Everything At Once – A Panel Discussion Centered on a Collection of Personal Stories from Women Impacted by the Pandemic and Its Continued ImpactDecember 4, 2023
A new report details firsthand accounts of the pandemic’s impact on economic well-being and mental health
From left to right: Commissioner Lila Garcia-Brower, Tiffany Bartow – CCSWG, Ruth Mayfield, Assemblymember Lori D. Wilson, Raul Chavez – Throughline Research, Amy Everitt – Golden State Opportunity, Teresa Smith – Dreams for Change, Christopher Sanchez – Western Center on Law and Poverty.
SACRAMENTO, CA – A report published today by Golden State Opportunity (GSO) highlights the ongoing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on California women’s well-being and economic status. This report was presented at a roundtable in Sacramento earlier today, which brought together community organizations and policy leaders to discuss the findings.
“It is critical that policymakers understand the pandemic is not over. We are not done helping women and girls who saw their financial hopes and dreams dissipated by the impacts of the pandemic,” said Amy Everitt, president of Golden State Opportunity. “We must work together in community to advocate and secure support for programs that rebuild economic stability for women, children, and families throughout the state.”
Some key findings of the report include:
Plans to create savings, purchase a house, or have money for retirement had to be discarded to cover the rent, health care costs, and other basic needs.
The mental and emotional traumas they experienced as the caretakers of their family’s well-being loom large over their day-to-day lives.
Rising inflation and California’s high cost of living further make it nearly impossible for our participants to achieve any degree of economic recovery.
Women overwhelmingly cited that the impact of the pandemic was still very much a part of their lives: financially, mentally, and emotionally.
Accessing safety-net programs has become more challenging, forcing participants to make nearly impossible financial decisions for their families.
Many women reported feeling like they were starting over due to the impacts of the pandemic, losing all the financial progress they had built in the years prior.
“In 2020, we had to go out and meet people where they were. I shared my story about my health issues and encouraged others to wear masks and follow the guidelines. I was out with information and food donations that we took straight to people’s doorsteps.” said Ruth Mayfair, roundtable participant. “And I am still doing that. The pandemic is still very real for many of us. People are struggling; they have no food, no rental assistance, and we are still scared about our health.”
Participants detailed being forced to make impossible choices between work and family while balancing the need to attend to health challenges. Income that would have gone to creating financial stability had to be used to address emergencies and other priorities for the household.
“The economic impact of the pandemic on women cannot be overstated. Too many women are still struggling with being underemployed and chronically underpaid due to a persistent wage gap that only increased over the past few years,” said CCSWG Executive Director Holly Martinez. “Women in California have always faced challenges, many of which have only been made worse by the pandemic, all while also holding on to the grief of losing loved ones. Women comprise more than half of the essential workforces we all relied on during the crisis and continue to hold up California communities. Women are now, and have always been, essential to our state’s economy and we must invest in meeting their needs now.”
“We are still seeing the impact of the pandemic on women who were already struggling to make ends meet. As California leaders, there is more we can do to support these women by providing the resources they need to have greater access to affordable housing, reliable transportation, and quality child care. We must act to ensure families have all the support they need to move out of crisis and into stability,” said Assemblymember Lori Wilson (District 11).
Participants also detailed relying on community-based organizations for assistance; these spaces helped them feel safe and took their backgrounds into account. When participants were able to access wrap-around services, they spoke with greater hope for the future.
“California’s local organizations have played a critical role for community members who need culturally competent support without judgment,” said Teresa Smith, CEO and founder Dreams for Change. ”We must continue to invest in these organizations and strengthen their capacity to do this work and outreach to the community. They are our most effective way of reaching into the community to ensure everyone has access to the services they need to thrive.”
The report was a culmination of six discussions with 64 women across the state in roundtables held in Los Angeles, San Fernando Valley, Imperial and San Mateo counties. Built upon the work of the California Commission on the Status of Women and Girls (CCSWG), which released the California Blueprint for Women’s Pandemic Economic Recovery in 2022. That Blueprint found that women experienced greater loss in jobs, income, and childcare services and underscored the need to invest in the economic well–being of women.
Building on the charge to examine the long-term income of the pandemic, the CCSWG commissioned GSO to create roundtables around the state for women to share their pandemic experiences and how the pandemic’s impact continues to shape their lives. GSO hosted these discussions in partnership with community-based organizations Barrio Action, Black Women for Wellness, Dreams for Change, New Economics for Women, and Peninsula Conflict Resolution Center.
The California Commission on the Status of Women and Girls promotes equality and justice for all women and girls by advocating on their behalf with the Governor, the Legislature, and other public policymakers, and by educating the public in key issue areas identified by the Commission as significantly affecting women and girls.