Caroline Jones, APAH’s Director of Resident Services was just two weeks into the job when the COVID-19 pandemic turned the world upside-down.
“APAH’s work with residents has been focused on enrichment and opportunity,” Jones noted, “overnight, our work pivoted completely to helping resident feed their families and manage rapidly growing anxiety on many fronts.”
Through April, additional residents experienced lay offs and reduced hours with residents working in the service industry and gig economy hit especially hard. Few APAH residents have jobs that translate well to remote work. However, this still presents challenges for parents who find that childcare costs are too expensive to offset working from home.
Many individuals are applying for unemployment insurance, but there are many barriers to the process. Those who choose to apply online need to have reliable internet, with some households driving to local hotspots that offer free Wifi in order to complete these applications and apply as they sit in their car. Regardless of where they find internet, many households don’t have computers and are applying on their small phone screens. And, as you’ve no doubt heard in the news, the website is frequently overloaded from high traffic volume to the point of being unusable due to loading times.
“There are still job opportunities available at grocery stores and in other high-contact, high-risk spaces, and families are struggling with the decision. Even so, many still have to figure out childcare and look at that cost calculation because school isn’t in session,” said APAH Resident Services Coordinator Jacquelyn Keys, who specializes in workforce solutions.
The face of job loss can look like anyone – a 79-year women was laid off from her two part-time jobs as a hospital gift store worker and at a church. She’s unsure if she will even qualify for unemployment insurance. Retired seniors who are not working still face barriers and are afraid to leave their homes, even though they need to pick up medication and critical household goods. Over 300 grocery and household item deliveries are made weekly to seniors and individuals with disabilities thanks to the support of volunteers and APAH staff.
“We’ve made over 500 calls to seniors, including follow-up calls to make sure they’re still doing okay,” said APAH Resident Service Coordinator Venus Burgess.
Families are also facing difficulties as parents manage online learning. This month, Arlington households had to apply online to preschool. The process is normally available through paper application, but the pandemic has shifted everything to be digital. Internet access and language barriers challenge families.
As the pandemic progresses, trends and patterns have begun to emerge to show how people of color and low-income populations are disproportionately affected:
- Inequality and Poverty Were Destroying America Well Before Covid-19 by the Nation
- Even Naked, America Cannot See Itself by New York Magazine
- The Black Plague by The New Yorker
- Even before the Pandemic, Students with Limited Technology Access Lagged behind Their Peers by Urban Institute
- Where Low-Income Jobs Are Being Lost to COVID-19 by Urban Institute
While residents will continue to undergo challenges as a direct outcome of the pandemic and social distancing, our Resident Service Coordinators continue to work with them to meet their needs.