COVID-19 Leaves People of Color Struggling to Pay the Bills

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By Giselle Balido

May 13, 2020

A new poll shows 39% of Latinos and 37% of Black/African-Americans have already skipped a bill, compared to 13% of white participants.

As states and counties across the US plan to reopen for business in the hopes of boosting a struggling economy hit hard by the massive job loss due to COVID-19, a new poll from Data for Progress, a think tank for the future of progressivism, finds that many Americans are facing a dire financial situation.

According to the May 4 survey, the economic crisis faced by many individuals and families may have been alleviated, but certainly not resolved, by the CARES act stimulus checks.  In fact, Americans struggling to pay the rent and put food on the table now have to make tough choices, essentially picking which bills to pay. This can affect their wellbeing as well as their credit scores, which can impact them in the future. Especially those who need good credit to purchase a home or even a car to get to and from a job.

RELATED: ‘If I Do Pay My Rent, It’s Going to Eat Into My Food Money.’

Because many lack sufficient (or any) savings, or even a small emergency fund to carry them during tough economic times, nearly 20% report skipping a bill, and a majority of participants in the survey believe they will have difficulty meeting basic costs within the next 3 months, 35% within one month.

The most commonly skipped financial obligation is a utility bill (power, water, gas). At a time when people must shelter at home, this adds to an already stressful situation. In Florida, for example, where the temperature is already in the high 80s in some parts, many residents must limit the use of their air conditioning units because they can’t afford the bills.

“We have yet to fully grasp how people will be economically impacted by higher utility bills due to increased need for air conditioning while sheltering in place,” Denise Ghartey, a fellow with Miami’s Community Justice Project, told the Miami Herald.

“Add that on top of accumulating rent bills, and it could create havoc of its own,” added the spokesperson for the legal group that works to improve the lives of low-income people. The second most commonly skipped bill is rent or a mortgage payment.

Blacks and Hispanics Overrepresented

While Congress debates another round of aid to Americans, the survey also found that the financial crisis that is leaving many Americans with an inability to cover essential costs is significantly higher among people of color. 

In the survey, 37% of Black/African-American participants reported having already skipped a bill. The number rose to 39% among Hispanic/Latinx respondents, compared to 13% of white participants.

RELATED: Half of Latino Families Can’t Cover Basic Living Expenses for 3 Months In Event of Financial Reversal

This is not surprising, considering that people of color, many of whom worked in the service and hospitality industries, were hit hardest by job loss due to the coronavirus pandemic. In an earlier Data for Progress poll, the number of those reporting losing a job or hours showed Black/African-American and Hispanic/Latinx populations at 34% and 56%, respectively.

Democrats Propose New Stimulus Aid

The Monthly Economic Crisis Support Act, proposed early in May by Sens. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.), seeks to provide a monthly $2,000 check to every person with an income below $120,000 throughout the public health crisis and for three months after it ends. However, the plan does not stand a good chance of passing in the Republican-controlled Senate.


CATEGORIES: Coronavirus | Economy | Florida | Jobs | Latinos | Money | Work


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