As COVID-19 devastates economies worldwide, its trickle-down is taking huge chunks out of many paychecks in Dodge and Jefferson counties. It is also leading to stressful job-related life changes for many, that no one could have imagined even just a week ago.
According to the Wisconsin State Journal, preliminary numbers showed more than 29,000 initial unemployment claims had been made as of Wednesday. About 3,500 were reported in the week previous to that. More current numbers are being generated.
The Daily Times sought on its website, and through phone interviews, to talk to people who have lost work and perhaps even their jobs, as a result of the Coronavirus.
“I haven’t had my hours cut back, but I’ve chosen to stay home, because of being in the high-risk group due to having Lupus and Sogrens (Syndrome),” one woman wrote. “My problem is this, though. I work for (a local business) and they will not close, because we provide (services deemed vital). I totally get it. (My bosses) have been good about letting people take off. But to do so, you have to fill out a ‘request time-off form.’ The problem with this is that if (my company) decides to lay people off, or close completely, those people who are high-risk, who filled out those forms, are now exempt from getting unemployment and they will be the ones who need it most.”
The woman said she is worried about what the future could hold for her and others who are staying home due to being “high-risk” in terms of their health status.
A salesman who has seen his work shut down indefinitely as the crisis continues said he is now looking for work.
Another contact was made with a bartender, who said she had her hours cut.
“I lost all my tip money and, probably, next week I won’t be working at all, unless carry outs start picking up,” she said.
An employee of the Watertown Unified School District said the district is continuing to pay certified staff, but not those who are compensated hourly. These latter jobs, the woman said, include instructional and special education paraprofessionals, lunch servers, health room assistants and others.
“They’re telling us they will try to come up with stuff for us to do at home, but there are more than 100 of us and only so much work to go around,” she said. “We’re wondering why they just won’t pay, because wages were already in the budget for this year. A lot of questions are being raised … This situation is awful.”
A substitute teacher with the Watertown School District said she is no longer able to work. She called substitutes, “a forgotten part of the school employees.”
“Most Watertown Unified School District employees will be paid during this closure, but subs are out of luck,” she said. “No paychecks are coming to us.”
A WUSD paraprofessional said there is no clear-cut plan on long-term pay for her and her colleagues if the district has to close for months on end. She is also a waitress, but is not able to work, due to state restrictions on bars and restaurants.
The Jefferson County Workforce Development Center, which also serves portions of Dodge County, was contacted by the Daily Times Monday morning, but job service representatives directed all inquires to the state office.
At the time of contact with the Jefferson-based workforce development office, people were being admitted in small numbers to allow for social distancing, while others waited outside on a relatively mild spring morning.
The state office’s Emily Savard, a program and policy analyst, said her colleagues are seeing a tremendous uptick in applications for unemployment benefits, in general, in Wisconsin.
“I am unable to say whether it is concentrated from a specific area, though,” Savard said, when asked how people are faring in Dodge and Jefferson counties. “That data will not be available, for last week, until Thursday.”
Savard said her office is doing its best to provide services to all who need them.
“However,” she said, “we are being inundated with phone calls, resulting in long wait times for callers. We are keeping our website up-to-date with information as we receive it and are stressing for claimants to go there first to try to find answers to their questions.”
Savard said she could not say what types of workers are seeking the state’s workforce development services the most at this time, because there has simply been so little opportunity to analyze massive amounts of data.
“There is no specific sector I can point to,” she said. “Anybody who is experiencing reduced hours, or a layoff or furlough, is encouraged to apply for benefits.”
Savard said her office is working hard to handle increased workloads.
“We are doing the best we can with the resources we have,” she said, “and we are encouraging people to look at our online resources before calling.”
A media release from the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and the Early Care and Education Consortium (ECEC) said the groups joined advocacy organizations from around the United States over the weekend in making a request for up to $50 billion in emergency stimulus funding to keep the child care industry from collapsing.
“To support American families, sustain industries that are necessary in this public health crisis, and buttress the herculean efforts of medical professionals, lawmakers must recognize child care as the backbone,” the groups said in a joint statement. “Yet, NAEYC and ECEC data show that within the past week, child care has lost upwards of 70 percent of daily attendance and that most providers have just a week until they will close their doors, in many instances, permanently.”
They acknowledged the immediate and sustained hit from the COVID-19 crisis is devastating.
“We are calling on Congress to take swift and immediate action to stabilize an essential yet economically fragile industry,” said NAEYC CEO Rhian Allvin. “In order to stabilize this field, continue to provide essential services for families who need it, and be prepared to support the workforce after this crisis, we are requesting up to $50 billion in emergency stimulus funding.”
“We estimate that without immediate financial support thousands of child care centers and family child care homes will be unable to cover their fixed costs within the next month,” said ECEC Executive Director Radha Mohan.