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Report Finds Economic Distress Increasing for Tennessee Families

State’s low-income, women and residents of color hit hardest financially

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (December 22, 2020) – Two in five (43%) Tennesseans have lost employment income since March and a growing number of households are having difficulty paying basic expenses, according to The Covid-19 Recession in Tennessee fact sheet ThinkTennessee released today.

Using data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey, a new tool designed to rapidly collect and report information about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, the report both finds that economic conditions worsened for many Tennessee families between August and December 2020 and highlights important policy levers for state and local leaders to consider to mitigate ongoing economic hardship.

“While the Tennessee economy has recovered from a high of 15.5% unemployment in April, the rising number of Covid-19 infections makes our economic progress incredibly fragile, especially with respect to the economic security of Tennessee families,” said Hunter Blair, Policy and Research Director at ThinkTennessee. “From food insufficiency to rent delinquency, economic adversity is affecting an incredible number of Tennesseans, driving renewed urgency for greater policy support.”

The report finds that Tennessee women, communities of color, and low-income residents are experiencing financial difficulties at a higher rate than the public overall, illustrating where targeted intervention is most necessary.

Key Findings:

  • Unemployment may be decreasing, but employment income is also down for Tennesseans. 43% of Tennesseans have experienced a loss of employment income since March, and a quarter (24%) expect to lose it in the next four weeks.
  • A growing number of Tennessee households are struggling to make ends meet. 34% of all Tennessee households say they are struggling to pay usual household expenses. Half report turning to credit cards and loans to meet their weekly spending needs.
  • Women, Tennesseans of color, and low-income Tennesseans are being hit by economic hardships hardest. The percentage reporting difficulty paying household expenses is highest among Tennesseans who are Black (47%), Latino (35%) or women (34%).
  • With Covid-19 cases increasing this winter, Tennessee working families need policies that support them. Economic supports like expanded unemployment insurance and rent assistance can help families in need now, and paid family leave and debt relief can help kickstart a full economic recovery.

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ThinkTennessee is a nonpartisan, results-oriented think tank that uses research and advocacy to build a state where all Tennesseans are civically engaged and economically secure. Working in partnership with state and local leaders, we drive evidence-based policies that strengthen the voice of voters, better support working families and move Tennessee forward. For more about ThinkTennessee, visit www.thinktennessee.org.

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