United Way of PA Second COVID-19 Impact Survey Results Illuminate the Difficult Road towards Financial Recovery

Harrisburg, PA – United Way of Pennsylvania (UWP) conducted a second COVID-19 Impact Survey one year after the Governor’s Emergency Declaration, with returns showing that many households continue to struggle, including working families. Pennsylvanians have greater concern about mental health and well-being, and responses show a 10 percent increase in low to middle income households’ ability to pay monthly bills as a result of state and federal pandemic assistance. However, a top ongoing concern for low to middle income households is affording housing costs, which is unchanged from the first UWP COVID-19 impact survey conducted in August 2020.

UWP is a statewide membership organization located in Harrisburg which advocates on behalf of United Way public policy priorities. UWP conducted a COVID-19 Impact Survey in March 2021 to assess the financial and household burdens that the COVID-19 Pandemic has caused on our state’s families. The three-week survey received over 2700 responses from 67 counties, all income levels and both urban and rural representation.

“As COVID-19 restrictions lift, and policymakers debate spending priorities for the FY 2021-2022 state budget, UWP is releasing these survey results to help policy makers make decisions about strategic investments in pandemic recovery to support Pennsylvania’s workers and their families” said Kristen Rotz, President of United Way of PA and Executive Director of PA 211.

When asked, “What COVID-19 issue is your household most concerned with?” the top concern for all respondents was the risk of a family member contracting COVID-19. The second largest concern for all respondents was mental health and wellbeing, a significant change from the survey conducted in August. For low to middle income households, housing and utility expenses remain a top concern.

“Access to stigma-free quality mental health care has concrete and beneficial effects on overall health. The pandemic caused many households to become financially vulnerable and experience significant change and trauma in a relatively short amount of time. Increasing access to mental health services, and work to advance education and prevention efforts to support resiliency of individuals and families will help many individuals improve their quality of life.” Rotz said.

Pandemic safeguards such as stimulus checks, unemployment insurance, and the eviction moratorium have given low to middle income households the ability to stay afloat over the last year. Between the survey in August 2020 and March 2021, there was a 10% increase in low to middle income households’ ability to cover basic bills for more than 2 months with their savings. As these safeguards come to an end, many households may become financially unstable.

“United Way would like to remind all Pennsylvanians who are struggling to provide for their families’ basic needs that PA 211 is a one-stop call for help. But please reach out for assistance as soon as possible. Do not wait until eviction or utility shutoff are imminent, because our community partners need time to determine eligibility and connect you to emergency resources if you qualify. Anyone in Pennsylvania can visit www.pa211.org, dial 211, or text their zip code to 898-211 to find help,” Rotz said.

The digital divide between low to middle income households and those above that threshold is apparent:

  • 35% of low to middle income respondents report purchasing an internet subscription or upgrade.
  • 70% of low to middle income respondents report purchasing significant technology such as a computer, mobile phone, or tablet to adapt to stay-at-home orders and school closures.
  • 26% of low to middle income respondents do not have access to reliable broadband services.

Child care and remote learning are also top of mind for Pennsylvanians. Of the respondents with children in their household, 45% needed to adjust their work to accommodate their family’s need for child care. For low to middle income households, 57% of respondents report either reducing their hours or leaving their job to take care of their children over the last year. Families are also concerned with the reliability and accessibility of child care providers as households return to work.

“Public investment is essential to support child care businesses and families who need care. As employers deal with hiring shortages, lawmakers need to make sure lack of access to affordable, high-quality child care is not a barrier to growing the work force. We need safe child care to be ready for every phase of the recovery,” Rotz said.

For more information about COVID-19 pandemic resources, visit www.uwp.org. For free immediate and personalized help, reach out to PA 211! Visit PA211.org, Dial 211 or text your zip code to 898-211.

About United Way of Pennsylvania (UWP)

United Way fights for the health, education and financial stability of every person in every community. In 2019, United Ways in Pennsylvania raised nearly $170 million for local communities. The United Way of Pennsylvania is a 501(c)(3) was created in 1966 as Community Services of PA and was renamed in 1979. It is a membership organization whose purpose is to assist and champion the efforts of local United Ways in advancing the common good. Other charitable organizations known as United Funds or Community Chests also can be members of UWP.

UWP engages and connects local United Ways with resources that will help them address their community needs. UWP serves as the voice for 44 member United Ways across the commonwealth on state public policy issues that relate to community impact work in education, income and health.

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