While many Californians hoped to put the pandemic behind us by now, COVID-19 is still with us. And we know COVID-19-related hardships have put immense health and economic stress on families, especially low-income households and Californians of color. Yet, Californians are losing key housing, sick leave, and economic supports that have been a lifeline.
September 30th marks the end of California’s eviction moratorium that has protected renters from losing their homes if they struggled to pay rent after losing work or facing unexpected costs. Also expiring on the 30th is California’s COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave, which has ensured workers have paid time off to tend to their own or a family member’s health. This includes time off for parents when their children are sent home from child care or school due to a COVID-19 exposure or outbreak.
These renter and worker protections are ending just weeks after millions of Californians who are still out of work saw their unemployment benefits drastically reduced or eliminated when federal COVID-19 unemployment benefits ended on Labor Day.
The end of these supports comes at a time when the pandemic is far from over. COVID-19 is still making Californians sick and disrupting schools and child care and workplaces, and millions of Californians are still out of work. While it’s good news that COVID case rates have recently come down in some parts of California and jobs have been gradually coming back, we face a long path to reach a “normal” life and a healthy economy.
- Workers with low wages have been hit hardest by job losses during the pandemic, and Black and Latinx and Asian workers are most likely to still be out of work — with Black workers having twice the unemployment rate of white workers.
- Low-wage workers are least likely to have adequate paid sick leave to care for themselves or family members or deal with child care or school disruptions due to COVID-19.
- Even before the pandemic, the vast majority of Californians with low incomes faced unaffordable housing costs, and Black and Latinx renters were especially likely to be paying unaffordable rents.
- Californians who are undocumented or in mixed-status families have been excluded from many of the supports that have helped others get through these difficult times.
As we enter this next phase of the pandemic, our national, state, and local leaders must pay attention to who is still struggling and who has been hit hardest and must take action to support those at risk of being left behind or left out. The lapse of emergency housing, paid sick leave, and other economic support while our public health and economic recovery is still far from reach only adds more hurdles as California and the nation try to move forward.
As an immediate priority, policymakers must ensure help that is available now gets to the Californians who need it most — including rental assistance, the federal Child Tax Credit, the Golden State Stimulus tax credit, and basic safety net supports. And state and federal policymakers must also prioritize longer-term investments that address the needs of California’s workers and families with low incomes, especially Black, Latinx, and other Californians of color and undocumented and mixed-status families.
Even before the pandemic, Californians struggled to cover basic expenses, secure quality child care, access paid leave, and maintain stable housing. Policymakers can’t afford to ignore the effect this has on workers and families, schools and workplaces, and our local economies. Federal policymakers have opportunities now to prioritize these needs, and state and local leaders will have more opportunities over the weeks and months to come as they prepare the 2022–23 state and local budgets.
This much is clear: the pandemic isn’t over. As Californians care for their loved ones, try to keep a roof over their heads, look for stable jobs, and help local economies continue to recover, support will still be needed. Policymakers should keep that center of mind as we build toward an equitable recovery.