Coronavirus to impact low-wage, black workers the most

Low-income and low-wage earners will likely bear the brunt of the economic impact of coronavirus, experts warn, as coronavirus continues to slam industries like travel, leisure, and hospitality. Workers in these industries also have the lowest amount of access to sick leave, forcing many employees to choose between their health and their paycheck. 

Only a third of the workforce in the country is able to work from home, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Nationwide, more than 32 million workers don’t have access to paid sick leave. According to the BLS, 92% of higher-wage earners receive paid sick time compared to their lower-income counterparts — only 31% of workers with salaries in the bottom 10% have this benefit.

Paid sick leave also impacts some sectors more than others. According to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), only 48% of workers in the leisure and hospitality industry have access to paid sick leave.

Elise Gould, senior economist at EPI, says that due to the amount of time these workers spend interfacing with the public, they are particularly at risk not just for getting sick, but for spreading the illness as they are “less likely to stay home if they are experiencing symptoms.” 

RELATED: Take a look at the coronavirus outbreak across the U.S.: 

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Coronavirus outbreak in the U.S.
Vice President Mike Pence points to a question as he speaks during a briefing about the coronavirus in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House, Sunday, March 15, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Tyler Baldwin mops the floor after closing for the night at the Taproom at Pike Place, Sunday, March 15, 2020 where he works as a bartender in Seattle. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said Sunday night that he would order all bars, restaurants, entertainment and recreation facilities in the state to temporarily close to fight the spread of coronavirus, as Washington state has by far the most deaths in the U.S. from the disease. Baldwin said he closed more than an hour early Sunday after he heard the announcement. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
A freeway sign urging people to wash their hands to avoid the COVID-19 virus is seen along the 101 Ventura freeway Sunday, March 15, 2020, in Westlake Village, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Shelves are emptied of paper toilet and product supplies at a Safeway store in Phoenix on Sunday, March 15, 2020. Arizona's governor and school superintendent on Sunday ordered a statewide closure of schools through at least March 27 as authorities rush to contain the outbreak of the new coronavirus. (AP Photo/Brian Skoloff)
A store vendor wears a face mask as she waits for customers in Chinatown in New York, on Sunday, March 15, 2020. President Donald Trump on Sunday called on Americans to cease hoarding groceries and other supplies, while one of the nation's most senior public health officials called on the nation to act with more urgency to safeguard their health as the coronavirus outbreak continued to spread across the United States.(AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)
Workers from a Servpro disaster recovery team wearing protective suits and respirators are given supplies as they line up before entering the Life Care Center in Kirkland, Wash., to begin cleaning and disinfecting the facility, Wednesday, March 11, 2020. The nursing home is at the center of the coronavirus outbreak in Washington state. For most people, the virus causes only mild or moderate symptoms. For some it can cause more severe illness, especially in older adults and people with existing health problems. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
March 11th 2020 - Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson have tested positive for the novel coronavirus. - File Photo by: zz/KGC-11/STAR MAX/IPx 2016 9/9/16 Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson at The 5th Biennial Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C). (Los Angeles, CA)
NBA referee Marc Davis, left, takes a phone call as fellow referee Justin Van Duyne stands next to Davis before the basketball game between the New Orleans Pelicans and Sacramento Kings was postponed at the last minute in Sacramento, Calif., Wednesday, March 11, 2020. The league said the decision was made out of an "abundance of caution," because official Courtney Kirkland, who was scheduled to work the game, had worked the Utah Jazz game earlier in the week. A player for the Jazz tested positive for the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
NBA referee Marc Davis leaves the court after the the NBA basketball game between the Sacramento Kings and the New Orleans Pelicans was postponed at the last minute in Sacramento, Calif., Wednesday, March 11, 2020. The postponement was due to what the league said was an "abundance of caution," because official Courtney Kirkland, who was scheduled to work the game, had worked the Utah Jazz game earlier in the week. A player for the Jazz tested positive for the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
From left Ellie Unruh, Abbie Unruh, Zoe Yates, and Evi Yates bump elbows instead of high-fives while playing volleyball at a local park Sunday, March 15, 2020, in Gilbert, Ariz. The girls were playing with friends after their respective volleyball clubs and teams practices and games were canceled statewide due to the COVID-19 coronavirus. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey announced earlier in the day that all schools and sports throughout Arizona are temporarily closed through March 27th challenging some parents to get creative in keeping their kids active. (AP Photo/Matt York)
A basketball fan walks past a sign on how to decrease the risk of catching the coronavirus outside a restroom at the American Airlines Arena during the first half of an NBA basketball game between the Miami Heat and the Charlotte Hornets, Wednesday, March 11, 2020, in Miami. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
President Donald Trump speaks in an address to the nation from the Oval Office at the White House about the coronavirus Wednesday, March, 11, 2020, in Washington. (Doug Mills/The New York Times via AP, Pool)
FILE PHOTO: Voters cast their ballot in the Democratic primary election in Houston
A trader works on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York City, New York
Judie Shape, left, who has tested positive for the coronavirus, waves to her daughter, Lori Spencer, right, Wednesday, March 11, 2020, as they visit on the phone and look at each other through a window at the Life Care Center in Kirkland, Wash., near Seattle. In-person visits are not allowed at the nursing home. The vast majority of people recover from the new coronavirus. According to the World Health Organization, most people recover in about two to six weeks, depending on the severity of the illness. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Judie Shape, center, who has tested positive for the coronavirus, blows a kiss to her son-in-law, Michael Spencer, left, as Shape's daughter, Lori Spencer, right, looks on, Wednesday, March 11, 2020, as they visit on the phone and look at each other through a window at the Life Care Center in Kirkland, Wash., near Seattle. In-person visits are not allowed at the nursing home. The vast majority of people recover from the new coronavirus. According to the World Health Organization, most people recover in about two to six weeks, depending on the severity of the illness. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
As President Donald Trump listens, Vice President Mike Pence speaks in the briefing room of the White House in Washington, Monday, March, 9, 2020, about the coronavirus outbreak. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Yirmeyahu Gourarie performs a Purim reading from the Book of Esther for residents under self-quarantine due to potential exposure to the new coronavirus, Monday, March 9, 2020, in New Rochelle, N.Y. In Westchester County, student volunteers from a Jewish secondary school were fanning out in teams to read the megillah on Monday evening and during the day Tuesday outside the homes of about 120 families from the community who are quarantined. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
This March 9, 2020, image provided by Carolyn Wright, a passenger aboard the Grand Princess, shows the disembarkation of the passengers from the cruise ship which is docked in Oakland, Ca. For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. (Courtesy of Carolyn Wright via AP)
Tim Killian, center, a spokesman for Life Care Center in Kirkland, Wash., talks to reporters, Monday, March 9, 2020, at the facility near Seattle. The nursing home is at the center of the outbreak of COVID-19 in Washington state. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
A sign stands next to a sanitizing station at the entrance of the Vivint Smart Home Arena before an NBA basketball game between the Toronto Raptors and the Utah Jazz, Monday, March 9, 2020, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
Workers prepare a wharf at the Port of Oakland to receive the Grand Princess in Oakland, Calif., Sunday, March 8, 2020. The cruise ship, miles off the port Sunday, is expected to dock Monday for novel coronavirus quarantine after multiple people tested positive for the virus. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)
En esta imagen tomada de un video cortesía de la Guardia Nacional de California, un helicóptero del 129no batallón de rescate sobrevuela el crucero Gran Princess frente a las costas de California, el jueves 5 de marzo de 2020. (Guardia Nacional de California vía AP)
In this image from video, provided by the California National Guard, airmen with the 129th Rescue Wing drop virus testing kits down to the Grand Princess cruise ship off the coast of California Thursday, March 5, 2020. Scrambling to keep the coronavirus at bay, officials ordered a cruise ship with 3,500 people aboard to stay back from the California coast Thursday until passengers and crew can be tested, after a traveler from its previous voyage died of the disease and at least two others became infected. The California National Guard 129th Rescue Wing lowered test kits onto the 951-foot (290-meter) Grand Princess by rope as the vessel lay at anchor off Northern California, and authorities said the results would be available on Friday. Princess Cruise Lines said fewer than 100 people aboard had been identified for testing. (California National Guard via AP)
Passengers look out from balconies aboard the Grand Princess as it cruises a holding pattern about 25 miles off the coast of San Francisco on Sunday, March 8, 2020. The ship is expected to dock in Oakland in the east San Francisco Bay on Monday. California Gov. Gavin Newsom and the mayor of Oakland sought Sunday to reassure the public that none of the passengers from the ship with multiple cases of the new coronavirus will be released into the public before undergoing a 14-day quarantine. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)
Carrying multiple people who have tested positive for COVID-19, the Grand Princess maintains a holding pattern about 30 miles off the coast of San Francisco, Sunday, March 8, 2020. The cruise ship is scheduled to dock at the Port of Oakland on Monday. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)
A man wears a mask aboard the Grand Princess as it maintains a holding pattern about 25 miles off the coast of San Francisco on Sunday, March 8, 2020. The cruise ship is scheduled to dock at the Port of Oakland on Monday for COVID-19 quarantine after 21 people tested positive for the virus. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)
SPRINGFIELD, VA - MARCH 7: Local Target store in the D.C area depleted of cleaning and sanitizing supplies and left with empty shelves as fear grow of COVID-19 (the coronavirus) reports increasing on March 7, 2020 in Springfield, Virginia. Credit: mpi34/MediaPunch /IPX
SPRINGFIELD, VA - MARCH 7: Local Target store in the D.C area depleted of cleaning and sanitizing supplies and left with empty shelves as fear grow of COVID-19 (the coronavirus) reports increasing on March 7, 2020 in Springfield, Virginia. Credit: mpi34/MediaPunch /IPX
The headquarters for Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is shown on Friday, March 6, 2020 in Atlanta, Georgia. President Donald Trump's trip to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, briefly scuttled Friday because of unfounded fears that someone there had contracted the coronavirus, was back on, giving the president another chance to calm growing alarm about the spread of the virus in America. (AP Photo/ Ron Harris)
An ambulance backs into a parking lot, Friday, March 6, 2020, at the Life Care Center in Kirkland, Wash., which has become the epicenter of the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak in Washington state. This ambulance left the facility after a short time and did not transport a patient. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Ambulance workers move a man on a stretcher from the Life Care Center in Kirkland, Wash. into an ambulance, Friday, March 6, 2020. The facility is the epicenter of the outbreak of the the COVID-19 coronavirus in Washington state. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
A woman uses protective gloves as she looks at her phone wrapped in a plastic bag while riding a New York City subway train, Monday, March 9, 2020. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar looks on as President Donald Trump shows a spending bill to combat the Coronavirus, at the White House, Friday, March 6, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Donald Trump holds a photograph of coronavirus as Dr. Steve Monroe,right, with CDC speaks to members of the press at the headquarters of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta on Friday, March 6, 2020. President Trump's trip to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, briefly scuttled Friday because of unfounded fears that someone there had contracted the coronavirus, was back on, giving the president another chance to calm growing alarm about the spread of the virus in America. (Hyosub Shin/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)
Photo by: John Nacion/STAR MAX/IPx 2020 3/6/20 People wear masks to protect themselves from the Corona Virus in New York City.
Photo by: John Nacion/STAR MAX/IPx 2020 3/6/20 People wear masks to protect themselves from the Corona Virus in New York City. Shoppers have cleared store shelves of sanitizing products.
Vice President Mike Pence, left, arrives with Debi Birx, center, White House coronavirus response coordinator, and Robert Redfield, right, director of the CDC, Thursday, March 5, 2020, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state for a visit with state officials. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Vice President Mike Pence greets Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, left, as Pence arrives, Thursday, March 5, 2020 at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state. Officials are avoiding handshakes due to the COVID-19 coronavirus. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
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Suffering the most

Economically, Elise says, these workers are the most likely to suffer the most, particularly as many face work hour reductions.

“It’s a little bit of a snowball effect for that population,” she said. “They are more likely to be living paycheck to paycheck, and will have a harder time because they have limited resources.”

As fewer people go to restaurants, travel and spend money at hotels, workers in those industries suffer from reduced business and dollars that can translate into tips.

“This is highlighting the vast inequality in this country,” Gould said. “And some people are going to get hurt so much more than others. That hurt could be long lasting. We don’t know. We don’t know what’s going to happen over the course of this virus.”

Flanked by her security detail and aides, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., arrives to update reporters as lawmakers continue work on a coronavirus aid package, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, March 12, 2020. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Among the working poor, black workers will be harmed the most.

According to BLS, black, and Hispanic workers are more than twice as likely to earn poverty-level wages compared to their white counterparts. 

Roughly 8% of black and Hispanic workers earn wages below poverty level, compared to just 4% of white workers. Women of color struggle in particular: 10% of black women and 9% of Hispanic women are classified as the working poor, compared to 3.5% of white men.

“There’s a lot of occupational segregation in this country,” said Gould. “So when we think of those low-wage workers they’re more likely to be women, black and Hispanic workers. This could hit some communities more than others.”

And it’s unclear how badly hit these vulnerable populations will be as COVID-19 continues to batter the American economy. 

“We don’t know what will happen when people can’t pay their rent or their mortgage,” she continued. “Will we see the economic devastation spread? Will the government step up?”

On Capitol Hill, both Democrats and the White House proposed economic relief measures. President Trump unveiled a proposal for payroll tax cuts through the election and into the end of the year, providing relief for many working Americans. 

Wednesday night, Democrats released the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, a bill that would provide food assistance, paid sick leave, and extra funds for unemployment insurance benefits.

“This bill is a critical down payment on ensuring that families and communities in the direct path of this crisis do not have to choose between following the advice of public health experts and risking their livelihood,” said Fatima Goss Graves, president and CEO of the National Women's Law Center. 

“The investments in nutrition assistance and Medicaid will help families better weather this storm and mitigate the economic ripple effects. But this crisis is already exposing and worsening every inequality in our country right now,” said Graves.

‘Partisan’ and ‘unworkable’

Trump slammed the Democrats on Twitter for not supporting his payroll tax cut. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) also criticized Democrats, calling their plan “completely partisan” and “unworkable.”

Gould said that while a payroll tax cut “makes a lot of sense,” it relies on people continuing to stay in the workplace. 

Graphic: David Foster/Yahoo Finance

“If you’re just cutting hours and you operate some sort of a payroll tax credit through work, that depends on your working — instead of giving more direct cash to people,” she said. 

Democrats are set to vote on their bill on Thursday.

“Congress must take immediate action to shore up our nation’s unemployment system, protect families from eviction and homelessness, and protect the child care, health care, and home care workers who serve as the backbone to our nation’s economic and public health infrastructure,” said Graves.

According to the CDC, 38 states and Washington, D.C. now report cases of COVID-19 with 29 deaths and more than nearly 1,000 cases. Globally, more than 100,000 people have been infected with some 4,000 deaths reported across nearly 100 countries. Many companies are forced to have employees self-quarantine, while countries close borders, and presidential candidates cancel rallies and campaign events. 

Trump on Wednesday announced plans to restrict travel from Europe to the U.S. with exemptions made for American nationals and permanent residents.

The CDC has advised the public to “avoid crowding” and “limiting attendance at larger gatherings.” The center has also warned against “handshaking” and says to use other “noncontact methods of greeting.”

Kristin Myers is a reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter.

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