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COVID-19

For some U.S.-Canadian couples, the pandemic has meant unwanted separation

Emma Jacobs Sep 29, 2020
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Canadians can still fly to the U.S. But to do so could mean risking one's health or job. Jeff Kowalsky/AFP via Getty Images
COVID-19

For some U.S.-Canadian couples, the pandemic has meant unwanted separation

Emma Jacobs Sep 29, 2020
Heard on:
Canadians can still fly to the U.S. But to do so could mean risking one's health or job. Jeff Kowalsky/AFP via Getty Images
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Rebecca Hoffman is in Alberta, Canada. Her boyfriend, Daniel Collins, is in Tennessee. They’ve been a couple for more than a year. But for months now, they’ve had to communicate online, without seeing each other in person.

The pandemic has led to restrictions on travel between the U.S. and Canada. Certain exemptions have allowed some families living on opposite sides of the border to reunite since those restrictions began in March. Canada created exceptions for spouses and common-law partners to come to Canada, but that doesn’t apply to Hoffman and Collins.

So as the travel restrictions have been extended, Collins has had to tell his employers time and time again to postpone his time off. “[To] say, ‘sorry, just take me off the calendar. I’m not going to be able to go.’ They’re still not going to open the borders. They keep delaying it.”

The travel restrictions aren’t the same in both directions. Canadians can still fly to the United States. But Hoffman, who works as a hairdresser, is now on reduced hours with supplementary emergency unemployment benefits. And she says she’d lose both if she left Canada to visit Collins in Tennessee, and then had to do the 14-day quarantine Canada requires when she returns.

“Now the choice is, you know, to see Daniel and not be able to pay my bills, or to see Daniel and possibly lose my job,” Hoffman said.

Toronto attorney Erin Simpson said some couples who are married but separated by the border have started the paperwork to sponsor their partners to live with them. 

“They want to make some long-term changes to make both of their status more secure and to give themselves, you know, sort of more security going forward,” Simpson said.

Before the pandemic, Hoffman and Collins talked about his eventually moving to Canada to live with her. But it’s not an immediate solution to their current separation. Immigration applications are complicated and take time. So they don’t know how long it will be until they see each other again in person.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

So what’s up with “Zoom fatigue”?

It’s a real thing. The science backs it up — there’s new research from Stanford University. So why is it that the technology can be so draining? Jeremy Bailenson with Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab puts it this way: “It’s like being in an elevator where everyone in the elevator stopped and looked right at us for the entire elevator ride at close-up.” Bailenson said turning off self-view and shrinking down the video window can make interactions feel more natural and less emotionally taxing.

How are Americans spending their money these days?

Economists are predicting that pent-up demand for certain goods and services is going to burst out all over as more people get vaccinated. A lot of people had to drastically change their spending in the pandemic because they lost jobs or had their hours cut. But at the same time, most consumers “are still feeling secure or optimistic about their finances,” according to Candace Corlett, president of WSL Strategic Retail, which regularly surveys shoppers. A lot of people enjoy browsing in stores, especially after months of forced online shopping. And another area expecting a post-pandemic boost: travel.

What happened to all of the hazard pay essential workers were getting at the beginning of the pandemic?

Almost a year ago, when the pandemic began, essential workers were hailed as heroes. Back then, many companies gave hazard pay, an extra $2 or so per hour, for coming in to work. That quietly went away for most of them last summer. Without federal action, it’s mostly been up to local governments to create programs and mandates. They’ve helped compensate front-line workers, but they haven’t been perfect. “The solutions are small. They’re piecemeal,” said Molly Kinder at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. “You’re seeing these innovative pop-ups because we have failed overall to do something systematically.”

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