COVID-19

Back to work doesn’t mean back to spending as before

Alli Fam Jul 29, 2020
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Image Credit Andrey Popov
COVID-19

Back to work doesn’t mean back to spending as before

Alli Fam Jul 29, 2020
Image Credit Andrey Popov
HTML EMBED:
COPY

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.

April Oliver

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.

Maria Barillas

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.”

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

What’s going on with extra COVID-19 unemployment benefits?

The latest: President Donald Trump signed an executive action directing $400 extra a week in unemployment benefits. But will that aid actually reach people? It’s still unclear. Trump directed federal agencies to send $300 dollars in weekly aid, taken from the federal disaster relief fund, and called on states to provide an additional $100. But states’ budgets are stretched thin as it is.

What’s the latest on evictions?

For millions of Americans, things are looking grim. Unemployment is high, and pandemic eviction moratoriums have expired in states across the country. And as many people already know, eviction is something that can haunt a person’s life for years. For instance, getting evicted can make it hard to rent again. And that can lead to spiraling poverty.

Which retailers are requiring that people wear masks when shopping? And how are they enforcing those rules?

Walmart, Target, Lowe’s, CVS, Home Depot, Costco — they all have policies that say shoppers are required to wear a mask. When an employee confronts a customer who refuses, the interaction can spin out of control, so many of these retailers are telling their workers to not enforce these mandates. But, just having them will actually get more people to wear masks.

You can find answers to more questions on unemployment benefits and COVID-19 here.

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