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Hourly Workers Are Hurting Big Time Because of COVID-19

By Maurie Backman - Mar 21, 2020 at 12:18PM

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It's not shocking, but upsetting nonetheless.

As COVID-19 continues to batter the stock market and U.S. economy, millions of workers are suddenly seeing their incomes plummet. And while salaried employees are by no means immune to this trend, hourly workers are being hit even harder, according to a new survey by Branch.

Hours are being slashed

An estimated 56% of hourly workers are experiencing a reduction in hours or unpaid leave. Only 33% of hourly employees are managing to maintain their typical level of pay, either by working the same number of hours as usual or getting paid leave courtesy of their employers.

Not surprisingly, restaurant and food service employees are hurting the most. An astounding 82% of hourly workers in this industry are getting their hours slashed or are being forced to take unpaid leave. Hourly employees in hospitality and retail are also feeling the pain.

Man with somber expression leaning against building


Hourly workers aren't getting financial support

An estimated 25% of salaried workers are getting some type of paid leave from their employers. By contrast, only 13% of hourly workers are saying the same. As such, 91% of hourly workers are now worried about affording groceries, while 76% are concerned with paying utility bills. And 60% fear they won't be able to keep up with their rent or homeownership costs due to changes in income.

Resources for hourly workers struggling with income loss

If you're an hourly worker who's now without an income due to COVID-19, you may be entitled to unemployment benefits. Eligibility for those benefits will hinge on the state you're filing in, so consult your appropriate department of labor for more details. And also, file your claim as quickly as possible to avoid a needless lag.

Meanwhile, a number of utility companies are easing up on customers whose incomes are slashed because of the COVID-19 situation. Specifically, many providers will give you more time to pay your bills and won't turn off your service due to a lack of payment, at least for the next month or two. A number of telecom companies are doing the same, allowing customers more leeway with regard to paying for phone or internet service.

Furthermore, if you're worried about paying your rent, mortgage, or credit card bills, reach out to your landlord, loan servicer, or credit card company and ask for relief. Chances are, you'll get it in some shape or form.

It's not easy being an hourly worker given today's circumstances. And with public health officials saying that social distancing measures could be in place for months, it may take some time for your income to get back to normal. If that's the situation you're in, take advantage of whatever resources are available to you, and also, stay in touch with your employer, even if you're not reporting to work. With any luck, you'll have a job waiting once things normalize and businesses can once again start opening their doors, but remember, this crisis will, unfortunately, grind a lot of smaller businesses into the ground. Press your employer for details in this regard as the situation evolves so you know whether to hang tight or keep looking.

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