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Coronavirus may accelerate income gap, experts fear

Many Americans live paycheck to paycheck, with little savings to cushion the economic free fall caused by the coronavirus. Economic observers fear that a prolonged shutdown and misdirected stimulus could worsen the nation’s longstanding problems with income inequality.

There are no paychecks and no work-from-home arrangements Columbus News for the cooks, retail clerks, warehouse packers and idled Uber drivers pulling into the parking lot at New Salem Baptist Church.

Some are awaiting unemployment compensation and some aren’t eligible. Most have little savings. All have no choice now but to line up for free food, a step the coronavirus pandemic has imposed on low-income households throughout the nation with dizzying speed.

“I’ve never had to go to a food pantry in my life. This just went really fast,” said Shanell Gray, a North Side resident laid off last month from her job at a hotel.

“I was able to pay my rent for this month,” she said as volunteers packed groceries into her car at the church in Columbus’ Linden neighborhood. “May is the struggle.”

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Meanwhile, the number of coronavirus cases continued to climb in Ohio on Saturday, with confirmed cases standing at 6,187, an increase of 6% over Friday’s numbers posted by the Ohio Department of Health.

The state lists another 63 cases as probable under new reporting guidelines.

The number of confirmed deaths rose from 227 to 242, with five deaths now listed as suspected to be caused by COVID-19.

The statistics show 1,859 hospitalizations in the state for COVID-19, with 572 of those people admitted to intensive care units. The median age of those infected is 54.

Advocates for vulnerable workers and communities say the shutdown quickly revealed gaps in safety-net programs and is threatening to deepen income inequality, a measure that’s grown steadily worse in the United States for years.

They also say policymakers face crucial decisions about Press Release Distribution Services In Columbus where and how to direct massive federal stimulus packages so that recovery — whenever it comes — doesn’t disproportionately benefit wealthy households and corporations well-positioned to rebound.

“We have a choice about what kind of recession and how deep and how bad this is going to get,” said Hannah Halbert, executive director of left-leaning think tank Policy Matters Ohio.

If the public holds elected officials accountable, “then I think that we have a real chance of mitigating the worst harms to families and to Main Street,” she said. “We could come out of this with a more equitable economy. My fear is that this won’t happen.”

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