New Poll: Low-Income, People Of Color Hit Hardest By COVID-19

Broad Sentiment Among These Communities that Worst is Yet to Come

LOS ANGELES (June 10, 2020) – A recent survey of low-income Californians and communities of color reveals widespread concern about the health and economic impacts of COVID-19. While many have lost jobs, had their hours cut back or their wages reduced – the dominant worry remains fear of infection.  Respondents indicate that they are already taking advantage of a wide range of public benefits designed to offer support during the pandemic; and yet, about half lack confidence that they would know where to turn if they found themselves in need of further help. The poll was commissioned by The California Endowment and conducted at the end of April with over 800 respondents.  The poll has a margin +/- 3.5 margin of error.

“These findings illuminate that we need to do better to promote and target resources to meet the needs of the most vulnerable Californians, particularly our communities of color,” said Anthony Iton, MD, Senior Vice President, The California Endowment.  “Of particular concern is the lack of mental health resources available to families.”

Nearly three-quarters of respondents say COVID-19 is a an “extremely” or “very serious” problem. However, 75% say the same about homelessness, 71% say the same about the cost of housing and 70% about the cost of living. And while there are regional differences about the degree of concern due to COVID-19, with rural Norther California residents reporting lower levels of concern than residents of Los Angeles, there is a broad sentiment that the worst of the crisis is yet to come, and that it is impacting the health and finances of lower-income Californians and people of color more harshly than others.

Though many of the respondents – with one-third designated as essential workers – have seen their work hours cut or their wages reduced, their dominant fear is getting infected with COVID-19. Latino respondents were more likely than other groups to have had their hours cut, wages reduced, been laid off or have had to go to work despite health concerns.

Respondents offer broad support for the public benefits that have been introduced in response to the pandemic, and 71% say they would be likely to apply for benefits like Medi-Cal or unemployment if they lost their main source of income. Despite this, about half of respondents indicate they lack the necessary information on how to access help. The relatively small share (22%) who are unlikely to apply think they either do not need benefits or that they are unlikely to qualify.

Furthermore, half of parents say it has been difficult to address childcare needs; and while many say they have received academic support from their school, less than half say they have been given information on mental health resources for their children (45%), information on accessing public benefits (44%), and mental health resources for patients (37%).

These survey findings confirm income, ethnic and gender disparities in how the crisis has impacted California’s most vulnerable residents, and that there is a clear need to better connect this segment of the population with available benefits and supports.  Click here to access the survey memo. Click here to access a PowerPoint version.

The California Endowment, a private, statewide health foundation, was established in 1996 to expand access to, quality health care for underserved individuals and communities, and to promote fundamental affordable improvements in the health status of all Californians. The Endowment challenges the conventional wisdom that medical settings and individual choices are solely responsible for people’s health. At its core, The Endowment believes that health happens in neighborhoods, schools, and with prevention.


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