Opinion: Stay Home to Afford Your Bills

By Sarah Boyagian

Initially, after the stay-at-home order was put in place and the restaurant where I work was allowed to stay open for to-go only, I made my decision to work with confidence.

There was a huge reduction in our staff. Only four of us from the front of the house opted to work. Although I decided to work, I immediately applied for unemployment.

There was a huge amount of uncertainty as to how long the virus would affect the business, and if we would even be able to remain open. If I didn’t receive enough hours, at least unemployment would help me.

The first week operating as to-go, those of us still employed were glued to our phones, and we received updates every hour from the owner of how the new and quickly changing regulations were affecting our operations.

To my surprise, our owners and management team were very fast at adapting to the new business model. They added new online services, market, and grocery items, and weekly specials to promote.

During this time, I was in a group text with my fellow colleagues from the restaurant. In the first few weeks of the change, everyone was frantic, asking questions about the unemployment application process and trying to find out when their money would come.

I was calm, knowing at least I’m working and receiving some money and the unemployment will come when it comes. After a month into this crisis, I’m the frantic one. There was an extra $600 stimulus approved per week for people on unemployment.

The group texts stop and now those employees are at home at peace. I chose to work so I can afford my bills, yet my colleagues are making double what I am for staying at home. My current pay is less than half of what it was prior to the shutdown, and I’ve only received $100 in unemployment benefits to date. What about the people who didn’t qualify because they were able to still work? My coworker who works five days didn’t qualify for any unemployment, therefore, he does not qualify for the added stimulus benefits. There’s no doubt the unemployment is flawed and it was not prepared for the influx of applicants. But how can one be motivated to work when they could be making more from their couch?

Now that business is picking up, I am busier and it is getting increasingly harder to deal with rushes. Unfortunately, busier doesn’t mean more money because the tips are paid for the delivery drivers and not to the restaurant employees.

The owners are moving fast with these new technologies, and the employees are dealing with the kinks. On top of adjusting to new business procedures, those of us working are risking our health and not properly compensated. We should have stayed home.

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