Workers face financial hurdles, worsening mental health under lockdown

Workers face financial hurdles, worsening mental health under lockdown
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  • A portion of U.S. workers fear worsening personal circumstances during the COVID-19 pandemic, with 1 in 5 saying that upon staying home, they would be unable to meet basic financial needs such as paying rent or buying groceries in one week or less, according to a Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) survey published April 1.
  • Separately, a poll from Axios and market research firm Ipsos found this week that while workers’ access to goods such as basic foods and toilet paper may have stabilized, 31% said their ability to access healthcare has gotten worse, and 35% reported worsening mental health. The share of employees in the same survey who said their employer shut down operations increased from 10% to 16% in the past week, and the number of workers furloughed or told not to work increased from 10% to 20%.
  • More than half of U.S. small businesses surveyed by SHRM said they expect to see revenue losses of 10% to 30% due to COVID-19, and 4% said they expect total revenue loss and closure. While 80% of SHRM-member HR professionals surveyed by the organization said their organization had a formal or informal business continuity plan in place, 1 in 4 workers surveyed by SHRM said they hadn’t been told anything about how their organization was reacting to the pandemic.

Workers and businesses alike are dealing with a drastically changed landscape. As February closed, the U.S. unemployment rate dropped to 3.5%, where it sat for much of the last quarter in 2019. Within weeks, public health measures forced the closure of many businesses across several states and localities, adding more than 3 million unemployment claims to the nationwide tally. That number more than doubled by the end of March, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Those employers that can move to telework operations have done so in many cases, and they were encouraged to do so by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which issued guidance to that effect in February. But even this has not been an entirely smooth process for some. While the Axios/Ipsos survey showed 42% of respondents had been told to work from home, less than one-third of small businesses in the SHRM survey said they could operate completely remotely. Half of employees in the latter survey said their jobs cannot be done remotely.

Federal officials have taken a number of steps. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act became the nation’s first federal paid leave law to cover private-sector employees, though there are a number of exemptions.

Another emergency bill, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, aimed in part to provide partially forgivable loans to small businesses and nonprofits, with financial support, according to President Donald Trump, for some hard-hit industries. The Small Business Administration, a federal agency, previously launched a disaster assistance loan program to help small businesses recover, but the program has fallen short of business’ needs, according to some commentators.

Larger employers operating through the public health crisis have introduced creative initiatives to provide relief for workers. USAA announced March 31 a curbside meal and grocery pick-up program for 35,000 of its employees. Grocery store chain Lidl announced it would make available at no cost medical benefits that cover COVID-19 testing and treatment to new hires, who would be eligible for the benefits immediately.

Source: HR Dive

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