COVID-19

COVID economy fallout keeps hitting already impoverished neighborhoods hardest

Jasmine Garsd Oct 1, 2020
Heard on: Marketplace
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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
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

How many people are flying? Has traveled picked up?

Flying is starting to recover to levels the airline industry hasn’t seen in months. The Transportation Security Administration announced on Oct. 19 that it’s screened more than 1 million passengers on a single day — its highest number since March 17. The TSA also screened more than 6 million passengers last week, its highest weekly volume since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. While travel is improving, the TSA announcement comes amid warnings that the U.S. is in the third wave of the coronavirus. There are now more than 8 million cases in the country, with more than 219,000 deaths.

How are Americans feeling about their finances?

Nearly half of all Americans would have trouble paying for an unexpected $250 bill and a third of Americans have less income than before the pandemic, according to the latest results of our Marketplace-Edison Poll. Also, 6 in 10 Americans think that race has at least some impact on an individual’s long-term financial situation, but Black respondents are much more likely to think that race has a big impact on a person’s long-term financial situation than white or Hispanic/Latinx respondents.

Find the rest of the poll results here, which cover how Americans have been faring financially about six months into the pandemic, race and equity within the workplace and some of the key issues Trump and Biden supporters are concerned about.

What’s going to happen to retailers, especially with the holiday shopping season approaching?

A report out recently from the accounting consultancy BDO USA said 29 big retailers filed for bankruptcy protection through August. And if bankruptcies continue at that pace, the number could rival the bankruptcies of 2010, after the Great Recession. For retailers, the last three months of this year will be even more critical than usual for their survival as they look for some hope around the holidays.

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