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Excerpted From: Angela Coco, The Impact of Covid-19 on the Older Workforce: Reforms to Ensure a Safer Future for Older Workers, 18 NAELA Journal 1 (Spring, 2022) (218 Footnotes) (Full Document)


AngelaCocoThe coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has taken a historic toll on American workers, especially those who are older. In just the first 4 months of the crisis beginning in March 2020, more than 40 million people applied for unemployment benefits. The effects of the pandemic on older workers, however, are much more far-reaching than just unemployment. For the 54 million workers age 50 and older, many challenges unique to their age group exist that are both highlighted and exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

It is well documented that COVID-19 has a more serious impact on the health of older individuals. In addition, older individuals are less likely to easily transition to remote work, are more likely to face longer term unemployment and underemployment, experience employment discrimination, and be affected by economic downturns as a result of having less time to recover. The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the need for reforms at the federal and state levels to help older workers in times of crisis.

Section II of this Article addresses the increased health risks to older individuals from COVID-19. Section III analyzes the disproportionate impacts and challenges facing older workers in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Section IV presents reforms at the federal and state levels as possible remedies to these unique impacts and challenges, such as expanding unemployment and social insurance programs, reforming sick leave policies, and providing additional workplace protections, to alleviate this new burden on older workers. The author of this article concludes that these reforms will help make the workforce safer and more secure for older workers in a post-pandemic world.

[. . .]

The COVID-19 crisis demonstrates the urgent need for long-term reforms to ensure that older workers have the financial resilience and protections to weather crises and stay healthy. Since 2010, approximately 10,000 Americans have turned 65 every day, and the number of older workers in the workforce is only expected to increase, thus making these reforms pressing and pertinent.

If the federal government, state governments, and businesses adopt any or all of the reforms enumerated in Section IV of this Article--and the federal government restores CARES Act benefits workers will be insulated from further crises that put them at risk. Only then will older workers in the United States be better protected from crises in a post-pandemic world.

Angela Coco is pursuing her JD, which she expects to earn in May 2022 from the University of Michigan Law School.

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