Third of Americans losing income from COVID-19 shutdowns, struggle with paying bills


National survey shows that low-income Americans facing incredible hardship as restrictions from pandemic continue to impact the economy.


SANTA MONICA, Calif. — As the coronavirus pandemic continues, the problem for many people is shifting from “How will I stay healthy?” to “How will I keep paying my bills?” A new national survey finds one-third of American households report lost income due to the COVID-19 lockdown.

Moreover, about 30 percent of Americans find it a struggle to pay their bills during the crisis.

The pollof over 2,000 respondents, conducted by the RAND Corporation, finds that the shutdown is severely impacting lower-income households. Over half of Americans making less than $25,000 annually say they’re having even greater trouble making ends meet.

The pandemic is also hitting Black and Hispanic communities harder. Researchers say 40 percent of Black households and nearly half of Hispanic families are struggling with their bills.

Savings accounts feeling the strain

The survey shows one thing most Americans have in common — they’re relying on money put away to survive instead of available cash.

Over 80 percent of middle-income households (making between $25,000 and $125,000) say they’re paying bills with the money in their checking or savings account. For high-income families, that number rises to 94 percent.

Only 61 percent of low-income Americans say their savings accounts are keeping them afloat. For those households, the survey finds 42 percent have borrowed money from friends or family. Another 48 percent have sold their possessions to get by. Nearly half (46 percent) admit they’re unable to pay the bills right now. Some are even having difficulty affording food.

“Unsurprisingly, low-income households have few options,” the researchers explain. “Consistent with these findings, evidence from other surveys reveals rising food insecurity among low-income households.”

For middle-income homes, nearly 90 percent say the government stimulus payment has helped to pay for expenses. Over a third of these families are also relying on a credit card and paying off the balance over time during the pandemic.

“Americans from all income levels have seen their incomes drop, but how they approach paying bills in the face of adversity differs significantly by income level,” study author Katherine G. Carman says in a statement.

A looming housing crisis?

When it comes to the rent, fewer Americans report they’ve asked their landlord for help. Only about 20 percent of the respondents say they requested an extension on their rent or home mortgage.

Despite this, a previous survey found nearly half of U.S. homeowners are thinking about selling their house due to COVID-19’s effect on the economy.

The survey was conducted between May 1 and May 6 through the RAND American Life Panel, a nationally representative internet panel.

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