• Jody Kussin

#48 Family Matters For The Workers

In These Times by Dr. Jody Kussin, MAY 1, 2020

Wow. May 1. Amazing. Feels more like March 1, or maybe more like December 1999 when we were preparing for Y2K. Remember that? We were sure all electronics and computers would break down and we would be alone, not able to function. Of course, that did not come to happen, and we were far from shut out or locked down. If it were to happen today, however, that would TRULY be the disaster on top of the disaster. I’m not sure how we would function whatsoever. So let’s remember to thank all our techie friends and family members, all IT guys, all engineers and those who can make your phone play a tik tok from your niece even when you do not know what that means.

Yes, it’s MAY DAY. A day to celebrate workers. I have no need to do the traditional dance around a flagpole but rather, I’d like to stand up on a soap box.

Everyone I know is currently working harder than ever. It’s important to note that there are a few kinds of workers - some are working and are receiving a paycheck and alas, many are working for no income whatsoever. The number of Californians holding jobs in March was 18,244,100, a decrease of 512,600 from February. This will be nothing compared to our numbers for April. And these numbers leave out many of our work force, who are not part of any counts.

I’d like to acknowledge and salute those not getting paid and likely not eligible for unemployment benefits. The nannies and housekeepers. Dog walkers. Nail salon workers, hair salon workers, bar tenders in saloons. People who still have to pay rent today, but who have no money coming in, and likely have had no money coming in since mid-March. That’s seven-eight weeks of zero dollars coming. For families who were barely making it on their paychecks or under the table monies before the pandemic hit, in these times, they are running out of milk and eggs as well as any optimism.

I’m honestly not sure how they are managing, day by day. Many of them are unable to navigate the ‘offerings’ in our cities and counties, to find the food banks open to them, to access electronic opportunities without wi-fi or a solid grasp of our systems. We have many wide-open hearts and tons of volunteers and the local news are covering all the clapping at 7pm and the parades of teachers and the drive-bys of police and firefighters at hospitals. All of which is good, impressive, and well captured in John Krasinski’s truly wonderful weekly episodes of “Some Good News.” And it really all is heart-warming. But…. For ‘working adults’ (i.e., pre-pandemic) L.A. County had a higher rate of working poor than any other county in California. This impacts not only them and their family members, but all of us sharing community space. For instance, recent data from L.A. County Department of Public Health show that:

The greatest vulnerability, in the time of this pandemic, is being poor.

And, being poor is more than just the amount of money a person has. Poverty is a multidimensional issue that concerns a person's level of health access and coverage, available educational opportunities and quality of life.

Yes, our elderly, our people with cardiac conditions and diabetes and obesity – they are all at ‘higher risk’ for COVID-19. But the HIGHEST risk factor, it turns out, is poverty. And, it turns out, poverty is increasing hourly. 20% of Imperial County is unemployed – that’s 1 in 5 adults, out of work – not counting those who are not counted in the counting.

So today, on May Day, in honor of those working and those wishing they were working – reach out. Text your nanny and let your kids sing a song to her on watsapp. Host a little zoom meeting with the personal trainer who helped you last year who has been out of work now for a month+. Call your dog walker. Maybe she can walk your dog with a special leash reserved just for her. And if not, you can send her some photos of your dog, who misses her even though he is living a happy life at home with stay at home parents. Track down your housekeeper. If you have any means yourself, see if she can work for you outdoors one day per week. It will earn her some money and she may be happy to be out of her house and enjoying the mastery of working. And when she’s at your house, send her home with some food from your freezer. Why? Because you can.

In these times, we all are facing malaise and fatigue. Let’s remember those who are also facing life and death fears from the virus and those facing food insecurity, and potential homelessness.

This is me, getting off the soap box.

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