By Sandra G. Leon
A new study released this week by a Washington, D.C. think tank finds that some workers are “much less likely” to be able to work from home during the coronavirus crisis.
The non-profit Economic Policy Institute found that only 16.2% of Latino workers have jobs that can still be done remotely, followed by Black workers at 19.7%., mostly due to their over-representation in physical jobs including the service industry, construction jobs, manufacturing, transportation, and installations and repairs.
The group with the highest percentage of jobs that can work from home are Asians at 39%, and white workers with 29.9%.
“It just comes down to the fact that in the United States there’s still a lot of occupational segregation by race and ethnicity,” said Heidi Shierholz, one of the two economists that conducted the study.
Shierholts pointed to the large concentration of Latino workers in construction and a large concentration of black workers in service sector jobs for the disproportionate impacts. The report also notes that most low-wage workers can’t telework compared to financial, management, professional, and sales jobs which can still conduct most of their work remotely.
“A much higher share of people who can’t telework will lose their jobs in this recession than those who can,” Shierholz added.
The report was released just as Congress is debating passage of a stimulus package that could be as high as $1 trillion to provide immediate checks to all taxpayers, as well as economic help to businesses affected by the almost immediate slowdown of the economy.
On Thursday, Senate Republicans unveiled their stimulus plan that could include up to $1,200 for individuals and $2,400 for couples beneath a certain income threshold and $300 billion for loans to small businesses to pay for salaries, mortgage payments, other debt obligations and payroll support including paid sick, medical and family leave, as well as health care benefits for employees. The proposal also includes $200 billion in loans to airlines and other distressed industry sectors hurt by the crisis.
Some Republicans, however, are still uneasy with large government bailouts, especially those that criticized President Obama when he negotiated bailout loans to the auto industry after the 2008 financial crisis.
Republican Alabama Senator Richard Shelby, Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said he didn’t understand the logic of giving cash payments to people who have not lost their jobs during the coronavirus crisis.
“I personally think that if we’re going to help people we should direct the cash payments maybe as a supplemental to unemployment, not to the people who are working every day, just a blank check to everybody in America making up to $75,000,” Shelby said. “I don’t see the logic of that.”
Another Republican leader, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, argued the direct payments would have a greater impact once the spread of the virus is contained and people begin to get back to their normal routines.
Democrats are planning to unveil their own proposals.