Poverty is the virus that puts us at COVID-19 risk

Preparation is vital to a successful response. But the reality of poverty in this country means half of us do not have the resources to prepare.

William J. Barber, II and Mitch Landrieu | March 23, 2020

According to an audit conducted by the Poor People’s Campaign in partnership with the Institute for Policy Studies, 140 million Americans cannot afford a $400 emergency. For 43% of the U.S. population, the call to be prepared is like asking a sky-diver to get ready to jump from a plane without a parachute.

Living wage for essential service

The vast majority of people working for less than a living wage in America are working in service industry jobs, many of which are now considered “essential services” as we face shelter-in-place orders. These neighbors are preparing and serving food, cleaning buildings, caring for children and also the elderly, who are most susceptible to the new coronavirus. Yet many of these workers, who make less than $40,000 a year, are among the 22 million Americans who would not receive direct cash payments under the stimulus package Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has proposed.
We must be clear: the coronavirus has exposed a pandemic of poverty that was already widespread and accepted in this nation. But the current global health crisis makes clear that the inequality we have too long accepted puts every single American at greater risk.

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