Coronavirus Crisis Underlines Weak Spots in U.S. Economic System

“We went from 0 to 60 in five seconds,” said Kim Guadagno, Fulfill’s chief executive and president. Hurricane Sandy in 2012 was devastating, she said, but this is worse because “the need is widespread, with no end in sight.”

Last year, before the pandemic, Feeding America, the nation’s largest network of food banks, fed 40 million individuals, many of them children, said Claire Babineaux-Fontenot, the chief executive. “It does underscore the fact that so many people in our country live on a precipice,” she said.

Housing also feels less secure. A recent survey by SurveyMonkey and Apartment List, an online rental marketplace based in San Francisco, showed that a quarter of renters paid only part or none of their rent this month.

“These numbers are extremely worrying,” said Igor Popov, the chief economist at Apartment List. “In a typical economic downturn, when incomes take a hit, many families can downsize or move in together to minimize their rent payments. At a time when we’re sheltering in place, even moves to downgrade housing are difficult.”

Those who have been squeezed the most can expect to be squeezed even more.

Before the coronavirus outbreak, Destination: Home, a Silicon Valley nonprofit that works to prevent homelessness, was on track to give $7 million in financial assistance to about 1,000 families. In March, the organization raised an additional $11 million for coronavirus relief, but was overwhelmed with demand — 4,500 requests in three days — and stopped accepting applications. The waiting list has close to 10,000 people and is growing each day.

“I thought there was nothing that I haven’t been involved in when it comes to homelessness, said Jennifer Loving, chief executive of Destination: Home, “but this is incomprehensibly catastrophic.”

In a report on the economic impact of the coronavirus, the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond warns that the largest burdens will fall on people who are already the most vulnerable — people in low-paying, insecure jobs.

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