By Adam Roseman
The crushing employment effects of COVID-19 have had an impact on every aspect of the American economy. In the daily cascade of bad news, there is at least one constant: the most vulnerable families are the ones who earn the least.
We are all flooded with medical and financial data these days, but one particular statistic published last week by the Federal Reserve stood out. By last month, nearly 40% of households with annual income below $40,000 had faced layoffs or furloughs.
Think about that.
It is staggering, and, unfortunately, not all that surprising.
Most of those families were struggling before the crisis hit, with rent, utilities, health care, tuition, just paying the bills every month, with little or no savings on which to rely.
Now many of those households face practical and emotional strains around the clock.
By last month, nearly 40% of households with annual income below $40,000 had faced layoffs or furloughs.
And they aren’t the only ones.
The nearly two million Steady members we partner with are dealing with the same kind of anxieties now, as the vulnerabilities always part of reality for gig and hourly workers have become even more pronounced. At the same time, with their own ingenuity and determination, supplemented by the services we are proud to provide, independent low- and medium-income earners have been able to fill in many of the gaps created by the emerging new normal.
Even as so many have grappled with filing for unemployment benefits and maintaining access to health insurance coverage, we have seen a rising labor demand in many areas that is being met by the kinds of workers we started Steady to help.
Employers across the economy are in more desperate straits than ever before in our lifetimes. From old, established giant corporations, to family-owned restaurants, to strongholds of the gig economy (such as Uber), businesses are laying off workers and retrenching. While some job categories are shrinking or disappearing, others have seen growth. By tracking those changes through the unique community data we collect, Steady is able to help our members, policy makers, and the staff here better understand and address the challenges we face.
Like our clients, we have seen both the obstacles and opportunities that the pandemic presents. We know the obstacles far outweigh the challenges right now, but there are windows of opportunity we are working to highlight.
We have continued our long-standing offerings, arming folks with the information, tools, and services they need to make gig and hourly work work for them and their families.
At the same time, we have stepped up what we provide, from job listings, to emergency cash grants, to rapid direct deposit, to tax preparation, to health care, including our new program offering a complementary telemedicine subscription that allows members and their families to do virtual visits with doctors and nurses 24/7 for only a $25 co-pay.
Our commitment remains the same: to help you through the pandemic and beyond by addressing the gap between the realities of our new economy, on the one hand, and the government and business policies that were established in and for a bygone era, on the other.
Many of the fresh initiatives we are putting in place now will be continued after the crisis subsides.
The way we look at is that the coronavirus has pushed us to innovate, allowing us to see new avenues to help you thrive in the marketplace.
We know that the practical assistance offered by our suite of services is important to you, but we know that there are two intangible benefits as well. First, there is the kind of peace of mind that comes with, for example, having solutions to the health insurance puzzle. Second, it is knowing that you are part of an alliance of hundreds of thousands of workers around the country, backed by Steady, who are more organized and in touch than ever before.
I am so gratified literally every day to hear from members from coast to coast, who share their stories about creatively overcoming the adversity that constantly swirls around them. Equipped with the modern tools that ease the prospect of navigating our troubled employment waters, every gig and hourly worker has the chance to not only survive but thrive.
That’s why Steady was created and that is why we are so gratified to be right there with you now.