NEWARK, NJ — Housing, education and job and food security are among the top concerns of Newark residents and education was the top concern among the city's black residents, according to a poll commissioned by Newark-based nonprofit Project Ready.

The poll of 457 residents is the first to be taken since the coronavirus forced a near total shutdown of the economy, with schools and non-essential businesses closed and residents sheltering in their homes. In New Jersey, more than 113,000 people have tested positive for COVID-19 and more than 6,400 have died. In Newark, more than 5,270 residents have tested positive and 388 have died.

“These poll results show that Newark is being hit hard by the coronavirus - in more ways than one,” said Shennell McCloud, executive director of Project Ready. “With the coronavirus disproportionately impacting communities of color, we need to pay close attention not just to the health and economic situation, but to the disparities in how this crisis is impacting education in communities of color. We hope that policymakers find it helpful in determining how to allocate resources to our community, particularly when it comes to top-tier concerns like education, housing, and unemployment.”

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The poll found that half of those surveyed said they or a member of a household has had their working hours reduced, while about 40% lost a job or have been unable to pay their rent or mortgage. 

However, only 3% said they were dealing with evictions or foreclosures under state and city moratoriums, according to the poll. Despite the high rates of job loss, only 15% of Newark parents say they have picked up free meals from the city’s public schools, and 8% of all residents say they picked up food from a pantry. 

While about 37% of residents have received their $1,200 stimulus payment from the federal government and another 36% expect to receive it soon, mounting uncertainty about how the economy will recover leaves many in tough positions for the foreseeable future. 

Other key findings of the Project Ready poll:

Remote Learning
Fifty-seven percent of parents reported being satisfied with their child’s remote learning program, which amounts to 61% of public school parents. Thirty-five percent were dissatisfied, and black polling participants were more likely to be very dissatisfied with their child’s remote learning programs than Latinos and whites. 

What’s more, six in 10 parents were worried their child has fallen behind significantly or somewhat. A larger share of white parents, about 34%, believe their child is not falling behind at all compared to black participants and Latinos. 

A third of Newark parents with children in school find the remote learning program “well put together” and 22% indicated they are “excited by it.” Negative selections to describe the remote learning program include “frustrated by it” (25%), “poorly constructed” (23%), and “done with it” (15%). Among Newark Public School parents, 34% were frustrated compared to finding the program poorly constructed  or being “done with it”.

Around 40% of parents choose summer school and extended school days to catch up on school, but there are racial differences in preferences. Black participants (48%) are more likely to prefer summer school compared to Hispanics (36%) and whites (34%), while 55% of whites prefer to extend school days compared to 40% of African-Americans and 36% of Hispanics.  A similar share are fine with doing nothing (42%) and only 4% prefer repeating a grade.

Safety guidelines
Nearly all Newarkers, 87%, say they wear a mask either always or sometimes (11%) when they leave their home. Just 2% say they never wear one. When asked about how their family and friends are following Governor Phil Murphy’s orders, two-thirds say all of them do. Another 29% say most of them do. 

Strong ratings for Mayor Baraka and Governor Murphy, but not President Trump
Newark Mayor Ras Baraka garnered a 75% approval rating while Murphy’s hit 83% for their responses to the crisis. Only 19% of Newakers approve of the job President Donald Trump has done.