For millions of Americans, another month of rent payments are due this weekend. We checked in with three workers we’ve been following since the start of the pandemic to hear what’s changed in their personal economies.
Brooklyn waitress and barista Maria Barillas got a job at a new restaurant in July. Work is busy, but because the restaurant is only offering outdoor dining, she expects business to slow down as it gets colder. With coronavirus cases rising across the U.S., she’s also expecting another shutdown.
“I’ve actually considered trying to figure out if I can break my lease, if the shutdown is in the winter and there’s no sign from the government that there’s going to be a relief bill.”
Chicago musician Seth Shulman’s new normal is teaching lessons via Zoom and playing a few shows when he can. His 80s cover band recently performed at a drive-in concert.
“Rent is still a bit of a struggle. I’m not going to lie, I’m still on food stamps and stuff, things that I don’t really enjoy being on. But it could be a lot worse. There’s a lot of people suffering out there.”
April Oliver started working full-time at an environmental consulting company in Bozeman, Montana over the summer. After a few months in the position, she feels integral to the company.
“My main concern right now is I was unemployed for four months. And so my savings was almost completely drained. And I want to get to the point where if I lose my job, I can be unemployed for four months and not be hurting.”
COVID-19 Economy FAQs
What do I need to know about tax season this year?
Glad you asked! We have a whole separate FAQ section on that. Some quick hits: The deadline has been extended from April 15 to May 17 for individuals. Also, millions of people received unemployment benefits in 2020 — up to $10,200 of which will now be tax-free for those with an adjusted gross income of less than $150,000. And, for those who filed before the American Rescue Plan passed, simply put, you do not need to file an amended return at the moment. Find answers to the rest of your questions here.
How long will it be until the economy is back to normal?
It feels like things are getting better, more and more people getting vaccinated, more businesses opening, but we’re not entirely out of the woods. To illustrate: two recent pieces of news from the Centers for Disease Control. Item 1: The CDC is extending its tenant eviction moratorium to June 30. Item 2: The cruise industry didn’t get what it wanted — restrictions on sailing from U.S. ports will stay in place until November. Very different issues with different stakes, but both point to the fact that the CDC thinks we still have a ways to go before the pandemic is over, according to Dr. Philip Landrigan, who used to work at the CDC and now teaches at Boston College.
How are those COVID relief payments affecting consumers?
Payments started going out within days of President Joe Biden signing the American Rescue Plan, and that’s been a big shot in the arm for consumers, said John Leer at Morning Consult, which polls Americans every day. “Consumer confidence is really on a tear. They are growing more confident at a faster rate than they have following the prior two stimulus packages.” Leer said this time around the checks are bigger and they’re getting out faster. Now, rising confidence is likely to spark more consumer spending. But Lisa Rowan at Forbes Advisor said it’s not clear how much or how fast.
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