Dream vs. Reality: Unemployment During COVID-19

by Kayla Lupedee


Earning $600 each week for sitting home and doing absolutely nothing sounds like a dream that no one would ever want to give up. And turns out, it is actually the reality for many people living in the pandemic. 

During the initial major outbreak of COVID-19, almost everyone was out of work to keep themselves and others safe. For that reason, gaining unemployment funds was on many people’s radar.

With a few simple clicks each week, between $600-$1,200 appeared into bank accounts with no effort. Many people were earning more money from being unemployed than from being employed. Who would ever want to give that up?

But now, we are over a year and a half into the pandemic, and the majority of life is going back to normal. Yet, so many people remain on unemployment. 

At a first glance, it seems like a great idea. Obviously if anyone had the option to rack in some money without lifting a finger, they’re going to take advantage of that. Although it sounds like a great idea for one person, when everyone hops on the same bandwagon, it leaves behind some problems.

For one, many mundane jobs are severely understaffed now. And all those “Karens” sitting back on unemployment are raising hell about it. 

It seems as though not a lot of people want to work a job, yet get mad and start complaints when service is slow or there is not someone at every waking moment to help when needed. 

“A lot of businesses can’t even stay open because they have nobody willing to work for them,” said Mackenzie Sargolini, senior public health major at the University of Tampa. 

As someone who works in a restaurant, I’ve faced many angry customers who expect one person to handle 20 different things at the speed of lightning. And when faced with the explanation of being understaffed, they simply suggest hiring more people.

As if it’s that easy with unemployment hanging over the heads of prospective employees. 

I almost want to hand them my apron and checkbook and let them get to work right then and there. So many people expect those who aren’t falling back on employment to work their a– off for a measly few bucks. 

“People who are going into a service place, like a restaurant or clothing store, need to understand that the place is probably understaffed,” said Olivia Hyde, senior elementary education major. “Their patience is needed and especially in a restaurant, they should show their appreciation by tipping good.”

Although there are many who need to remain on unemployment for their health, most are simply just taking advantage of it. It shines light on their laziness. 

You can also easily tell which people are unemployed for no reason just by taking a week day trip to the beach. Being from the Jersey Shore, I come across many people locals describe as “bennys.” In a simpler way, these are just people who are not from my town and take over our beaches. 

On a Saturday and Sunday, it is expected to see the beaches packed like sardines with bennys. But this summer, even a mundane Tuesday was spent searching for parking for 30 minutes and walking up and down the beach in hopes of finding a few feet of space to sit down. 

“If people could make more money while working instead of being on unemployment, we would definitely have less people on unemployment,” said Hyde. 

Some businesses are even so desperate for hiring new employees that they have been offering extra incentives for newly hired workers. For instance, Wawa was offering an extra $500 as a new-hire bonus. 

According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, nearly 20% of U.S. jobs also offered signing bonuses in June.

Reilly Sargolini, a sophomore at UT, referred to those sitting on unemployment as “scammers” after watching her mom work 80-hour work weeks and earning less money than those on unemployment. 

“It’s unfair to the people who are out there working hard each day and still struggling financially,” said Sargolini.

Although doing nothing and earning money sounds amazing, I personally don’t think I would be able to do that for longer than a few months. During the peak of the pandemic , I remained on unemployment from May 2019 to July 2019. Even within those few months, I was eager to get back to work.

Sitting around doing nothing is only relaxing for so long. After a while, it gets beyond boring. When the restaurant I worked at opened back up for outdoor seating, I went back to work right away. I was working six days a week and doubles on the weekends because of how understaffed we were. 

If I complained about it, I was faced with retaliation from my friends who sat high on money from unemployment because it was my fault for choosing to go back to work. Frankly, I understand that I made the choice, but do they really expect everyone to never work again? 

The reason we have businesses understaffed or shutting down is because of the refusal to return to work. 

The world is never going to work that way. We need everyone to get back to their normal work schedules because nothing should just be handed to them as easily as it is now. 

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