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CT Mirror Series Follows Connecticut’s Uneven Recovery From COVID-19

John Locher

As Connecticut pulls out of the pandemic, its recovery is not uniform. Cities have been hit harder than the suburbs and those at the lower end of the economic ladder are still struggling to find work.

Housing and food insecurity remain a problem. Jacqueline Rabe Thomas with the Connecticut Mirror produced a series on “CT’s Uneven Recovery.” WSHU's Terry Sheridan spoke with her about her reporting.

Terry Sheridan, WSHU: Jacqueline, we heard all the reporting how the pandemic has affected people differently but the statistics that you report on are eye-popping. Those who already were economically disadvantaged before the pandemic seem to be the hardest hit again.

Jacqueline Rabe Thomas: When you look at the data, it shows that there was a staggering number of jobs lost during the pandemic and there has been a recovery so far. About 58% of the jobs lost almost overnight when the pandemic shut everything down have been recovered, but when you look at those who make below $30,000 a year before the pandemic hit, their employment levels are still 28% below what they were before the pandemic touched down. While the remainder of Connecticut residents have largely recovered and their unemployment levels are about what they were pre-pandemic levels.

TS: Now the problems that are more pronounced than in Connecticut cities when it comes to small businesses and housing. One thing you bring up in your reporting is that some people are saying that the eviction moratorium was actually bad for poor communities. Now, that seems very counterintuitive.

JRT: Connecticut has had an eviction moratorium in place for quite some time and you know our evictions have started to go back up again. They're about half of where they were pre-pandemic levels.

Judges ordering 75 people from their homes every single week and many many more still having to leave because evictions were filed and they were settled and they just left on there on a cord before it needed to get to that level.

But what you're hearing from landlords is that they're being much more stringent as far as who they will rent to. They're being much more cautious when they look at the background if someone has an eviction on their record because it's so difficult right now to evict someone who is not paying their rent.

They just can't risk that chance. This is disproportionately impacting certain communities that have higher proportions of people who are renters — that's typically urban centers because homeownership rates are just so low and in those communities and so what you see the rates of people who are able to find places to live is just, they're really struggling right now.

TS: Now, your three-part series wraps up next week with a look at food insecurity and hunger. How has it gotten worse? Is it just a matter of scale? You know we saw the pictures of the food bank at Rentschler Field and things like that or are the new issues and new problems developing?

JRT: Hunger has not gone away. It is lingering during the pandemic when you look at the call volume of people calling in Hunger Connecticut's hotline seeking food assistance, it's still about 50% higher than it was pre-pandemic.

When you look at the United Way 211 call center, it's still about two-and-a-half times the call volume that they're getting.

If you go out and visit one of the three locations that have meal drive-thrus, you still see the very, very long lines of people who are waiting for food.

Those lines can't go on forever. Venues are starting to reopen; they need their parking lot back to host those events. The place in Norwalk — it's at a beach. Summer's coming. So there seems to be sort of this looming deadline of those lines closing soon. So now the question is whether people will start to enroll on food stamps or not.

Jacqueline Rabe Thomas is an education and housing reporter with the CT Mirror.

Terry Sheridan is an award-winning audio journalist. As part of his duties as Senior Director of News and Education, he developed a unique and award-winning internship program with the Stony Brook University School of Communications and Journalism, where he is also a lecturer and adjunct professor. He also mentors graduate fellows from the Sacred Heart University Graduate School of Communication, Media, and the Arts.