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Syracuse Survey Shows Increase in Financial Instability due to COVID-19

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Courtesy David Wilson
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A survey of more than 200 Syracuse residents during the COVID-19 shutdown confirmed that the pandemic exacerbated an already dire situation for the city’s most vulnerable residents.  Greater Syracuse H.O.P.E., an anti-poverty nonprofit, ran the survey in June.

Executive Director Ocesa Keaton says before the pandemic, 14% of respondents said they were already struggling to pay their rent or mortgage on time.     

“After the pandemic, almost 28% said they were fearful about how they were going to pay their rent. In a city like Syracuse that’s already struggling with a lack of affordable quality housing, that number is frightening,” Keaton said.

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Credit Courtesy Greater Syracuse H.O.P.E.
Over 50% of survey respondents reported a change in their employment due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 22% of respondents lost their jobs.

Contributing factors could be the half of respondents who experienced a change in employment since March, and the 25% who lost their jobs.  Keaton says the state moratorium on evictions combined with city and county rent relief measures are keeping people in their homes for now.  But she also worries about the landlords who could be losing their only source of income.  Keaton says the survey also exposed other gaps, such as food insecurity, transportation, and internet access, which she will forward to policymakers and partner organizations.

“We'll use to see what problems may be on the horizon, so that we aren’t caught off guard if there is a second wave of this pandemic,” she said.

This is where she says federal relief for local governments and safety net organizations is essential to avoiding housing, food, and educational lapses.  H.O.P.E. recently hosted a Facebook Live town hall called "Anti-Poverty Work is Anti-Racist Work," in order to better inform policymakers. Keaton says Congress needs to know that people are desperate.

“We’re suffering here, and we don’t have a moment to waste while you guys have this power struggle. This is not something that should be politicized because we’re in survival mode in this city and in many cities across the country.”

She plans to reissue the survey within the next few days to get an update on how residents have been coping since the first survey closed June 5.  Full results from the first survey are available here.