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Outbreak Diaries: Listeners Worried About Money

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

It is an extraordinary time. Everything is reshaped as we stay at home or keep our distance to try to halt the spread of the coronavirus. The effects will likely be long-lasting to our physical and emotional health and to our economic well-being. This hour on WEEKEND EDITION, we're looking at the coronavirus crisis and the economy. And we'll start by listening to your voices from our Outbreak Diaries project.

DEBORAH WEPPLEMAN: Deborah Weppleman (ph), March 12, 2020. I work for a corporate catering company in Pittsburgh, Pa. In the next few days, I'll almost likely be laid off. Over 90% of the workforce in that office building has been sent home to work, so no customers for me.

POLIVIA TORO: This - Polivia Toro (ph) in Waldorf, Md., and it's Sunday, March 15. I wait tables on the weekends, and it's been slower than usual. When I arrived to work, my manager told me we would have a meeting 20 minutes before we open the restaurant. Shifts will be cut because of low clientele and to minimize large groups of people in one place. So my co-workers had worried and concerned expressions. Many people rely on their job, a set schedule and, of course, a set income to support their families.

SATASHA SANDERS: My name is Satasha Sanders (ph), and I live in North Hollywood, Calif. And today was kind of surreal. I've seen a lot of Facebook posts - rideshare drivers really lamenting that nobody's going anywhere, so they have no passengers to drive. And they really don't have any recourse. A lot of other friends are sharing petitions to get people to suspend rent, all of that. Everyone's worried.

TORO: I only had two tables and made $25. The other girls made the same amount or even less. It definitely feels like things are getting a little more real, and that's frightening.

JAMIE OLIVAS: This is Jamie Olivas (ph). It is Monday, March 16, here in Portland, Ore. Couple of major retailers have completely closed. The Apple Store here downtown is shut down for a couple of weeks. But interestingly enough, the Microsoft Store, which is just a block over, is still open. And when I walked by there today, I noticed that there was hardly anybody in there when, again, normally in the afternoon, it's a pretty busy store.

WEPPLEMAN: I'm definitely on a furlough from work - on hiatus. I do not know what my pay status is, if my company is going to pay me. You cannot get through to the unemployment office either online or by phone in Pennsylvania.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Outbreak Diary entries from people all over this country earning less or nothing at all, concerned for their financial health and looking for help. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.