Flattened: How the COVID-19 Pandemic Knocked Financially Insecure Alabamians on their Backs and Widened the Racial Prosperity Gap

Between May and September 2020, Alabamaba Applesseed and partners surveyed 389 financially insecure Alabamaians. The authors documented how daily lives and financial circumstances changed for respondents since March 13, 2020, the day Governor Ivey declared a statewide public health emergency. Using census and other data, the authors also examined racial disparities in health, access to healthcare, and economic consequences due to differences in earnings, job loss, and types of employment between Black and White Alabamians. Findings showed that Black Alabamainas were disproportionately more likely to work in low-paying essential occupations, lack health insurance, and live in places with little or no health care infrastructure, thus experiencing worse hardship during the pandemic than their white neighbors and peers.

Key Findings:

  • 35 percent of survey respondents missed a rent or mortgage payment, 45 percent were unable to pay a utility bill, and 19 percent missed payments for ongoing fines, fees, court costs, or restitution. 
  • Two-thirds sought food assistance and 14 percent took out a high-cost payday or title loan.
  • Nearly a quarter feared or were threatened with evictions, and 4 percent were evicted. 
  • Of the 8 percent of respondents required to physically go to court, over half went to make a payment on a payment plan or attend a compliance hearing regarding fines and fees they had fallen behind on paying.
  • Of the 6 respondents jailed during the pandemic, 3 were in connection with unpaid fines and fees.


  • Shore up the state’s healthcare infrastructure through the expansion of Medicaid. 
  • Create stronger protections for people facing eviction, foreclosure, or the loss of a vehicle or other necessary possession.
  • Increase unemployment benefits.
  • Reduce reliance on fines, fees and court costs as a source of funding for basic state services.
  • Stop taking driver’s licenses from people who are not dangerous drivers. 

You can access the full report here.

Alabama Appleseed Center for Law & Justice