Pandemic pushes some Lehigh Valley families into poverty for the first time, and more remain at risk

Written by on July 28, 2020

Pandemic pushes some Lehigh Valley families into poverty for the first time, and more remain at risk

By Genesis Ortega

July 28, 2020

Some Lehigh Valley are families struggling to make ends meet are being pushed into poverty by the pandemic and even more are at risk. The topic was one focus for community leaders who took part in a virtual panel discussion on health inequities hosted by Lehigh University last week.

In the Lehigh Valley, 25 percent of families are living paycheck to paycheck – and in Allentown, it’s nearly 60 percent. 

That’s according to the United Way of Pennsylvania. VP Jill Pereira took part in the Lehigh University webinar, and said her organization has been tracking this population – known as ALICE, Asset Limited Income Constrained Employed for the past year and a half. And she says they’re especially at risk now.  

“Pre-COVID, one in four families across the state were falling in that ALICE category, and so they weren’t quite poor enough to meet the threshold for state and federal support. But they certainly were not making enough money to make everything go well. And so they were living on the edge,” said Pereira.

Dr. Hasshan Batts of Allentown’s Promise Neighborhoods was also on the panel. He said he’s seeing that first hand, as people who were already wrestling housing instability and food insecurity are facing new crises in the pandemic.

“People that were stable got pushed to the margins…so we have this new population of people in need that have never in their lives been in need.”

Batts said this created a “swell” of need for food; economic; and mental health support. 

The “Population Health Colloquium” is a bi-weekly series hosted by Lehigh’s College of Health. The series focuses on COVID-19 and examining the most vulnerable populations and longstanding inequities. The next event is on August 5th and will focus on indigenous communities. 

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