I was laid off due to COVID-19 on March 25 from my job as executive director for a small national-disaster-relief nonprofit.
Since then, I’ve been a stay-at-home dad, a kindergarten teacher, a summer camp counselor, a job seeker and a penny pincher.
It’s been a terrible four-plus months — quarantining, social distancing, unable really to see friends and my family. What it has not been is a “paid vacation.” The federal subsidy is not incentivizing me to stay home instead of work — it’s keeping the lights on, and keeping food on the table for my kids.
Let’s look at some facts instead of politicizing a domestic humanitarian crisis.
According to a Star Tribune article on July 17 (“A third of nonprofit staff seek jobless aid,” front page), one-third of employees of Minnesota’s nonprofit sector have lost their jobs due to COVID. That’s 130,000 people. According to the same article, “state data show that the nonprofit sector has been disproportionately hit by the economic crisis during the pandemic, with shuttered events and programs wiping out revenue.”
These are jobs that are hard to start back up — because much of the revenue is dependent on donations. With the overall economy still precarious, people are just not giving right now.
This is borne out when you look at the job boards. According to another Star Tribune article July 22 (“Three nonprofits say job postings will include pay information,” Metro cover), the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits, which manages the largest nonprofit job board in Minnesota, “posted about 1,400 jobs on average per month before the pandemic. Now, that number has slipped to about 650 jobs a month.”
That’s a reduction in job postings of 54%. If you take into consideration 130,000 unemployed sector employees and 650 job posts a month, it’s going to be a while before the sector comes roaring back. Forget rosy outlooks for the third or fourth quarters of 2020. We are going to be feeling this well into 2022.
That’s what makes this attack on the $600 federal subsidy so insidious. The assumption that things are OK, jobs are out there, and we’re choosing not to work because we make more by not working. Every day I look for work — in the nonprofit sector, private sector, public sector. Anything I can find. Anything that helps me pay my bills and care for my family.
Claiming people are disincentivized to work due to the $600 is insulting to those of us trying desperately to find work every day.
Job access aside, let’s talk about the “third-rail” of life no one wants to talk about: money.
I am a single parent, with two kids I have half time. This may not be you, but when it comes to the nonprofit sector, as well as the hospitality industry (even harder hit by COVID layoffs), we make up a large percentage of the population.
When I lost my job I was lucky — I got a severance. Despite stretching it further than it was intended for, it is long gone. Luckily, I had access to unemployment insurance, as well as the extra $600. Altogether, that brought me to 75% of my previous salary. I wasn’t living lavishly before all this happened. But I made ends meet and I made sure my kids had a safe place to live and food on the table.
I made cuts when I got laid off — trimming my budget by 25%. Many of us have. We’ve been sacrificing. Starting next week, with the loss of the $600, my income drops another 34%.
Stop for a moment and try and imagine that. You’re a single parent, and you have to cut your budget 59%. What do you cut? What do you do?
Have you decided? What won’t you pay for? Rent? Food? Car payment? Medical bills for your kids? Health insurance?
We’re passing the buck, kicking the can. I’ve been relying on free food boxes for the kids. My meager savings will be gone after a month of this. I have retirement; I may have to tap into that. I have credit cards — I may have to max those out. How are any of those a good option?
Four months ago I was an executive director. This week I looked into food stamps and emergency rental assistance.
David Kaplan lives in Eagan.