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United States

Poll: 35% of Hispanic households impacted by unemployment due to coronavirus

Adding to fears of contagion and unemployment, Hispanics are concerned about how they will pay for housing and the quality of their children's education, a new survey reveals. Despite the impression that everyone is working from home during the pandemic, many within the Latino community don't have that luxury. Lee en español.
17 Abr 2020 – 08:09 AM EDT

About 35% of Hispanics indicated that someone in the household had lost their job due to the coronavirus and 29% of employers affirmed that their businesses suffered a loss of income amid the public health crisis, according to a survey carried out by Latino Decisions and the network of multilingual health providers, SOMOS.

Among those who kept their jobs, 46% said they have suffered a wage cut and 43% had trouble meeting rent or mortgage payments.

The response by Congress and the White House to the covid-19 crisis, followed by job stability, proper protection from the disease at work and access to healthcare, are the issues of greatest concern to the Hispanic community, which is especially affected by the coronavirus pandemic, the poll found.

Those concerns often intersect, considering that access to healthcare depends in many cases on the availability of insurance that is frequently obtained under the U.S. system through an employer.

The poll sampled 1,200 people identified as Hispanic across the country who were interviewed between April 7 and 12. It was carried out by telephone and internet, employing a methodology used by the pollsters to accurately reflect the profile of the Hispanic community in the United States. The poll has a +/- 2.8% margin of error.

Close to a third of Latinos surveyed said that someone in their home had lost their job due to the covid-19 pandemic, and many have already had trouble paying their rent or mortgage.

At "high risk"

In a situation in which almost four out of 10 respondents said that they or someone in their household continues to go to work and is unable to do the job remotely, a large proportion admit that they fear they are putting their health at “high risk.”

Despite the fact that only 22% said they knew of friends or relatives infected with the virus, there was great concern in the community about the impact on domestic finances and personal (professional and educational) development that may result if the crisis continues much longer.

Almost nine out of 10 said they were "concerned" or "very concerned" that their local hospital would run out of resources to care for the sick.

Most of the people who answered the questionnaire (56%), said no-one in their household was working from home remotely.

This would appear to be related to the type of work typically performed by Hispanics, a disproportionate number of whom work in the service sector (shops, supermarkets and restaurants), as well as agricultural and construction jobs.

In these sectors, the physical presence of the worker is usually essential, so many cannot adopt the health recommendations of working remotely from home to maintain so-called 'social distancing’.

Despite the perception that many workers are able to perform their jobs from the safety of the home, only 30% of the American workforce are actually able to do that, according to a study by the Institute for Economic Policy in Washington DC, entitled 'Not everyone can work from home,' and there are wide disparities across ethnic or racial groups.

The study used figures from the Department of Labor to conclude that in the case of Hispanics only slightly more than 16% are able to work from home.

Notably, more than a third of them say they do not feel safe in their workplace, because they say "they do not have the necessary procedures or equipment", such as masks, gloves or hand santizer to protect them from the virus.

"My workplace puts me at high risk of getting sick," they contend.

Bad prospects

The pandemic caught Hispanics at a moment record low unemployment (4.4% in January 2020, according to the Department of Labor) and as the community was beginning to feel a recovery in purchasing power after the losses during the 'great recession' of 2008, when Hispanics were doubly affected by the housing crisis and job layoffs.

As disturbing as the current situation may be, the greatest concern of the Hispanic community lies in the consequences of the coronavirus crisis.

Some 70% of those surveyed are "worried" (a lot or somewhat) that they or someone in their immediate family may be out of a job.

A slightly higher figure, 76%, are afraid that they will not be able to meet basic expenses for housing, food or services in case they lose their jobs or see their wages cut.

The crisis has exposed the disparities in access to services that occur between communities and income disparities. That is evident from industry data for Internet access and usage, which show that Hispanics are among the most disadvantaged .

Some 17% of those polled said they did not have regular internet access and 20% said they could only access it through their phone. One third indicated that their telephone or internet bill had increased as a result of increased usage.

Concern over the possible consequences for children's education was also raised by the respondents.

Among the households where adult members are working from home and students are continuing with online classes, about one third said they don't have enough computers or tablets for the whole family.

A majority - 58% - said that learning is more difficult in the new situation due to difficulties in communicating with teachers, while almost half said they cannot help their children because they are unfamiliar with the subjects and assignments.

As a consequence, a similar percentage expressed concern that their children might “fall behind” in learning.

The coronavirus crisis threatens to aggravate a historically disadvantageous situation for school age Hispanics, who make up the group with the highest dropout rates at 8.6%, higher than that of African-Americans (6.2%) and whites (5.2%), according to data from the National Center for Education Statistics.

As a result, 70% of the respondents claimed to have experienced at some point nerves or anxiety about the situation they are experiencing.