“Out of Work in America”

The New York Times teamed-up with local news agencies in Buffalo, New York; Victoria, Texas; Frenchtown, Montana; Carlisle, Pennsylvania; Grand Rapids, Michigan; Sarasota, Florida; Tucson, Arizona; Eau Claire, Wisconsin; Santa Ana, California; August, Georgia; Las Vegas, Nevada, and Owensburg, Kentucky to chronicle the economic devastation COVID-19 is bringing to ordinary Americans. It’s a powerful piece of reporting.

Here is the story from my neck of the woods:

Anthony Lucier, 34, lives alone in Carlisle, Pa. He was laid off from his job as an inventory coordinator at a local Toyota dealership in June after six years. We first spoke with Mr. Lucier in July.

I worked really hard for those guys for six years. I gave them my all. I was given the old-fashioned “You stay, you put your time in, you work hard, you move up.” Then Covid happened. I was furloughed for a few weeks in March, and then we qualified for a loan. Then they brought us all back to work even though we were in the red phase of the pandemic. Near the end of that loan, I was told my position with the company was going to be eliminated. There were other positions, and I applied for all of them, but for whatever reason, I wasn’t given an opportunity to move to a different area of the business.

When I was furloughed, I was fine. It wasn’t until I was laid off where I was like, “OK, I can’t just mope around, I gotta go do something.” So I started throwing out applications everywhere. I figured, “OK, something’s bound to happen. I’m bound to get a call back.” Second week goes by: “Oh, all right.” After about the third week, that’s when I started to get concerned because I’ve never really needed a job before. That was weird. I was shocked, I was afraid and I was out of my comfort zone. The only callback I received was from a fine wine and spirits store in York County. They hired me. I’m hoping that with time it’ll grow into something that’s more full time, and it’ll turn out to be something that I can actually pay my bills and my rent on.

I found myself on unemployment, and that was weird. And I’m still technically on unemployment to make up for any pay that I’m not receiving compared to what I used to receive. I’m filling out web pages full of information and hopefully getting some income from the government. I think it’s great, but it is weird. I didn’t think at any point in my life that I would be here, especially in my mid-30s.

This is hypothetical, but let’s say Gov. Tom Wolf hits the newsstand tomorrow and says, “Hey, sorry. The bank’s tapped. We’re not going to be able to offer you any more unemployment.” If I get laid off again, that’s probably it for me. At that point, I’m not going to be able to pay my rent, I’m not going to be able to pay my bills. I won’t be able to make my car payment. At that point, I’m either going to be out on the street or maybe I can move back in with my parents, which is not something a guy in his 30s is looking forward to.

Unemployment is nice because it’s a safety net. I knew I wouldn’t starve. But I feel like the quicker you can get off of it the better, especially right now, when there are millions of other people who are also collecting unemployment. I want to make a move as quickly as possible and try to get my life back on track.

Read the entire piece here.