Economic support for COVID-19 and more

The Coronavirus Relief, Assistance, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, passed by Congress in March 2020, provided various types of temporary financial assistance to millions of Americans. November 2022 issue Health matters contains a collection of articles examining the health effects of economic security policies, some funded by CARES, while other articles look at COVID-19 more broadly.

Economic security

Alina Schnake-Mahl and coauthors found that after controlling for demographic differences, cities with paid sick leave policies had a 17 percent higher rate of vaccination against COVID-19 than rates in cities without these policies. Differences in vaccination rates between less and more vulnerable neighborhoods were also smaller in cities with paid sick leave policies.

Analyzing data from 2017-21, Kristen Harknett and Daniel Schneider find that paid sick leave laws reduce the gender gap in access to leave for service sector workers. “In the absence of a [paid sick leave] under the law, 43 percent of men and 38 percent of women reported access to paid sick leave,” they found. However, if these laws are in place, up to 70 percent of men and 69 percent of women are covered.

Based on national data from 2020, Abdinasir Ali and George Webby find “some evidence that state eviction moratoriums are associated with improvements in mental health, based on reductions in the number of days with poor mental health in the past thirty and a probability for reporting on fourteen or more such days.

In response to the financial hardship caused by the COVID-19 crisis, many states have expanded access to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). Emily Dore and co-authors found that “provision of emergency cash benefits to people not yet on TANF, waiver of work requirements, waiver or pause of sanctions, and automatic re-certification of benefits” were associated with reductions in self-reported mental and physical unhealthy days among likely TANF participants, relative to pre-pandemic levels.

Based on data from a survey of hourly workers in the retail, food service, and hospitality sectors in Philadelphia, Elizabeth Annatt and coauthors find that black and Hispanic workers are just as likely as white workers to experience financial and mental hardship , when they are laid off and have this ease the hardship if they are receiving unemployment insurance (UI) benefits. However, they were less likely to receive UI, which “implies that increasing equity in program access may help reduce the disparate effects of job loss on nonwhite workers and related racial health disparities.”

The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 expanded the Child Tax Credit (CTC), a federal credit for qualified families. Using survey data from 2017-21, Benjamin Glassner and colleagues found no evidence that the temporarily expanded CTC “translated into improved subjective well-being or mental health” for recipients, even among lower-income families and racial and ethnic minority groups, for whom the net benefit of credit is greater.

Examining supermarket transaction data, Caitlin Lowery and coauthors found that Healthy Helping, a short-term fruit and vegetable incentive program implemented in North Carolina during the pandemic, led enrollees to spend more on fruits, vegetables, nuts, and legumes than similar buyers not included in the program.

Christopher Rum examines the main causes of changes in US mortality during the first year of the pandemic and concludes that the effects of the recession, which reduced mortality, partially offset the effects of the pandemic for most groups and causes. A companion perspective from Ellen Meara focuses on drug overdoses, and this one from Stephen Wolf discusses the long-term implications of the pandemic.

COVID-19

Neil Marquez and coauthors determined that in the first year of the pandemic, the death rate from COVID-19 for blacks and Hispanics in Texas prisons was 1.61 and 2.12 times higher, respectively, than for whites.

In March 2020, the US began immediately deporting certain immigrants at or near the southern border for public health reasons. Joseph Nwadiuko and Arturo Vargas Bustamante examine data on border crossings and COVID-19 cases and conclude that “the short-term flow of immigrants to the US through the Southwest border or as agricultural guest workers has little, if any, association with COVID-19 infections link , in March 2020 – December 2021.”

Shira Fischer and colleagues determined that the proportion of patients willing to engage in video telehealth increased from 50.8 percent in February 2019 to 62.2 percent in March 2021, and “the increase in willingness is particularly clear pronounced among black adults and adults with less education’.

Acknowledgments

Health matters thanks Rita Hamad of the University of California, San Francisco for serving as an advisor on the Economic Security Papers. We also thank the Blue Shield of California Foundation and the Episcopal Health Foundation for their financial support.

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