United States of Work

For some, navigating the pandemic is like “walking on a sheet of ice”

Kai Ryssdal and Maria Hollenhorst Jul 16, 2020
Heard on: Marketplace
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Certified Public Accountant Michael Durant said trying to survive the pandemic is "like walking on a sheet of ice" for some of his small business clients. "You're just trying to get to the other side and hoping that it maintains," he said. Friso Gentsch/DPA/AFP via Getty Images
United States of Work

For some, navigating the pandemic is like “walking on a sheet of ice”

Kai Ryssdal and Maria Hollenhorst Jul 16, 2020
Certified Public Accountant Michael Durant said trying to survive the pandemic is "like walking on a sheet of ice" for some of his small business clients. "You're just trying to get to the other side and hoping that it maintains," he said. Friso Gentsch/DPA/AFP via Getty Images
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Back in February, we started a series called, United States of Work, where we profiled 10 people who form a roughly representative sample of the labor force. The first we profiled was Michael Durant, a certified public accountant in New York City. With the delayed Tax Day now in the rear view mirror, we got him back on the phone.

“It almost felt like it was six months straight of busy season,” Durant told “Marketplace” host Kai Ryssdal. “It just felt like there was so much to do during the day.”

He’s been able to work remotely since March, but that’s not an option for some of his clients. 

Durant said some of them — especially bars and restaurants — are earning a fraction of the revenue they were just six months ago, and trying to survive this pandemic is “like walking on a sheet of ice on a lake that you see cracking.” With so much uncertainty about where the economy is headed and what kind of government relief there will be, “everyone’s just kind of inching across,” he said. 

The pandemic has also taken a personal toll on Durant. He lost his mother to COVID-19 in April.

“I’m doing OK, given the circumstances,” he told Ryssdal. “I have my two younger brothers, and we were pretty close knit to begin with, and then this kind of brought us closer.”

Michael Durant and his younger brother AJ Williams in December.

Durant is now balancing working full time, law school and guardianship of his 17-year-old brother, AJ.

“I have enough room to breathe where it’s not overwhelming,” he said. “At the same time, it’s just a lot to deal with.”

When asked how he’s taking care of himself during this time, Durant said, “I make a good, solid, Spanish Bustelo coffee — black, one sugar — and it almost, like, transports me to another location.” 

He’s also spending time with his brothers.

“Me and AJ have definitely started watching a lot of movies together,” he said. “It’s good to have them as a support system.”

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