Columns, Coronavirus, Opinion

Culture Shock: Low-income minorities are facing many new problems during this pandemic

The coronavirus is disrupting everyone’s lives, but it is particularly devastating for the low-income minority cohort. I’m not sure that the government is doing enough.

Minorities “are more likely to experience multidimensional poverty” than someone who is white, according to the American Psychological Association. So during a crisis such as the one we are facing now, low-income minorities must deal with many other challenges in addition to what everyone else is facing.

One major problem is the lack of educational resources for students from low-income households. College students who rely heavily on campus resources could’ve potentially lost access to textbooks, meals and a home. Students from elementary to university who rely on school libraries for computers and internet access must now work from home in less than ideal conditions. 

Not everyone has high-speed wifi and computers to do their work on, so the pre-existing failed education system in low-income areas is about to be made worse. Without consistent access to the internet, low-income minorities may not have access to accurate information in a time when it is especially crucial.

These households are also most likely supported by some sort of service job. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in 2017 that approximately seven million people were classified as the “working poor.” Whether that be a cashier or sales associate, those in service jobs typically only earn close to the minimum wage. 

Now that people are staying inside, the perceived cost of living could go up. People now have to cook three times a day, and use more household supplies that they normally wouldn’t be using if we were out-and-about. They’re running more water and using more electricity. 

People who are living on low wages may not be able to afford these costs, but are their bills getting suspended? For the most part, no.

On top of new expenses, people are also losing their jobs. Last week, there were more than three million unemployment claims in America. Losing your job is incredibly difficult in normal circumstances. But during a pandemic when people aren’t leaving their homes, unemployment is even harder to bounce back from. Who is hiring? How are people supposed to find work? 

And even if people do not get fired, their hours could get cut. Businesses and companies are suffering great financial losses during this time; it is understandable that they either lay off employees or decrease hours. But, the blows to low-income families are harsh and without fair warning — no one really saw this coming.

In order to lessen the virus’ spread, these businesses have either stopped operations or moved to virtual working. But, you cannot check people out at a grocery store online. You cannot serve people meals online. That’s why a lot of service jobs have been deemed “essential workers.”

Some of these workers are janitors, gas station employees, transit workers, trash collectors and vendors at supply stores. I find it ironic that these are occupations that society has looked down upon, yet we depend on them even when we are not in a crisis.

These occupations and workers are vital to a functioning economy and society. However, because they are lower wage jobs, the people working them are more likely to work when they shouldn’t. Not because they have malintentions, but because they need the money to survive. 

Society’s lack of a living wage could be detrimental for these workers’ health and others’ health; their exposure to the coronavirus increases each time they go to work. And what is even more concerning is that they might not have the means for proper health care during this time. If they get sick, they have nothing to rely on to get better. 

The government has attempted to alleviate some of the pressure on Americans during this pandemic. President Donald Trump signed a bill that will use two trillion federal dollars to help aid the country as the coronavirus continues to hurt the economy. There are many stipulations to the payments people will receive, and it is all based on your income. There is also an unemployment plan that will provide people payments which depend on the state they live in. 

I think that this bill is going to be helpful, but will it be enough? I think the future is still uncertain for everyone, but for low-income minorities, their future is even more so. They are already living a life that is more difficult than others. Such a financially draining event such as a  pandemic could have long-lasting, detrimental effects.

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