The federal government gives us doctored numbers that show that the national unemployment rate is low, but in small towns all across the country it seems like almost everyone is either unemployed or working extremely low paying jobs. Earlier this month, one such town was profiled by USA Today. Even before the COVID pandemic came along, the little town of Ogdensburg, New York was deeply struggling, but now economic conditions have become extremely dire…
Ogdensburg is tiny and desperately poor, so it experiences these national trends in concentrated form. The median house in this city of 10,000 people sells for $68,000, according to the U.S. Census. The average family earns $42,000 a year, and 2,300 residents live below the federal poverty line, giving Ogdensburg a poverty rate 75% higher than the rest of New York State.
Then the economy closed. The governments of Canada and the United States tried to limit the spread of COVID-19 by shutting the international border, including the curvy suspension bridge between Ogdensburg and Prescott, Ontario. In the small industrial park east of town, the few remaining warehouses and Canadian-owned factories shut down. The hospital in Ogdensburg furloughed 174 people. Most restaurants and grocery stores stayed open, primarily by firing every person they could.
Like millions of other Americans, most people living in Ogdensburg are just trying to find some way to survive month after month.