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Black women feel outsize burden from the Covid-19 economy, survey finds

"I am counting on the stimulus check," said one single mother working and helping her child through virtual school. According to a new survey, she is not alone.
Image: JoAnn Hargrove had to stop working full time to help her 7-year-old daughter with virtual learning.
JoAnn Hargrove had to stop working full time to help her 7-year-old daughter with virtual learning.Courtesy JoAnn Hargrove

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Like many single parents, JoAnn Hargrove has been struggling throughout the pandemic.

Her 7-year-old daughter has spent the past year at home, learning virtually. That meant Hargrove, a postal carrier in Pittsburgh, had to stop working during the week. She's now collecting partial unemployment and working on Saturdays and Sundays, while her mother watches her daughter.

"I am literally living paycheck to paycheck," said Hargrove, 37.

"Food is so expensive," she added. "I didn't realize that when I was making the money I was making."

Fortunately, Hargrove has some savings, which are dwindling. She's trying to hold off using what's left so she has a cushion when government aid runs out.

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"I am counting on the stimulus check," Hargrove said, referring to the next payment working its way through Congress.

She's not alone. Almost one-third, or 29 percent, of U.S. adults are counting on another round of government relief to get by, and another 24 percent say they need it but doubt it will happen, a new CNBC + Acorns Invest in You survey conducted by SurveyMonkey found.

People of color are more likely to be relying on the relief, especially Black women. Half of Black Americans and 40 percent of Latinos said they were counting on it, while 57 percent of Black women said the same. In addition, 24 percent of Blacks and Latinos need it but don't think it will come to fruition.

The survey was conducted Feb. 1-8 by SurveyMonkey among a national sample of 6,182 adults.

Many also took emergency measures over the past year to manage their finances. Again, people of color — particularly Black women — felt the biggest impact.

One-quarter of Americans have tapped into their emergency savings or borrowed money from family or friends since the Covid-19 outbreak, the survey found. Almost 40 percent of Black women said the same, compared to 28 percent of Latinas and 27 percent of white women. White (22 percent) and Latino (20 percent) men were the least likely to take such measures, compared to 26 percent of Black men.

When it comes to the previous stimulus relief payments, there is also a racial disparity. When asked what they mostly used the money for, 20 percent of white Americans said they saved it, versus 9 percent of Blacks and 14 percent of Latinos. Blacks and Latinos were more likely to use it to pay their rent or mortgage, 26 percent and 27 percent respectively, versus whites (12 percent).

"There have to be changes in the system and the policies that have basically enabled the level of challenge that we are seeing," said Shannah Tharp Gilliam, director of research and evaluation at Homewood Children's Village.

The nonprofit's mission is to help improve the lives of children and their families in the Homewood neighborhood of Pittsburgh. Its constituents are largely Black. As they struggled during the pandemic, the organization distributed more than 100,000 children's meals, as well as produce, laptops for virtual education, school supply packs and diapers.

"Until we recognize that America is going to rise or fall together, we're going to continue to see these same struggles," said Gilliam, who is also involved in the Black Equity Coalition, a Pittsburgh-based network established to help Black and brown communities navigate Covid-19.

Among the changes she thinks are needed: more opportunities for better wages, legislation that would help those convicted of a crime get second chances to provide for their families, and rethinking qualifications for some entry- and mid-level positions.

On a personal level, those trying to find their financial footing should go back to the fundamentals and have a plan for spending, said certified financial planner Crystal Alford-Cooper, vice president of planning at Glen Echo, Maryland-based Law & Associates.

"We are going to the basics," she said. "We are asking people to start looking at their expenses: what they can do without, you know — going back to the definition of needs versus wants."

Hargrove is doing just that. But her biggest concern is about her job. Her ability to take leave and work only two days a week expires near the end of March, unless it is extended by the post office, she said. If it isn't extended, she has no idea what she'll do.

"I have actually worked hard at everything that I have achieved, up until this moment in my life," she said.

"For something like this to basically take everything away from me, I am concerned about that," she added. "It scares me."

Disclosure: Invest in You: Ready. Set. Grow. is a financial wellness and education initiative from CNBC and Acorns, the micro-investing app. NBCUniversal and Comcast Ventures are investors in Acorns.