Delta Variant Spread Extends Pandemic-Era Financial Struggles for US Families

Close-up view of African descent, senior adult couple work together to pay their monthly bills.
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More than a year and a half into the COVID-19 outbreak, the spread of the Delta variant has extended problems for many households over the past few months. Now, 38% of households across the nation report facing serious financial problems in the past few months, according to a new survey.

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The poll, conducted by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and National Public Radio, aims at examining the most serious problems facing U.S. households during the Delta variant outbreak, with a goal to identify vulnerable populations in urgent need of government help or charitable aid.

“The findings raise important concerns about the limited financial resources of many U.S. households to weather the economic effects of the Delta variant outbreak, as a significant share have lost their household savings during the COVID-19 outbreak and are facing major problems paying for basic costs of living, including rent, utilities and medical care,” according to the survey.

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The survey finds that there is a sharp income divide in serious financial problems, as 59% of those with annual incomes below $50,000 report facing serious financial problems in the past few months, compared with 18% of households with annual incomes of $50,000 or more.

These serious financial problems are cited despite 67% of households reporting that in recent months they have received financial assistance from the government.

“While federal economic assistance has helped millions of families, short-term help is not enough to solve deeply entrenched inequities,” Richard Besser, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, told The Wall Street Journal.

Another significant problem for many U.S. households is losing their savings during the COVID-19 outbreak: 19% of U.S. households report losing all of their savings during the COVID-19 outbreak and not currently having any savings to fall back on.

In addition, at the time the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) eviction ban expired, 27% of renters nationally reported serious problems paying their rent in the past few months.

In terms of education, a whopping 69% of households with children in K-12 last school year say their children fell behind in their learning because of the COVID-19 outbreak, including 36% of all households with children in K-12 reporting their children fell behind a lot.

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Another issue is childcare: 20% report they have experienced serious problems getting childcare in the past few months when adults needed to work.

Healthcare findings are also bleak, as  18% of households report someone in their household has been unable to get medical care for a serious problem in the past few months when they needed it, with 76% of those unable to get care reporting negative health consequences as a result. In addition, 50% of households report someone has experienced serious problems with depression, anxiety, stress, or serious problems sleeping in the past few months.

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The organizations hosting the poll had actually expected different results, believing the influx of money through stimulus funds would have made a difference, according to the Wall Street Journal. However, according to Robert Blendon, co-director of the survey and emeritus professor of health policy and political analysis at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, that is not the reality.

“We’re in the middle of a period of real peoples’ lives where they’re still in a lifeboat worried about just getting to shore,” he said.

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About the Author

Yaël Bizouati-Kennedy is a former full-time financial journalist and has written for several publications, including Dow Jones, The Financial Times Group, Bloomberg and Business Insider. She also worked as a vice president/senior content writer for major NYC-based financial companies, including New York Life and MSCI. Yaël is now freelancing and most recently, she co-authored  the book “Blockchain for Medical Research: Accelerating Trust in Healthcare,” with Dr. Sean Manion. (CRC Press, April 2020) She holds two master’s degrees, including one in Journalism from New York University and one in Russian Studies from Université Toulouse-Jean Jaurès, France.

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