New Data Suggest Renters Among Most At-Risk For Unemployment

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BINGHAMTON, NY (WSKG) — Millions of people are still out of work as upstate New York slowly starts to reopen its economy, and new research suggests low-income renters are among the hardest hit.

Russell Weaver, who’s an economic geographer with Cornell University’s School of Industrial Labor Relations, intends to research cities across New York.  So far, he sees patterns in Buffalo and Rochester that indicate low-income renters will be most affected by job losses caused by COVID-19.

In this March 18, 2020 file photo, visitors to the Department of Labor are turned away at the door by personnel due to closures over coronavirus concerns in New York. A record-high number of people applied for unemployment benefits last week as layoffs engulfed the United States in the face of a near-total economic shutdown caused by the coronavirus. The surge in weekly applications for benefits far exceeded the previous record set in 1982. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)

“For the households that have employed members who are in these at risk positions—these positions at risk of being laid off—renters are disproportionately included among them, and low-income renters, in particular, are more likely to have all of their income earned in at-risk occupation,” explained Weaver.

Weaver searches for regional patterns that can help him understand the nuances between localities, and how economic changes can effect each differently.

During the pandemic, his focus is on how the virus itself impacts some communities more than others, and how those patterns can link with other inequities, such as income, poverty, race and ethnicity.

“We’re trying to elucidate some of those issues because one thing that a crisis is good for is that it opens policy windows,” Weaver said.

One example of a policy change that could grow out of the COVID-19 pandemic is rent relief.  Such a bill, which would suspend rent and mortgage payments, is now before the New York State Senate.

Full disclosure: Cornell University is a WSKG Underwriter.