As the Coronavirus threatens our Phoenix-metro community, we must calm our anxieties, stave off our fears, and work together to meet this incredible challenge. Only by working together and focusing on the common good can our community protect those most vulnerable to the threats this pandemic poses, the threat to our health and physical well-being, and the threat to our economic well-being.
This crisis is already taking a serious toll on low-income and financially vulnerable women. We are seeing it daily at Live & Learn, with increasing urgency. Yet, we know that the well-being of these women is crucial to ensuring the safety and health of their families.
Our state has one of the highest poverty rates in the country, and single mothers lead about 80% of low-income households in Arizona.
Health & Physical Well-being
Live & Learn serves over 250 women a year. About 6 out of every 10 of these women have no access to health care, forcing them to wait until a health problem becomes serious before turning to the emergency room. Another 3 out of every 10 women have limited access to healthcare, such as prohibitively-high deductibles. Essentially, 9 out of every 10 women in the Live & Learn program cannot seek medical care, even if they were to display symptoms of the Coronavirus.
This should alarm us all, but it can be especially alarming to many of the women themselves. Ten Live & Learn women are primary caregivers to immune-compromised children. Almost 40% of Live & Learn women are primary caregivers to their elderly parents. Women are reporting extreme stress over ensuring these family members stay healthy.
Worries are already circulating. How will a mother of three pay next month’s rent? Will a survivor of domestic violence who just earned her Associate’s Degree lose her job for staying home to care for her elderly aunt? If a 55 year old woman takes herself to the emergency room, will the bill bankrupt her?
Social distancing is imperative to slowing the spread of this virus, but it has a huge economic effect. For Live & Learn women, this effect presents a real threat to their families’ stability.
When women first enroll in Live & Learn, most rely on government assistance for basic needs; 100% are unemployed or underemployed. As they progress through Live & Learn’s two-year program, they gain employment, rise off of government assistance, and then begin to further their career and achieve a livable wage. So, many women who have been in the Live & Learn program for less than a year have made incredible progress, but they currently live paycheck to paycheck.
These women are already experiencing a loss in wages. We, as a community, are venturing out less and so spending less; women are skipping work to care for immune-compromised children and elderly parents; as of this week, schools are closed so children are home. When a woman supports her family paycheck to paycheck, any loss in wages hurts. Loss of wages for a week, let alone a month, is disastrous.
Lost wages will lead to increased demand for government assistance, like food stamps. Increase demand for government assistance will lead to increased taxes. We must act NOW.
Women are feeling extreme stress over their families’ health and safety, over providing basic needs, over their job security. We expect an increase in unemployment, evictions, and return to government assistance for Live & Learn women whom we have seen work so hard to build a new life for their families. This Coronavirus pandemic threatens to undo the progress they have made.
But we look to the future with hope. This pandemic is unprecedented; so, too, must be the response from our community. We must support the vulnerable women and families in our community.