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'It is bleak': How the pandemic economy has affected LGBTQ people – NBC News

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It’s been over a year since Michael Bates, a massage therapist, has worked with a client.

One year ago, he was recovering from pancreatic cancer, and his doctors told him he was cleared to go back to work. Then, the pandemic hit, and the same week he thought he’d begin booking clients he was in lockdown inside his home.

“It was a rough time because I was healthy again. And then I couldn’t go anywhere. It’s been an emotional roller coaster,” he said. “It’s very difficult when you’re a tactile person to begin with.”

A licensed massage therapist for a decade, Bates, 63, of Gainesville, Florida, has not been able to earn an income for the last year. Then, in December, his cancer returned, and he started treatment again in January.

“So even if they lifted lockdown now, because of my white blood cell count, they don’t want me working,” he said. “So it’s like, great, here we go again.”

Michael Bates.Michael Bates

Bates is one of the many LGBTQ Americans who have experienced job and income loss from the pandemic. Sixty-four percent of LGBTQ people and their families experienced a job loss or disruption, compared to just under half (45 percent) of non-LGBTQ households, according to a study by the Movement Advancement Project, a nonprofit think tank.

“The pandemic just kind of dug in and found all of the inequalities and just turned that into this whole other kind of nightmare for people,” said M.V. Lee Badgett, a professor of economics and co-director of the Center for Employment Equity at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. “It is bleak. I mean, there’s really no way around that.”

The pandemic has exacerbated the existing issues members of the LGBTQ community face, including employment and housing discrimination, food insecurity, vulnerability to homelessness, unequal health care and higher rates of mental health issues.

Angela, 28, of Norwalk, Connecticut, who has asked that her last name not be used for privacy reasons, lost her job last year. She was employed with the same company for the last six years, working as a coordinator for a business facilitating study abroad programs for college students. She was laid off two months into the pandemic, after scrambling to help families get their kids home from overseas.

Angela has been looking for a job since July, after taking some time to process both the pandemic and her job loss, though its impact still lingers.

“Finding a job has been very difficult because I’ve been wading through depression, anxiety, insomnia,” she said. “I’ve had two surgeries in the last year. I’ve lost a family member. There’s just a lot to get through. And all the while, I need a job. If you had told me a year ago that I would still be unemployed in March of 2021, I would not have believed you.”

Angela has written 30 cover letters in the last week and in the last 10 days has submitted more applications than she has in the last six months, all while grappling with what she wants to do next and what jobs are actually available. “The entire industry I thought I could’ve been a part of came to a screeching halt,” she said.

Angela said she’s been looking for jobs that are more mission-focused. “I want to at least try to feel like what I’m doing is meaningful to someone or getting someone support where they otherwise may not have had it,” she said.

Though job loss and economic pain has been felt across the LGBTQ spectrum, the pandemic has had an additional impact on those who are especially vulnerable to higher rates of discrimination.

“When we dig a little deeper into the LGBT data, it does show two very clear patterns,” Badgett said. “One is that transgender people overall are experiencing a harder time, and LGBT people of color are experiencing an extra disadvantage, which is, again, not surprising.”

Prior to the pandemic, over half a million transgender adults lived below 200 percent of the federal poverty line (an annual income of $25,520 for those living alone), according to data from the Williams Institute, a public policy research institute at UCLA.

Of any group of workers in the U.S., Black transgender workers face the highest levels of discrimination. Though the exact impact of the pandemic on trans and nonbinary workers is not yet known, the Williams Institute found high rates of unemployment claims among queer and trans people at the start of the pandemic, with around 8.9 percent of all workers who filed for unemployment identifying as LGBTQ.

Once unemployed, trans and nonbinary workers must then navigate the discrimination that comes with the job application process, something Cedar Sutter, 22, of Frankfort, Illinois, has been experiencing since they lost their job earlier this year. Unemployment and extended job loss has left them and their boyfriend in a bad spot financially, and they are facing eviction and homelessness at the end of this month if they cannot find a way to pay the bills.

Cedar Sutter.Cedar Sutter

Sutter has been applying to jobs since November. Their previous position was at a library, and they’ve applied for all kinds of openings, including jobs at restaurants, breweries and retail outlets. Often, they never hear back from an application. Their mother recommended they remove their pronouns from their resume and replace their name with their dead name.

“It’s hard to think about going into a job interview and not being able to be myself, not being able to present myself the way that I would like, and the way that I’m comfortable, and how I am,” they said. “Having to pretend to be someone that I’m not at work or for an interview — it’s exhausting.”

After much reluctance, Sutter did remove their pronouns but left their name. “That was hard, extremely hard,” they said. “But I couldn’t bring myself to use my dead name on my resume. It just feels so disingenuous.”

Once they removed their pronouns, responses to job applications rolled in. “I don’t know if just the existence of the pronouns on my resume had something to do with it or if I wasn’t applying at the right places,” they said. “I would hate for [my pronouns] to be the reason why I haven’t been getting hired anywhere.”

Still, they are bracing themselves for rejoining the workforce and potentially having to defend their pronouns and name. “I don’t want to have to listen to my employer tell me that my pronouns and my identities are invalid just to get a job,” they said.

When it comes to the business sector, LGBTQ-owned businesses have had to improvise to stay afloat, while others have closed, including establishments that serve queer communities.

Gregory Canillas, 52, is a Black business owner and president and CEO of Soul2Soul Global, a company he founded in 2018 that hosts retreats for queer couples, particularly newlyweds or those about to get married. The retreats combine travel with relationship-building workshops, hosted by Canillas, who is a psychologist and associate professor at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology in Los Angeles.

Before the pandemic hit, Canillas’ business was growing, with retreats planned in San Francisco; Washington, D.C.; and Long Beach, California. Those were canceled.

“I’ve been able to keep the business open, but barely,” Canillas said. Revenue has dropped by half since the pandemic began, and while some of his business has gone online, the experience of travel, a crucial element of the workshop, cannot be replicated via Zoom.

Gregory Canillas.Hallo Smith

Canillas founded his company to fill a void: He saw people in his clinical work who were managing stressors specific to being LGBTQ, including issues around family of origin, acceptance and sexuality.

His retreats join together the shared experience of travel, which has been shown to strengthen relationships, with the structured element of a supportive workshop. The goal of the retreats is to give couples tools for a thriving marriage before it even begins.

“I went to graduate school to help people,” Canillas said. “That’s always been my thing. It’s always been part of who I am. Not being able to do that, it has not felt good. Helping people and helping couples — we need it. LGBT people need it as much as anybody else, maybe more so.”

Canillas is a member of a number of chambers of commerce and has been able to connect with other entrepreneurs who identify as LGBTQ, which he said “has been a tremendous support.” But, he said, “The larger business community, I don’t know that they’re always accepting.”

Canillas has applied for a number of grants. “This is probably an unprecedented time where you can access grants as LGBT and African American,” he said. “And I’ve applied for everything but really haven’t gotten anything. And some of that I think is related to being LGBT. Many of them were for Black entrepreneurs, but not necessarily Black LGBT entrepreneurs.”

As the world begins to rebound, and more and more people get vaccinated, economic growth is expected, but that growth could mask an unequal recovery for workers, according to McKinsey & Company, a management consulting firm. It recently released a report that said, “Unless bold action is taken, the postpandemic recovery will further exacerbate inequality.”

The report detailed the job losses that have disproportionately affected minority populations and suggested that both private- and public-sector businesses focus on developing new training and career pathways for displaced workers as a way to battle inequality.

For Badgett, moving forward requires a consideration of policy reform, such as paid family leave, access to health care and supplemental income for people making low wages.

“For the LGBT community, it’s recognizing that our community is diverse, that people aren’t all having the same experience,” Badgett said. “And that if we are a community, not just a market, not just a voting bloc, but a community, that we need to be thinking about people with low incomes, thinking about how low-wage workers, how people of color in our community are faring and supporting policies that will make their lives better, too. Not just policies that are good for people in relationships or people with good jobs at a big corporation — but everybody.”

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The rapid growth the U.S. economy has seen is about to hit a wall – CNBC

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A National Park Service worker replaces a flag at the Washington Monument which reopened today following a six month closure due to COVID-19 safety measures, in Washington U.S., July 14, 2021.
Kevin Lemarque | Reuter

The U.S. economy is expected to post another roaring growth spurt in the second quarter, before a slow and steady dose of reality starts to sink in.

Gross domestic product is projected to accelerate 9.2% for the April-to-June period, according to a FactSet survey. The Commerce Department will release its first estimate for second-quarter GDP on Thursday.

In a pre-pandemic world, that would have put annualized growth at its fastest level since the second quarter of 1983. However, the current circumstances and the outsized policy response they generated make this merely the third straight quarter of GDP that sits well above the post-Great Recession trend.

Things are about to change, however.

The economy is creeping back toward normal, the open checkbook from Congress is about to get tighter, and millions of sidelined American workers will be returning to their jobs. That means a gradual reversion to the mean for an economy more used to growing closer to 2% than the much stronger levels it has turned in during the reopening.

“Growth has peaked, the economy will slow a bit in the second half of this year, then much more noticeably in the first half of 2022 as fiscal support fades,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics. “The contours of growth are going to be shaped largely by fiscal policy over the next 18 months. The tailwind just blows less strongly, and may stop altogether by this time next year.”

It’s been a long road getting here, but the economy has gotten very close to its pre-pandemic self.

In fact, according to a running gauge that Jefferies keeps, overall output is at 98.6% of its “normal” level before Covid-19 turned everything upside down. The firm uses a slew of indicators to measure then versus now, and finds that while some areas such as employment and air travel are lagging, retail and housing have helped push overall activity to just below the 2019 level, at 98.6%.

“When I look holistically at household income dynamics and balance sheets, I see a very, very positive situation, very healthy fundamentals, and it’s hard to be pessimistic on the outlook,” said Aneta Markowska, chief financial economist at Jefferies.

Indeed, household net worth totaled $136.9 trillion at the end of the first quarter, a 16% increase from its 2019 level, according to the Federal Reserve. At the same time, household debt payments compared with disposable personal income fell to 8.2%, a record low going back to 1980.

But much of that net worth has been driven by increases in financial assets such as stocks, and personal income has swelled due to government stimulus payments that are slowing and eventually will stop.

Demographics holding back growth

Keeping up such a rapid pace of growth will be difficult in an economy that has long been held back by an aging population and lackluster productivity. Those issues will be exacerbated by dwindling policy support as well as an ongoing battle against Covid-19 and its variants, though few economists expect widespread lockdowns and the plunge in activity that happened in early to mid-2020.

“What we see is an economy growing robustly above trend albeit at a slower pace through 2023,” said Joseph Brusuelas, chief economist at consulting firm RSM. “Absent any productivity-enhancing policy support, we eventually will move back to trend because there’s not much we can do about the demographic headwinds, which will eventually drag growth back to the long-term trend.”

But there also are shorter-term headwinds that should temper those gaudy growth numbers.

An aggressive spurt of inflation brought on by supply constraints and huge demand related to the economic reopening will hit output. While many economists, including those at the Federal Reserve, are willing to write off the inflation as temporary with soaring used auto and truck prices contributing a large component, officials including Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned that the price increases are likely to continue for at least several months.

Gasoline prices at a Royal Dutch Shell Plc gas station in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Wednesday, July 7, 2021.
David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Inflation combined with fading fiscal support also then will serve as a growth limit.

“The economy is facing supply constraints with residential investment likely a drag and the change in inventories remaining negative,” Bank of America U.S. economist Alexander Lin said in a note. “Looking ahead, this is likely the peak, with growth cooling in the coming quarters.”

Capital Economics forecasts a below-consensus 8% GDP figure for the second quarter, then a drop to 3.5% in the following period.

“With surging prices squeezing real incomes we suspect the pace of monthly growth will remain lackluster, setting the stage for a sharp slowdown in consumption and GDP growth in the third quarter,” wrote Paul Ashworth, chief North American economist at Capital Economics.

The pandemic is another wild card.

Cases of the delta variant are spiking in a handful of states, and health officials worry that the U.S. could face a surge like the one hitting some European and Asian countries. Few if any economists expect another wave of lockdowns or similar constraints in the U.S., but pressure from abroad could hit domestic growth.

“Export platforms like Vietnam are being locked down now,” Brusuelas said. “Vietnam is becoming a more important cog in the global supply chain, so we are watching that closely.

Brusuelas added that the negotiations over the debt ceiling also could shake up things in the U.S. Yellen said Friday that extraordinary measures the U.S. may need to take to continue paying its debts could hit troubles as soon as October.

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Restarting a sustainable, export-oriented economy – Business in Vancouver

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Clean, sustainable products and services will be key to B.C.’s economic recovery | Chung Chow

This column was originally published in BIV Magazine‘s Trade issue.

As B.C. looks to restart its economy, the demand for our province’s clean and sustainable products and services is surging across a variety of sectors, demonstrating the key role that trade will play in our economic recovery.

Exports increased 24% year-to-date for April – that’s up $3 billion over the same time last year. It’s a big boost for the provincial economy, with a majority of our exports being commodities in great demand. Our stringent environmental standards in wood exports, burgeoning clean tech sector and high standards in labour protections mean that when other markets buy from us, they’re also contributing to a cleaner and more socially responsible global economy.

B.C. was committed to international trade long before the pandemic. It creates new opportunities for businesses, and more importantly, it creates good jobs and prosperity for people in B.C. When businesses export, they are more resilient. Access to more markets means they have a more diverse customer base and aren’t as impacted by fluctuations in their local economies.

We have a program perfectly designed to help small businesses get their goods and services to new markets. It’s called Export Navigator. This program offers businesses free expert guidance on exporting. Businesses get connected with an expert advisor who will help “navigate” them through the export process. It’s hugely beneficial, helping businesses reach new customers for the first time and making the process a lot easier along the way.

We continue to support B.C. businesses in other ways as well. For example, we developed a series of grant programs to meet their unique needs, making over half a billion dollars available in direct supports. The Launch Online program helps businesses improve their online presence to attract and keep customers and meet demand as online shopping hit new heights during the pandemic. The Supply Chain and Value-Added Manufacturing grant helps B.C.-based manufacturers in the aerospace, shipbuilding, food processing and forestry sectors recover and grow, supporting them to seek efficiencies to continually keep goods flowing into the marketplace.

From natural resources and agrifoods to manufactured goods and high-tech goods and services, B.C. has a lot to offer to the world. We are a responsible, low-carbon producer of natural resources and manufactured goods, and we are working hard to make sustainability a larger part of B.C.’s brand and our global competitive advantage. Our priority is to help B.C.-based businesses start up, scale up, access global markets and succeed in the highly competitive world marketplace. The more we export, the more new dollars we bring into B.C. and generate revenue that supports government investments in health care, education and critical infrastructure.

We stand behind the high-quality goods that B.C. has to offer to the world. Globally, companies large and small are increasingly applying environmental, social and governance filters to their investment decisions. We are committed to growing our economy in a sustainable way, and are working on a new trade diversification strategy that will provide us with the opportunity to develop an updated, forward-looking and ambitious approach that aligns closely with these principles, while ensuring that our exporting businesses are maximizing the opportunities afforded to them through Canada’s existing free trade agreements. Our recently announced Mass Timber Demonstration Program is an example of how we are advancing technologies that can showcase to the world the possibilities of building with a more sustainable and environmentally friendly product from B.C.

The pandemic leaves behind many lessons and creates a once-in-a-generation opportunity for B.C. to redefine itself. We know the pandemic is not impacting everyone equally, with women and visible minorities being disproportionately impacted. This is why we are committed to continuing to grow strong, robust industries that can provide good jobs for all of B.C.’s diverse populations.

Growth in trade will be a big part of our economic recovery, and as we transition through our restart plan, we will continue to engage with businesses, industry and key stakeholders to ensure we’re supporting their efforts to expand globally.

Our goal is to diversify our trade sectors to include not just our natural resources, but clean tech, high tech, agritech and advanced manufacturing. We need to support our exporters and encourage new exporters to expand our opportunities in global markets and strengthen our resilience.

We’re committed to invest in people and in businesses to restore economic growth and we are confident that the entrepreneurial spirit of B.C.’s business community will rise to the challenge as we work together to build a better future with meaningful jobs and a strong, sustainable economy for all. 

Ravi Kahlon is B.C.’s minister of jobs, economic recovery and innovation. George Chow is the province’s minister of state for trade.

This column was originally published in the July 2021 issue of BIV Magazine. The digital magazine can be read in full here.

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ECB Lifts Restrictions on Bank Dividends as Economy Rebounds – Bloomberg

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The European Central Bank said it will lift a cap on how much lenders can return to shareholders with dividends and share buybacks, while urging them to remain cautious given uncertainty in the pandemic.

The ECB “decided not to extend beyond September 2021 its recommendation that all banks limit dividends,” the central bank said in a statement on Friday. “Instead, supervisors will assess the capital and distribution plans of each bank as part of the regular supervisory process.”

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