Combating Situational Poverty Caused by COVID-19

September 28, 2020

The Fedcap Group is committed to removing barriers to long term economic well-being for the vulnerable and disadvantaged. This includes people with disabilities, the chronically or structurally unemployed, people in recovery, veterans, individuals with mental illness, youth leaving foster care, or people leaving prison or jail. This has been our mission since our founding in 1935.

Over our 85 years, the profile of the people we serve has changed. In the beginning, it was wounded veterans and others with physical disabilities shunned by employers. Some of the individuals we have served were from families who have experienced generational poverty—having been in poverty for at least two generations. Others struggle due to very specific life circumstances—a disability or mental illness that results in a reduced opportunity to obtain and/or maintain living wage jobs. Some experience the stigma associated with having been involved in the criminal justice system.

As we face the impact of COVID 19, we are seeing a new group of individuals struggling with economic well-being—those experiencing “situational poverty”—a lack of resources due to a particular set of events, such as a pandemic. These individuals lost their jobs due to a global health crisis that closed down local businesses around the world. While certainly from time to time we have seen individuals struggling through situational poverty due to a death in the family or unexpected illness, this is widespread and requires a structured response.

Where many of the people The Fedcap Group have served in the past needed to develop both work readiness and entry level career skills, the individuals we are starting to see, as a result of the pandemic, are skilled and have a steady work history. These individuals mirror the characteristics of the unemployed as described by the US Department of Labor—unable to shift to telework, gig workers with no postsecondary education. (Recent job-level analyses from the Department of Labor show that while 2 in 3 workers with a bachelor’s degree or higher could work from home; however, only 1 in 10 workers with less than a high school diploma and 1 in 4 workers with only a high school diploma held jobs that supported teleworking).

As workforce development organizations around the country prepare to serve the new population of individuals in need of job support, we will need to change our approach. As opposed to entry level skills, according to the National Skills Coalition, “working adults need access to upskilling opportunities—and the wraparound services to support their success. A new report found that many workers looking to change careers say they’d need to reskill in order to do so, and only 4 in 10 workers with a high school diploma or less have access to the education and training they want to pursue.”

The Fedcap Group is preparing to serve this new cohort of unemployed by positioning our organization to be able to provide a new array of certifications in high growth sectors, including plumbing, welding and construction. And, because we believe that over the next decade the pathway to economic well-being will come through technology, we are ensuring access to critical training in technology.

This is the time for the nonprofit community, already seasoned in developing an entry level workforce, to step up and assist in the recovery by helping the 13 million unemployed individuals in our country become skilled in new, sustainable careers.