A second round of stimulus checks are in the works, but a new study says people who are poor, Black or Latino were less likely to receive the $1,200.
Loma Lopez has worked since she was a small child, when she picked peaches, potatoes and other produce beside her parents, who were migrant workers in the fields of California.
But Lopez’s work life ended in April, when she was laid off by the school where she’d worked for 16 years because of the coronavirus pandemic. Lopez, 76, could no longer afford her $1,500 rent. And now she and her great-great-grandson are homeless, living with friends.
“This happened, and everything is upside down,’’ says Lopez, who will now rely on $800 a month in Social Security payments – an amount she believes would have been greater if she’d been paid fairly throughout her working life. “I know now that I should have gotten paid more … But I did not have an education.”’
At a time when the nation is reeling from the twin crises of an economic downturn and a global pandemic, long-standing gaps in pay are exacerbating the struggles of many Black women and Latinas who can barely make ends meet.
Among Latinas, 51% do not currently have enough money to pay for basic needs like food and housing, while 48% of Black women cannot cover such fundamental expenses, according to a survey commissioned by the Time’s Up Foundation and conducted by the firm PerryUndem.
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Many more lack a financial cushion to fall back on, with 60% of Latinas and 55% of Black women saying they have less than $200 in savings.
“We’ve known for a very long time that women, especially women of color, are breadwinners,” says Jennifer Klein, chief strategy and policy officer at Time’s Up, who added that these women additionally take on many unpaid tasks at home. “We also know, sadly, that we don’t have sufficient public policies and private sector practices to support these two roles that they play, and I think the pandemic has only magnified and made this situation worse.”
Latinas bear biggest financial losses
The challenges faced by Latinas and Black women – who on average make 54 cents and 62 cents, respectively, for every dollar earned by a white man – are being compounded by COVID-19, a virus that has led to the deaths of nearly 150,000 Americans, erased 14.7 million jobs, and is disproportionately impacting the physical and financial health of communities of color.
Latinas are most likely to say their work has been impacted by the pandemic with 72% saying they have lost a job, hours or pay. Among those who are working, 61% say their jobs require them to leave home in the midst of the health crisis, the largest segment of any group. And nearly 6 in 10 Latinas say they’ve not felt safe on the job amid the health crisis.
Those pressures come as, 29% of Latinas are caring for an ill or elderly loved one – more than any other segment of Americans. And Latinas worry most that juggling those responsibilities will hurt their chances to get a raise or promotion.
Mental health issues are also most acute among Latinas, with 54% saying they experience panic or anxiety at least once a week – though many other groups are also struggling.
Among all women, 44% are regularly feeling emotional distress, compared with 31% of men. And 43% of white women, 37% of Black women and 35% of Asian American women have felt anxious during the pandemic.
“When I look at … the number of women who are crying themselves to sleep, that’s the reality of what women are going through as they do the uncompensated care at home and try to figure out what to do with their jobs,” says Tina Tchen, head of Time’s Up. “Over the long term, that’s going to take a real toll if we don’t address it.’’
Race and gender matters
Meanwhile, 40% of Black women say someone at their job has said or implied that they don’t work as hard as others because of their gender, race or responsibilities at home, compared with 37% of Latinas and 31% of white women who had similar experiences.
Black women were also least likely to feel that they had a job that provided them with the ability to pay their bills, put money aside and also maintain their health, with 42% saying they had such stability, compared with 51% of Latinas and 54% of white women.
Ash Girtley, 29, is a manager at a Peet’s Coffee in Chicago. But at several of the other chains where she worked over the last ten years, Girtley says she struggled to gain promotions despite her experience.
“They always labeled the Black female as difficult,’’ said Girtley, who has a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. “Being Black and being a woman on top of that in the fast food industry, I can’t get ahead.’’
Even before the pandemic, her $16 an hour wages meant money was tight and saving was hard. But now, partly because she is a caretaker for her mother, Girtley says her schedule has been pared from roughly 40 hours to as few as 12 hours a week. The $13,000 she struggled to sock away has been whittled down to $2,400, the money going toward groceries, car repairs and other bills.
“I sell dinners out of my house just to get by because it’s not enough for me to live off the wages I’m making right now,’’ she says. But “I can’t crack. I’ve got a house depending on me.”
Many of those surveyed said they were aware of inequities in expectations as well as pay. Among married women with younger children, only 42% said they could take a good paying job that lacked flexible hours and required them to prioritize work over their responsibilities at home. That’s compared with 56% of married fathers who said they’d be able to grab such a professional opportunity.
And among men who play a role in hiring, 1 in 3 believed that male applicants should be given priority for getting the job when work is scarce.
“That means we don’t understand the number of women who are the … engines of our economy,” Tchen says. ”And so that’s the long-term battle that we still have to fight.”
A tipping point?
There was some promising news, with 83% of those surveyed saying that in the midst of the current economic crisis, equal pay for women remains just as or more critical an issue.
And women were clear about what they needed to address the pay gap and other inequities, including child care, more flexible work schedules and paid sick leave.
“This data makes visible what has for too long been invisible,” Klein says. “I never use the word ‘opportunity,’ but I think this moment may be a tipping point that both demands big structural changes (and) also makes them possible.”
Follow Charisse Jones on Twitter @charissejones
Follow the new realities for a group of gig workers who are trying to stay afloat during this COVID-19 economy.
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