March 30, 2020

Restaurant Workers Get a Final Paycheck and a Meal From Their Peers

The shock is starting to wear off, and they are formulating a survival plan. Once the government website stops crashing, Mr. Grinstead-Mayle hopes to submit an application for unemployment benefits. The couple’s insurance premiums have been waived for the time being, and they plan to apply for a small-business loan to save the barber shop.

“It’s going to be dicey,” Mr. Grinstead-Mayle said.

In Anchorage, Alaska, José Flores Isaza, 31, just lost his job as a bartender at the busy Spenard Roadhouse. He has been in the business for 16 years, and makes $10.75 an hour. With tips during a good shift, he might make $45 an hour.

The city closed down dine-in service at restaurants and bars on March 16. “It was wild,” Mr. Flores said. “A week ago, I had no idea I was going to get laid off and hoping to get something from unemployment.”

His immediate problem was his $450 car payment and his rent, which is twice that. He called the bank, which allowed him to delay the car payment. Then he went to Costco with money he had in his account and bought food he could live on for a while: potatoes, tuna, frozen chicken, rice, spinach. He applied for unemployment and took some work helping an older woman around the house. He would have normally done it free.

Then something unexpected happened. A friend who had heard about the layoff sent him $450 and asked nothing in return. Mr. Flores teared up as he described the gift.

“I’m sorry for getting emotional,” he said. “I just felt like somebody had my back, you know?”

It was a reminder of how kind people can be, even in terrible circumstances.

“We have to be like that,” he said. “That’s all we’ve got. Nothing else matters.”

Jane Black contributed reporting from Washington, D.C., Chris Kornelis from Seattle, Julia O’Malley from Anchorage and Tejal Rao from Los Angeles.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/24/dining/restaurants-closing-workers-coronavirus.html

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