Downtown Colorado Springs

The issue: 

Not everyone’s recovery looks the same.

What we think: 

Helping minorities and young Americans helps everyone.

Tell us what you think: 

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One year ago, households across America were preparing for the worst. Unemployment claims went through the roof as “nonessential” and blue-collar workers found themselves without jobs; many small business owners realized they couldn’t keep the lights on and still make payroll; extended family began cohabitating to save on housing costs.

But it’s a year later and the fallout wasn’t as bad, for many, as 2020 led us to believe. Even the state received some good news — The Denver Post reported last week, “Colorado’s budget writers spent the past year planning for the worst, but they now believe the state has averted long-term economic ruin.

“In fact, the state legislature’s chief budget writer said Monday, the outlook is actually pretty good. A fuller picture won’t be available until March 19, during economists’ quarterly update, but Democratic Sen. Dominick Moreno told The Denver Post: ‘It’s nothing that we could have expected.’

Nobody knew what to expect 365 days ago — but we’re beginning to see a fuller picture of the pandemic’s impact on certain segments of the population. One thing is clear: Many who faced socio-economic hurdles to wealth prior to the pandemic are still reeling today. 

Consider this from The New York Times: “As a proportion of their employment levels before the pandemic, significantly fewer Black and Hispanic women are working now than any other demographic, according to the latest government data — and women are lagging behind men across race and ethnicity.”

Also from the Times: “No demographic has returned to prepandemic employment levels, but significant differences remain. There are nearly 10 percent fewer employed Black women than a year ago, but only 5 percent fewer employed white men.”

There’s more — the results of a recent Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll found more than four in 10 Americans say they’re still feeling the impact from job loss or lost income within their household due to impacts from COVID-19. 

The poll found that approximately half of Americans say they’ve experienced at least one form of household income loss during the past year. Twenty-five percent have experienced a household layoff and 31 percent say someone in the household saw a reduction in available work hours. In all, more than 40 percent said their household experienced income loss that is still impacting their finances.

Many lower-income workers, often comprised of younger Americans and people of color, lost jobs as a direct result of the pandemic. In other words, through no fault of their own.

The disparities related to the recovery are alarming, especially for Hispanics — nearly 40 percent said they experienced a layoff in their household over the past year. That’s compared to 29 percent of Black Americans and nearly twice the rate of white Americans. 

As for younger populations, Millenials and Gen Zers were already fallen behind in accumulating similar wealth as previous generations did at the same age. That’s largely due to student loan debt and skyrocketing housing costs, preventing young people from acquiring their own home, traditionally a primary way to build wealth in this country.

The vast number of Americans still struggling to get by creates a drag on the economy as a whole. That drag negatively impacts our public safety nets, our educational systems, real estate markets and makes communities less desirable for businesses (that bring jobs) to locate there. Money from the federal government will only go so far. Locally, long-term solutions will only come about when we address our very real affordable housing challenges and ensure full-time workers earn a livable wage.    

The pandemic has brought to light economic disparities that existed before COVID-19. We shouldn’t wait until the next time everything falls apart to address them.