‘I Actually Cherished My Job’: Why the Pandemic Has Hit These Employees Tougher

There is a widespread belief that people with disabilities do not have to work because they can earn extra safety income or SSI. However, Martha Jackson, a deputy commissioner in the mayor’s office for people with disabilities, said SSI only pays about $ 800 a month in New York – enough to survive on other perks but barely a ticket in convenience. For some who still live with their parents and only work part-time, having a job was a step towards independence.

As the city gradually pulls back from the lockdown, many people with disabilities face the prospect of retraining or switching fields to re-enter the job market. “In many cases, it’s that time again for these job seekers,” said Ms. Jackson.

Even in good times, people with disabilities often stay behind. Fewer than half of New York City’s disabled working-age adults are employed. Before the pandemic, their unemployment rate was 12.2 percent – more than three times the city’s overall 4 percent rate and higher than other groups who typically struggle to find work, including black and Latin American workers.

Now they face several hurdles. Many organizations that help them find work are in dire straits themselves. Disabled people are also at a higher risk of developing Covid-19 and suffering from complications. And they compete for jobs against non-disabled people who are still affected by high unemployment.

There are currently no unemployment figures available for disabled workers in the city. But the overall unemployment rate in New York City has more than tripled since 2019. If the increase in workers with disabilities equals only that, it would exceed 35 percent.


March 5, 2021, 11:10 a.m. ET

“I don’t think we have someone who has lost their job and who has already been hired,” said Andrea Goodman, director of a job program for people with special needs at the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan, one of about 15 organizations supported by the center For questions were asked about an urban future for the report “First Out, Last Back” published on Friday.

In 2017, Zachary Lichterman, who has learning difficulties and mental health problems, got a job with a catering contractor through the JCC program. “I would organize events and then clean up afterwards,” said Mr. Lichterman, 36. At the New York Bar Association, he said, “I loved making the beer fridge – I was good at it.” He was on leave in March and released in September.

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