/ Modified aug 6, 2021 12:41 p.m.

Delta variant, preventing homelessness, raising minimum wage

Resources for people facing eviction in PIma County, plus a recent initiative to expand transitional housing in Tucson.

As the state tracks about 2,000 new COVID-19 cases each day, in large part due to the delta variant, community leaders and health experts continue to urge unvaccinated residents to get the shot. About half of the state was fully vaccinated as of the beginning of August. The increase in new cases coincides with the return of students on campuses across the state.

Arizona 360 spoke to former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Richard Carmona about what he recommends families should do to minimize their child’s risk of contracting the virus at school. Carmona also leads the University of Arizona’s campus re-entry team and shared briefly how the UA is preparing for the upcoming academic year.

Arizona renters who couldn’t make payments because of the pandemic now have until October before facing a possible eviction. This week the Biden administration extended a nationwide eviction moratorium that had expired at the end of July. The extension only applies to areas with high COVID-19 transmission rates which currently covers the entire state. Daniel Sullivan, who oversees the Tucson and Pima County Eviction Prevention Program, discussed what that means for renters and landlords in the area and what resources are available.

The city of Tucson is looking into creating an Affordable Housing Strategic Plan to address the challenges of obtaining affordable housing in the community. Tucson is already using millions of federal dollars to buy properties such as motels that can be used as temporary housing while needy residents search for a permanent solution.

As affordable housing becomes more scarce, these programs have prevented some residents from sleeping on the streets or in their cars. Tony Paniagua has the story of a mother with newborn baby staying at one of the city’s new facilities.

In November, voters in Tucson will decide if minimum wage workers in the city deserve a raise. The Tucson Minimum Wage Act would see it gradually increase from $12.15 to $15 by 2025. The group Tucson Fight for $15 is leading the charge to get it passed. Campaign manager C.J. Boyd explained how the proposition also includes added protections for workers to address issues like wage theft and access to employer benefits.

Groups that have come out in opposition to the act include the Tucson Metro Chamber. Chamber President Amber Smith issued a statement last month that said small businesses would be hardest hit by the initiative, in part because it would force them to raise costs and put them at a disadvantage compared to businesses located just outside city limits. Smith discussed the chamber’s concerns and offered up solutions geared toward helping workers improve their incomes without raising the minimum wage.

Arizona 360
Arizona 360 airs Fridays at 8:30 p.m. on PBS 6 and Saturdays at 8 p.m. on PBS 6 PLUS. See more from Arizona 360.
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