetically, with compassion and conviction. Lilith Fund operates a mostly volunteer-run hotline in order to provide direct financial assistance to people in the central and southern regions of Texas. Lilith Fund has provided grants to more than 10,000 people. Follow us @lilithfund.



Chris Harris,