Resources for Economic Empowerment Programs: Responding to COVID-19

The Promoting Employment Opportunities for Survivors of Human Trafficking (PEOST) Project is closely monitoring the impact COVID-19 is having on the economy and employment opportunities available to survivors of human trafficking. This page will be continually updated with new information and resources to support the safety and economic security of survivors as they become available. For specific questions or needs, please reach out to

[Updated 04.30.2021]
Industry Impact | Relief Resources | Job Opportunities | Working Safely | Building Skills Online


Workers in the hospitality and retail sectors face the highest risk of job loss during this pandemic as states and local governments try to slow the spread of the virus by closing non-essential businesses and mandating people stay at home. Because jobs in these sectors are often low-wage and without benefits, workers in these industries – the majority of whom are women, people of color, and immigrants – are particularly vulnerable to such economic shocks.

a graph of jobs most affected by COVID-19 pandemic: food and beverage, clothing and retail.


The scale of these job losses vary greatly by region and are not necessarily related to the severity of COVID-19 within a state. A state’s reliance on retail, leisure, and hospitality makes them more vulnerable to job loss than the impact of the number of COVID-19 cases in that state. Projections from the Economic Policy Institute suggest that states like Nevada, Hawaii, Alaska, Mississippi, and Delaware will be among the states with the highest share of unemployment claims due to the composition of industries within their states.

A vulnerability index, created by economists at Chmura, can provide a better sense of what to expect at a local level:

Employment Projections:

The U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics released employment projections on February 2021 to estimate the potential long-term effects of the pandemic on the U.S. Labor market. Learn more here:


In response to changing consumer needs as a result of social distancing and stay-at-home mandates, some industries and businesses are hiring. Most of these positions can be found within the gig economy such as Instacart, pharmacy retail including CVS and Walgreens, and grocery store chains.

Individuals looking for work should consider the potential health and safety risks of being in the public and potentially exposed to the virus versus the benefit of these job opportunities. These positions are generally low-wage, often lack benefits, and there are increasing reports of a lack of personal protective equipment being provided to workers or other safety and health measures being taken by some businesses during the pandemic. In addition, many of the employers who are hiring are businesses with over 500 employees, as such, workers employed by these businesses are not eligible for the leave benefits under the FFCRA.


Graph of what companies are currently hiring: Instacart, Walmart, Amazon, CVS, Albertsons, Lowes, Pizza Hut, and 7-Eleven


To find local job openings, visit American Job Centers online at to search by location and keyword.

For more information on connecting survivors to workforce development and employment opportunities, visit Opportunities for Survivors of Human Trafficking Through the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA): A Primer.


More than 22 million workers have applied for unemployment benefits since mid-March; these numbers are expected to rise with the Federal Reserve Bank estimating that the unemployment rate will reach 32.1 percent at the peak of this health crisis. In response, a number of new resources have been made available to help support workers who have experienced job loss or a reduction of income as a result of COVID-19.

The Small Business Administration has a summary of the benefits and support for small businesses created under the CARES Act here: and


COVID-19 has exposed workers to new risks to their health and safety. In addition to health workers, there are many other occupations that have a heightened risk of exposure to COVID-19 due to job duties that put them in close contact with the public or public areas, like janitors, transit workers, and grocery store cashiers. There are increasing reports that some workers are not being provided with gloves, masks, cleaning supplies, antibacterial gel or wipes, and other personal protective measures while working.

  • National Human Trafficking Hotline. The toll-free phone and SMS text lines and live online chat function are available 24 hours a day. Help is available in English or Spanish, or in more than 200 additional languages through an on-call interpreter. Hearing and speech-impaired individuals can contact the Trafficking Hotline by dialing 711, the free national access number that connects to Telecommunications Relay Services (TRS). 1-888-373-7888 (TTy:711) or Text 233733. Visit:
  • National Domestic Violence Hotline. Provides 24/7 crisis intervention, safety planning and information on domestic violence 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) TTY 1-800-787-3224. Visit:
  • Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Provides 24/7 free and confidential support and resources from trained crisis counselors 1-800-273-8255. Visit:
  • SAMHSA’s National Helpline. 1-800-662-HELP (4357) A confidential, free, 24 hr hotline in English and Spanish for individuals and family members facing mental and/or substance use disorder. Visit:
  • Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA). Provides information on bipolar disorder and depression, offers in-person and online support groups and forums (800-826-3632). Visit:
  • Alcoholics Anonymous. A database of online AA meetings throughout the nation. Visit: 



While job training programs and workforce development programs have mostly shut down, economic empowerment programs can continue to help survivors build their skills and prepare for employment once the crisis has passed and businesses are able to safely reopen. Consider an individual’s identified career pathway and collaborate with that individual to identify the skills they have and what skills can develop or strengthen to better position them enter or advance in those chosen careers. Try to identify skill building opportunities that offer industry recognized credentials. Connect with your local community college or American Job Center to learn about available online training programs.

Career OneStop is a Department of Labor resource that provides resources for career exploration, training and jobs. Includes an American Job Center and Workforce Development Board Finder where you can receive support from a career specialist.

If a survivor is uncertain of their desired career path, now is a good time to explore potential careers that match their interests, skills, and income needs. The U.S. Department of Labor has developed a comprehensive to help job seekers explore careers. O*Net Online, https://onetonline.orgis a robust resource for workforce development professionals and job seekers that helps to explore and analyze career opportunities based on a range of criteria including interest, skills, job type, growing opportunities, and much more. Learn more about how to use this power tool at the O*Net Academy:

This may also be a good time for individuals who are interested in entrepreneurship to learn more about developing business plans to pursue their dreams. There are a number of online resources that can help potential entrepreneurs explore their business concepts, learn about basic operations, and develop their business models.

  • ALISON. ALISON provides credentialed training programs for essential workplace skills online. Visit:
  • GCFLearnFree by the Goodwill Community Foundation. GCF LearnFree provides free online computer, technology, and life skills training programs. Available in multiple languages. Visit:
  • Microsoft. Microsoft offers free online training tutorials to help learners use the Office Suite including Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. Visit:
  • The National Retail Federation Foundation. The National Retail Federation Foundation offers free online training for individuals seeking opportunities in retail. Visit:
  • ED2GO. ED2GO is an online course catalog offered by College of the Canyons with educational courses starting at $30 up to $200. Visit:
  • Switchboard. Switchboard offers free E-Learning courses on strength-based employment services and understanding employment terminology and job navigation. Visit:
  • SamaSchool. SamaSchool helps prepare individuals to pursue and succeed in independent/freelance work.  Visit:
  • EntreSkills. Developed by the New York Small Business Development Center, EntreSkills helps potential entrepreneurs develop their business concepts. Visit:
  • The Small Business Training Network. The Small Business Training Network, created by the U.S. Small Business Administration, offers online training to help developing and existing small business owners. Visit: