Back to work doesn’t mean back to spending as before
Share Now on:
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.”
COVID-19 Economy FAQs
With a slow vaccine rollout so far, how has the government changed its approach?
On Tuesday, Jan. 12, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar announced changes to how the federal government is distributing vaccine doses. The CDC has expanded coronavirus vaccine eligibility to everyone 65 and older, along with people with conditions that might raise their risks of complications from COVID-19. The new approach also looks to reward those states that are the most efficient by giving them more doses, but critics say that won’t address underlying problems some states are having with vaccine rollout.
What kind of help can small businesses get right now?
A new round of Paycheck Protection Program loans recently became available for pandemic-ravaged businesses. These loans don’t have to be paid back if rules are met. Right now, loans are open for first-time applicants. And the application has to go through community banking organizations — no big banks, for now, at least. This rollout is designed to help business owners who couldn’t get a PPP loan before.
What does the hiring situation in the U.S. look like as we enter the new year?
New data on job openings and postings provide a glimpse of what to expect in the job market in the coming weeks and months. This time of year typically sees a spike in hiring and job-search activity, says Jill Chapman with Insperity, a recruiting services firm. But that kind of optimistic planning for the future isn’t really the vibe these days. Job postings have been lagging on the job search site Indeed. Listings were down about 11% in December compared to a year earlier.
As a nonprofit news organization, our future depends on listeners like you who believe in the power of public service journalism.
Your investment in Marketplace helps us remain paywall-free and ensures everyone has access to trustworthy, unbiased news and information, regardless of their ability to pay.
Donate today — in any amount — to become a Marketplace Investor. Now more than ever, your commitment makes a difference.