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Black women bear the brunt of financial pain from pandemic, CNBC + Acorns survey finds

JoAnn Hargrove had to stop working full time to help her 7-year-old daughter with virtual learning.

Courtesy: JoAnn Hargrove

Like many single parents, JoAnn Hargrove has been struggling throughout the pandemic.

Her 7-year-old daughter has spent the past year at home, learning virtually. That meant Hargrove, a U.S. postal carrier in Pittsburgh, had to stop working during the week. She’s now collecting partial unemployment and working on Saturdays and Sundays, while her mother watches her daughter.

“I am literally living paycheck to paycheck,” the 37-year-old said.

“Food is so expensive,” Hargrove added. “I didn’t realize that when I was making the money I was making.”

Fortunately, Hargrove has some savings, which are dwindling. She’s trying to hold off using what’s left so she has a cushion when government aid runs out.

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“I am counting on the stimulus check,” said Hargrove, referring to the next payment currently working its way through Congress.

She’s not alone. Almost one-third, or 29%, of U.S. adults are counting on another round of government relief to get by, and another 24% say they need it but doubt it will happen, a new CNBC + Acorns Invest in You survey conducted by SurveyMonkey found.

People of color are more likely to be relying on the relief, especially Black women. Half of Black Americans and 40% of Hispanics said they were counting on it, while 57% of Black women said the same. Additionally, 24% of Blacks and Hispanics need it but don’t think it will come to fruition.

The survey was conducted by SurveyMonkey between Feb. 1-8 among a national sample of 6,182 adults.

Many also took emergency measures over the past year to manage their finances. Again, people of color — particularly Black women — felt the biggest impact.

One-quarter of Americans tapped into their emergency savings or borrowed money from family or a friend since the Covid-19 outbreak, the survey found. Almost 40% of Black females said the same, compared to 28% of Hispanic females, and 27% of white women. White (22%) and Hispanic (20%) men were the least likely to take such measures, compared to 26% of Black men.

When it comes to the prior stimulus relief payments, there is also a racial disparity. When asked what they mostly used the money for, 20% of white Americans said they saved it, versus 9% of Blacks and 14% of Hispanics. Blacks and Hispanics were more likely to use it to pay their rent or mortgage, 26% and 27% respectively, versus whites (12%).

“There have to be changes in the system and the policies that have basically enabled the level of challenge that we are seeing,” said Dr. Shannah Tharp Gilliam, director of research and evaluation at Homewood Children’s Village.

The nonprofit’s mission is to help improve the lives of children and their families in the Homewood neighborhood of Pittsburgh. Its constituents are largely African-American. As they struggled during the pandemic, the organization distributed more than 100,000 children’s meals, as well as produce, laptops for virtual education, school supply packs and diapers.

“Until we recognize that America is going to rise or fall together, we’re going to continue to see these same struggles,” said Gilliam, who is also involved in the Black Equity Coalition, a Pittsburgh-based network established to help Black and Brown communities navigate Covid-19.

Among the changes she thinks are needed: more opportunities for better wages, legislation that will help those convicted of a crime get a second chance to provide for their families, and rethinking qualifications for some entry- and mid-level positions.

On a personal level, those trying to find their financial footing should go back to the fundamentals and have a plan for spending, said certified financial planner Crystal Alford-Cooper, vice president of planning at Glen Echo, Maryland-based Law & Associates.

“We are going to the basics,” she said. “We are asking people to start looking at their expenses: what they can do without, you know — going back to the definition of needs versus wants.”

Hargrove is doing just that. But her biggest concern is about her job. Her ability to take leave and only work two days a week expires near the end of March, unless it is extended by the post office, she said. If it isn’t extended, she has no idea what she’ll do.

“I have actually worked hard at everything that I have achieved, up until this moment in my life,” she said.

“For something like this to basically take everything away from me, I am concerned about that,” Hargrove added. “It scares me.”

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Disclosure: NBCUniversal and Comcast Ventures are investors in Acorns.

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