‘It was a tragedy’: Metro workers affected by pandemic look for creative solutions, unemployment

Tracking Coronavirus

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The novel coronavirus continues to deal devastating blows, not only to public health, but also to the economy. Now, we’re getting a better picture of just how many are being affected by reduced hours or job losses.

Nationally, unemployment claims jumped to numbers that have never been seen before. The U.S. reported 3.3 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week. That’s five times the previous record set in 1982. 

Several states report their labor department phone lines and websites are crashing because of the overload.

Joe Asift is now getting handyman and landscape work after losing his job as a bartender at Grinders in downtown Kansas City. He said he had to get creative when he became unemployed.

“It was a tragedy. Pretty much the main part of my livelihood was up and gone,” Asif said.

But he said he has done a little side-hustling before and made a plea on Facebook for work to help pay the bills.

“I didn’t exactly want a hand out, so I figured some kind of trade, labor for money, would help take care of myself,” he said.

Since then, he’s been blown away by the community’s generosity.

“It’s amazing. I love that Kansas City came out,” he said.

But if you’re struggling to make some extra cash right now, unemployment benefits could be an essential way to survive.

“I’ve never seen such an incredible crush to employees, and the calls we’re getting are devastating,” Dan Kalish with HKM Employment Attorneys said.

Dan Kalish is an employment lawyer. He said that new laws offer unemployment to people who have never qualified before. If you’re an independent contractor or self-employed and the coronavirus has forced your business closed or cut back hours, you can apply for benefits.

“The unemployment has had a huge infusion of cash. They’re relaxing their standards, so anyone who has either lost hours or been furloughed or has lost their jobs should absolutely file for unemployment, no question about it,” Kalish said.

The challenge is, with millions needing help all at once, some could face an uphill battle just getting the process started. Kalish said people should go online to apply for benefits instead of by phone if possible and keep trying if you can’t get through right away.

“The worst thing an unemployment office can do is say no, so if they take time to apply, hopefully will get some money in their pockets quicker than the federal stimulus package they’re looking at now,” Kalish said.

HKM Employment Law has some great frequently answered questions on its website, and attorneys there are providing free to answer questions about filing for benefits right now. There are also several foundations, including the US Bartenders Guild, helping provide grants to those in need. 

And if you’d like to connect with Joe Asif about handyman or yard work, he can be reached, here.

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