Hitting hard

COVID-19 is starting to hurt Philadelphians in more ways than one

Stress art
The stress of staying home due to a loss of work is wearing people to the brink. Our editor chats with his neighbor, who is among the group. | Image: Aarón Blanco Tejedor

On Monday, I came back from a mind-clearing AM bike ride to one of my neighbors sitting on his front stoop smoking a joint, pacing and staring at the ground. 

I looked at him and simply asked, “you good, man?” 

And that’s when the floodgates of his past 48 hours were unleashed on me. He’d received a call that his job was placing people on furlough for the foreseeable future. He was one of those people. As a construction foreman for a “small roofing company” and with construction deemed non-essential as of last Friday, he’s home with mounting debt and lost wages.

To make matters even shittier, his wife, pregnant and due in April is set to take considerable maternity leave and will go on family medical leave, reducing the household income even more. 

“I’ve never had to go on unemployment in my life,” he tells me. “I don’t even know where to start. This virus is a nightmare.” 

He wants to work, but knows that temporary jobs are only in essential sectors, and right now he can’t risk going out and catching COVID-19 and bringing that home to his wife and soon-to-be first child. 

“You know, I was seeing people lose their jobs and I felt bad for them, but I couldn’t relate because I was getting up and going to work every day,” he said. “But when it’s you, man, that shit hits different. It really does. We don’t have any options, and I have no idea when I’m going to get back to work.” 

The worst part is the hanging fruit from the federal government by way of a stimulus package that’s supposed to provide a bit of a reprieve for millions of Americans. As of Wednesday, an estimated $2 trillion package passed the Senate and was weaving its way through a House that’s not in session right now, so it could be a bit of a wait. Until then, there’s unemployment, but there’s a grace period before those funds start rolling in. 

It’s not an exact science.

“But is that within itself a problem? Is financial security worth the risk of infection? Some would say yes. For me, if the wall were to come crashing down and our operations would have to go on delay? I’d be lying if I said that it wouldn’t be something I’d have to give hard thought to.”

I think about him and the obvious look of despair on his face and realize that I too could be in that same situation. Stories like my neighbor are everywhere you look thanks to the nation being on shutdown, but for those of us still gainfully employed shit is “hitting differently.” However, all of that can change at a moment’s notice and I could be figuring out unemployment, so could any member of my family. 

It’s the uncertainty of each day that I think really wears on people. At least you know the next steps in the event of a layoff, you know what you need to do to get back on your feet and that there are a number of essential retail businesses like supermarkets and pharmacies ramping up their hiring because of the pandemic.

But is that within itself a problem? Is financial security worth the risk of infection? Sadly, some would say yes. For me, if the wall were to come crashing down and our operations would have to go on delay? I’d be lying if I said that it wouldn’t be something I’d have to give hard thought to. 

If there’s a silver lining to all of this unsteady, it is that family we’ve all been forced to grow closer with and that these bonds with family and friends will inevitably grow stronger in the aftermath of this pandemic. I mean, they have to when you’re in isolation with the same person every day.

To everyone out there in a similar situation as my neighbor’s, we feel you here at PW. We’re operational, but we’re definitely feeling the effects of a lack of revenue from the shuttered businesses that support us. We’ve had budget decreases and delays due to COVID-19 that we didn’t have three months ago when this event first reared its head. 

But I think where we’re still thriving is in our promotion of things you are doing, Philadelphia, and the businesses that, for those of you able to lend a hand, could use your support. You’ll see that in this week’s issue with our new guide called, The Rundown. It’s a temporary replacement of our robust calendar given the lack of events. Take a read and if you want to offer suggestions, send them our way via mail@philadelphiaweekly.com

It’s our way of acknowledging your pain, but letting you know we’re all in this together.

  • Kerith Gabriel's Headshot

    Kerith Gabriel is the editor-in-chief at Philadelphia Weekly but somehow hasn’t figured out that means he doesn’t have to write nearly as much. Journalism has been in his blood since his beginnings as a sports writer over a decade ago for the Philadelphia Daily News.