“And with everything I hear about mutations and variants, it’s scary,” he said. He is not vaccinated yet. He said he’s been dealing with three deaths in the family including his grandmother who’s been struggling for a long time and couldn’t find the time to get his vaccine. Now with the pandemic taking a turn and mask mandates being lifted for vaccinated Hoosiers, Jones feels vulnerable and anxious. He is not confident people will keep their masks on if they are not vaccinated. The pandemic has had a compounded impact on people like Jones.
After all, his grocery store job is the only one that provides a steady paycheck. Still, he can’t afford to sign up for any benefits like health insurance. “It will take about $140 dollars out of my paycheck,” he said. “I can’t afford that. It will come out of the budget I use to get food or pay rent.” “I have to do that to keep a roof above my head,” he said. As a grocery store worker, Jones is considered part of the essential workforce. He worked at the grocery store since the beginning of the pandemic. And even though Jones has severe asthma, he couldn’t stay home.
With all the jobs Jones takes on, he is still struggling to afford his asthma medical supplies like inhalers—leaving him scrambling to borrow from other people. But it doesn’t pay enough. Besides his job at the store, Jones has at least four other side hustles—DJ, jewelry designer, freelance contractor among others.
For example, while grocery store workers have been at the frontlines of the pandemic, they were largely not prioritized in vaccination efforts. They also have fewer options to work remotely or take time off. Work and health These frontline jobs are typically categorized as “precarious employment,” said Ahonen, who studies how work and housing affect population health and well-being.
African Americans are overrepresented in essential jobs that—compared to the national average—pay less, offer limited benefits, provide less stability and, during the pandemic, sometimes exposed them to COVID-19 at higher rates than other groups. “When our systems are shaken and disrupted as they have been by the pandemic, those people whose employment was most precarious to begin with are the first ones to suffer,” said Emily Ahonen, associate professor at the Indiana University Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Healths.
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- Pandemic Confirms How Low Quality Jobs Affect African American Health – 89.3 WFPL News Louisville
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