Delta Variant Is Hurting Americans' Income

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New data shows that the variant is already taking an economic toll.

Earlier this summer, it seemed like things had taken a turn for the better on the coronavirus front. But then the Delta variant took hold, and now COVID-19 cases are surging across the country, leaving many people scared and frustrated.

The Delta variant is certainly a major health concern. And new data reveals that it may already be negatively impacting Americans' finances.

A harsh financial hit

A recent Morning Consult report found that the Delta variant is causing an uptick in income loss. Its weekly Lost Pay/Income Tracker, which measures the share of U.S. adults who are experiencing a loss in wages, rose to 13% for the week ending Sept. 11. That's an increase from a pandemic low of 11.4% for the week ending Aug. 14.

One reason the increase is disturbing is because it's coming as school gets back in session. Many parents may have had to cut their hours at work in the absence of having access to childcare. But on a national level, schools were largely reopened for full-time, in-person learning by the week ending Sept. 11 -- yet Americans reported an overall loss in wages regardless.

Part of the reason wages could have dropped is that businesses may be downsizing staff or cutting hours due to pandemic-related uncertainty. Plus, the Delta variant may be changing consumers' habits.

Now that the outbreak has taken a turn for the worse, some consumers may be opting to stay out of stores. That could be hurting small businesses that don't have setups in place to ship goods and instead rely on in-person foot traffic to stay afloat.

Similarly, some people may be staying out of restaurants due to COVID-related fears. And that could be impacting workers in the food services industry -- particularly those who rely heavily on tips as a substantial portion of their income.

In fact, according to Morning Consult's latest data set, food and beverage workers were the most likely to have experienced a dip in wages. For the week ending Sept. 11, there was a 25.7% reported decline in income, up from 19.1% for the four weeks prior. Leisure and hospitality workers also saw their earnings take a big hit, with 19.5% reporting income loss.

Compensating for lost earnings

If your income has taken a beating in recent weeks, there are a few moves you may want to make. First, reassess your budget. You may have to cut back on spending in flexible categories, like leisure, if you're not earning enough to cover your monthly bills without dipping into savings or racking up debt. And if you're already limited to essential expenses, see if it's possible to eke out savings by getting a roommate temporarily to share your housing expenses or by carpooling to work to save money on fuel.

Next, if your wages have been cut at your main job, see if getting a side job is possible. If you've experienced income loss due to your hours being reduced, you may have time on your hands to pick up another gig that helps make up the difference.

Finally, see if you're eligible for unemployment benefits. You may be entitled to a partial benefit depending on the extent to which your hours were reduced.

It's unfortunate that the Delta variant is not only causing a health crisis, but is also setting a lot of people back financially. Do your best to protect yourself if your wages have taken a hit. With any luck, that hit will be temporary, but you should still do everything in your power to safeguard your finances during this volatile time.

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