top of page

Long Covid can be Financially devastating.


Up to 4 million people may be out of work due to long Covid, new research suggests:


"Up to 4 million people may be out of work because of long Covid in the U.S, according to a report published this week by the Brookings Institution. In lost wages, that could add up to at least $170 billion per year, the report suggests."

Two-Years Follow-Up of Symptoms and Return to Work in Complex Post-COVID-19 Patients:

"After excluding the five retired patients, we observed that 36% of the patients did not recover any work activity. However, 40% of them worked full-time and 24% worked again at least 50% of the time." 

Long COVID is still disabling millions of Americans:

“Of the nearly 24 million adults in the U.S. who currently have long COVID, more than 80% are having some trouble carrying out daily activities, according to CDC data.”

Cost of COVID: New study says those with Long COVID pay thousands more for treatment:

"A Harvard study found those with Long COVID costs the U.S. economy $538 billion in medical expenses; and for each patient roughly $9,000 a year in medical costs."

Absence from work at record high as Americans feel strain from COVID:

"In June 2022, about 7% of adult Americans had long Covid, which can affect productivity and ability to work, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).


Some affected by long Covid have reduced their hours, while others have left the workforce temporarily or permanently – a metric not captured by work absence data, but calculated in labor participation statistics.


Patients who are very sick with long Covid often 'try to work for some amount of time and then eventually they drop out', Bach said.'People who are on the less-sick end of long Covid, maybe they can keep working, but every now and then they might need a day or two off just because they have overdone it or something happened that triggered a symptom flare,' Bach said.

'Some people just really need flexibility from their employers,' Burns said. That can include telework, unscheduled leave, flexible schedules and reduced hours.

'The challenge with that is, those supports are a lot more likely to be available to workers who have office jobs, higher-paying jobs, who are pretty well-established in the labor market,' Burns said.

Covid in general, and long Covid too, are more likely to affect people who are minorities, who have lower levels of education, [who have] likely lower levels of income. 

Again, some of the jobs where people are most at risk might be the least accommodating – it’s usually easier for office workers to telecommute than it is for fast-food workers – but there are still steps employers can take.


If long Covid continues to affect 7% of the country, that’s 23 million people at any given time who may require accommodations under laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act.

'But there isn’t a lot of clarity about what is a reasonable accommodation' under the law when it comes to Covid and long Covid, Burns said.


About 1.5 million Americans missed work because of sickness in December. Each month, more than a million people have called out sick for the past three years."

Long COVID Is Keeping So Many Young People Out of Work:

"According to a recent analysis of 3,139 established COVID-related worker’s compensation claims in New York, between January 2020 and March 2022, 71% of people who reported having long COVID were unable to work for six months or more or they needed continuous medical treatment; 18% of people with long COVID didn’t return to work after more than a year, and 75% of them are under the age of 60. (Adults over 60 had 'significant difficulty' returning to work life too.) It’s also worth noting that the report categorized 83% of 'COVID-19 claimants' as essential workers—and that these numbers only include established claims, not the people who couldn’t see a doctor for a diagnosis because of, say, lack of insurance or people who needed to continue working despite their illness to support their families. 

The workers, most of whom reported having COVID symptoms that lasted longer than six months, faced obstacles like fatigue, difficulty managing symptoms at work, 'inappropriate sickness absence management policies,' and a lack of 'COVID-aware' organizational cultures. The researchers also discovered that people who were able to modify their work schedule and had flexible return-to-work planning or supportive management felt more accommodated by their employers. 

Health issues related to long COVID can last anywhere from weeks to years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In some people, COVID complications may lead to a disability.

(If you need help with this financially, you can look into Wylam’s Pandemic Legal Assistance Network, a national network of attorneys who provide free legal assistance to people who have been affected by COVID-19. You can also find pro bono legal service providers in your state here.)"


  • Up to 4 Million out of workforce due to Long COVID

  • 36% of people with Long COVID unable to return to work

  • 24% of people with Long COVID able to work part time only

  • 33% report moderate improvement after 22 months

  • 20% report minimal improvement after 22 months

  • 80% have trouble carrying out daily activities.

  • Long COVID costs the U.S. economy $538 billion in medical expenses

  • $9,000 a year in medical costs


  • As of June 2022, 7% of adult Americans have Long COVID

  • Some with LC have had to reduce work hours, others have left workforce

  • Some may need a day or two off because of a symptom flare

  • Need flexibility from employers such as telework, unscheduled leave, flexible schedules or reduced hours

  • Challenge is flexibility favors office jobs, higher paying jobs

  • Long COVID most likely to affect marginalized who are less likely to hold jobs that can allow flexibility

  • 23 million people may require accommodations under laws like the American Disabilities Act.


  • 71% with Long COVID unable to return to work for 6 months or more or needed continuous treatment

  • 18% didn't return to work after a year or more

  • 75% of this population were under 60 years old

  • 83% of this population were essential workers

  • Population included claims from people able to see a doctor and insured

  • Those able to work face difficulty managing symptoms at work with no workplace support and flexibility

  • Long COVID health issues can last from weeks to years so workplaces will need to adjust to this reality

  • Wylam’s Pandemic Legal Assistance Network, is a national network of attorneys who provide free legal assistance to people who have been affected by COVID-19. You can also find pro bono legal service providers in your state here.

Disability Support Is Very Difficult to obtain. 

Long Covid Is a Disability. Here’s How to Ask for Workplace Accommodations:

"Many people with long Covid are legally entitled to accommodations at work to help them do their jobs. 

"In 2021, the federal government clarified that long Covid could be considered a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Long-Covid symptoms and severity can vary greatly. People with long Covid frequently experience extraordinary levels of fatigue, which can be worsened by exertion, cognitive impairment, nervous-system dysfunction, as well as vascular, respiratory and immune-system issues." 

 In cases where the conditions limit at least one major life activity, the necessary accommodations might be temporary or permanent, depending on each worker’s case." 

"A 2022 survey of nearly 3,800 managers found that 40% of them had employees with lasting physical or mental effects of a Covid-19 infection..."

Covid Long Haulers Spark Call for Increased Disability Funding:

“If only 10% of the 34 million Americans that were affected by Covid-19 get long-haul symptoms and try to apply for these services, our system that is already overwhelmed and underfunded is going to collapse.”

COVID Long Haulers Spark Call for Increased Disability Funding:

"'If only 10% of the 34 million Americans that were affected by Covid-19 get long-haul symptoms and try to apply for these services, our system that is already overwhelmed and underfunded is going to collapse,” Megan Buckles, senior policy analyst at the Center for American Progress’ Disability Justice Initiative, said at a panel ahead of the report’s release."

Long Covid disabled them. Then they met a ‘broken’ Social Security disability process:

People with long Covid “were less likely to be employed full time and more likely to be unemployed” due to the “presence of cognitive symptoms,” according to a recent study in the medical journal JAMA Network Open. 

The Department of Health and Human Services estimates $50 billion in annual salaries in the US is lost annually due to long Covid. A Brookings analysis puts that total at an even higher number: a staggering $170 billion lost by workers.

And two Congressional bills addressing the long Covid crisis — The “Covid-19 Long Haulers Act,” which would’ve collected data on long Covid patients with the goal of creating better care and treatment, and “The Care For Long Covid Act” would’ve improved research, centralized data and resources for people with Long Covid — died without making it out of committee.

“I feel like we’re being erased,” said Sarah Steinberg, 40, a Covid “long-hauler” and self-employed architectural designer. 

One reason could be that nearly three years into the pandemic, long Covid still isn’t included on SSA’s listing of qualifying disabilities. When Cavey argues a case in court, she has to describe the systems affected: neurological, digestive, pulmonary, cardiac and more.

The Social Security Administration acknowledged that applicant wait times for disability benefits are “far too long,” adding that long Covid patients “face the same process and wait times as other applicants.”

Decision wait times for disability insurance can range from months to years, according to data from nonprofit think tank USA Facts. Rebecca Cokley, program director for disability Rights at the Ford Foundation, agrees the SSDI process is arduous and can last years before granting an applicant approval or denial.

Patients with long COVID fight for disability benefits:

“A legal battleground driven by pandemic victims too sick to work but who must fight insurers to prove they’re sick enough to deserve disability benefits is evolving.”

Long COVID Pushes People Out of Work, but Government Help Is Hard to Reach:

“The long waits for disability assistance often end in denial, in part because long COVID patients don’t have the substantial medical evidence that federal officials require, Geist said. There is no standard process for diagnosing long COVID.”

Social Security Disability Benefits Pay Chart (2023):

  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI) – The maximum payment is $914 monthly for individuals and $1,371 monthly for couples.

  • Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) – The maximum payment is $3,627 a month.

Long COVID is hurting workers’ finances, as new research shows those suffering it are more likely to be unemployed:

Cognitive symptoms, in particular, are not associated with an outward, physical disability, but these data demonstrate that these symptoms are associated with a real-world effect, like going back to work,” she told Jama.

  • People with Long COVID are entitled to disability accommodations at work. 

  • Long COVID can involve extreme fatigue worsened by exertion, cognitive impairment, nervous system dysfunction and vascular, respiratory and immune system issues

  • Long COVID was designated a disability under Americans with Disability Act (ADA) by federal government in 2021

  • Accommodations (if one can obtain) might be temporary or permanent. Health conditions required to limit at least one major life activity.

  • A 2022 survey found 40% of employees had lasting physical or mental effects from COVID infection. 

  • If only 10% apply for disability income, it would collapse the system.


  • SSI max monthly benefits are 914$. SSDI max monthly benefits are 3637$.

  • People with Long COVID less likely to be employed due to cognitive symptoms

  • HHS estimates 50$ billion annual salaries lost to Long COVID

  • Brookings Institute estimates 170$ billion lost annually


  • Two Congressional bills addressing Long COVID have died in committee.

  • Long COVID still not included on SSA's list of qualifying disabilities. 

  • A legal battleground is brewing as people too sick to work must fight to prove they're sick enough to deserve disability benefits.

  • Disability decisions often take months to years

  • Long waits often end in denial because no standard for diagnosing Long COVID.

  • Debilitating cognitive symptoms aren't a visible physical disability.  

  • "I feel I'm being erased."

bottom of page