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COVID-19

COVID economy fallout keeps hitting already impoverished neighborhoods hardest

Jasmine Garsd Oct 1, 2020
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People line up for food donations in May in the Bronx neighborhood of New York, where locals say the lines outside food pantries are like nothing they’ve ever witnessed before. Johannes Eisele/AFP via Getty Images
COVID-19

COVID economy fallout keeps hitting already impoverished neighborhoods hardest

Jasmine Garsd Oct 1, 2020
Heard on:
People line up for food donations in May in the Bronx neighborhood of New York, where locals say the lines outside food pantries are like nothing they’ve ever witnessed before. Johannes Eisele/AFP via Getty Images
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At St. Anne’s Episcopal Church in the Bronx, the line to get food often wraps around the block. It’s a mix of young people, children and the elderly.  

Locals say they’ve never seen anything like this line before. They are everywhere in this town.

Garret Faber, a social worker who lost his job during the pandemic, said he comes to this line once a month to get food. He said his unemployment check is “not quite enough,” because his bills are pretty high and he pays rent. “I have other bills; I have student loans,” he said.   

Many people who live here commute to Manhattan, often to work minimum wage and essential jobs. But these days, the Bronx is the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic in New York City.

St. Anne’s is in Mott Haven, where over 1,500 COVID-19 cases have been recorded. The South Bronx is part of the poorest congressional district in the U.S., and unemployment in the borough is now around 25%, according to analysts. That’s Great Depression levels.

That’s closely tied to the emptying out of Manhattan. “When the economy gets a cold, places like Bronx get pneumonia or cancer,” said Joel Berg, CEO of the nonprofit Hunger Free America.

He said life can be very tough for many residents in the South Bronx. But COVID-19 has been catastrophic. “Their tenuous living before this, when they were just on the edge of survival, has been destroyed,” he said.

Erica Groshen, a senior economic adviser at Cornell University, said jobs in Manhattan created what economists call a “multiplier effect.” Each job supports many others. It’s like game of Jenga though: When you take one piece out, the rest can come tumbling down.

As Manhattan offices remain mostly empty, many janitors, baristas, cooks, and other workers who call the Bronx home have simply seen their jobs disappear.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

What’s the outlook for vaccine supply?

Chief executives of America’s COVID-19 vaccine makers promised in congressional testimony to deliver the doses promised to the U.S. government by summer. The projections of confidence come after months of supply chain challenges and companies falling short of year-end projections for 2020. What changed? In part, drugmakers that normally compete are now actually helping one another. This has helped solve several supply chain issues, but not all of them.

How has the pandemic changed scientific research?

Over the past year, while some scientists turned their attention to COVID-19 and creating vaccines to fight it, most others had to pause their research — and re-imagine how to do it. Social distancing, limited lab capacity — “It’s less fun, I have to say. Like, for me the big part of the science is discussing the science with other people, getting excited about projects,” said Isabella Rauch, an immunologist at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland. Funding is also a big question for many.

What happened to all of the hazard pay essential workers were getting at the beginning of the pandemic?

Almost a year ago, when the pandemic began, essential workers were hailed as heroes. Back then, many companies gave hazard pay, an extra $2 or so per hour, for coming in to work. That quietly went away for most of them last summer. Without federal action, it’s mostly been up to local governments to create programs and mandates. They’ve helped compensate front-line workers, but they haven’t been perfect. “The solutions are small. They’re piecemeal,” said Molly Kinder at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. “You’re seeing these innovative pop-ups because we have failed overall to do something systematically.”

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