COVID hit North Carolina hard, with 3.1 million cases so far and over 26,000 deaths. Low-income communities in North Carolina were especially hard hit, with higher rates of COVID infections and deaths, sudden loss of jobs with little buffer, disruption of families and communities. In this paper, we conduct a quantitative assessment of COVID-19’s impact on low-income North Carolinians and specifically on a subset of lower income North Carolina counties that are served by the North Carolina Community Action Association (NCCAA).
The research builds upon and leverages the findings of an earlier report we produced that examined the real-life impacts of COVID-19 on low wealth families and communities served by NCCAA member Community Action Agencies (Johnson, Parnell, & Bonds, 2021a,b). Through focus group interviews with low wealth families and local community leaders, we documented the lived experiences of North Carolinians who had limited resources to meet the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic. Our findings were sobering.
During the pandemic, people lost their jobs or had to leave their jobs to either take care of children or reduce the risk of potentially exposing family members to the deadly virus. Few were in jobs that could be done remotely. People who had been on solid financial footings quickly became dependent on friends, neighbors, churches, and food banks. Social isolation took a toll. Some were eager to be vaccinated while others were deeply skeptical. Many communities quickly faced an affordable housing crisis, which in turn became a labor force problem. Delivery of health services and all county services became a challenge.