Working Toward More

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Financial struggles during the pandemic

by Tammy Vuong

The holidays welcomed another surge in the pandemic, further stressing the importance of remaining quarantined to help prevent the spread. In turn, financial struggles among families have continued to increase.

Unemployment has been on the rise, induced by a surge in COVID-19 cases and leaving many families without a steady source of income. Yet, the responsibilities of paying for housing, food, and other necessities have remained unchanged, burdening individuals with more and more debt. In a time of such crisis, people are not seeing much financial relief, even prompting students to take on part-time jobs to provide for their families to survive the year. 

As people continue to quarantine, utility bills are exceeding average costs. Due to frequently spending time at home and changes in the weather, individuals are using more central air to heat or cool their surroundings. The cost of utility bills is currently up 34% compared to previous years, not including the abundant amount of necessities that need to be bought overall. As a result of this, individuals will struggle to pay off expensive bills. 

With indoor dining widely prohibited, ordering takeout or delivery from restaurants has been encouraged for quarantine; however, it is extremely pricey. Since Proposition 22 was passed in November, Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, Instacart, and Postmates drivers accept increasing benefits from their labor. This means that drivers will earn more than they previously have for every order, making online orders more expensive for consumers. With other additional bills and essentials, individuals are prone to be financially unstable.

Transforming for family

by Mytam Le

It was just another Saturday. Her eyes could barely stay open, and her head continued to throb. It felt as if a rubber band was tightening around her brain. After a long day of making and serving boba, junior Ivy Tran wanted nothing more than to take a long nap on her bed, but she knew her night was far from over as a pile of homework on her desk awaited her return. 

When the pandemic first emerged, Tran’s family faced financial struggles. Witnessing her family struggle prompted Tran’s urge to help. Although her parents were fearful for her health, she was still determined to assist her family, resulting in her applying to and getting a job at Sharetea, a boba chain. After notifying her parents about her new job at Sharetea, they eventually allowed her to work.    

“Most of my family became temporarily unemployed,” Tran said. “And knowing the virus affects the elderly the most, I felt guilty and was worried, so I tried to help out and decided to get a job.”

Tran’s schedule ranges from four to nine hours throughout the week, as well as switching among three different Sharetea locations weekly. As more workers quit their jobs, she and her co-workers were overwhelmed with the amount of responsibilities, worsening her anxiety when interacting with customers. 

“Everyone that’s currently working is much more cautious, but we’re all trying to maintain our health,” Tran said. “It just puts more weight onto my heart, and I am scared that I might accidentally catch the virus and bring it home. But I get tested monthly or bimonthly just to stay safe.”

Even with precautions, there are still moments where Tran regrets taking on the job in the midst of a worsening pandemic. In addition, the stress from school has also made her feel as if quitting would be the best solution for her. 

“It was still hard to maintain my grades and work,” Tran said. “Sometimes, I felt like, ‘I should just lose the job and focus on myself and grades.’ When I see that L.A. has the most COVID cases, the customers scare me more, and I doubt my decision.” 

However, Tran eventually remembers that her family has constantly supported her, and giving up would not be an answer. Tran understands that she now has a responsibility and an important role to assist her family.  

“My parents raised me, and since I’m still young, I can’t do much for them, so I’ll try to do my best in what I can right now,” Tran said. “My parents are important to me. Even through tough times and when I act unreasonably, they still care for me, and I want to do the same for them.” 

Financial relief: government assistance

by Lynda Lam

Due to the pandemic, many Americans have lost their source of stable income or are facing reduced working hours. People who fell into financial ruins are struggling to put food on the table and pay rent. To alleviate stress, the government offers programs and laws for the general public to utilize to their advantage. 

Applying for unemployment insurance is an option for those seeking help from the government. The benefits range from $40 to $450 a week, but there is an application process, where people must provide their work history for the last 18 months, their Social Security number, driver’s license or ID card, and proof of U.S. citizenship. A green card or a visa that provides authorization to work in the U.S. will suffice as verification. 

Those struggling to get food can seek assistance from Calfresh. Normally, Calfresh has a minimum and maximum amount of benefits a recipient can receive, which is determined by how much they spend and their income. However, because of the pandemic, Calfresh offers everyone the maximum amount. Anyone who is low income can apply for the program at any time. It takes an average of 30 days for an application to be approved or rejected, but it could be processed faster for those in urgent need of assistance. 

Anyone who can prove they are unable to pay rent due to COVID-related hardships are allowed to invoke the Homeowner and Small Landlord Relief and Stabilization Act of 2020. When landlords desire to evict tenants, the latter must provide a document that states that they cannot pay rent due to the pandemic. If the tenant is unable to give the landlord a signed form within 15 business days, eviction may proceed, unless they can provide a “good reason” why they were unable to in court. Tenants must be aware that all rent money is still owed to the landlord and that eviction for safety reasons are still allowed.

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