How You Can Support Low Income Households Affected By COVID-19
As statistics and data about the effects of COVID-19 are being collated and analyzed, some trends are starting to become clear. The data and trends can help community leaders better understand the potential impacts of future crises on their community, and enable them to develop better plans aimed at community resilience.
One of the things that COVID-19 data has illustrated is that loss of income due to the pandemic is disproportionately affecting low income households across the United States. The University of Chicago reports that “57% of women making less than $30,000 have lost income during the first month of the crisis.”
Additionally, the report states that “42% of non-white workers making $45,000 to $75,000 reported losing income—compared to just 26% of white workers in the same income bracket.”
The pandemic has been touted as the great equalizer, but according to the data, that is not true. It is actually amplifying income inequality and deepening divides between privileged and underprivileged populations.
The Mental Health Toll of the Pandemic
COVID-19 has an impact on the mental health and wellbeing of many people, but in this area, too, lower income households are being affected more intensely than other demographics. Besides the stress and emotional toll of being worried about the pandemic, low income households face the extra stress of having to worry about lack of health care coverage (in the US), and income instability.
KFF highlights the additional challenges that low income earners face. Many people in low-wage jobs are at a higher risk for layoffs, which is shown to be true by the large number of low income workers applying for unemployment support following massive layoffs in the wake of COVID-19.
Low-wage workers who are still employed also face additional health risks. Many low-wage workforce positions have close contact with the public, as with essential retail workers, grocery store clerks, delivery persons, and service staff. These types of workers face more risk of exposure to COVID-19 because the nature of their job forces them to interact with so many different people every day.
Some low-wage workers in the healthcare sector are at an even higher risk of contact with COVID-19, including nursing assistants, care aides, janitorial staff, housekeeping and laundry staff, and food service workers. Workers in these positions, which have been deemed essential during the pandemic, are facing more stress, danger, and worry than those who are able to isolate or work from home.
Pandemics Hit Low Income Households Worst: How Can We Help?
It’s not new information that pandemics have a disproportionate effect on the most vulnerable in society. Studies of pandemics in the past have shown clearly that those living in poverty are at much higher risk, health wise and economically, during a pandemic.
Brookings reminds us that the first defence against a disease outbreak is surveillance for potential outbreaks. In impoverished countries, surveillance is often weakest. This means that in poor countries an outbreak can spread further and longer before detection.
While the Brookings article focuses on ways to tackle pandemic outbreaks on a global scale, their concepts can be scaled down to individual communities as well. They make some recommendations for how to support the most vulnerable members of society.
It’s also important to invest in public health systems that support populations with the highest disease burden and highest risk of infection. This can include investing in health care infrastructure or additional community health support workers.
Economic recovery from a pandemic is also crucial, and low income households face a much steeper recovery ladder than households with higher income levels. Ways to help these households get back on track can include public safety nets and other forms of financial assistance for the most vulnerable. Safety resources like shelters, food banks, seniors support organizations, or rent and utility protections can all help those with the lowest incomes in your community better recover from the pandemic.
If you’d like to learn more about how you can support your residents and businesses today, and build a more resilient community in the future, MDB Insight can help. Our COVID-19 Suite of Solutions can help you identify critical challenges in your community, develop your immediate responses, and help you strategize for future community building and resiliency.
Help Low Income Households in Your Community