America's Youth Navigates The Coronavirus Pandemic, Economic Fallout

A woman holds a sign up as demonstrators march in the street during the Cancel Rent and Mortgages rally on June 30, 2020 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Photo credit Brandon Bell/Getty Images

As the coronavirus pandemic continues, its economic impact deepens and the country debates which direction to go in the coming general election.

The double whammy of COVID-19 and the recession is hitting young people especially hard, as they find themselves unable to go to school or find a job, and worry about their health.

Many of those young people have gotten deeply involved in the Black Lives Matter movement and the call for economic reforms, even as they try to just get by during these surreal times and figure out how to navigate the immediate future. Power California, a statewide alliance of young voters of color, recently conducted a poll that yielded startling results about youth and COVID-19.

Young people are being hit HARD by the COVID-19 pandemic, the housing crisis, and rising rents.In our #YouthPoll, 82% of young people asked support rent control. Together let’s support safe and affordable housing for all Californians!#Housing #Rent #YouthPower

— Power California (@PowerCANow) August 14, 2020

"We found that young people are struggling to stay afloat," said Tyler Okeke, a Youth Organizer with Power California.

The survey showed that one in three reported that they or someone in their household lost their job due to the economic crisis, and that nearly four in 10 were struggling to make their rent or mortgage payments.

Okeke is a second-year student at the University of Chicago and was the high school student representative on the LA Unified School Board.

Okeke told KCBS Radio’s "The State Of California" Thursday he was forced to go back home once the coronavirus pandemic started, taking careful measures as his mom worked at a hospital in LA County with recovering COVID-19 patients.

"We are seeing that we are deeply rooted in the economic crisis and we are facing significant losses, and we are also seeing increased demands on us from our families and our communities," Okeke said.

But even as the pandemic persists, Okeke contends the young people of America are ready to vote in November’s election. He is currently leading an initiative to get the right to vote for kids ages 16 and 17 in local school board elections.

"I’ll challenge the idea that we’re not always involved in the Democratic process because I would say that there are barriers we face in being introduced to voting at 18," Okeke added. "Eighteen to 21 is one of the most transient and unstable times in a person’s life."

The survey encompassed 1,500 young Californians between the ages of 18 and 29.