ESI Coverage Loss by Gender
Exhibit 6 shows that the adverse effects of the pandemic recession fell disproportionately on women. Although women made up 47 percent of prepandemic employment, they accounted for 55 percent of total job losses. But because women were somewhat less likely than men to have health coverage through their own job, and less likely to have family coverage, they and their dependents accounted for slightly more than half of all lost jobs with ESI and potential ESI coverage loss when dependents were included.
Between February and June 2020, the number of unemployed workers increased by 15.9 million. We estimate that about 7.7 million (48%) of these workers lost jobs with ESI. And because 6.9 million dependents were covered by ESI through a job loser, a total of 14.6 million individuals potentially lost ESI as of June because of the pandemic. If all these individuals lost ESI coverage, it would represent an 8 percent reduction in total ESI coverage.
The ESI coverage rate of individuals who lost jobs because of the pandemic (48%) is somewhat less than the ESI coverage rate of workers overall (51%) (Exhibit 4). This is because workers employed in two of the three industries most affected by lockdowns — accommodation and food services, and retail trade — were less likely than average to have ESI coverage (Exhibit 3). Workers in manufacturing — the third industry heavily affected by the lockdowns — were more likely than average to have ESI coverage.
These estimates of lost jobs with ESI and dependents covered by the job losers do not imply that 14.6 million individuals have lost ESI or become uninsured during the pandemic. Rather, they represent an upper-bound estimate of ESI losses because the only available estimate suggests that roughly half of workers who have lost jobs with ESI have been furloughed or temporarily laid off and have continued to be covered by ESI.10 Estimating the number of individuals who have lost ESI because of the COVID-19 recession requires estimates of the number of job losers, the number of job losers with ESI, and the number of job losers with ESI whose coverage was not continued by their employer. Considerable uncertainty surrounds all these estimates.
Uncertainly also surrounds estimates of the number of individuals who have lost any health insurance coverage as a result of lost ESI. As discussed earlier, an Urban Institute study estimated that roughly a third of those who lose ESI coverage through pandemic-related job loss will become uninsured. We caution, however, about the difficulties in making such estimates.11
As previously discussed, the path from loss of a job with ESI to loss of health insurance is not simple. It follows that the evolution of ESI coverage during the pandemic will be far from straightforward and will depend on many unpredictable circumstances. Only with time will we know how many job losses are ultimately permanent and result in loss of ESI. In the interim, it will be important to monitor key labor market statistics, including the number of workers on furlough or temporary layoff who become permanent job losers, and the number of job losers who have been unemployed for 15 weeks or more and are unlikely to be attached to an employer and covered by ESI.
Nearly half of U.S. adults with lower incomes have had trouble paying their bills since the start of the coronavirus pandemic
A quarter of U.S. adults say they have had trouble paying their bills since the coronavirus outbreak began. Smaller shares of U.S. adults say they have had problems paying their rent or mortgage (16%) or affording medical care for themselves or their families (11%). Still fewer say they lost their health insurance (5%).
Among adults with lower incomes, 46% say they have had trouble paying their bills, and about a third (32%) have had problems paying their rent or mortgage since February – significantly higher than the share of middle- and upper-income adults who have faced these struggles. This income pattern holds when looking at the shares saying they had trouble paying for medical care or lost their health insurance.
Among other key demographic groups, women, adults under age 30, Black and Hispanic adults, and those who have not obtained a college degree are among the most likely to say they have had trouble paying bills, their rent or mortgage, or for medical care. These groups have been especially impacted by higher unemployment rates during the coronavirus recession.
Black and Hispanic adults are more likely than White and Asian adults to have had trouble paying for medical care, bills or their rent or mortgage. While on most measures Black and Hispanic adults are about equally likely to say they have struggled with these payments, Black adults are more likely to say they have had trouble paying their bills (43%) since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak than any other racial or ethnic group in the survey.
Age is also associated with people’s ability to pay their bills or rent or mortgage since February. Fully 35% of adults ages 18 to 29 and 30% of those ages 30 to 49 say they have had trouble paying their bills during this time. This compares with 22% of those ages 50 to 64 and 10% of those 65 and older. About one-in-five or more adults ages 18 to 29 (25%) and 30 to 49 (21%) have had trouble paying their rent or mortgage. This is significantly larger than the share among those 50 to 64 (15%) and 65 and older (4%).
Adults without a bachelor’s degree are more likely than those with at least a bachelor’s degree to say they have experienced problems with paying their bills, affording medical expenses for themselves or their families, or making rent or mortgage payments. About a third of adults with a high school diploma or less education (34%) and 27% of those with some college experience say they have struggled with paying bills, compared with 12% of those with a bachelor’s degree or more education. About one-in-five adults with some college or high school or less education say they have had problems paying their rent or mortgage (18% and 23%) since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak. Those with a high school diploma or less education are twice as likely as those with a bachelor’s degree or more education to have lost their health insurance in the same time period (6% vs. 3%).
People who say they or someone in their household have either been laid off or taken a pay cut as a result of the coronavirus outbreak are more than three times as likely as those who have not faced these hardships to have struggled to pay their bills since the beginning of the outbreak (38% vs. 11%). Similarly, 27% of those who have experienced job loss or a pay cut in their household had problems paying their rent or mortgage, compared with 6% of those who did not experience job or pay loss. People who say they or someone in their household have either been laid off or taken a pay cut as a result of the coronavirus outbreak are also more likely than those who had not to say they have lost their health insurance or had trouble paying for medical care.
Lee Enterprises: 66
—Roanoke Times: 12 Roanoke, VA In an attempt to consolidate newspaper design in the midwest, Lee Enterprises eliminated 10 copyediting and design jobs at the Roanoke Times, or around 20 percent of the newsroom’s unionized workforce, in early September 2020. Then, on September 25, the media chain laid off two of the Times’ managers, including its only sports editor on the day before college football season’s kickoff.
—The Daily Progress: 2 Two union members—one digital content coordinator, the other a staff writer—were laid off at the Charlottesville newspaper on September 11, 2020 without any prior notice. The Daily Progress all in all lost seven union positions since July 2020.
—Richmond Times-Dispatch: 5 The Times-Dispatch laid off at least five members of its bargaining unit on September 11, 2020.
—The News & Advance: 5 Lynchburg, VA The daily newspaper of record for Lynchburg laid off two editors, a page designer and two circulation clerks on September 14, 2020, according to Virginia Business.
—The Free Lance-Star: 1 Fredericksburg, VA The newspaper’s digital editor, Dave Ellis, was laid off in mid-September 2020.
—Greensboro News & Record: 5 Greensboro, North Carolina The North Carolina newspaper laid off at least five people on September 16, 2020. Among those affected were three sports writers.
—Casper Star-Tribune: 1 The Casper News Guild reported that Lee Enterprises laid off one union member and one of the newspaper’s longest tenured reporters of 13 years, on September 17, 2020.
—Grand Island Independent: 1 On September 21, 2020, one person was laid off from the daily newspaper in Grand Island, NE.
—The Pantagraph: 2 Two people were laid off from the Pantagraph on September 21, 2020. The newspaper provides coverage for Bloomington, Normal, and Central Illinois.
—Herald & Review: 1 The Decatur, IL newspaper laid off at least one person on September 21, 2020.
—Missoulian: 2 Western Montana’s largest daily newspaper laid off a part-time photographer and a copy and design desk staffer on September 25, 2020.
—Tulsa World: 17 At least 10 journalists were laid off from the Tulsa, OK newspaper on September 28, 2020. Earlier in the year, in March 2020, seven staffers were laid off from the newsroom’s design desk.
—The Glens Falls Post-Star: 2 The upstate New York newspaper laid off two people in late September 2020.
—Capital Newspapers: 1 Madison, WI At least one staffer was laid off from the Wisconsin newspaper chain at the end of September 2020, which operates 27 publications across the state as a partnership between The Capital Times Company and Lee Enterprises.
—Ladue News: 1 St. Louis, MO The biweekly lifestyle magazine laid off at least one person at the end of September 2020.
—Omaha World-Herald: 1 At the end of September 2020, the World-Herald laid off Jeffrey Koterba, a cartoonist who had worked at the newspaper for over 31 years.
—Scottsbluff Star-Herald: 2 The Nebraska newspaper laid off two people in September 2020, according to Poynter.
—St. Louis Post-Dispatch: 1 A digital sports editor position was eliminated in September 2020.
—Quad-City Times: 1 Davenport, IA One person was laid off in September 2020, according to Poynter.
TEGNA: Unknown A reorganization of the broadcast and digital media giant’s local and national sales teams led to an unknown number of layoffs at the beginning of September 2020, according to Poynter. A TEGNA communications officer, who would not provide the number of workers affected, told the Tow Center in an email that there were no layoffs during this time that were “due to COVID.” TEGNA operates in more than 54 markets across the country.
Bloomberg Industry Group: 21 The publisher of Bloomberg Law, Bloomberg Tax, and Bloomberg Government laid off 21 workers in mid-September 2020. Its union said that the majority of these layoffs affected its lowest paid employees and minority workers.
KFGO: 1 Fargo, ND The Midwest Communications-owned radio station laid off one person and eliminated a vacant position, according to Poynter.
Fox News: 270 In a restructuring of its businesses intended to “streamline multiplatform organization,” Fox News Media laid off around 3 percent of its 9,000 person staff on September 16, 2020. No on-air talent was affected.
Meredith Corporation: 180 The largest US magazine publisher, which owns titles like InStyle and Entertainment Weekly, laid off 180 of its staffers across its local and national brands on September 17, 2020. Meredith was purchased by Dotdash, a company that specializes in digital media, in October 2021 for $2.7 billion and will operate as Meredith Dotdash.
The Poynter Institute: 1 St. Petersburg, FL An administrative staff member was laid off from the Poynter Institute.
Adweek: 1 New York, NY The advertising trade publication laid off its diversity and inclusion reporter on September 22, 2020.
Great Big Story: 45 New York, NY CNN announced it was shuttering its short-form video news hub on September 23, 2020. According to New York State WARN filing obtained by the Tow Center, 45 staffers were laid off effective December 31.
Philomath Express: 1 Brad Fuqua, the sole editor, sole reporter, and chief photographer throughout the weekly newspaper’s five year existence, was laid off when the Express bid farewell to the community on September 23, 2020.
Digital Trends: 17 Portland, OR In what was described as a “strategic shift” in business, the tech news site laid off 17 staffers and severed ties with an unknown number of freelancers on September 30, 2020. The layoffs represented about one-third of Digital Trends’ staff and affected the news department, a video game editor, an audio-visual editor, and its daily live show’s host and crew.
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