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Significant financial hardships face  County Black, Brown communities

Result of COVID-19 pandemic

OW Staff Writer | 9/11/2020, midnight

A significant number of Los Angeles County households face serious financial problems due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with Latinos and Black residents bearing the brunt of the economic toll, according to a poll conducted in the nation's four largest cities and released this week.

Some 56 percent of households polled in Los Angeles reported experiencing such financial problems, including 64 percent of households with annual incomes below $100,000.

The survey offers further proof that the heaviest effect of the outbreak has fallen on Black and Latino households, with 52 percent and 71 percent, respectively, of those groups polled in Los Angeles reporting “serious financial problems,'' compared with 37 percent of White households, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The study found similar results among Black and Latino respondents in New York, Houston and Chicago, the three other cities examined.

“Billions of dollars came from the federal and state governments to protect our communities, yet what we see in four big cities is that more than 50 percent in these communities are reporting serious financial problems,'' said Julie Morita, executive vice president of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, for which the poll was conducted alongside NPR and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “That's significant. It means things like having to dip in or use all savings, difficulty paying other debt.''

Throughout the United States, Latinos and Black people disproportionately have been casualties of the virus.

In Los Angeles County, Black and Latino residents and those living in lower-income neighborhoods have been among those hit hardest by the virus. Officials say that's largely because of the limited access to testing in those communities at the start of the pandemic and the fact that many residents of those communities work in essential and high-risk settings, and frequently lacked proper protective equipment, such as masks, before such gear was required.

Although they account for about 39 percent of the population in California, Latinos make up 60 percent of positive cases and 48 percent of deaths, according to the California Department of Public Health; during the peak of transmission in July, Black residents  had a rate at four deaths per 100,000 people, county officials said at that time. That rate was three times that of white residents during the same time period.

“When we look at other public health emergencies, whether it's other infectious diseases like measles or natural disasters like heat waves or hurricanes, what we see is communities of color, Black or Latino communities, hurt more significantly because of the structures and systems in place,'' Morita said. “They have less to begin with, less cushion to support them in these times of stress.... They bear the brunt of the impacts.''

The poll surveyed 3,454 adults from July 1 to Aug. 3, including 512 adults in New York City, 507 in Los Angeles, 529 in Chicago and 447 in Houston. The margin of error is 3.3 percentage points overall, and 7.1 percentage points for Los Angeles.