Six Months Into the COVID-19 Pandemic, Women of Color Face Serious Challenges

Note: Immediate nutritional, health care, housing and financial assistance is required. Congress must pass additional COVID-19 relief legislation. Without this help tens of millions of women and children could become homeless, without income and food, and further exposed to the coronavirus.

The COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally changed how we go about our days. For many, this means working from home, taking care of children in the absence of childcare programs, being unable to see loved ones, and, unfortunately for many, falling sick. Everyone has felt the consequences of this relentless virus, but new data from The National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) documents that women, especially women of color, are disproportionately carrying the economic burden of this health crisis.

Using data from the Census Household Pulse Survey that analyzed impacts of the first 12 weeks of the pandemic, the NWLC found disturbing trends about how this crisis is affecting women around the country. From February to April, 12.1 million women lost their jobs. This number alone is very alarming, indicating that women in the workforce are extremely vulnerable. These impacts are exacerbated by race, as women of color are more likely to have had someone in their household lose employment income since March. Only about half of those 12.1 million lost jobs have been returned, and of those who remain unemployed, Black and Latina women are the most affected, suffering larger losses than other demographics. Specifically, “more than half of Black, non-Hispanic women (54.5%), Asian, non-Hispanic women (56.3%), and Latinas (63.7%) reported a loss of income since March, compared to 45.1% of white, non-Hispanic men and 46.0% of white, non-Hispanic women.” This number is only amplified in Asian and Latina households with children. Unfortunately, these numbers are unlikely to get better any time soon, as many continue to expect that someone in their household could lose employment in the near future.

Without income from previously held jobs, women are facing serious economic obstacles and are struggling to support not only themselves, but their families. Ranging from food shortages to housing insecurity, unemployment amid a pandemic poses serious challenges for women of color.  More than 20% of Black, non-Hispanic women and Latinas are struggling with putting food on the table. Even more concerning, over 2 in 5 Black, non-Hispanic women and Latinas faced housing insecurity since February, including not being able to meet last month’s rent. Such findings make these communities three times more likely to not be able to feed their families and two and a half times more likely to face housing insecurity than their white, non-Hispanic male counterparts. Women of color are disproportionately affected by the economic turmoil this pandemic has plunged the country into.

It’s been a long six months since the pandemic started and it is unfortunately far from over. With many businesses and schools still closed, it is unlikely that these numbers will improve without legislative assistance. Elected officials need to be directly and effectively addressing the systemic issues women of color are facing throughout this crisis in their economic recovery plans. those who are struggling the most right now will not receive the support they desperately need.

Sources:

National Women’s Law Center: https://nwlc-ciw49tixgw5lbab.stackpathdns.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/PulsedataFS-1.pdf

Blog by Steph Glascock, NOW Government Relations Intern

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