My family circa Christmas 2015

By Cristen Parisi
CCC Journalism Program

ATCO – The COVID-19 pandemic is affecting millions of people around the world daily. Here in Atco, New Jersey, it is affecting my family in ways I didn’t think possible.

I never expected to be currently unemployed, technically on furlough, from a job I had only started a month before the outbreak in the United States. I had begun working at Ruth’s Hallmark, adjusting rapidly, having only been hired a week before one of the busiest holidays — Valentine’s Day. We were preparing for the start of the busy season when COVID-19 become a pandemic, quite quickly, making New Jersey one of the hardest hit states in the nation. I was eager to continue with my work and in return, I was furloughed a month in and on unemployment for the first time.

The road to unemployment benefits has been unpleasant.

To start, filing a claim took two weeks to process.

I then got an email stating I hadn’t finished filling out my unemployment form. I fixed this issue right away. However, this issue took another two weeks to process.

There were more than 206,000 claims in New Jersey for the week ending March 28, including myself. Because of this, my claiming weekly benefits routine has been dreadful. I haven’t collected a single unemployment check the entire month I have been out of work. On the bright side of all this, I did collect the $1,200 stimulus check sent out on April 15.

I am not the only one experiencing changes because of the COVID-19 pandemic. My mom, who had also just started a new job when the outbreak began, is seeing cutbacks in her hours at work. She is a teller for South Jersey Federal Credit Union. They cut all their employee’s hours by 25 percent. Because of this, they are able to collect unemployment. However, she is suffering from the same problems with the government as I am.

At the beginning of the pandemic, my brother was a lot attendant for Home Depot. He was put at risk every time he was at work because he interacted with a multitude of people on a daily basis, as does my mother. Home Depot had decided to cut their hours back.

As of April 13, however, my brother was laid off because of the cutbacks.

My father, on the other hand, has emerged with a better outcome than the rest of the family. My father is an operations manager for System Freight Inc. He is still going to work normal time every day. He is typically alone in his office with the occasional driver coming in to pick up their next delivery. Because of COVID, he has changed his system of handing out paperwork. Drivers now receive their manifests through a glass window and no one steps into the office.

COVID-19 has changed the way many people view their day to day activities. Visiting your grandparents and extended families has become unsafe. Washing hands and cleaning became a more frequent activity. Any time someone is to leave the house, they are to take off their shoes before entering again.

The only thing I can hope that comes out of this pandemic is that everyone is more prepared for the next one.

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