Back to work doesn’t mean back to spending as before
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The end of July marks a grim transition for tens of millions of Americans hurt financially by the COVID-19 pandemic. The federal moratorium on evictions ended July 24, and the extra $600 a week in expanded unemployment benefits expires July 31.
We’ve been checking in with two workers, April Oliver and Maria Barillas, since the pandemic was declared in March about how their economic lives have changed month to month. Here’s the latest.
Oliver is an environmental scientist who recently started a new job after graduating in December. She began working in April — her start date was delayed due to the pandemic. She feels safe and comfortable at the lab, because everyone can easily keep their distance and they’ve “been wearing masks from the beginning.”
But, despite the new job, Oliver said she and her partner are struggling to save money because “he has quite a lot of student debt.” They recently moved into a more affordable apartment.
Barillas has been in the restaurant industry for the past four years. In mid-March she was laid of from her job due to the coronavirus outbreak. After the layoff, Barillas began collecting unemployment insurance, along with the extra $600 that was added because of this crisis. Recently, she began a job at a new restaurant with outdoor dining and take out.
Unlike Oliver, Barillas doesn’t have a comfortable level of social distancing at her job. “The first week was probably the worst week,” she explained, because she had to adjust to “being around so many people.” Because she relies on tips, she said it’s hard to ask someone to put a mask on or enforce other health protocols.
The amount of Barillas’ restaurant paycheck is less predictable than her unemployment check, and because she’s working part time, it’s less money. Consequently, she watches her spending more, asking herself, “Should I spend $50 on that thing?” And thinking, “Maybe I’ll table that and see how my paycheck looks the next two weeks.”
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