COVID-19 AND ALICE
UNDERSTANDING THE IMPACT ON AMERICA’S ALICE FAMILIES
The rapid spread of the COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus, is exposing critical shortcomings in our economy and in our systems of health care and education. No one is immune to its direct or indirect effects, but ALICE families are particularly vulnerable to hardship from both illness and economic disruption. Current economic measures do not capture the experience of this population. In this unprecedented time, it is imperative that we use the ALICE measures to fully understand the impact of COVID-19 on U.S. workers and their families.
CRISIS WITH IMPACT REACHING FAR AND WIDE
The current crisis is demonstrating how exposed ALICE households — and therefore our communities and businesses — are to an emergency. Here are some of the intersecting ways ALICE workers, families, and seniors will be impacted by this crisis:
ALICE workers play essential roles in state and national economies, building and repairing our infrastructure and educating and caring for our past, current, and future workforce. Some are in the trenches caring for COVID-19 patients. Yet many ALICE workers do not have basic employee protections — such as annual salary, adequate health care coverage, and access to other benefits — that would help them withstand the COVID-19 crisis.
Business disruption will quickly start to reduce ALICE workers’ income.
- Reduced hours = reduced wages. Half of all jobs across the country are paid by the hour. Many ALICE workers don’t get paid if a conference is postponed, a restaurant is closed, or an event is cancelled.
- Telecommuting is not an option for all jobs. ALICE workers in the service sectors must work on-site; security guards and cashiers cannot perform their jobs remotely and are therefore more likely to lose hours and wages as the economy slows.
- Inadequate technology and internet access limits capacity to work remotely. With less access to the internet and computers, ALICE workers will have difficulty working from home even if offered that option. This can include teachers asked to teach online during school closures.
- Illness and isolation increase costs. ALICE families face additional costs if a family member gets sick, and further reduced income if all family members are quarantined.
- Reducing community services reduces ALICE’s access to work. If public transportation is closed due to COVID-19, ALICE workers may have trouble getting to work and/or incur additional costs to get to work.
ALICE workers have fewer resources to protect themselves from COVID-19.
- No safety net = no choice but to work. To avoid losing their jobs, ALICE workers may feel pressured to go to work even if sick, which could contribute to the spread of COVID-19.
- Health care is cost prohibitive. Low-wage workers are least likely to have adequate health insurance; those who are covered often have high co-pays and deductibles, making it prohibitive for them to pay for proper health care.
- The mental strain on struggling families is an added burden. Struggling to make ends meet is stressful; adding a layer of fear and uncertainty around work and health is an extra burden for ALICE families.
Children and Families
One-third of families with children (38% across the U.S.) have income below the ALICE Threshold. These families are especially vulnerable to the disruptions that accompany child care, school, and university closures.
Child care closures will negatively impact ALICE families disproportionately.
- Young children will not have their regular routine, including meals, socialization, and early education.
- In households without backup child care options, one parent will not be able to work.
School closures will negatively impact ALICE families disproportionately.
- With less access to the internet and computers, ALICE children will have difficulty participating in online learning.
- Parents who need to go on-site to work cannot stay at home with their children, leading to health and safety issues for unsupervised children, especially young children.
- ALICE families will forgo other supports, such as free breakfasts and lunches provided at school to eligible students.
College closures will negatively impact ALICE students disproportionately.
- Many ALICE students work and are still food insecure; those without access to housing or their meal plan, will be further exposed.
- Potential delays in education credentials will add to and prolong student debt and further push out better employment options.
School and college closures will negatively impact ALICE workers disproportionately.
- Many education workers are ALICE — including child care workers and school and college support staff — and they are paid hourly, without benefits.
- Educators are more susceptible to serious cases of COVID-19 than are children and teens.
- As education institutions close, these workers will lose wages and struggle to support their own children.
The age group most susceptible to serious illness from COVID-19 is people over 60 years old. Seniors who rely only on Social Security and Medicare are also financially exposed to hardship related to this crisis.
Seniors are a vulnerable population, more susceptible to illness.
- Half of seniors in the U.S. have income below the ALICE Threshold; they have no extra income and little or no savings to cover extra health care costs.
- Many seniors live in close conditions, such as retirement communities and nursing homes, which make the spread of COVID-19 more likely.
- When senior centers close, there are additional hardships for ALICE seniors and their families:
- Additional burden on families for caregiving — costly in time and/or money
- Lack of other supports such as hot meals and social activity
- Social isolation, which can cause or exacerbate depression
- There are also possible supply-chain side effects of the global pandemic; for example, many of the medications that seniors need have had (or may have) their supply from China disrupted.
ALICE cares for our aging and ailing seniors.
- Nursing homes are dependent on ALICE workers to provide regular care critical to the health and comfort of seniors; patients will suffer if ALICE workers become sick and cannot work.
- Despite doing physically and mentally demanding work, ALICE health care workers are paid low-wages only for the hours they work; and especially during COVID-19, they are at risk of illness themselves.