Giving Compass' Take:

• Low-wage workers are six times less likely to be able to work remotely compared to high-income workers, and re-opening the U.S. has significant implications for these workers.

• How are donors helping relieve some of the major stressors for low-wage workers amid COVID-19? 

• Learn how to support domestic workers during the pandemic. 

Faced with the staggering economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, state and local leaders are exploring how and when to lift stay-at-home orders and reopen local economies. Unemployment rates have skyrocketed and job losses rival those of the Great Depression. Leaders are also confronting the health risks that reopening poses for workers, their families, and the community— risks exacerbated by inadequate testing, shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE), weak enforcement of workplace safety standards, and no readily available treatment or vaccine. The rising death toll of essential workers such as nurses, bus drivers, and grocery workers is a grave reminder of what is at stake in these decisions.

As leaders across the country seek opportunities to put laid-off workers back to work, their decisions will have an outsized impact on low wage workers and people of color, who shoulder some of the most severe financial and health burdens associated with the coronavirus and will be some of the first workers called back to the job site. Leaders must create the conditions for a more equitable next phase of the pandemic so that low-income and minority workers are not forced to make an impossible choice between surviving financially or surviving the virus.

Low-wage workers in America have suffered the worst economic pain of the pandemic. Social distancing measures taken in response to COVID-19 resulted in massive job loss concentrated among lower-wage workers. Retail and leisure/hospitality, which typically offer lower wages than other industries, took the hardest hits. In April, retail posted a 17.1 percent unemployment rate, totaling 3.2 million people. In leisure/hospitality, the unemployment rate was a staggering 39.3 percent, totaling 4.8 million people.

As cities and regions across the country start to reopen businesses, millions of laid-off, low-wage workers face a dual dilemma. To earn a paycheck, the vast majority will have to show up physically to work, risking exposure to the coronavirus.

Read the full article about re-opening the economy impact on low-wage workers by Molly Kinder and Martha Ross at Brookings.