GCACH was built on a strong foundation that uses data to all inform decision making. Dr. Patrick Jones, Executive Director for the Institute for Public Policy & Economic Analysis at Eastern Washington University, and GCACH's Fearless Facilitator has worked with GCACH since 2015 to help break down data and give it meaning. At GCACH's May Leadership Council meeting, Patrick gave us a snapshot of unemployment by sector in the four largest GCACH Counties, Yakima, Benton, Franklin and Walla Walla, due to the coronavirus (COVID-19)and ensuing state policies.
Our motivation was to get a sense of the unemployment challenge facing the bulk of the population in the GCACH so that we could begin to understand the human and economic toll on our region. The punchline is this: 54,400 jobs have been lost in the four counties over seven weeks ending on May 2nd, or 20% of the workforce. The biggest job losses have been in accommodation and food services, healthcare and social assistance, production agriculture, and retail trade. Patrick also stated that if he had done this analysis based on payroll, the results would not be as dire because a good percentage of the jobs are in low-wage industries. In other words, the economic impact is disproportionately affecting low-wage workers, the very population that Medicaid Transformation is trying to address.
Patrick’s presentation in April was a snapshot of COVID‐19’s presence and effect in the Greater Columbia region. Throughout his presentation, we learned that COVID-19 cases are afflicting a disproportionate number of the Hispanic population. While Hispanics make up 40% of cases in Washington State, they are 13% of the state’s population. GCACH is home to nearly 243,000 Medicaid beneficiaries, of which 52% are Hispanic residents, and about 34% of our total GCACH population; a clear example of a health disparity facing our region. In Yakima alone, Hispanics account for about half of the total population yet they make up more than 67% of COVID-19 cases.
Now that we have been empowered by this information, how do we make it actionable? We can start by understanding that every one of us can help recovery efforts by following public health guidelines:
Wear a mask when in public or around other people
Wash your hands frequently
Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze
Keep at least 6 feet away from others to minimize risk of transmission
Stay at home as much as possible
While the data is overwhelming, we can do our part by following these simple guidelines to control the spread of the pandemic, get our economy back on track, and advocate for policies that keep people in low-wage industries safe.