How Covid-19 changed the finances of these eight people

Americans spent 2020 hoping the Covid-19 pandemic would be within the next year. They spent 2021 settling into a new life where Covid is never far from their minds. We learned from some of the people who shared their stories of trying to get through a pandemic that turned their financial lives upside down.

Cassandra Brooks’ two daycares are full, but otherwise she feels like she’s back on the first day of the pandemic.

Each child’s cough makes them wonder if a seizure is brewing. His teachers are tired. Ms Brooks recently had to close a toddler classroom for two weeks after a student tested positive for Covid-19. She felt bad about breaking the news to the parents; many have jobs at gas stations or retail stores and cannot take time off work.

Its center, Little Believer’s Academy in a suburb of Raleigh, North Carolina, has around 110 students, up from 90 before the pandemic. Other daycare centers nearby have closed permanently. Ms. Brooks is grateful for government grants that have helped her center survive the pandemic, and she hopes for great things for the future of her students.

But with the new Omicron variant, it feels like there is no end in sight. “All I can do everyday,” Ms. Brooks said, “is just pray.”

—Christina Rexrode

Coronavirus threatens to push the childcare industry overboard (October 17, 2020)

Escape from work in a restaurant and not look back

Joe Ormiston would eventually like to work in information technology, having undergone computer training when he joined the Naval Reserve.


Laura Thompson for The Wall Street Journal

Joe Ormiston eventually left the restaurant industry. “I had one foot out,” Mr. Ormiston said, “and the pandemic gave me the final push.”

Last year, the restaurant in Nashville, Tenn., Where he was a bartender, closed permanently. After relying on unemployment benefits for a while, he enlisted in the Naval Reserve. He recently completed about two months of basic training and about eight months of information technology training.


How are you navigating the economy of the coronavirus? Join the conversation below.

Mr. Ormiston has just started a new job in merchandising at Lowe’s, and he would eventually like to work in IT. He had to spend some of his savings last year after being made redundant, and he would like to accumulate that amount as well.

However, he is not interested in returning to restaurants. Even before the pandemic, it was a tough industry. Now, during Covid, “it’s taking an already difficult and stressful job to another level.”

—Ben Eisen

Covid-19 Has Shaken Americans’ Finances, But Not In The Way We Expected (December 27, 2020)

“I’m not really stuck in the same position I was before”

Malaysia Jemison decided to study psychology rather than nursing and became interested in social work.


Cindy Schultz for the Wall Street Journal

Malaysia Jemison had to quit her job at a home care agency last year to care for her daughter, and she has struggled to make ends meet.

Recently, however, things have improved. A new job in a home for the disabled pays $ 15.50 an hour, more than the $ 13.50 she previously earned. She was off the waitlist for low-rental housing in Albany, NY, and moved into an apartment this fall. She is still in college and was on the Dean’s List this semester, but has moved on from nursing into psychology and is interested in social work. His daughter is now enrolled in the Head Start program. It has helped Ms Jemison save money on childcare, although she is concerned that new variants of the coronavirus could shut her daughter’s school.

But overall, she said, “I’m not really stuck in the same position I was before, so I would consider this progress.”

—Ben Eisen

How is the economy of the coronavirus doing? Awesome or awful, depending on who you ask (September 2, 2020)

“My life is at stake right now”

Robert Rodriguez appreciates the freedom he gets from being an Uber driver, but he fears a passenger will make him sick with Covid-19.


Zack Wittman for The Wall Street Journal

Robert Rodriguez is worried that driving for Uber will put his health at risk, but he does it anyway.

Mr. Rodriguez is a cancer survivor who suffers from chronic graft-versus-host disease linked to a bone marrow transplant he received about ten years ago. For part of this year and last year he worked short-term as a low-voltage technician contractor, but the work was physically taxing. A fight with Covid-19 in November kept him from getting out of bed for days, and he decided he had to stop working as a technician.

Mr. Rodriguez, who lives in Dallas, appreciates the fact that driving with Uber allows him to set his own schedule and avoid manual labor, but is concerned that a passenger will make him ill again. “My life is on the line right now,” he said. Stimulus checks and other government benefits have helped him get through the onset of the pandemic, but those are sold out. He has about $ 200 left in his bank account.

—Anna Maria Andriotis

Millions of credit card customers cannot pay their bills. Lenders are bracing for the impact. (April 25, 2020)

Seeing a gap between the poor and the poorest

With the economy largely reopened, many Andy Posner borrowers are back to work. But its poorest clients are still struggling.


Kayana Szymczak for The Wall Street Journal

The pandemic has hit low-income families hard, which means phones are ringing at Andy Posner’s small nonprofit lender. Capital Good Fund, based in Providence, RI, this year recorded a record over 2,500 loans totaling over $ 5 million. Many are what Mr. Posner calls crisis loans: $ 300 here or $ 1,000 there to the most needy borrowers.

With the economy largely reopened, many of Mr. Posner’s borrowers are back to work and doing quite well. But he has noticed a gap between the poorest borrowers, who are in difficulty, and slightly less poor borrowers, who are doing well.

About 20% to 22% of crisis loans will not be repaid and have been canceled, above the 17% he initially expected. “It’s sort of gone from a pandemic to an endemic response product,” he said. “We did not anticipate the sustained level of economic distress.”

—Ben Eisen

Small lender sifts through wreckage of Americans’ finances (May 30, 2020)

Better sleep at night after recovering from work

Lynn Scott-White has returned to her travel agency job with pay 10% more than her pre-pandemic salary.


Justin Clemons for The Wall Street Journal

Lynn Scott-White was put on leave from her job as a business travel agent at the start of the pandemic. A stimulus check and unemployment benefits helped her until 2020.

In January, she started working as a college teaching assistant. The salary was less than $ 20,000 a year, and Ms. Scott-White fell behind on her credit card bills and car payments.

In June, he was asked to return to his travel agency job with 10% more than his pre-pandemic salary. She is reducing the credit card debt she has accumulated over the past year and a half. “You can sleep better at night knowing you’ll be able to pay for things on time,” she said.

She has re-registered for classes and is expected to earn a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology this spring. She hopes this will give her greater job security. This will add about $ 20,000 to his student debt, which stood at around $ 50,000 before the pandemic.

—Anna Maria Andriotis

No jobs, heavy debts: Covid upsets the finances of middle-class families (September 20, 2020)

Always draw stock bets on the night shift

Salvador Vergara managed to make money with his investment in GameStop.


Farrah Skeiky for The Wall Street Journal

Salvador Vergara is so caught up in the GameStop frenzy Corp.

that he took out a personal loan of $ 20,000 to buy shares. It was the start of a mad race. It bought at around $ 234 a share, and the stock plunged about 80% shortly thereafter.

It then rebounded and Mr Vergara was able to sell at a profit in March and repay his loan.

He had hoped that GameStop would reach $ 1,000 so he could retire young in his native Philippines. “I have to be a little more realistic in my plans,” he said.

Mr. Vergara still scans Reddit’s WallStreetBets page during his night shift as a security guard. He has invested in space transportation startup Rocket Lab USA and genetic testing company 23andMe with mixed results.

—Rachel Louise Ensign

GameStop investors who bet big and lose big (February 15, 2021)

“We fell asleep thinking that maybe we had missed this thing”

The bank where Mike Estes is president has seen increased assets and low defaults since the start of the pandemic.



In March 2020, Mike Estes wondered if the restaurant he visits for breakfast most mornings would survive Covid-19 shutdowns. Now he is worried about whether it will be able to find enough workers.

The Fisher National Bank, where Mr. Estes is president, has done well in the Covid economy. Unpaid bills are close to their all-time low. Assets have increased by a third since the start of the pandemic. The bank issued nearly $ 10 million in forgivable loans under the government’s paycheck protection program, and only one or two needed to be repaid, Mr. Estes said. “We were just waiting for the other shoe to drop,” he said. “He didn’t go down.

But the challenges of operating during a pandemic persist. A handful of employees contracted Covid-19 last month, the first cases among staff in months. They have since recovered. “I kind of rocked myself to thinking maybe we got past this thing,” Mr. Estes said.

—Orla McCaffrey

As Coronavirus Spreads, Community Banks Monitor Fallout (March 30, 2020)

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