Coronavirus's social fracture

Despite the injection of public money, the response to the poverty generated by covid has been insufficient

Along with the dramatic effects on health - we have already reached 15,000 deaths - and healthcare, Catalan society is paying a huge economic and social bill for the coronavirus. A bill that is also a fracture. A few days ago, social organisations warned that 90% of them will end the year with losses due to their over-exertion in order to attend to needs which have skyrocketed. One out of every three entities has had to ask for loans. "The economic situation of social entities is at the limit and puts their viability at risk," warns the Third Sector Committee. In addition to the emergency actions they have had to take, they are also suffering from the delay in payment of 256 million by the different administrations: the main late payer is the Catalan government, which is responsible for 63% of these delays. We find, then, that the situation on the streets is critical due to the plummeting income of many families, and that neither the administrations nor the entities have sufficient capacity to face the situation.

Oxfam Intermón has calculated that in 2020 poverty will increase in Catalonia by 9.4%, while the Gini coefficient, which measures inequality, will rise by 1.2 points. The number of people living below the poverty line in 2019 stood at 19.5% of the population, a percentage that had been improving in recent years (in 2018 it was 21.3%) but is now suddenly experiencing a major increase. The deficient implementation of the minimum vital income (from the first moment there was an administrative collapse due to the great demand for aid), the delays in furlough payments and the insufficient (and again inefficient) offer of aid to the self-employed are pushing many families to limit situations. As the people in charge of the social entities on the street explain, they are attending to people who have never had to ask for food or aid of any kind before. They are the new poor. And then there are the already precarious groups, where a bad situation is just getting worse, with immigration as the weakest link in the chain, but also women and children. Poverty, then, makes inequalities grow because it also grows unequally.

As long as Covid-19 remains rampant and, therefore, restrictive measures of social life are required, with the economic impact that they have, the scourge of poverty will continue to be present. The possibility of another economic and social shock as we exit the health crisis due to the disappearance of the furlough scheme, which until now has supported many businesses and families, is also to be feared. It remains to be seen, therefore, how we will get out of this double health and economic crisis. For the time being, at least in Catalonia and throughout Spain, not even the international slogan in favour of public debt has been able to prevent a sharp increase in poverty: the administrations' response has been slow, scarce and clumsy. We will see what happens once the virus begins to be subdued.

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