Policy Issue

Policy Watch: COVID-19 & Unemployment

Health impacts of a financial problem

June 09, 2020

While restrictions may be lifting, the effects of the pandemic will be felt in MetroWest for the foreseeable future. Monthly town unemployment rates available from the Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance show that there were nearly 5 times as many unemployed MetroWest individuals in April 2020 compared to April 2019. Based on the same data, 12.38% of the labor force was unemployed in April 2020, compared with 2.27% in April 2019. Latest-available estimates from another source found that by the final week of May 2020, some zip codes in MetroWest experienced unemployment rates over 20%.

The implications of the rapid increase in unemployment extend beyond financial and economic concerns. Unemployment can take a psychological toll, particularly during a time when other opportunities for socializing are at a minimum. More unemployed people will place a greater strain on social service agencies; some MetroWest agencies have reported new client enrollment rates that are triple their usual average. Additionally, reduced income qualifies some households for Medicaid, adding to an already long list of patients looking for doctors who take MassHealth. These impacts will last beyond the safer-at-home advisory, as debts that have accumulated over the course of the pandemic come due and threaten household resources for housing, food, and other basic needs for months ahead.

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