Who gives a shit if a few minimum wage workers get a boost? I don’t care one bit. Even with the extra $600, I’m making HALF my pay. I’m losing my home. Just give people money.
If you’re lucky enough to have a job, you might not know much about how unemployment works. Your most recent annual income is divided into quarters, and each state has their own way of determining which quarter to use or if it’s an average of the four, and what makes you eligible. If you took off work unpaid for any reason in 2019, you got screwed when it came to determining your COVID unemployment rate.
In 2019 I broke my leg, and was unable to work for a large portion of the year. I have been a 1099 contractor for over a decade, so I wasn’t able to use any government benefits. Instead, I blew through my $12,000 savings, and then turned to Go Fund Me to beg for money for rent. Not knowing what else to do, I started a business in my old field. I was barely making ends meet until the end of the year, but secured numerous contracts for all of 2020. My income would have been between $1,200-$1,400 a week, finally pulling me out of the hole of poverty I was living in. Of course, my business is in live events, and so I have now refunded everything through January 2021 (the SBA’s lack of assistance is an issue for another time, but fuck them, too)
DC created a micro grant program, offering up to $25,000 to businesses who were impacted by COVID-19. I submitted a PDF showing around $17,000 of loss in a week long period. I was given $1,000. My unemployment wasn’t based on my 2020 losses; I was given $105 a week. This isn’t livable.
That might seem like an incredibly narrow and specific set of circumstances, but it actually probably isn’t — after all, bones are easy to break, and this is America, where we demand people be entrepreneurs. But with our complete lack of social safety net, there are so many reasons someone would be in my position — and Mitch McConnell thinks it’s funny, I guess.
Did you have cancer in 2019 and spend your time in chemo, unable to work?
Did your kids/spouse/parents die in 2019, and did you take time off work to grieve them?
Were you pregnant and on bed rest, or did you give birth and just want to spend some time with your newborn baby, out of your own pocket?
Did you go to rehab? Save up and take a 6 week break between jobs to hike the Appalachian Trail? Did you lose your old job? Not only has this pandemic been going on for months, but many of the people who had a lower 2019 income than they expected in 2020 had probably already exhausted their savings accounts before anyone knew what COVID-19 was.
Coronavirus is the only personal emergency you are allowed to have had in the last 5 years if you wish to survive this time with food on your plate and a roof over your head.
Before you think someone can contest it, remember that people are suing their states for lack of payment. Citizens are complaining that unemployment offices are picking up the phones and hanging up on them, leaving them unable to collect a single check for months. Hundreds of people in Oklahoma are sleeping in their cars for the chance to maybe get to talk to someone about claims they tried to file in March. If you are getting anything, you’re lucky.
Since I’ve been 1099 for so long, I know plenty of people who are also contractors — and pretty much 0 of them get 100% of their income from 1099 work. Everyone has some side job, or a client that insists on paying them W2. If you made $45,000 as a 1099 contractor in 2019, and $4,000 as a W2 employee, guess which one unemployment used to determine your weekly rate? That’s right: the W2 job. And no, you cannot contest it. My $105 a week comes from a part time W2 job I made $4,000 at in 2019.
As far as the idea that $600 + a meager state allowance is allowing someone to live the life of luxury: no. I wouldn’t wish the sinking pit feeling of destruction and poverty that I have been feeling almost nonstop on anyone. So what? Let people get ahead! We’re always saying we love small businesses and education; how many people aren’t receiving an education (college or otherwise), growing their craft/art, or starting a business because they’re exhausted after working on their feet for 40 hours a week for $7.75 an hour at one job, and 20 hours at another $8 an hour job?
And if you pay so low you can’t get your workers back? Well, that sounds like a personal problem.
Because I don’t have the luxury of time, I am losing my home. DC has an eviction moratorium until December, but my landlord wants the full $1,450 a month rate for my basement apartment (that has devalued significantly, in my opinion, based on a lack of windows and outdoor space, and a lack of need to be around transit/bars/jobs). The only option I have is to leave, or potentially accrue thousands and thousands of dollars in debt to him that I don’t know if I’d ever be able to pay. Despite his fully employed status and secured housing allowance, and despite me repeatedly telling him I make $105 a week, he continues to ask for money and wants to know how much of that $105 a week he can have right now.
A moratorium on evictions doesn’t stop my landlord from banging on my door asking about rent, or stomping around upstairs, or making my life hell. Or, to be frank, from illegally evicting me — once these payments stop, the city is going to be way too overwhelmed to help tenants.
So I will leave, and I will couch surf with friends and family, and I will try to figure out what to do. I will be a vector of disease, using public transit to move between houses in the DC metro area.
You are foolish if you think I’m the only one who will be risking people in this exact way. Absolutely nothing about my story is unique.
And because there are so many people in my situation — all those businesses begging to cut the pay so their underpaid workers come back? Well, they’re going to be in for a real shock when they have 0 customers. If 30 million people suddenly can’t survive, that’s 30 million fewer people getting to go orders, going shopping, and paying rent. That means landlords who need our money won’t be eating out, either. Say goodbye to all those local bars and restaurants you like — if the extra $600 isn’t extended, they might as well shut down tomorrow.
It is disgusting, short sighted, and foolish to end or lower these payments. It is disgusting that 30,000,000 of us will go by on scraps for, at best, weeks, while the republicans stall and jerk everyone around.
But god forbid a few people make a couple extra bucks with the extra $600.