How unemployment challenges due to COVID-19 affects political outlook  


DENTON - In March, University of North Texas senior Daryl Reed returned home from spring break not feeling too well. When she woke up with a fever the next morning, she arranged to get tested and later found out she had a presumptive case of COVID-19. Reed immediately called her manager at Barnes & Noble.

"He said, you know, I hope you get better, but we're actually shutting down the store," Reed said. "He called again a week later and told me, I am so sorry to do this when you're so sick, but I have to lay you off."

There would be a nationwide shutdown for two to three months. Nobody knew when it would open up again, Reed said. The chain laid off everybody who had been working there for less than six months, and those who were working for longer than six got furloughed.

"I was one week away from meeting that six month mark," Reed said.

About two or three weeks after recovering, Reed decided to file for unemployment.

"The initial statement they sent me was that I was going to get $450 a week, plus the extra federal benefits," Reed said.

Reed said she planned to use the unemployment money to pay her tuition while still continuing to search for other jobs. A week after applying, she checked her bank account to see the direct deposit. Nothing. Another week went and she still hadn't received the money.

"I called to ask what was going on, did my bank information process incorrectly?" Reed said. "They told me actually, we revoked your unemployment."

Luckily, Reed's sister needed an assistant around the same time, but she only was able to work around three hours a week.

"I feel like she literally kept me afloat during this pandemic," Reed said. "I applied to a minimum in one place every single day. Nobody was calling me. Nobody was e-mailing me. Nothing, like not even like confirmation e-mails."

Many college students, like Reed, who were still claimed as dependents were not eligible to receive the stimulus check disbursed in April.

"I was trying really hard to be understanding, but I was frustrated and incredibly angry that that was happening to me," Reed said. "Nobody wants to ask the government for money."

Being a political science major, Reed said she always had a lot of respect for the government. However, she said felt like the government could have done more to help out citizens, and lost respect for President Trump.

"I can't trust him to be a rational decision maker," Reed said. "How could you make such large mistakes in office? You're literally responsible for four hundred and thirty million people. That's a lot of people you're just not paying attention to."

Reed said she became more frustrated with the partisan divide.

"I'm more angry that people are following party lines rather than what is good for the country or for people."

As a supporter of Bernie Sanders, Reed said she was shocked when he decided to suspend his campaign.

"I genuinely felt like he had the best interests of the country at my heart," Reed said. "It was the last chance at a large political change that was going to do good for this nation."

In terms of partisan differences, Republicans typically do not favor another stimulus packages, according to the Pew Research Center. Democrats argue that more economic assistance is needed during this time.

Many of the issues young people like Reed have faced even before the pandemic explains support for progressive candidates like Sanders at the beginning of 2016, said Krysten Mellberg, communications director of the Young Democrats of Denton County.

"The pandemic has deepened these already existing issues young people face when it comes to a lack of resources to remain healthy, housed and employed," Mellberg said through email.

Although Reed did get her job back in early September, 12.6 Americans still remained unemployed during that month, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Lawmakers are still deciding what to do in terms of another economic relief package. House Democrats passed the HEROES Act, in which an unemployed worker would receive $275 from the state of Texas on top of $600 from federal through January 2021.

Senate republicans passed the HEALS Act, passed by Senate in which an unemployed worker would receive $475 a week until October. After that, their benefits would be adjusted to 70% of their prior salary. The next package could also look like a combination of the two.

This November, voters will choose candidates who they best think will handle unemployment policy in the future.