A national poll of state and local employees finds that African American workers are more concerned than their colleagues about the potential health and economic impacts of COVID-19. Thirty-nine percent of African American state and local employees are worried about contracting the coronavirus at work as compared to 22 percent of all other survey respondents. Twenty-one percent of African American workers are concerned about a reduction in pay, which is nearly twice the level of other state and local employees (11 percent).
As the pandemic lingers, 39 percent of African American state and local employees expect to take on more debt in the next year. By comparison, 22 percent of all other survey respondents say they anticipate taking on more debt. Debt already is a problem for 69 percent of African American state and local employees, as compared with 53 percent of all other survey respondents.
These findings are contained in a new infographic from the Center for State and Local Government Excellence (SLGE) and ICMA-RC, African American State and Local Employee Views on COVID-19. This research is a supplement to a wide-ranging analysis of state and local employees’ views detailed in the recent report, Public Sector Employee Views on Finances and Employment Outlook Due to COVID-19.
Despite their worries, the research finds that African American respondents are more likely to express positive feelings while at work as it relates to serving their communities during the time of COVID-19. Forty one percent said they feel grateful, and 23 percent are optimistic. For all other survey respondents, 31 percent indicated they felt grateful while 14 percent felt optimistic.
“As millions of state and local workers remain on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic, our research indicates that African Americans see higher health and financial risks. This may correlate to the greater incidence and virulence of COVID-19 among Americans of color,” said Gerald Young, SLGE senior research associate.
“Also troubling is that even before the pandemic, 41 percent of African Americans working in state and local jurisdictions did not have emergency funds set aside for unexpected expenses. Yet, despite these challenges, African Americans are feeling less anxious and pessimistic than their fellow workers,” Young noted. “We hope this research helps state and local employers with workforce management programs, especially as jurisdictions grapple with employee wellness, recruitment and retention during these trying times.”
African Americans represent 18 percent of the U.S. state and local workforce, and state and local governments employ about 19 million workers. This research is based upon a survey of 1,008 full-time state and local government employees conducted by SLGE and Greenwald & Associates from May 4 through May 20, 2020. The final data were weighted by gender, age, household income, and industry type to reflect the distribution of the state and local government workforce as found in the U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey.

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