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Economic Impact Of Coronavirus Shutdown On NYC


The pandemic hit New York City early, and it hit hard. COVID-19 is now under control in the city, but devastating economic consequences remain. More than half of New York City's households have experienced a lost job, wages or hours during the pandemic. That is according to a new poll from NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. From member station WNYC, Mirela Iverac reports.

MIRELA IVERAC, BYLINE: Roxanne Baptiste (ph) stopped working as a dental assistant back in the spring.

ROXANNE BAPTISTE: My dentist I work for, he's of older age and had underlying health issues.

IVERAC: The office closed, and Baptiste stayed home, helping her four kids with remote learning. For 39-year-old Baptiste, it has meant not having enough food and turning to food pantries for the first time in her life.

BAPTISTE: I have never had to worry about food before in my life. I've always made sure my kids, you know, they come first and everything they need, they have. But this was the first time where I really was concerned.

IVERAC: Baptiste is not alone. Of the 512 New York households surveyed in the poll, half have lost jobs, been furloughed or had wages or hours reduced, and 1 in 5 surveyed New Yorkers have had serious trouble affording food since the pandemic started.

SUSAN MORRIS: I am disabled and a diabetic.

IVERAC: 57-year-old Susan Morris (ph) used to get groceries from a church that's close to her apartment in the Bronx. But that food pantry closed when the pandemic started. Morris says she now buys food she can stretch out.

MORRIS: What I do is I cook. I incorporate a lot of rice, and sometime I use the sweet potatoes. And you just have to stretch.

MORRIS: For other New Yorkers, the pandemic has brought on a slew of financial problems. 69-year-old Lorna Bennett (ph) gets Social Security, but working as a nanny kept her afloat. She lost that job in March and depleted her savings. Then she stopped paying her mortgage. She now worries about what could happen if she loses her home.

LORNA BENNETT: I really don't know what I would do. I know I would do something desperate, but I don't even want to go there because to think of being on the streets and not having somewhere to live is really not an option for me.

IVERAC: Bennett's situation is not uncommon. According to the survey, 1 in 5 New Yorkers have fallen behind on their mortgage or rent.

JENNIFER JONES AUSTIN: That's a very alarming statistic.

IVERAC: Jennifer Jones Austin is an anti-poverty advocate with the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies. She's advising Mayor Bill de Blasio with recovery efforts.

AUSTIN: Especially if job growth remains slow going, and especially in lower-wage jobs where people do not have the resources to have saved up to weather such a storm.

IVERAC: The Trump administration has announced an eviction moratorium until the end of the year, but Jones Austin says that's not enough.

AUSTIN: You could see in New York City, you could see around the country that when the moratorium is lifted and landlords have the ability to once again evict people and people haven't paid back months in rent, you could see, you know, just a surge in the number of people who were evicted and who could become homeless.

IVERAC: That's especially concerning for a city that already has more homeless people than any other place in the country. For NPR News, I'm Mirela Iverac in New York.

(SOUNDBITE OF RONE'S "NAKT") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Mirela Iverac (WNYC)