Poverty on the rise as health crisis hits hard

FERMANAGH is going to be “disproportionately hard hit” by the economic fallout from the Covid crisis, with many here already forced into poverty as a result of the economic down turn.
Countless local households are living on reduced wages, or have little to no income at all, at the moment. At the same time, the cost of living has been increasing with many noting high mark ups on products in shops and a complete evaporation on the special offers once abundant in local supermarkets.
In a county where incomes have been historically low, the impact of the current situation is going to have dire consequences, according to local union representative, Cllr Donal O’Cofaigh.
Noting government initiatives such as the Eat Well, Live Well scheme, and the food parcel scheme, had closed to new clients due to demand and were not reaching many here in the county, Cllr O’Cofaigh said local workers were finding themselves impoverished by the economic fall out of the health crisis.
“I have no doubt at all we will be disproportionately hard hit by it, primarily because people working here tended to work long hours at low pay,” he said.
“What we’ve found was workers who tended to work longer hours were either working beyond their contracts or in different sectors where there was no fixed contract. What happened was at the start of the Covid crisis was that your hours went down to zero, with nothing extra.
“Those on zero hours contracts had zero hours, they couldn’t get anything. Anyone in a temporary arrangement didn’t get anything. Most workers in construction sector were competing to get the last remaining work.”
Cllr O’Cofaigh said action needed to be taken now: “There are a lot of complex issues and while we’re all rightfully focused on the Covid pandemic, we need to have government focused on the inequality impact issues here, and in particularly poverty.”

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