Report: decline of mental health seen in low-income earning families

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FILE – In this March 17, 2020 file photo, people wait in line for help with unemployment benefits at the One-Stop Career Center in Las Vegas. About half of all working Americans say they or a member of their household have lost some kind of income due to the coronavirus pandemic, with low-income Americans and those without college degrees especially likely to have lost a job. That’s according to a new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. (AP Photo/John Locher)

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10)- A new report shows the loss of jobs and drastically reduced working hours among low-wage workers is contributing to a decline in mental/economic stability for them and their families. Daily surveys completed by low-income workers show a direct connection between this decline and the shutting down of non-essential workers due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Researchers said they discovered the behavior of children deteriorated as the mental health of parents deteriorated. In the study’s first month, the percentage of parents who said they were experiencing acute mental health symptoms grew 70%. The percentage of children who were exhibiting poor behaviors triggered by their environment grew by 42%.

The study, a collaboration between Barnard College, Columbia University, Sanford School of Public Policy, and Duke University began at the end of 2019. The goal of researchers was to gain a better understanding of how low-income workers and their families are affected by work-related experiences. What they found was a way to find out exactly what kind of impact the coronavirus outbreak was having on already struggling families.

“The economic and psychological consequences for families have been severe. Although employer-provided supports have helped some families maintain income, these efforts reach fewer than half of families, and the broad set of public policies that were immediately enacted have reached even fewer. Vulnerable families’ circumstances will only worsen unless efforts to reach them greatly intensify immediately,” the report said.

Researchers also said state and federal government aid like unemployment benefits are not reaching these families in enough time to provide immediate assistance for essential expenses. “And hourly workers like these generally don’t have a lot of savings to fall back on: most report that they will be able to pay rent or mortgage for no more than two months and will be able to buy groceries for two and a half months under the current circumstances. A quarter of parents report they will be unable to either pay rent, buy groceries, or both next month if the crisis continues.”

The entire report can be found here.

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