In early 2020, the novel coronavirus began to trickle through global communities, resulting in a pandemic of proportions not seen since 1918. In the US, while the disease caused by SARS-CoV-2, COVID-19, initially affected international travelers and their close contacts, it is now ravaging many disadvantaged communities.
While employment has increased and household budget pressures have eased in recent months, unemployment remains below pre-pandemic levels.
Millions of people continue to report that they did not obtain enough food or are behind on rent payments.
As in past pandemics, social and economic determinants will strongly influence susceptibility to and health outcomes of COVID-19; thus, it is predictable that low-income and vulnerable US populations will be disproportionately affected.
Hot spots have already demonstrated high rates of COVID-19–related mortality in minority populations, particularly those of impoverished communities, likely due to increased prevalence of comorbid conditions as a result of unequal socioeconomic factors and inadequate access to timely healthcare.
Poverty, limited access to healthcare, and fear of legal repercussions place vulnerable immigrant communities within the US at high risk for acquiring SARS-CoV-2 and developing severe COVID-19.
The Biden administration is taking steps to help distribute several billion dollars in aid for winter heating and utility bills, an unprecedented sum that comes largely from its $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package.
The package provided an additional $4.5 billion for the government’s Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which typically has funding of $3 billion to $4 billion annually.
Aid for renters can also cover utility costs, while the money provided to state, local and tribal governments can help families that face high heating bills and are ineligible for other programs.
According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the global economy could contract by 3.5 percent in 2020, measured by actual gross domestic product (real GDP).
Canada’s, the United Kingdom’s, Japan’s, the United States, Switzerland’s, and the European Central Bank’s central banks have all agreed to cut the cost of US dollar liquidity swap line arrangements.
The International Development Agency would provide $50 billion in grants and financing on “very favorable terms.” As of April 29, 2020, the International Finance Corporation had distributed $8.9 billion to pandemic-affected businesses.
Gene Sperling, who is overseeing coronavirus relief for the White House, said “These new programs and funding were designed to ensure that if the weather was colder or the prices were higher, we would have the highest resources ever to help as many hard-pressed families as possible.”
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