As job, housing and pay inequalities worsen, Coloradans say mantra to “build back stronger” rings hollow
To hear the leaders of state government tell it, Colorado has taken the beating of a lifetime from the coronavirus pandemic, but the state will emerge better for it. “Build back stronger” is the mantra both in the state legislature this year and was a theme of Gov. Jared Polis’ recent State of the State Address.
“Stronger,” in their view, means a more resilient and prosperous Colorado for all. But vulnerable people and their advocates find that slogan rings a bit hollow — that it’s hard to look ahead considering Colorado’s long-simmering inequalities in pay, employment, housing and hunger have expanded. Pick nearly any indicator, and it will show Colorado has become a less equal place.
While the state’s billionaires have recently gotten richer, surveys show half of parents can’t afford diapers. Hunger has soared. The unemployment rate among the lowest-paid Coloradans has been much higher than white-collar workers throughout the pandemic; state data showed that in October, those making under $27,000 were 88 times more likely to have lost a job than those making over $60,000.
Kenna Dickard coordinates aid for the poor and needy out of a Boulder nonprofit. Her caseload has doubled on many days in the pandemic, and the behavioral health specialist sees more people who need help to “just stay warm and alive.” In her experience, there isn’t enough money or food aid or housing to go around. She is giving up.
“No amount of time off is going to bring me back from the compassion fatigue, the secondary trauma of having to tell 200 people that what they need doesn’t exist anymore, that there’s not enough resources,” the 25-year-old Dickard said. “That’s hit so hard. Two weeks over Christmas isn’t going to fix it. And so I’m moving on.”
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