- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 16, 2023

Layoffs and furloughs caused by COVID-19 restrictions and the switch to remote work caused more job losses and financial hardships for adults with disabilities than the non-disabled, a new study found.

Seven public health researchers published the study Thursday in JAMA Network Open, examining a weighted sample of 223,796,314 adults based on data the U.S. Census Bureau collected from August 2021 to March 2022.

They found that larger percentages of people with disabled vision, hearing, cognition and movement reported unemployment and financial hardships than the non-disabled in the previous month.

“We found people with disabilities were more likely to report household employment loss and financial hardship during the initial COVID-19 pandemic, which are especially pronounced among racial and ethnic minority respondents,” the researchers wrote. “These findings suggest people with disabilities may be disproportionately affected by the initial pandemic and may require additional resources and policy strategies (eg, training programs, workplace accommodations) as several labor markets adapt to the pandemic (eg, shifting to remote working).”

Among the weighted sample of respondents to the Census Household Pulse Survey, 17.1% reported losing their jobs in the previous four weeks and 26.1% reported struggling to cover household financial expenses.

Those numbers were highest among Blacks and Hispanics with disabilities, respectively, and slightly higher among Asians with disabilities than Whites. They were also higher among people who reported suffering from multiple physical disabilities than those who said they or someone in their household suffered from only one.

However, the study noted “limited information” on the reasons and length for unemployment and the role of economic stimulus checks in people not working.

“Notwithstanding, this study highlights the prevalence of employment loss and financial hardship during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, which can inform initiatives (eg, expanding adoption of assistive technologies) to assist people with disabilities to regain and maintain meaningful employment as one mechanism to reduce financial hardship among this population,” the researchers wrote.

For more information, visit The Washington Times COVID-19 resource page.

• Sean Salai can be reached at ssalai@washingtontimes.com.

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