Black women open up about issues hitting them during pandemic

Posted at 6:00 PM, May 13, 2021

CLEVELAND — It’s no secret that the effects of this pandemic have been hard on women.

In 2020, more than two million women left the workforce, creating a domino effect when it comes to financial wealth, health, and mental well-being within families.

A study by the McKinsey Global Institute revealed the impact on Black women, is disproportionate— and the issues are layered.

“It was horrible. It was the worst time I can say in my whole entire life," Treasa Mays said.

Over the last year, just about everything that could go wrong for Mays, did.

In July 2020, the single mother and home healthcare worker lost her job, and ultimately she and her 10-year-old son were left with no place to live.

“I had friends who would buy hotel rooms for me for the weekend or say ‘Hey you can come stay with me.’ But they already had so much going on,” said Mays.

Mays quickly went through the money she had saved up, and by the fall, found things continuing to spiral.

That’s when she was told her son could no longer attend the school he was enrolled in due to a change in address.

“From November to January, he didn’t have any school at all. He was having emotional issues, he was misbehaving. Everything was just completely out of order. My whole life just went completely down the drain. And I was depressed,” said Mays.

Despite her willingness to step into just about any job she could find, the job offers were not coming in.

“I didn’t have an extensive background. I have been to vocational schools but I’m not a college-educated Black woman that can just go and get any job,” said Mays.

Ella Thomas has heard similar stories over and over since the pandemic began. She’s the Executive Director of the Thea Bowman Center, which focuses on providing food, tutoring, and G.E.D. opportunities to those in Cleveland’s Mt. Pleasant neighborhood.

Thomas told News 5 it’s a community that was already struggling before the pandemic with 64% of residents living at or below the poverty line.

She says, “just the fact that the Mt. Pleasant community is predominantly African-American as a whole and was lacking in, as I said, not only the Digital Divide, but also it's a food desert in terms of having grocery stores and what have you available in the community. It was already in a state of despair, I would say, and so the pandemic didn't help it at all.”

The Bureau of Labor and Statistics says black women have suffered the steepest decline of any group when it comes to the employment to population ratio— which has seen a 6% drop since last the pandemic began.

It’s now less than 55%.

“Women are about 52% of the number that come in with children and families. I would say that women probably struggle more than the average person in that community,” said Thomas.

Thomas says the demand for meals and the center’s weekly food pantry has more than doubled since the pandemic started.

The center is also trying to help with the community’s digital divide after remote learning became mandatory, and children oftentimes had no internet, or worse.

“There was there were no computers available to students in the community, and that was huge. Parents didn't know what to do or how to do it. And they themselves, as parents, even after the students got computers, found it very difficult to maneuver or to work with their children in terms of use the computer because they didn’t know how to use the computers themselves,” said Thomas.

For Mays, things are now looking up.

She was able to secure an apartment and a job in-home healthcare.

Her son is now back in school, bringing home promising grades.

She’s a long way from the despair of last year but said she hopes more stakeholders will step up to fill the void black women are experiencing in this pandemic.

“We don’t have that help. We’re already struggling with being single moms and Lord knows what else,” said Mays.

Thomas agrees, “The powers that be would have would be involved in this and making sure that the communities that they are being taken care of.”

Thursday at 6:45 p.m., join News 5 for a live Facebook conversation on the issues Black women are facing during this pandemic, the resources available, and the help that is still needed.

To learn more, click here.

Join us on our News 5 Facebook page for that conversation featuring several panelists to discuss the topic.