Memphis poverty rate could drastically increase after COVID-19 pandemic

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The unemployment rate in Memphis has skyrocketed since the coronavirus outbreak began.

There are more than 12,000 new unemployment claims which now equals more than 12,000 families feeling the financial symptoms of COVID-19.

“Generally families with children have the greatest hit, their expenses increase but their income does not,” said Dr. Elena Delavaga, who publishes the annual Memphis Poverty Fact Sheet.

In her latest report, the city’s poverty rate in 2018 was almost 28 percent.

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But because of sudden job losses, Delavaga believes that number could double to 50 percent after the pandemic.

“You know it could be even higher,” Delavaga said. “I really want to be wrong, I really want to be exaggerating but I don’t think I am.

Additionally, Delavaga said child poverty was already at 44 percent.

She expects those numbers to climb even more with Shelby County Schools closing for the rest of the school year.

Related: Tennessee has nearly 250,000 unemployment claims in less than a month

“This is going to have lifelong consequences for children,” Delavaga said. “The growth rate, their brain development is going to get stunted because of lack of opportunity, lack of enrichment, lack of food.”

She added a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures would help ease the impact.

“If we could have a couple of months of not having to pay a mortgage for those who need it, it would be tremendously helpful,” she said.

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