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.”
COVID-19 Economy FAQs
Millions of Americans are unemployed, but businesses say they are having trouble hiring. Why?
This economic crisis is unusual compared to traditional recessions, according to Daniel Zhao, senior economist with Glassdoor. “Many workers are still sitting out of the labor force because of health concerns or child care needs, and that makes it tough to find workers regardless of what you’re doing with wages or benefits,” Zhao said. “An extra dollar an hour isn’t going to make a cashier with preexisting conditions feel that it’s safe to return to work.” This can be seen in the restaurant industry: Some workers have quit or are reluctant to apply because of COVID-19 concerns, low pay, meager benefits and the stress that comes with a fast-paced, demanding job. Restaurants have been willing to offer signing bonuses and temporary wage increases. One McDonald’s is even paying people $50 just to interview.
Could waiving patents increase the global supply of COVID-19 vaccines?
India and South Africa have introduced a proposal to temporarily suspend patents on COVID-19 vaccines. Backers of the plan say it would increase the supply of vaccines around the world by allowing more countries to produce them. Skeptics say it’s not that simple. There’s now enough supply in the U.S that any adult who wants a shot should be able to get one soon. That reality is years away for most other countries. More than 100 countries have backed the proposal to temporarily waive COVID-19 vaccine patents. The U.S isn’t one of them, but the White House has said it’s considering the idea.
Can businesses deny you entry if you don’t have a vaccine passport?
As more Americans get vaccinated against COVID-19 and the economy continues reopening, some businesses are requiring proof of vaccination to enter their premises. The concept of a vaccine passport has raised ethical questions about data privacy and potential discrimination against the unvaccinated. However, legal experts say businesses have the right to deny entrance to those who can’t show proof.
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