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Survey Uncovers COVID-19 Financial, Job Impacts on Educational Workers

A new study shines a light on the feelings of public sector employees, including those in education and transportation, regarding the novel coronavirus pandemic and how it’s affecting their jobs, financial wellbeing and safety.

The Center for State & Local Government Excellence (SLGE) released, “Public Sector Employee Views on Finances and Employment Outlook Due to COVID-19,” on Thursday. It reports feedback from 1,088 participants, 53 percent of which work in the education industry and 5 percent in the transportation industry. Other professions represented include administration, public safety, human and health services, parks and recreation, and public works. However, the education industry represents the largest-polled group for the survey.

SLGE is a non-profit research organization that promotes excellence in local and state governments that can be used to attract and retain talented public servants. The organization said the survey results indicate that the top two COVID-19 concerns are keeping one’s families safe from contracting the virus and staying protected from the virus while at work when they return to duty.

Meanwhile, the survey found that 56 percent of the respondents stated that COVID-19 has had a negative impact on their personal finances, and 47 percent expect the financial impact to become somewhat or significantly worse over the course of the next year. The new coronavirus has also greatly impacted those looking to retire, with 38 percent of respondents stating that they are extremely or very concerned about being able to retire when they want.

As the school transportation industry has seen over the past three months, some school bus drivers, aides and mechanics were furloughed and/or placed on unemployment for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year.

However, the trends reported that the current economic recession differs from that in 2008. Dr. Joshua Franzel, president and CEO for the Center for State and Local Government Excellence, said during the webinar that the 2008 recession layoffs implemented were more permanent, while the layoffs being seen during the pandemic seem to be more temporary.

Meanwhile, only 13 percent of respondents said COVID-19 has had no impact on the nature of their job, and 42 percent reported they are working fully from home and don’t go into the workplace or interact with co-workers in-person at all. Prior to the pandemic, 82 percent of respondents said they reported to a physical workplace.

A School Transportation News survey conducted in May found that 21 percent of 1,329 readers with the job titles of transportation directors, supervisors, school administrators, mechanics and school bus drivers said they were primarily working from home, as of May 15. However, a follow-up survey this month found that number dropped by a little less than half, with 12 percent of 2,345 respondents in June stating that they were working from home.

The SLGE study also found that the top perceptions of how the workplace environment will change going forward are ongoing social distancing, an increase in wearing masks and gloves, some employees continuing to work from home, and health screenings prior to going to work. All of these factors are being considered by school district administration as well as transportation departments as they develop guidance for reopening schools.

Related: States Begin Issuing COVID-19 Reopening Guidance for 2020-2021 School Year
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Related: Webinar Highlights Work in Front of New Industry COVID-19 Task Force
Related: Flexibility Important When Transporting Head Start Students During Pandemic

Meanwhile, the top five emotions that survey respondents reported in response to COVID-19 include stress, anxiety, gratefulness, burn-out/fatigue, and loneliness. The survey also found that more than half of the respondents have “not very much” or “no trust” at all in federal government leaders to make appropriate decisions regarding employee safety during the pandemic.

The survey concluded, “While state and local government workers are worried about keeping their family safe from contracting the virus and staying protected from contracting the virus at work, they also value serving their community during this difficult time, believe that the pandemic has made the public more aware of the importance of what they do, and feel that working in the public sector during the pandemic is a source of pride. Few indicate that working during the pandemic has made them consider changing jobs.”

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