Elaine Weiss, Director of Policy

Long COVID cases in the United States

Notwithstanding increasing clarity regarding both the scale and scope of Long COVID, the latest report from the Brookings Institution was a gut punch.   

Two years into the pandemic, 16 million working-aged adults across the United States have Long COVID, and between two and four million of them are not working because of it. The estimated cost of resulting lost wages alone is at least $170 million and as high as $230 million, and author of the report Katie Bakich warns that “these impacts stand to worsen over time if the U.S. does not take the necessary policy actions.”  

Is the disability system prepared for an influx of disability claims? 

With Long COVID poised to be the biggest disabling event in U.S. history – and the full scope of those impacts likely to be known only many years down the road – now is the time to assess where the disability system needs shoring up to better serve the needs of current beneficiaries as well as those who may become disabled due to long COVID. We invite you to check out resources to help put this conversation into context: 

  • Essay by Nicole LeBlanc: Disability advocate (and self-advocate) Nicole LeBlanc discusses the critical importance of social insurance policies for people who are living with disabilities during the pandemic. 

    She also describes how she and many others have struggled to access key supports and points to specific actions Congress and states can take to improve access. This essay is part of the Pathways to Economic Security Toolkit. 

  • October 6 Virtual Discussion – Register Now: Nicole will discuss disability policy today and tomorrow during an October 6 webinar. The panel will also include Lisa McCorkell, founder of the Patient-Led Research Collaborative, and will be moderated by Rachel Good, Senior Policy Advisor to Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD-05). Register here to attend 
    • Go deeper: Academy Board Member Rebecca Vallas of The Century Foundation’s Disability Economic Justice Collaborative moderated a discussion in September 2021 on the urgent need to update disability policy, in particular the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. Vallas’ fact sheet outlines five policy options that, if enacted, would ensure that seniors and people with disabilities are able to access basic economic stability and live with dignity. Next month’s webinar further elevates this issue ahead of the 2022 mid-term elections. 

What’s Next? 

Stakeholder representatives and members of the Economic Security Study Panel have authored a series of commentaries on how policies outlined in our new report Economic Security for the 21st Century could impact modernize our social insurance system. These commentaries highlight the particular importance of three of the four Policy Pillars the report frames: Labor Policy, Benefit Policy, and Equity Policy 

We will continue to watch closely as new information on Long COVID emerges, so stay tuned for more Pathways resources from the Academy’s COVID-19, Older Workers’ Retirement Security, and Unemployment Insurance Task Forces in the coming months. 


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