COVID-19 Has Working-Class Moms At A Breaking Point

While they try to provide, many are facing low wages or unemployment, single motherhood, no child care and no sick leave.

By Elizabeth TrovallApril 24, 2020 11:54 am, , , , ,

From Houston Public Media:

Sunny, 37, is well-acquainted with adversity: Parental abuse. Drug addiction. Sexual assault.

“At age 7, I was already drinking,” Sunny said. “At age 12, I was already using drugs.”

She’s past that now. An Afro-Latina, gay, single mother, Sunny now lives in Houston’s Third Ward with her 5-year-old son, Doce Anjo Palacios. He’s the person she said inspired her to get clean.

“I wanted to break that generational curse and start my own story with my little boy,” she said.

But Sunny, who asked to go by her first name, feels like she could lose all she’s fought for. She can’t work right now because of the coronavirus. She’s a freelance HVAC technician and does home repairs.

“I can’t control the money coming in. I can’t go out there and work hard and put myself out there,” she said.

She said she’s been calling the unemployment office for weeks, without any luck.

She’s not sure how she’s going to pay rent, or if she’ll be able to finish her last year of school to become a sheet metal mechanic. For now she’s trying to teach her son, whose daycare closed, feed him and keep a roof over their heads. She said she’s so scared, it’s hard not to cry.

“My whole life has been a nightmare,” Sunny said, in tears. “My whole childhood. I don’t want that to happen to my kid. I don’t want my son to go through anything I had to go through, and I try to protect him from this world, but this world is breaking those barriers.”

She also has to protect her son from getting the coronavirus. He’s had multiple surgeries due to life-threatening respiratory problems.

“I don’t know if my son will be strong enough,” she said.

COVID-19 disproportionately impacts working moms

Many mothers are in similar predicaments. Half of U.S. moms are breadwinners for their families, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. For black women it’s even higher: three quarters.

“If 74% of African American women are breadwinners and they comprise of the industries that are low wages and that are now deemed as either essential workers or are now shut down…we’re talking about a significant impact,” said Rice University researcher Quianta Moore, who studies health in communities like Third Ward.

Her new research looks at how COVID-19 will disproportionately impact working class mothers and their kids.

She said while many moms can’t find work, others are deemed essential working as cashiers, nurses, janitors and other jobs.

“Women comprise of the largest portion of the labor market in the industries that we are saying are essential workers,” Moore said. A third of jobs held by women has been deemed essential, according to a New York Times report.

Moore said many of these women will go to their essential jobs, risking illness, without paid sick leave.

In many Texas cities, like Houston, employers are not required by law to provide sick leave to their workers. In fact, Houston is the largest city in the country without a paid sick leave policy.

What’s more, in Texas, a quarter of women of reproductive age don’t have health insurance. And working moms are dealing with kids at home since many schools and day care providers are closed.

Read more.


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