Resident Surveys and COVID Impacts

By Lindsay Thrall, Evernorth Connections Manager

Evernorth’s Connections Program and the Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition (VAHC) have begun a 6-month phone survey in an effort to understand the impacts of COVID on our Vermont communities and to amplify the voices of the people who rely on affordable housing.

In January, 2021 Evernorth and VAHC completed 26 in-depth interviews with residents in 15 municipalities across Vermont. January’s questions focused on the financial impacts of COVID, access to services, social isolation, neighbor relations, and parenting. The interviews, which were 10-30 minutes in length, were then transcribed and analyzed.

Five themes emerged from the survey data:

Theme 1: Income, Employment, and Bills

This theme encompassed residents’ struggles with lost employment hours and the juggling act they had to do to get bills paid.

“I’ve had to use the credit card for purchases that I would not normally use it so I would have the cash for rent. I have had to juggle which bills get paid when.”
– Household with 2 adults and 2 kids

Theme 2: Mental and Social Health

Unsurprisingly, residents identified social isolation, deteriorating mental health (including anxiety and depression), and tense neighbor relations as challenges during this time.

“Being that I have an autoimmune disease, I have to be more cautious than a healthier person…I don’t really know how to feel, I just know I’m always panicked, scared, and nervous.”
– Household with 2 adults and 2 kids

Theme 3: Digital Connectivity

Residents indicated that the internet has been a lifeline during the pandemic; from job searching to telehealth to social connection, internet is not a luxury but a necessity. It can also be expensive for families who are already struggling to pay their bills.

“I pay for [wi-fi]. My son is on virtual learning so I have to pay for it.”
– Household with 2 adults and 4 children

Theme 4: Childcare

Children being home from school has impacted parents’ abilities to work as well as caused utility bills and food expenses to increase.

“I was working full-time. My kids are in school, I wasn’t available as much as they needed me. I was having to call out to stay home and I don’t really have a lot of support. I was becoming unreliable because of the pandemic. The relationship turned bad because I kept having to call out. Now I work only 15 hours a week.”
– Single parent of 2

Theme 5: Hope and Gratitude

Despite their struggles, residents also identified gratitude for their friends and family and hope for the future.

“I think people, myself included, have really understood the deep importance of relationships with other human beings.”
– Single household

Evernorth presented these findings at Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition’s monthly meeting, and received input on where to focus our February surveys in order to help our partners best serve affordable housing residents. Based on this input, February calls will include questions around barriers to accessing services, and residents’ physical health.

Please click here to view the full report.