With federal protections expiring, a larger economic crisis could be on the horizon, as 30 to 40 million people face eviction in the coming months.
“We stand in line every Tuesday on 122nd Street, sometimes up to seven hours, waiting for free food,” said Cristina Vargas, 36, a Mexican undocumented immigrant who has been relying on a Harlem food bank since the pandemic started.
Vargas lost most of her work cleaning houses because her customers left town or were cautious in quarantine. Her husband, who works in a restaurant, also saw his days of work reduced to three per week.
“The money is just not enough for food,” she said, noting that she used to be able to send money for a son left with her family in Mexico, but she hasn’t been able to do so in the last few months.
“We’re four months behind with our rent, so we’re applying to the program the city has to not get evicted,” she added.
Cristina is just one of millions of Latina and Black women feeling the economic impact of the pandemic at a much higher rate than other groups, as demonstrated by a recent survey commissioned by the Time’s Up Foundation and conducted by the firm PerryUndem.
The study found that Black and Latina women are at a much greater economic disadvantage than other demographics. An impressive 51% of Latinas surveyed reported not having enough money to pay for their basic needs, such as food or housing—the highest percentage of all four ethnic groups, but closely followed by Black women (48%). For reference, only 29% of white women declared not being able to cover their basic needs.
The gender gap also shows in this category: Only 34% of Latino and Black men reported not being able to cover their basic needs during this trying period.
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The economic disadvantage for Latinas is also present in the lack of saving capacity. Sixty percent of Latina women reported having less than $200 in savings, followed by 55% of Black women. The gap is, again, substantial with other ethnic groups (only 37% of white women reported being in the same situation), and with men (only 41% of Latino men had less than $200 in savings).
The Causes Behind the Impact on Latinas and the Crisis Ahead
The bigger impact on Latinas’ spending and saving power has one direct cause: their work has been effected more than any other surveyed demographic, with 72% saying they have lost a job, hours of work, or seen their pay reduced.
Another strong cause of this disproportionate impact is the fact that 61% of Latinas say their jobs must be performed outside of the home, even during the present situation—once again, more than any other group.
“Certainly, the population as a group, Latinos are disproportionately represented in essential workforce in the U.S. and, certainly, have been—as a consequence—overexposed to the virus,” Oregon State University professor Daniel Lopez-Cevallo told NPR when dissecting the disproportionate impact that COVID-19 has had on Latino communities.
The expert in Latinx studies, ethnic studies, and health equity also mentioned how there are systematic barriers, especially for undocumented immigrants, that prevent them from being able to access health insurance. The same goes for the undocumented when it comes to relief measures like economic stimulus assistance or unemployment insurance.
Even for the documented population, the situation is not looking good, with the recent end to the federal supplement to unemployment payments, and no clear path in Washington toward renewing it.
A report released this Friday by a group of academics and housing advocates warned that the United States may be facing the most severe housing crisis in its history. Based on analysis of weekly U.S. Census data, the expiration of federal, state and local protections and resources may mean that 30 to 40 million people in America could face eviction in the next several months.