Summer is officially here. With warmer weather, businesses slowly re-opening, and people cautiously coming together again, our communities are looking toward recovery. Yet, the world we are stepping into is different from the one we left behind. For many, the pandemic has brought to light the challenges some of our neighbors have been living with for a long time. As we chart a path forward, we recognize that we’ll be living with this virus for much longer than we originally thought, and with it, the deep economic impacts that hit our front-line communities hardest.
Since mid-March, United Way has rallied to support the people we owe for keeping our world running, even as it shut-down around us — the custodians, hospital workers, baggers, and delivery people. We’ve rallied for those most deeply affected by job-losses — the cooks, childcare, construction, and airport workers who need to know they can rely on their community for support. As we’ve deployed $5.7M in relief funds since mid-March, we have learned more about who is most profoundly impacted by COVID19. According to Alexandra Oliver-Davila, Executive Director of Sociedad Latina,
“There has been a disproportionate number of COVID-19 cases among Latinos, people of color, and people living in economically-disadvantaged communities in Boston and on a national level. There is also little federal support for undocumented individuals and families who are amongst the largest demographic to be gravely affected by this pandemic. We see the consequences that this pandemic has had on the youth and families that we partner with, including little or no access to healthcare, rising medical costs, ineligibility or lack of information for unemployment, losing employment, and more. It is crucial that we address these inequities and provide healthcare, safety, and financial assistance to everyone despite race, ethnicity, socio-economic status, and immigration status.”
In March, COVID was a new virus we didn’t yet understand. In July, we know much more about how it spreads and likewise much more about the economic impacts ahead.
This Is What We’re Up Against
First, in cities where front-line workers often live, such as Chelsea, East Boston, Everett, Lynn, and Brockton, income loss or disruption is widespread. A recent mapping of the addresses of people helped by United Way’s Lynn Community Care Fund found that there was hardly a street or neighborhood in the whole city that had been left untouched by job losses. According to BEST HTC, one of our partner organizations serving hospitality workers across the region, “Our workers are uncertain when they’ll be able to return to work and are facing an expiration of expanded unemployment benefits at the end of July. They face the potential of losing health insurance coverage, but must balance those concerns alongside their concerns for their own health and safety when they are given opportunities to return to work soon.”
“Both my son and I have health conditions. My fear is that I will get sick, and not be able to take care of my child.”
Second, front-line communities are laser-focused on housing. With Massachusetts’ moratorium on evictions set to expire in early August, these same communities face historic rates of eviction and displacement. Before the moratorium, there were already 20,000 pending evictions. Since then, many more households have become unable to pay for housing. In fact, nearly half of applicants to the Somerville Cares Fund report $0 income since the shutdown began.
“I lost my job, my kids lost their education and after school sports, and I can’t afford to pay my rent this month. I will probably lose my apartment too.”
Considering before the pandemic, 2 in 5 families did not have enough savings to weather a loss in wages, these stats suggest that communities are rightly alarmed at the potential for record rates of homelessness. That’s why companies like our partners at Winn Companies aren’t waiting for official regulations to extend the moratorium – they’re stepping up to do it themselves. They understand the burden these households are facing and are taking a compassionate approach.
“I finally got back on my feet and now I may become homeless again. I can’t afford all my bills with little income coming in.”
Communities are now focused on how to scale financial assistance, legal support and mediation that will be needed to address the tens of thousands of people who will be unable to pay back rent.
The greatest concerns from those calling our offices have been two-fold: Do we have a food pantry and, “I’m afraid that I will lose my apartment because I owe back rent.”
-Beth Chambers, Director, Greater Boston Region, Catholic Charities
This combination creates the perfect storm for a large segment of our population to fall into homelessness. But, by coming together with our time, funds and voices we can make a difference. To help, United Way is focusing on supporting coaching and industry-aligned job training and placement for people trying to get back to work as well as on deploying rental assistance and housing support for people facing evictions. By strengthening housing protections and prioritizing the financial security of our most vulnerable neighbors, we can protect the integrity and health of our community in the long term.
Here’s How You Can Help
- Mobilizing people to empower communities to recover and rebuild is what United Way was built for. Donate to United Way’s COVID-19 Family Support Fund or find a local fund near you, to support people in one of the hardest-hit cities in Massachusetts.
From our partners:
“The help that United Way of Massachusetts’ COVID-19 Fund provided has alleviated the turmoil faced by families and individuals in the midst of uncertainty as children were home and clients lost jobs or had their hours cut, and allowed agencies to provide a small glimmer of hope.”
-Beth Chambers, Director, Greater Boston Region, Catholic Charities
As we continue to provide emergency cash and food assistance and as the economy begins to reopen, we are starting to assist immigrant workers move into the recovery phase. We are supporting family-members serving in essential roles whose savings or lifelines have been decimated by COVID-19, and with the partnership of United Way, we are ensuring critical assistance as they chart a way forward.”
- Use your voice! Sign up for our advocacy alerts to get notified every time there’s a chance to tell elected officials there’s a cause that will help.
- United Way has seen cost increases for some of the most vulnerable renters during the pandemic. This will inevitably put a deeper strain on renters and city and state budgets. Now is the time to recommit as a community to bringing rental costs closer in line with people’s incomes. As a start, homeowners and landlords who can qualify for mortgage forbearance should consider this as a lifeline to weather the crisis and share this information in their networks.
Here’s how you can get help
If you are at risk of losing your housing or seeking referral to access food, childcare, or other necessities, you can visit mass211.org or 211nh.org or dial 2-1-1 to speak with someone who will connect you with local assistance in your area.
Photo Credit: Latinos Unidos En Massachusetts/LUMA (COVID-19 Fund Grantee)