Community Emergency Response Team members add fresh food to a car as an occupant waves. Photo by Chris Stone

A study released Thursday by the San Diego Association of Government found that more than 70% of survey respondents in San Diego County reported experiencing issues with food, housing, utilities or employment at some point during the coronavirus pandemic.

SANDAG partnered with the newly formed Recovery Coalition and surveyed a total of 3,527 San Diegans living throughout the county in seven “Major Statistical Areas,” including 44% from the South Bay, 26% from an area including San Diego and La Mesa and 14% from an area including San Marcos, Vista and Escondido.

The remaining respondents were from the eastern portion of the county (8%), an area including Oceanside and Carlsbad (5%) and the northern portion of the city of San Diego, including La Jolla, Del Mar and Rancho Santa Fe (2%).

About two-thirds of respondents reported their employment was negatively affected by COVID-19, according to the study. The most common job- related issues were reduced hours (58%), job loss (27%), being at-risk of losing their job (22%) or having to stop working or limit hours because of childcare issues (14%).

More than half of respondents (52%) reported some type of housing instability as a result of the pandemic, with 66% of those saying they needed assistance to pay the upcoming month’s rent or mortgage and 45% saying they were unable to pay rent or mortgage.

One in four households that reported housing instability reported they had already received mortgage or rent assistance and 9% reported losing housing, resulting in homelessness or living with a friend or family member.

“While we are all in the same storm of this pandemic, these data show that everyone is not in the same boat,” said SANDAG Director Research and Program Management Cynthia Burke. “Our neighbors who were struggling financially before the health crisis are now struggling even more with the most basic needs. Our hope is that the data generated from this report can be used by local leaders as we discuss solutions to recover in a way that is equitable to those hardest hit.”

Also, while a majority of parents/caregivers reported that preschool/elementary teachers and middle/junior/high school teachers were in communication with them, about three-in-five parents reported challenges with distance learning.

Additionally, four in five of parents surveyed reported that a computer or other digital device is always available (58%) or usually available (23%) to their children for educational purposes. However, 19% of parents/caregivers with children in preschool/elementary school and 15% with children in middle/junior/high school reported they did not have electronic equipment for the children and the school did not provide any.

The top four responses to a question asking what parents wanted for their children to return to in-person learning were safety measures (79%), a consistent schedule (38%), a full-time schedule (29%) and before- and after- school care (20%).

Other notable findings about the respondents included:

More than four in five respondents (82%) reported that at least one member of the household identified as Latino, and 52% reported the primary language as Spanish.

The average household size of respondents was 4.3.

Just over two-thirds of respondents (71%) reported the highest level of adult education in the household was a high school diploma, GED, or less than 12th grade.

More than four in 10 respondents (42%) reported an annual household income of less than $25,000, while 44% reported income between $25,000 and $49,999 and 14% reported earning $50,000 or more per year.

–City News Service