As the whole pandemic situation calms down in the United States, many places have reopened their services. I recently went back to work but with limited hours. I’m thankful to return to work but I fear I won’t be able to make enough money to support myself. This is nothing compared to the millions of people who are unemployed due to Covid-19. But I still worry because I could only get part-time work and many of my other gigs were in events and entertainment. To my knowledge, events and gatherings are still canceled.
So, with this return to work, I have also cut back to only my essential expenses. I have rent, the electric bill, the phone bill, groceries, and a reduced student loan payment. That’s all. Some good things about returning to work include getting cash tips to use for the laundromat, getting out of the house now and then, and walking to work gets me my daily exercise. But with part-time work, it’s only enough to cover my expenses with not much left over. At least I have a job when so many don’t.
I do continue applying for jobs hoping to get something full-time. Full-time work would allow me to live easy. The downside is I would not have as much free time for writing. I’m about two-thirds complete writing the first draft of a novel and I have two more novel ideas in line. I also have a short story collection and a couple poetry collections in the works. And then there are the posts for this blog. If I could afford it, I would write full-time. That, however, doesn’t pay the bills. Once I finish my first novel and edit it to something I like, I’ll submit to literary agents and try for a publishing deal. Fingers crossed.
With everything going on in the United States right now, many people are learning about unemployment. They’re learning about it because most of them never needed it before. Some benefits have been added due to the pandemic, but there are still some things people don’t about unemployment in general. For example, it is a service one must pay into in order to receive the benefits. That means self-employed folks who don’t put money away for unemployment will not receive unemployment benefits. That’s under normal circumstances. Supposedly, things have been put in place to help self-employed folks who’ve lost work due to Covid-19.
When one applies for unemployment, the service looks at how much you paid into that service during the previous year. I applied for unemployment this year. They reviewed what I paid in 2019 to determine how much I’ll receive. A small percentage of money is taken from every paycheck. The more money one makes, the more money is put away. The employer also matches the amount from each paycheck. Someone making minimum wage will receive less than someone making an annual salary in unemployment benefits. The most I can get is $800 per month. That does not include the $600 extra that everyone is supposed to receive due to Covid-19.
Now, I understand that they give a certain amount each week so one’s unemployment can last up to six months or even a year. That makes sense. But it feels unfair that, under normal circumstances, I would get less than minimum wage to cover all my expenses for a month. I only have rent and utilities to pay if you include a phone bill in utilities. $800 is not enough to cover those couple of things as well as food for the month. And here’s my other question. What happened to all the money I paid into unemployment for the last 12 years? Isn’t that still my money? Why can’t I use that during unemployment? These are only a few things I sit and think about while I enjoy my morning coffee.
Before anything with this virus happened anywhere, I lived an uneventful life. Since October, I’ve limited going out and other social activities. My main goal was to save money. I filed for bankruptcy. Worked many jobs. I had seven W-2s when I filed my taxes for 2019. I haven’t seen some friends in months. Other friends don’t want to see me. Despite several jobs, I had to watch my money and buy cheaper food. Ramen. Rice. Spaghetti. I managed. I knew my financial situation would improve at the end of March. That’s when I’ll finish paying my attorney fees for the bankruptcy.
Then the pandemic happened. I lost income because a couple of my jobs are in entertainment. They canceled the events. I also work part-time in a coffee shop. A national chain that I won’t mention here. They have cut back operating hours. All my coworkers and myself are losing hours. With the cut in income, my shopping essentials are more important. But the grocery store is out of all the things I often buy. Everyone else panic bought all the cheap stuff. I have to spend more than I usually do, but I can still manage.
To add insult to injury, everything in Tucson closes around 6pm or 8pm except the grocery store. And everything in grab and go only. I can’t go anywhere to get out of the house. Not even to read a book. I understand why. I’m not complaining about the reason behind these decisions. I’m only documenting my experience. Sometimes getting away from the house, a change of scenery, is comforting. My options were always coffee shops and libraries. I don’t have any friends I spend time with anymore. I don’t spend time with anyone. Now I’m not allowed to sit in any coffee shops and the city closed the libraries.
When all this is over, everyone will go back to their normal routine. I’ll sit in coffee shops again and buy the food I always buy. Otherwise, my routine will remain the same. Others may look back on these weeks as something exciting. That time they had to focus on survival. I’ve only known survival. I don’t know what normal life feels like. I imagine things will pick up for me by the end of the year. There is a gloom of uncertainty hovering over the future. I’ve only known survival and I know I’ll survive this. Don’t forget what it felt like to lose everything you took for granted. Stay safe readers.