9/11 brings economic fallout

BY SUSAN KIM | BALTIMORE | January 17, 2001

"The family is virtually living on bread and water."

—Dr. Peter Savage

Rose and Edward have owned a small fruit juice and water factory in the Dominican Republic for nine years.

When the economy in their country took a downward slide, they were struggling to make ends meet. The Sept. 11 attack -- and its damaging global economic tidal wave -- finally sent them under.

The couple is trying to rent or sell their buildings and equipment. They are laying off their 50 employees -- all of them the primary breadwinners for their families -- by fives. They have three sons of their own.

"The family is virtually living on bread and water," said Dr. Peter Savage of the Christian Center for Family Counseling. Savage is based in Santo Domingo, and his work is supported in part with funds from Week of Compassion, a U.S.-based giving program administered by the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).

"Their home is protected by bankruptcy laws but they are losing everything else -- all that they've worked for," explained Savage.

The 50 employees are trying to find new jobs, but with more and more companies going under in the Dominican Republic, the labor market there is extremely tight, he added.

Savage has been trying to help Rose and Edward search for new opportunities. "They are both gifted professionals."

But it will take them many months to rebuild their business opportunities, said Savage. Meanwhile Rose has applied for a job in an insurance company, and Edward is trying to find part-time work while he continues the painful process of closing his business.

"Both have bouts of depression and are struggling to keep their hopes up," said Savage.

Rose and Edward's situation could be duplicated worldwide for countless families -- and in the U.S. alone more than a million times over, a recently released study showed.

Economists have predicted that the Sept. 11 attacks will wipe out more than 1.6 million jobs in 2002 in the U.S. and reverberate through the U.S. and world economy for the next five years.

Losses will be biggest in cities with large airline and tourism workforces. But a wide range of industries -- from dining to financial services -- will take a hit, according to the study published by the Milken Institute, a Santa Monica-based think tank.

New York City will lose some 150,000 jobs in 2002. Los Angeles will lose 69,000 jobs, and Chicago about 68,000. Las Vegas was cited as the most vulnerable metro area because that city could see five percent fewer jobs this year.

As of January 2002, nearly 250,000 jobs had already been lost because of the attacks.

The good news is that many of those jobs will come back, the study authors added.

But until they do, families that had been making ends meet -- both in the U.S. and abroad -- may be plunged into poverty.

The economic downturn seems to be accompanied by a national willingness to help. An unprecedented number of Americans contributed in some way to help those affected by the Sept. 11 attacks. Nearly 75 percent of adults in a nationwide surveyed said they contributed in some way to help those affected by the tragedy. The survey, released by the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, also found that 66 percent of the 1,034 adults surveyed had donated money, averaging $134 per household.

The Center on Philanthropy predicted that charitable giving would continue to rise over the coming year because in other years when the country has faced a significant crisis, charitable giving has risen in the year after the event.

But if a record number of people are giving nationally, local food pantries and other local response groups reported seeing a decrease in donations.

Susan Hofer, spokesperson for America's Second Harvest, said she sees a twofold impact at more than 200 local food banks across the nation. "On one hand, we have seen a 35-40 percent decrease in food and fund donations. On the other hand, there has been a huge increase in the demand for food.

"People who have never been to a food pantry are coming in because they've lost their job. And that's not counting the people who may still have a place to go to work everyday but survived on tips and aren't getting nearly enough money to feed their families.

"Sadly, there has been an increase in the number of children in need of food," she added.

Financial stress brings emotional stress to families, and response leaders predicted increased instances of drug abuse, spouse and child abuse, depression, and suicide.

And responders are suffering from their own bouts of stress.

The Center on Philanthropy reported that those who volunteered after the attacks gave an average of nearly 17 hours.

But at this point many are wondering -- who is caring for the caregivers?

"People are starting to come up against the wall," said Susan Pinco, who offers psychotherapy and consulting services in Englewood Cliffs, NJ. Pinco helped organize a local volunteer group that is responding to needs related to Sept. 11. "Everybody is starting to feel the fallout from this."

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