Stimulus Check Up | Apr 8, 2022 | 0
Opinion: On stimulus, Trump is toying callously with American lives, including mine
I am one of the millions of Americans in desperate need of another stimulus check. I am one of the many whose daily lives the President seems not to care about as he plays politics with our survival. Stories like mine are playing out all over this country.
Prior to Covid-19 being declared a pandemic, I had a traditionally slow start to the year in my work as a makeup artist, but by mid-February, I was back to being gainfully employed as a freelancer on several top TV & film productions.
My last day at work was March 10th.
I immediately told my landlady what happened and that I would pay her as soon as I got my unemployment set up, thinking it would be an easy process. Luckily, at the time she told me not to worry, but I’m now three months behind on my rent.
I tried to file an unemployment claim and was denied because there was still a week’s hold before you could apply. By the time New York state did away with that rule, the system crashed as did my Department of Labor account, perhaps because it was overloaded.
It took three months and many phone calls, including to my local assemblyman and state senator’s office before my first unemployment check hit. And I’m still owed backpay. For the last seven months filing for unemployment, figuring out which bill to prioritize and trying to stay informed on what Washington is doing about this crisis has basically been a full-time job.
I used my unemployment to catch up on my bills. Even though my electric, cable, cell phone and credit cards providers had recorded messages about being “there for you” at the start of the pandemic, by the time I was able to pay them, each individual minimum payment totaled to over $300.
My $1,200 stimulus check, which I had to wait three months for, paid for March’s rent in June. I have never in my entire renting career have ever been more than a few days late. Then there is also that thing called food — and all of my other basic necessities that I need to pay for.
I live alone. I am a freelancer, and I am as small of a small business as you can get.
My union for hair & makeup artists fought hard to get entertainment workers under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Until a month ago, I was only receiving $188 a week on regular unemployment insurance. We went on lockdown before I was able to file my taxes, so I was getting the minimum unemployment insurance allowed. Without the extra $600 weekly unemployment benefit, I would not have been able to eat or pay my rent.
By the time I caught up with my bills, the extra $600 jobless benefit ended at the end of July. I was back to living on $188 when finally in August I got my unemployment insurance increased to the correct amount: up to about $366. Then, I was suddenly denied unemployment insurance for two weeks until one of my employers could verify my previous employment. Around this time is when we had the extra $300 federal boost program coming from Trump’s executive order which required states to apply for the program. Recall that the executive order initially had a catch, requiring already-struggling states to contribute $100 to the boost for a total of $400. Ultimately, the requirement was dropped. The federal government kept the payment at $300, and New York joined the program. I told my landlady that I could pay for the first half of June’s rent.
Let this sink in: We are in the month of October and I’m still figuring out how to pay for the second half of June’s rent.
Now here we are, with no long-term stimulus plan in sight. What am I supposed to do on $366 a week when I’m three months behind on the rent?
My industry has been shut down since March and although as of this week production is coming back slowly, that does not mean I will be going back to work anytime soon. There are thousands of us in this union alone who have lost our careers, and have been displaced.
Trump’s actions — and inactions — are a blatant attack on the American people.
I’m angry, tired and grieving.
Suspending negotiations until after Election Day is Trump’s latest Covid-related publicity stunt in a week when he’s already pulled several after testing positive for the virus. He is a disgrace.
If he wants to wait until after the election, then fine. His callousness and stupidity this week alone will hopefully help motivate more voters to kick him out of the White House. Then maybe struggling Americans will finally get the leadership they need.